As a follower of (too) many atheist Facebook pages, I heard about the book The Believing Brain by Michael Shermer last year. This book’s purpose was to explain why some people believe in God and some don’t. As someone who decided at the age of five that there was no such thing as a god, I’ve always wondered why people believe. And furthermore, in this current negatively charged political environment, I wonder what makes conservatives so conservative, what makes liberals so liberal, and why people think Waffle House food is edible. These are the real questions in life and The Believing Brain was supposed to have the answers.
I cannot tell a lie, this book is a doozy — chock full of vocabulary words, scientific theory and things that, quite frankly, I’ve never ever heard about. Hey, I was a theatre major. I haven’t taken a real science class, like, ever. And to be honest, I did have some trouble understanding what Shermer was talking about the first few times I’d read a paragraph. But I struggled through the tough parts only to be rewarded with glimmers of understanding. A faint grasp at times, other times a firm grip – no one could ever question the author’s authority on the subject at hand. Indeed he dissects his own skepticism and libertarian leanings, making it easier for this theatre major to understand and identify with his thought process. While I would have liked the book to be more pedestrian, more practical in its delivery, I appreciate the thoroughness with which Shermer approached the myriad of complexities of the human brain. Read more »
North of the Wall, a skinchanger enters a wolf’s body and gorges himself on human flesh. Thousands of miles to the south, a fourteen-year-old queen tends to three ferocious dragons in the hopes that they will win back her ancestral empire. In between, a beaten populace has more immediate concerns than wargs and winged beasts: avoiding armies of warring nobility and finding something to eat.
This is the state of Westeros in A Dance with Dragons (2011), the fifth novel in George R.R. Martin’s acclaimed fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire. Martin is often compared to Tolkien and Robert Jordan, but he’s much darker. Tolkien of course is pretty “PG” and Jordan might throw in some true love here and there, but Martin is heavy on sex, torture, and more sex. (Imagine The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, except with real dragons and about fifty more characters…)
Weighing in at three and a half pounds – yes, I put the book on my bathroom scale – Dragons is a beast, and it’s impossible to discuss it without mentioning the other books in the series. The first, A Game of Thrones, introduces the Starks, the Baratheons, and the Lannisters; these interconnected noble families are “friendly” at the beginning of the book, but mortal enemies by the end. Readers also meet Daenerys Targaryen, a young girl whose father was king before being ousted in a civil war that took place before the book began – and who some say is the true heir to Westeros’s Iron Throne. Read more »
BAD horror movies bring me a lot of joy. I’m talking about the kind that is so awful it’s insulting. Bad scripts, bad acting, bad special effects, just plain bad. I particularly like movies from the 70s because they weren’t torture porn like today’s horror movies — and more importantly, the boobs were real. Cutler’s Records in New Haven, Connecticut has the most hideous horror movie collection known to man at the right price. While digging through the bins, I found two movies that are cinematic gold: Don’t Look in the Basement (1973) and He Knows You’re Alone (1980). Movies with cautionary titles teach us important lessons, so I strongly recommend you watch these two right away.
In Don’t Look in the Basement, we’re introduced to a ridiculous cast of characters who are patients in Stephens Sanitarium. A lobotomized black guy named Sam and his toy boat, a woman possessively rocking a baby doll, an old crone, a nymphomaniac, a hyper ginger with a fro whose sole purpose is to annoy, and a paranoid army dude in full combat gear are just a few of the outcasts. Being part of a new experimental treatment, they are encouraged to act out their delusions. In the first scene, Dr. Stephens instructs an axe murderer to violently chop wood as part of his treatment. “Use the axe, listen to me, use the axe!” he commands. When Dr. Stephens turns his back, this homicidal maniac surprisingly uses the axe to hack him to death. Read more »
With this being the month of love, I thought I’d share a relationship secret with you. Relationships are a lot of fucking work. As with most brilliantly constructed sentences, you can take a statement more than one way. One, relationships are a lot of work: real work, hard work and sometimes downright ugly work. Two, it’s the fucking work that makes all the other work worthwhile. And doing that work in a new place? Well, that just plain rocks. Read more »