The Brain That Changes Itself by Norman Doidge, MD – Book Review

 

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Heard of Brain Plasticity? Well, if you haven’t yet, you will. The Brain that Changed Itself has Norman Doidge travelling the world and talking to a variety of scientists and practitioners and patients about how brains can rewire themselves. It is mind-blowing. One chapter tells of a woman who was born with literally half a brain – some mishap in the womb stopped one side from developing at all. Yet, she is able to function – albeit with assistance, but her brain was able to develop ways to ensure that functions usually controlled by the side that was not there got taken over by the other. Amazing.

Of course, these are all the cases that have worked – are there some that don’t? Perhaps? I’m sure at some stage in my life, either I or someone I am close to will have need of brain plasticity techniques, and I can only hope that they are available to us in some kind of an affordable way, and that we have stories akin to these success stories.

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Top of the Lake – TV Review

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Small town New Zealand. A twelve-year-old girl, Tui (Jacqueline Joe) is found in a cold lake, possibly suicidal. When it is revealed that she is pregnant, it sends things into a spin. Luckily, Robin (Elisabeth Moss) is in town. She is a police officer who specialises in working with children. The local police, including boss Al (David Wenham) are reluctant to let her in the ranks, but she will not let go. Then there is Tui’s family; her mother lives away from them, Tui lives with her family, extreme bad-buy and sleaze ball Matt (Peter Mullan) and his adult sons. Add to the mix a ‘guru’, GJ (Holly Hunter) who has brought a group of battered women to a piece of property on the lake that may or may not have been legally sold to her. And then there is Robin’s background, never far away.

Depressing as hell. One of my mates couldn’t get through it, feeling increasing sucked into the darkness of this world. And it is dark. But wonderful. It has all the beauty and complex story telling that you would want coming from director Jane Campion. Wow.

 

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Archer (TV Series)

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There’s a spy agency run by an older, over-sexed woman who is constantly trying to get with a rich man, be he KGB, Burt Reynolds, whoever. Her son, is Archer, and despite his alcoholism, constant womanizing, and telling every single person he meets that he is a spy, is none-the-less the best spy in the world. His ex is an extremely sexy woman, also an excellent spy, who is dating the firm accountant. The HR woman has an issue with a variety of substances and sex, the receptionist has even more issues with sex, and then there is a scientist who has a love for creating pig creatures. And if this isn’t enough, the company they work for is called ISIS.

Okay, the show pre-dates the now well-known horrific ISIS. But it is now a strange repeating gag – especially when they are talking about ISIS bureaucracy. I found the show somewhat funny initially, but as it went on and on, I became somewhat addicted. And then there was the fact that Archer is voiced by the same guy who does Bob from Bob’s Burgers. (H. Jon Benjamin) Another strange yet fabulous animation.

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John Wick (2014) Film Review

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John Wick (Keanu Reeves) used to be a hitman, but now he retired for a quiet life with his wife. Unfortunately, she became ill and passed away, but left him with a dog for company. Then this spoilt gangster brat who wants John Wick’s very nice car breaks in, beats him up and kills the dog. This sends John Wick over the edge and he goes out and kills all the bad guys.

There really is very little story to this. It is just all about bad guys and blood, shooting, killing, killing, killing. And Keanu Reeves is still just such a marvellous action hero. He can walk slow and shoot like the best of them. It is very beautifully shot, and really just wonderfully violent.

 

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True Blood – TV Review

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The Japanese have come up with a synthesised blood that has allowed vampires to ‘mainstream’. Some are like Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer) wanting to be a part of society. But there are others, and that causes a lot of trouble over a whole heap seasons. The show is told mostly through the eyes of Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin), a young woman who welcomes the excitement of vampires and gradually learns that she is a lot more than she ever thought. Then there is her brother Jason(Ryan Kwanten), her boss Sam (Sam Trammell), her mate Tara (Rutina Welsey), her sometimes friend and co-worker Arlene (Carrie Preston), and my fav, chef and Tara’s cousin Lafayette (Nelsan Ellis). And then the vampires – Eric Northman (Alexander Skarsgard) and Pam (Deborah Ann Woll) and heaps of others.

It starts well, and then gets more and more ridiculous as it goes on… and I loved every moment of it. It’s sexy and sleazy and ridiculous and insane and wonderful. It’s a shame it’s over, though god knows where it would have ended up if it had not finished here.

