Into The Gray Zone by Adrian Owen is a captivating account of research about the non-physical existence of people who have no means of using movementInto The Gray Zone by Adrian Owen is a captivating account of research about the non-physical existence of people who have no means of using movement or their bodies to communicate with the outside world.
The book is perfectly written and paced for the lay audience, explaining thought processes, concepts, and technical advances in enough detail to bring clarity, but not too much to drag down the exciting findings and emotional ups and downs of the impact the research has on the researchers, patients, and patients' families (as well as the greater world out there). The book explains the advances from using PET scanning to fMRI to further technologies, as well as some other approaches used by Owen's contemporaries (EEG, for example) to delve into the locked-in mind, its thoughts and emotions, its capacity to feel, understand, and respond. There are many important counterpoints to the interpretations of the findings of researchers like Owen, and the book does a very good job of addressing the main ones. In this sense, even the lay audience can get a real feel of what real science is, that scientists, though they have to sound sure of findings and meanings of those findings to secure funding and to force advances based on findings, are not and should not be overconfident, should always welcome counter arguments to their own interpretations, should seek to collaborate with others, should use new technologies all the time to try to expand their own horizons, should question their own personal and professional motives. Often, the public thinks that scientists are either people who think they know everything or people who waste money to find out things that make little difference; this book is a testament that neither of those beliefs are true for many scientists.
The book describes milestones in Owen's research: first being able to detect a change in the brain activity of "vegetative" patients, then trying to prove that some brain activity is not just an automatic response from the brain, but a genuine sign of "mental doing," and then trying to use this knowledge to try to communicate with locked-in patients who have no other means of meaningfully communicating with the outside world. Though the book concentrates on Owen's research by discussing some milestone cases (individuals who suffered brain injury and were living in vegetative or minimally responsive states when Owen and his team used their scanning protocols to try to understand if these individuals had any level of brain activity, response to outside cues, etc.), it delves into much bigger issues, like what it means to be conscious, how consciousness can be measured, what is the difference between reporting vs. being conscious, how is our definition of consciousness biased by our own understanding of ourselves and others, what is the link between consciousness and language, theory of mind, etc.
Overall, Into The Gray Zone is an excellent read that explores the capacities of the human brain, its resilience, and the scientific research that tries to understand these aspects of our existence.
Also recommended for those who like imaging technology, playing tennis, and Hitchcock films....more
A great anthology of different Native American trickster tales rendered in varying artistic styles, from the sublime and surreal to the cutesy and carA great anthology of different Native American trickster tales rendered in varying artistic styles, from the sublime and surreal to the cutesy and cartoony. Most of the tales do not fit neatly in a Western understanding of story arc or have a moral or lesson to teach, which is just perfect. Some things never make sense, some things seem unfair (the coyote that punished all the families by turning them into stone because a woman was unwillingly presented to him to marry), most are fantastical, surreal, and just outlandish. The legends and myths not only tell stories of tricksters, but also shed light on some of nature's curiosities: how did the rabbit lose his tail? how did the alligator get his scaly skin? how did the buzzard lose his head feathers, and why does the coyote trot around with those yellowish eyes, always seemingly unsatisfied? My favorite is "Ishjinki and Buzzard," just hilarious and, well, stinky! Art styles vary quite a bit, but a good spread: there is beautiful pastel renderings of Megan Baehr, the well-inked pages of Andy Bennett and Jason Copland, the wood-cut style of Jim8ball, the classic cartoon style render in full, dynamic motion and emanata... A great collection, indeed....more
I guess I don't get teenage angst. I mean, I get it, sure. But it's hard to relate to this much of it, if you have not had this much of it, I guess. II guess I don't get teenage angst. I mean, I get it, sure. But it's hard to relate to this much of it, if you have not had this much of it, I guess. I kept thinking "what's the problem?" Funny, Raleigh keeps asking herself that, too. At 18, one should start to have the tools to figure these things out, just a tad bit, I 'd like to think. Perhaps I had too much of a good thing when I was little, so by 18... (you're wondering what I was going to say? What I really mean? Well, you'll wonder that a lot in this book. Because, well,... yeah.)
I don't need everything spelled out. I don't need to know exactly how old Stillman was, or what they wrote to each other over two years before they met, etc. I don't really need to know what Raleigh's mom does for a living, or what's up with that photo in the diner. Sure, OK. But It felt like everything was contrived to make you feel like you are, on purpose, not being told. That it wasn't just how the story flowed, or how Raleigh's mind worked, but O'Malley really just wanted to make keep the reader hooked for answers and not deliver on purpose. So, after a while, it got,... yeah...
