Monday, June 19, 2017

a darker shade of magic

There are two types of books that I always find a little confusing; time travel books and multiple dimension books. It may have something to do with how these types of books are written, but I always find them hard to follow. Which is sad, because I am fascinated by both time travel and multiple dimensions. 

Recently, I read a book that fell into the multiple dimension category and absolutely loved it.




A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab is unique in so many ways. 

The dimensional aspect of the story is well explained and although it permeates the book, it does not over take everything with complex explanations. These color coded parallel dimensions simply exist and Kell (the main character) is one of the few that can transverse between them.

Kell is an interesting character. Quietly flawed. Quirky. Likeable. Although, he does fall into the one-of-the-few-people-able-to-do-a-thing-archetype, I didn't feel that he was written to be overly special. There was a sort of underlining humility to him. Plus, I felt comfortably detached from him. Because of that voyeuristic detachment, I wasn't super invested in his character. It caused me to be much more invested in everything else.

What do I mean by everything else? There is so much else to talk about, from the detailed descriptions of coat pockets; to the caste of outsiders that are not outsiders at all. Although, the world building is subtle, Schwab defines enough to allow the readers imagination to run wild with possibilities. You taste the darkness of one parallel world and you wonder what is magically possible in another. 

The characters are inclusive. Rhy (Kell's brother) is a sort of poly pansexual that may or may not be a bit frustrated with the day to day struggles. Lila (the cross-dressing-street-thief-pseudo-pirate-love interest) is skilled, obnoxious, and suitably reckless. The bond that forms between her and Kell reflects the simple affection that can come from extreme circumstances. This is not an all out romance, of slow burning sexy bits, don't read it if that is what you are looking for. Holland (Kell's counterpart gone awry) is twisted and lost in all the right ways. You find yourself wanting him to find is way out of his stoic little tragedy. The Dane twins (the bad guys) are truly sadistic and good stories always have legitimate monsters pushing that plot along.

The plot was simple and I appreciated that the plot line's catalyst (the threat of dark magic) came together to create something surprisingly unique. Even more unique than Kell being a sort of diplomat between dimensions.

The reason that this book was a total win (for me) was that everything felt nuanced -- not spelled out in excruciating detail. It was like watching parts of a dream, instead of being totally immersed in a dream. That somehow set it a part for me and I think that same feeling could put others off to the story. However, I loved it. Five. Stars.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

selfies and werewolves

I'm not a fan of selfie culture. I find it strange and narcissistic.

Even before there was the camera, people felt the urge to have artists create images in their likeness. The wealthy had artists create portraits in watercolor, oil, and even frescoes. Often these artists would paint more expensive clothes or even change history by adding false imagery at the request of their patron. In the time of antiquity, people had statues and mosaics made to display their likeness. So, this practice is not a new habit of ours.

Oddly, there is one painting that always comes to my mind when thinking of humanity's constant need to create these kinds of displays. The painting I'm talking about was of a man who suffered with hypertrichosis named Pedro Gonzalez (Petrus Gonsalvus).

Petrus Gonsalvus
Photo Courtsey: wikipedia.com


The story of  Pedro Gonzalez, is a strange one. Pedro Gonzalez was born in 1556 in the Canary islands (a group of islands off the coast of Spain). At birth, he was a source of local curiosity and soon drew the attention of  the aristocracy.

During the 16th century, all kinds of people were seen as oddities were traded between powerful or wealthy families. So, Pedro was taken from his home and given as a gift to King Henri II.

King Henri II decided to give Pedro a Latin name (Petrus Gonsalvus) and ordered Pedro to receive an education. The King did this as a sort of entertainment; he wanted to watch the "savage" fail. Fortunately for Pedro, his education was a success.

Pedro became fluent in multiple languages. He mastered the art of the nobleman's etiquette. He even became essential for receiving foreign dignitaries and ambassadors, gaining favoritism from the King.

When King Henri II died his wife, Catherine de Medici, took power as regent. She decided that Pedro should be married in hopes of producing more "wild children" like himself. Catherine became a matchmaker and found a woman (ironically also named Catherine) for him to marry. This new Catherine was a French woman, rumored to be a great beauty.

Petrus and Catherine Gonsalvus
Photo Courtesy: davonnajuroe.com
Petrus and Catherine met for the first time on their wedding day and though it might not have been love at first sight, Catherine gave him many children (seven in total and four of their children inherited their father's hypertrichosis).

In 1581, he and his family were sent on a never ending tour of the courts. Where many paintings and studies were done on him and his children. This fascination escalated and soon they settled under the ownership of Duke Ranuccio Farnese, who tragically sent away Pedro's affected children as gifts.

Petrus's Daughter Antonietta Gonsalvus
Photos Courtesy: wikiart.org and journals.openedition.org


I don't know why I connect this strange story of Petrus and his family to the current selfie culture, but I do. Somehow, I think we have become voyeurs in each others lives. The more bizarre or unique the narrative,  the more interested we become. 

We all buy into the freak-show or spectacle of life. I wonder how healthy that is? And I wonder who are the Petrus's of today?

Friday, June 2, 2017

low latent inhibition

In a previous post, I talked briefly about my low latent inhibition or LLI. To anyone that has never heard of this, it makes me sound like a pervert. I promise you low latent inhibition has nothing to do with how frisky I may or may not be when I get drunk. (Note: My frisky levels do not change when drunk vs. sober.)