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Tusk (2014) Film Review

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In 2013, the below ad appeared on Gumtree in the UK:

Hello, I am looking for a lodger in my house. I have had a long and interesting life and have now chosen Brighton as a location for my retirement. Among the many things I have done in my life is to spend three years alone on St. Lawrence Island. These were perhaps the most intense and fascinating years of my life, and I was kept in companionship with a walrus whom I named Gregory. Never have I had such a fulfilling friendship with anyone, human or otherwise, and upon leaving the island I was heartbroken for months. I now find myself in a large house over looking Queens Park and am keen to get a lodger. This is a position I am prepared to offer for free (eg: no rent payable) on the fulfillment of some conditions. I have, over the last few months, been constructing a realistic walrus costume, which should fit most people of average proportions, and allow for full and easy movement in character. To take on the position as my lodger you must be prepared to wear the walrus suit for approximately two hours each day (in practice, this is not two hours every day – I merely state it here so you are able to have a clear idea of the workload). Whilst in the walrus costume you must be a walrus – there must be no speaking in a human voice, and any communication must entail making utterances in the voice of a walrus – I believe there aer (SIC) recordings available on the web – to me, the voice is the most natural thing I have ever heard. Other duties will involve catching and eating the fish and crabs that I will occasionally throw to you whilst you are being the walrus. With the exception of this, you will be free to do whatever you choose, and will have a spacious double room, complete run of the house (with the exception of my bedroom and my workshop), and use of all facilities within. I am a considerate person to share a house with, and other than playing the accordion my tastes are easy to accomodate (SIC).

Due to the nature of this position I will need to audition all applicants before agreeing to take the chosen candidate on as a lodger. Please contact me if you have any questions.

It was a hoax, but filmmaker Kevin Smith became obsessed with the idea, and from it was born Tusk. And oh dear. Oh dear, oh dear.

So, to Tusk. There are a couple of podcasters, Wallace (Justin Long) and Teddy (Haley Joel Osment – yes, that Haley Joel Osment) who have hit the big time with their show “The Not-See Party” where they play online videos and mock them. After one episode on the Kill Bill Kid (think the kid playing with his light sabre, that very early viral video, but with more Tarantino results), the obnoxious Wallace flies to Canada to interview him, but finds that the kid has committed suicide. Pissed off, Wallace kills time in a bar hoping to find a new story, and it is there that he stumbles across the advertisement in the bathroom. He arranges to meet the man, Howard Howe (Michael Parks) and… then falls off the face of the earth. Neither his girlfriend Ally (Genesis Rodriguez) or Teddy can reach him, and enlist the assistance of Guy Lapointe (Johnny Depp performing some of his absurdist best).

I don’t want to give any more away, but I will say it is a comedy horror. There are certainly some things that cannot be unseen, and the end? I had a couple of good friends request that I review this, possibly in the hope that I may be able to clarify that end or… hmm, I’m not sure. Did I like it? Not exactly. I didn’t hate it, for sure. I certainly laughed out loud a few times. I think what it has given me is the gift of reigniting my interest in Kevin Smith films. And I’m vaguely interested in creating my own hoax Gumtree ad…

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American Sniper (2014) Film Review

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Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper) was a rodeo rider who became a Navy SEAL sniper, killed a whole bunch of people whilst deployed in the Middle East, and then returned home with PTSD. Along the way, he got married and had some kids.

The film goes for over two hours, and yet it just seemed to fly past – it is dealing with fairly major issues, but brushes them off. I’m not a big fan of Clint Eastwood’s directing, but this film doesn’t seem to know what story it is telling – I suspect it is looking at the differences between him at work and back at home, but I’m not sure. In fact, it really annoyed me the way that it ‘dealt’ with issues. Spoiler alert: he seems to cure his PTSD by sitting in group therapy with some men who have come back quite injured and by helping them in their training. And then he’s fine… and he shows this by sneaking through the house and jokingly threatens his wife with a gun? What? Mind you, she is portrayed as a grumpy cow who didn’t even want to let him buy her a drink, and when they get married she nags and nags and nags. Yet this was nominated for an Oscar – perhaps we don’t need depth to our characters anymore.

American Sniper won an Oscar for Best Achievement in Sound Editing and was nominated for Best Motion Picture of the Year, Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role (Bradley Cooper), Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay (Jason Hall), Best Achievement in Film Editing, and Best Achievement in Sound Mixing.

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