This kind of [incomplete] writing does kind of evoke the way one thinks, where thoughts don't always come in logical streams, but again, seems like a deliberate tool to frustrate the reader than an actual thing that's happening or an actual thing that is useful to the story. I suppose we get, we really really get, that Raleigh is confused, lost, panicked. But I do wonder if there weren't other, better ways of showing this without the annoying narrative style.
Besides all that, the friendship that develops between the two girls seemed too sudden. Stephanie seems to have a thicker shell in the beginning, but alas, it is gone in an instant; she just yearns to be cool and pretty like Raleigh, who is just a cold asshole, but that somehow makes her cool. Not sure I follow. Perhaps I am too old, and having not grown up in the cool-centric American high school culture, I just don't get it.
What did seem real and successfully portrayed was the friendship and dialog of the three friends who give Raleigh a ride (so maybe I do get it?!) The dialog is crisp, and the secret understanding that long-term friends develop is very tangible. And why they put up with Raleigh is also clear: the guys think she is hot, and the girl thinks she is hot. Guys want her, girl wants to be like her. A bit too cliche, perhaps, but works.
The hunt for Raleigh's soul is hilarious. I'd believe a bunch of late teens would go out in the middle of the night to hunt for cats to look deep into their eyes hoping to transfer souls. I'd believe it more if it were a bunch of college kids, but I guess these kids are almost-college age.
All in all, Lost as Sea is going to appeal to some, a lot. For me, it was an OK read. I am glad I read it, but there are other graphic works that study teenage angsts and ennui more successfully (or in a way that appeals to me more, I guess; SKIM by Mariko and Jillian Tamaki comes to mind.)
Recommended for those who like road trips, cats, booths at diners, and more cats....more
A short graphic novella, The Lighthouse by Paco Roca manages to pack in a lot, from a brief history lesson to Moby Dick to Gulliver's Travels. A youngA short graphic novella, The Lighthouse by Paco Roca manages to pack in a lot, from a brief history lesson to Moby Dick to Gulliver's Travels. A young, rather dour soldier is saved from drowning by a lighthouse keeper, who enlists the young man in helping him build his boat from shipwreck debris. Giving him more than just a purpose, but a new dream, the old man saves the soldier from himself. A sad, melancholic story that has moments of brilliant fun.
Roca's blue-black art is well paneled and well inked. Every panel adds to the mood, the open sea at once refreshing and limiting, holding some distant promise that sounds fantastical and legendary. The details in the landscape, architecture, and even the rain on the lighthouse windows are rendered with great attention.
Recommended for those who like lighthouses, Moby Dick, tiny people, and shipwrecks.
Thanks to Goodreads First Reads and the publisher for a copy of The Lighthouse in exchange for my honest review. I thoroughly enjoyed it!...more
The first volume of Alex + Ada had promise. In the second volume things happened; we learned more about Alex's past and about sentient robots. In theThe first volume of Alex + Ada had promise. In the second volume things happened; we learned more about Alex's past and about sentient robots. In the third and last tpb volume the story came to a predictable end, Alex and Ada paid the price of their untimely love, humans caught up with technology (not without prejudice, of course)...
There are two main problems with Alex + Ada. One has to do with the story, and the other, with the art. The story is static. Even when it moves, it does not develop. The characters are not real, even if we learn things about them. The interesting stories, like Alex and Emily's friendship or the complications of Alex and Claire's relationship, are glossed over. It seems that anything and everything that may be interesting is just deemed as a side story, therefore not worth developing, but it is these side stories that inform the reader of the main characters (or main character, since Alex is the only one with a substantial past and group of friends). What happens to Daniel after grandma? That, now, could be an interesting story...
The art is static, as well. There are many, many panels that are repeated, almost with no change, as characters talk, and talk, and talk. There are moments when the unchanging repeated panel format is effective, contemplative moments when a character is thinking or realizing something, etc, but pages and pages of similar looking panels does not help create a dynamic story. Added to this, the facial expressions and body language of characters are very static, it is as if they are all, uhm, I hate to say this, ROBOTS! Alex looks exactly the same when he is happy, sad, indifferent, or surprised. A greater range is afforded grandma and Claire, but still, they are pretty static. Most characters are standing up, walking, or sitting stiffly in any given panel. There is one panel where Claire, utterly angry and reeling, kind of hunches over and almost makes a fist, but no worries, she doesn't really.
In the end, an interesting premise was carried out to its not-so-surprising, logical conclusion with stiff figures changing scenery now and then. The story attempted to explore some interesting concepts, but none that were original and not in a super original way. The coloring is beautiful, I'll say that.