LLI is actually what I like to consider a mental trait. It is the term used to label a particular way of processing information.

Most people process information in a latent way. They come in contact with their environment and they are able to simplify the information they are receiving before storing it. For instance, a latent thinker (neurotypical) experiences a crowded diner in a easy to process way. Their brain, without conscious effort, is simplifying their experience so they can choose what to focus on.


Someone with LLI does not have this simplification in their experience. They notice more sounds, more movements, more colors, more textures, etc. -- at all times. This does not necessarily mean that they are aware of EVERYTHING, it simply means that they are experiencing more of the present environment than the average latent thinker.

One of the problems with LLI is that it can be difficult to live with. The people with LLI that have lower IQ's might also struggle with Asperger's, Autism, or other spectrum issues and the people with LLI that have past physical or emotional abuses might have mental illnesses like Bipolar or even Schizophrenia. The reason for this, is that a stifled LLI brain cannot cope with the constant barrage of information.

I am part of the lucky few that do not suffer from these mental health issues. At worst, I have minimal anxiety. Although, I am definitely a walking billboard for eccentricity. The truth is, anyone with LLI knows that processing information the, "LLI way" causes totally unique challenges outside of what a neurotypical would face.

I compiled a list of LLI pros and cons. (I mostly copied and pasted from; samantics.net and lowlatentinhibition.org. But, I have added some of my own.)

Pros
  • You notice more, hear more, smell more and feel more through tactile contact. Without any conscious effort, your mind is in possession of a broader intake of information.
  • Upon encountering any form of stimulus (that interests you), your mind automatically dismantles and explores its components.
  • You usually see through the lies and the deceptions that people use in everyday life. If you’ve watched the show Lie to Me, they would call you a “natural”.
  • When learning, you can often make instantaneous changes. Adaptation is easy.
  • Self-correction is easy because the underlying principle is more evident. Clearer.
  • You make connections and associations between seemingly unrelated material.
  • Comprehension is typically easy. You notice the non-verbal background information and this often provides a more comprehensive picture than what is being spoken.
  • There are exponential leaps of insight taking place all the time, with the background reasoning intact. Wave-upon-wave of permutations, options, variables and choices.
  • Creativity is a given. You see alternatives.
  • You notice things that other people miss
  • Leaps of logic are common. Instead of progressing A,B,C,D and onward, you skip from A to N to Z, accurately.
  • There is no talking voice in your head. No ‘chattering monkey’. The volume and complexity of the information at times drowns out conscious thought entirely.
  • You see the world more thoroughly.
  • Learning is not limited to defined periods of academic study. The assimilation of information is constant, ongoing and never static. There are no lulls or pauses. Everything offers a lesson.
  • Within the maelstrom of information there exists a place of calm and quietude. The eye of the storm. No verbalization exists. No internal narrative. Just presence. No sense of self to intrude of interrupt.
  • You may find that you are often able to answer questions before they have actually been asked, because it always feels like you’re a step ahead in terms of where conversations are going.
  • When preparing for a situation you often find yourself going over as many possible scenarios as possible and try to prepare for the possibility of each of them occurring.
  • You have an incredibly strong intuition. Your instincts are hardly ever wrong and it may feel as though you can predict a lot of things before they happen. This doesn’t mean you can see into the future or read minds, but rather that you are able to use more stimuli to piece together logical conclusions that make it seem to those around you as though you can actually see into the future. You’re actually able to see things that they don’t because your brain is processing stimuli that their brains are not, and that stimuli to them, doesn’t exist.
  • Why is always being asked internally or subconsciously. You even might find yourself asking why you are asking why.
  • Everything seems a little "meta" to you.
Cons

  • Education is awkward. Schools are not set-up to cater with this condition. The way in which things are approached by schools seems piecemeal and incomplete.
  • Listening to other people talking/thinking aloud can be infuriating. They are at point A when you have reached point N or Z already.
  • It is difficult to write/type/speak quickly enough to articulate ideas and the breadth of the permutations involved. Verbalizing what takes place in your mind is impossible. Words render only a fraction of the entirety.
  • You can go off on tangents very easily which can often confuse other people around you.
  • You can very easily forget your train of thought due to many other trains of thought all spanning off the original thought. This means that you’ll spend a lot of time trying to remember what it was you were just thinking and then frantically tracing back your order of thoughts until you manage to get to the source.
  • Tact is necessary since people lie constantly.
  • LLI makes driving a car difficult. Your brain notices countless dangers and variables, and you become overwhelmed and nervous. You are either a terrible driver, or an incredibly good one.
  • Hyper-vigilance can lead to anxiety, and sometimes OCD-like tendencies.
  • Illusions are not very effective. You see through things without wanting to. Conventions and traditions have no significance.
  • You do not value what other people value, and often feel truly unique/alone.
  • Filtering out the variables and honing your options to something workable can be very difficult. Every solution potentially harbors new problems, new variables and new concerns.
  • People may find you to be a little odd, unorthodox or a little intense.
  • You have a habit of saying things that do not fit the accepted norm of behavior. You often choose to disregard conventions because they serve no constructive purpose.
  • Background noise can be a major problem. Especially if you are sick or tired.
  • Your perception of time is either slowed down or sped up.
  • You might have problems with interrupting people due to impatience or not being able to gauge the pauses in conversation.
  • You may have been misdiagnosed with a form of autism or with ADHD/ADD, or professionals may not have actually been able to tell you what exactly is ‘different’ about you.