Recommended for those who like poached eggs and hate oranges....more
A dead body in the forest. But it gets much weirder than that... One big problem I ad wasn't with the comic, but with the copy, which says it's a grouA dead body in the forest. But it gets much weirder than that... One big problem I ad wasn't with the comic, but with the copy, which says it's a group of friends. To call these kids friends by any stretch of imagination would be wrong. The two girls are friends, sure. But that's about it. Two unlikeable kids, one unassuming little brother, one sweet girl, and a nerd does not make a group of friends.
Recommended for twitchers, pear lovers, and gameboy devotees. ...more
**spoiler alert** Sehzade Yangini by Selcuk Oren was recommended to me by the owner of the comics bookstore I went to in Kadikoy two years ago. Becaus**spoiler alert** Sehzade Yangini by Selcuk Oren was recommended to me by the owner of the comics bookstore I went to in Kadikoy two years ago. Because I had no idea about the local comics scene, I thought I'd ask the guy who runs the shop. I had no idea, though I flipped through it, that it had zombies in 18th century Istanbul (whatever you want to call it). In fact, after having read this first volume, I still was not sure (I had to check some reviews online to confirm).
So that's a good thing, in a way, since had I known that it had zombies, I probably would not have bought it. But I liked this first volume, its overzealous machismo, its noir-ish melodrama... The drawing style is angular, with plenty of pastels and silhouettes that render the city ever-present. There might be some historical anachronisms, but they seem to fit the style and mood well. One main complaint I have, which is an easy pitfall in cartooning in general, is that narration explains the images, while it should complement them. That is, if a guy in the pictures is beating metal with a hammer, the narration might tell you why he is doing it, or what he is thinking about, not that he is beating metal with a hammer (one can already see that!) So this idea that narration and images complement each other to give a richer story is one that can definitely be explored in the upcoming issues of Sahzade Yangini.
At an early point in the story, our antihero, the gambling joint boss, walks past some "ghosts," and later in the book, towards the very end, these ghosts take a more prominent, flesh-and-bone presence, which made me finally realize that, hey, these might be zombies, not some allegorical reference to death. These creatures are drawn well, scary and all, while the living men (for there are very few women around, which is probably pretty realistic) all have mustaches and fezzes and a particular way of dressing, but the artist manages to distinguish them in size and facial close-ups.
The first volume is the size of a comic tpb in the US, so I thought it had been published as comic singles first (i.e., first published as comic singles, and then several singles collected in the trade paperback format, which is how most long-running comics are published in the US). Turns out, there were no singles, so this is just volume one of a continuing story, which may confuse some people (I immediately assumed it would just be the beginning of a story with no neat conclusion in this volume, because I am used to the US tpbs).
I am well intrigued to continue the story. I am pleased that there are artists who are expanding the western graphic comics tradition using stories, themes and elements from Ottoman and Turkish history. I also appreciated the small glossary in the end that explains some of the more Ottoman and technical terms used in the story.
**spoiler alert** Oola by Brittany Newell tells the story of an aimless, drifting couple who shack up in Big Sur for a while, him growing his obsessio**spoiler alert** Oola by Brittany Newell tells the story of an aimless, drifting couple who shack up in Big Sur for a while, him growing his obsession of her, and her languidly passing time until she leaves. The blurb about the book can be misleading, since nothing dangerous really comes off Leif's obsession of Oola. There isn't an event that chills to the bone. Most of the book is Leif's chronicling of Oola, her skin, her hair, her scars, her smell, her cigarette butts, her clothes, her nail clippings, while she hangs out, reads, answers questions, cooks, and practices piano during the one hour he goes running, the only hour they spend together. His mind takes the story back to his younger days, to his previous love interest, a man called Tay, and his own neuroses, while Oola's occasional monologs give glimpses of her "white trash" past. The real turn in the story comes when Oola leaves, though one could point to earlier moments when things start to get strange. Perhaps this moment comes a little too late, because then things happen, and they seem a bit rushed, not well balanced with all the things that happened before, so languid, lost and un-bumpy as they were.
Leif's and Oola's metamorphoses are certainly the crux of the story. While Leif's motives and choices are clear, Oola's are a mystery, despite the fact that most of the book seems to be about Oola. Why does Oola leave? What's up with the salty water? And the aliens? We are not meant to find these things out, or we are meant to speculate about them, like Leif speculates about Oola's inner being by just observing her every move and collecting her detritus.
The obsession gives the first half of the book a sense of claustrophobia that is complete and suffocating, something I believe the authors sets out to do and succeeds well in doing. The events that follow release pressure, and Leif flutters violently like a balloon now letting out air in convulsions. But what is slightly disappointing is that we never really get to know Oola, and maybe that's the point, that one can learn a lot about someone by watching them, or even quizzing them, but it is impossible to know someone completely.
It's strange to try to understand Leif and Oola: who are these people? Do people like this exist? These post-postmodern hipster-come-hippies who aimlessly drift from one bored day to the next, moving but stationary, alive yet stagnant, these people who can afford countless aimless afternoons... are they real? These are the things I find myself asking after I have finished the novel, wondering what they mean, these people and their existence. I feel slightly ridiculous and guilty for having read it, just like I do after watching yet another old film about very rich people bantering on about their lives in black and white, Katherine Hepburn's hair done impeccably and Cary Grant grinning. Perhaps is is so very strange to think of Leif and Oola as these kinds of iconic stars and the rich and spoiled roles they played, but in a way that's exactly who they are, these uber-privileged, lost 21st century Americans who jet set seamlessly (ah, not to have to get visas to Europe...) and rot from boredom.
Leif's sexuality was perhaps the most interesting subject in this novel for me, though I can't quite call it sexuality, as it has little to do with sexual identity or gender expression, but rather a mind displacement, a strong wish to be someone else, not just someone because they are a woman, but someone in particular. Leif is the embodiment of careless daydreams where teenagers don superhero identities and save damsels in distress or the office clerk becomes the boss and fires everyone. Leif takes it to the extreme, finding a strange yet necessary merging with his gender-queer past and present that works well with his desire to become Oola. Though his struggles to embody the very thing he covets seem extreme, there is very little that is actually extreme. The foreshadowing (both in the copy for the book and in the novel itself) of danger and S&M, in whatever loose meaning of its complexities, simply does not materialize into something recognizable as such later.
Recommended for those who like avocados, cats, XXL shirts, salt water, and classical music.
Thanks to LibraryThing and the publisher for an ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review....more
Sunstone Vol. 1 by Stjepan Sejic starts to tell the story of two women who meet online and later in person to participate in some BDSM play. Sounds goSunstone Vol. 1 by Stjepan Sejic starts to tell the story of two women who meet online and later in person to participate in some BDSM play. Sounds good. Someone mentioned Strangers in Paradise, so I wanted to give this a try, since SiP is a melodramatic, complicated, over-the-top masterpiece with some very good character development, non-model-like body types, love triangles, secret pasts, and criminal action-adventure.
Sunstone's first tpb volume reads like an S&M manual for beginners. The narration (by one of the characters) is very repetitive ("I just met her two months ago," repeated in many forms over and over again, for example). It manages to be humorous at times, and cute and loving at others. Perhaps the most humorous exchanges are between Ally and her "best friend" Allen, the only other prominent character in the volume, and the only male. Even though everything about the BDSM community and some very basic rules and conventions are reiterated many times, it is not clear why the women have issues that they are emotionally (not just sexually) attracted to each other. They bang their heads, no, I can't she's just a friend, on and on, but nowhere in the extensive explanations do we hear why this is a problem. Was it that they think nobody in the BDSM community has relationships? That people meet to play and there is a solid rule of not getting emotionally attached (could be, but usually discussed ahead of time...)? Unclear.
I imagine the sexual orientation issues will be expanded upon in the coming issues, since there seems to be some disconnect between BDSM play and sexual orientation and expression here (the impression I got is that Lisa is straight, or thinks herself as straight. Ally doesn't give an impression either way, except we know she had a relationship with Allen before.) Unclear what the message is, or if there is one, about the nature of BDSM and sexuality and sexual identity and expression (beyond dominant and submissive, which in and of itself is very narrow; also keeping in mind that there is ongoing debate whether BDSM is a sexual orientation itself). It seems that the women both thought that it didn't matter that they were both women, only that one was dominant and the other submissive. Yet, many in the community would have very specific ideas of who they would choose to play with, what gender, what gender expression, etc. (But I realize, this is just a fantasy comic, and perhaps does not require such realistic attention :) )
Most of my issues with this volume are the unnecessary narration and many, many basic cartooning conventions and good practices that are just ignored, and some cause a worse reading experience than this comic deserves, which is a pity. I am not familiar with Sejic's other work, so have no idea if this is "his style." And having a style is certainly fine, and welcome really, if it does not confuse the reading. For example, the speech bubble tails are thin and squiggly. OK, fine. They seem to express some of the emotions of the characters, so that's very cool. But the fact that they do not properly point at the mouths (a common mistake many cartoonists make; but in cartoons anything could be talking, someone's hair could be talking, their stomach could be talking, it's the beauty and power of cartoons, so it is important to get the tail pointing to the right place), and that sometimes they cut across a scene, instead of completing the framing of a scene are two things that are not going to win any points from me. This makes the panels look like they were not well thought out and not planned properly, that the cartoonists wanted to emphasize or show something, but the cartoon elements got in the way.
The other major issue (and this is where Terry Moore and SiP shine!) is the body types. The two female characters look very similar. Heck, Allen looks just like them, except he has a goatee (which is surprisingly shaped like the way the two females shape their pubic hair!) Everyone is slim, hot, with stylish haircuts. In fact, all the BDSM gear Ally has hoarded over the years (presumably trying stuff on herself, since she did not have any other partners other than Allen) fit perfectly and beautifully on Lisa, because, really, they are the same exact size... Luckily, Ally wears glasses and her hair is black (though later, it seems to turn brown over the course of a single day), and Lisa is reddish. A scene with a co-worker at Lisa's work has two women standing side by side, looking exactly the same (same outfit, red tops and white aprons, red tops not a part of the work uniform), luckily again, the co-worker is blond...
I will try and read the second volume, as well. I am hoping the BDSM 101 class will end and the characters will start to gain some more shape... I am not expecting anything too realistic (I mean, most BDSM people are not hotties, they're just normal looking people, not models like Ally and Lisa, so that's pure fantasy, which is fine) but something less preachy about the basics of BDSM and more nuanced in the cartooning aspects would be nice....more
Eileen by Otessa Moshfegh is a slow burning character study. The narrator, Eileen herself many years later, is an intriguing choice, self-analyzing heEileen by Otessa Moshfegh is a slow burning character study. The narrator, Eileen herself many years later, is an intriguing choice, self-analyzing her younger, strange self, telling her story the way she wants to. The reader is left to ponder just how much of anything Eileen tells is true. Older Eileen gives us a thorough and horrific characterization of the younger Eileen and her father, the two remaining members of the Dunlop family. These two characters are caricatures of the self-possessed, self-conscious young adult and an alcoholic, paranoid ex-cop. Eileen's description of her current life is equally disturbing in it's happiness and comfort, almost unbelievable, based on the descriptions of how she managed to get there from X-ville (as she calls the town she grew up in): many marriages to men who were a mix of kind and not. The old Eileen is as baffling as the young version, undoubtedly suffering from some borderline personality disorder or some such diagnosis in fashion now.
Due to the nature of the narrator, the story is told in repetitive loops, evolving ever so slowly, creeping at a slow pace towards the bizarre finale. That things never turn out the way they were planned is a relief; there are no neat closures here, except maybe that Eileen manages to do the ultimate thing she wanted to do all along: she leaves X-ville in the end (something we know from the very beginning).
The strangeness of a younger self is perhaps the overwhelming sense in the book, something most of us are familiar with when trying to understand our younger versions, our motivations and worries from earlier times in our lives. The older Eileen has not entirely lost her dour sense of humor, often mocking her younger self as she used to mock others when she was young.
Recommended for those who like to read about shadows in the dark, mice in the walls, murderous cars, dank basements, and, of course, booze!...more
A small gem of a book, a bit "too American" in some ways. What the hell is "Blessed Assurance"?!? Sounds like a religious cult thing to do, singing thA small gem of a book, a bit "too American" in some ways. What the hell is "Blessed Assurance"?!? Sounds like a religious cult thing to do, singing this at camp. Anyway, as I said, for someone who did not grow up in the US, a bit too American...
Interestingly, I think some of the drawings would be heavily criticized for line weight. Heavy lines in inappropriate places, etc. I know if I had drawn stuff like this, my cartooning teacher would tsk tsk at me and ask me to correct the line weight under the chin, tracing the belly facing up, and so on.
The simplicity of the drawings is just brilliant, though. And the square-ness is just perfect. Square = happiness :) (well, circle = happiness, but circular books are difficult to bind!)...more
Well written, though at times repetitive, sci-fic classic about an Earth man who becomes the keeper of a secret galactic station. Simak asks some bigWell written, though at times repetitive, sci-fic classic about an Earth man who becomes the keeper of a secret galactic station. Simak asks some big moral and ethical questions in Way Station. There is a lot of great alien technology, the main character's limitations in understanding the aliens and their technology (mostly gifts) is very realistic, and Simak does a good job of building the tension slowly and steadily for an exciting climax.
Recommended for those who like shooting ranges, art festivals, liquid life forms, and mail delivery....more