vineri, 29 octombrie 2010

Astonishing Splashes of Colour

It's almost unreal when you feel you can understand and relate to the main character in a book. Although we don't seem to share the same characteristics or to have gone through the same experiences, I feel as if Kitty is someone I deeply understand. Of course, it might be just because it is written in a way which seems to pierce through the important things, details, evidence of sanity and insanity. All the great ingredients which seem to blend perfectly in a Dostoievskian way but seen through modern lenses. I like that about the book: that it's so intense, it grips you until you want to know everything, understand how all of those events happened and the causes which led to them.

Kittty, a young wife without the prospect of being a mother again(-a result of a miscarriage) tries to fin her new identity and live through her loss. The support that her family gives her is great and you can see the different characters building up into unique and powerful persons. The father who took care of his family, the faithful husband which take care of her and tries to make her acknowledge a new perspective for their married life, and the other brothers with their interests and their family. Kitty does seem to make an awfully large amount of mistakes, but they do seem to be explained by her condition: the denial of loosing a son, the hard truth that she can never have children, and the depression which seems to take such a hold on her that she's not capable of thinking strait. That's the course of her condition.

It all seems to make sense that an accident(a fire) causes the loss of a brother and a glimpse of new start for Kitty and her husband. It's as if someone has to sacrifice himself/herself to make room for others to try and seize a chance at being happy. This is the price the author sets for a glimpse of normality/or happiness for the main character.

A great novel, perhaps a bit too edgy at times, but it is worth reading.

vineri, 22 octombrie 2010

Wild Minds- What animals really think

The fascination with different intelligent beings is something that grasps the imagination and attention of scientists all over. but who are we to say how intelligent beings must look or behave like?

Marc Hauser's book is an intriguing way of asserting this question. First it surprised me that we have such an anthropomorphic way in which to explain animal behavior. Apart from saying that animals can be jolly or sad I haven't attributed them with many emotions, but apparently other scientist have tried to explain animal behavior using terminology and concepts applicable only to humans. Like the author says, maybe some of the modalities by which we think we test animal intelligence aren't fit for what pressures nature has put on the evolution of those animals. For instance chimpanzees and orangutans seem to recognize themselves in the mirror, but gorillas seem not to care. We tend to take this as an sign of self-awareness, but maybe the animals don't obtain an advantage by recognizing themselves in the mirror, in the arms race of evolution. So then, it seems that our methods are the ones that aren't measuring the right concepts, the ones that would appear in our mind eye as signs of intelligent thought, or processing.

The author provides an array of examples when experimental work has shed light on processing or feelings we tend to see as landmarks of the human race. For example, problem solving and the capacity to inhibit an initial impulse in order to get to the right solution seem to be present in humans, rhesus macaques and in some chimpanzees. It is interesting to see the experimental conditions and the research questions addressed in order to test some hypothesis. It i in a way a limitation of our human way of reasoning, or so it seemed to me. For instance we put the question of altruism to the test, but we must exclude the potentianlity that the anmswer given by the tested animals represented an response to something totally different.

Marc Hauser carefully brings the attention to all of these details and addresses new questions for those which search understanding in the way animals process information or react to the environment and the question natural selection puts on them.

I Enjoyed having a glimpse into the field of comparative psychology, animal ethology and bioethics, the main fields which seem to draw knowledge from experimental work done on animals.

I can't wait to have a pet to try to entail some experiments on it...

marți, 12 octombrie 2010


I've been curious about this play for so long and now I can finally be glad that I've read it.
What is to say about Goethe's masterpiece? That it represents the human nature and the endeavors which can impede a soul in it's quest for knowledge and the purpose in life.
All the distractions are metaphorically embedded in Mefistofel(the devil) which devises a plan to conquer Faust's soul for all eternity. In the course of sealing the deal, the Devil offer his services to Faust and says that he can make any wish come true.

The path of wanting and having and then wanting anything else consumes the human nature of Faust, and in the end of his life he realizes that by having what he wanted he only managed to want more still and his desires were never making him truly happy. He couldn't have an relationship with a loved one because he managed to seduce them by using the enchantments set by Mefistofel(he wasn't showing his true self and that's the reason why the persons he loved, first Margareta and then Elena, felt that the love brought them great sorrow and chose to end their life).

In a final act of his life he commands a couple of old people, which symbolize the harmony in a married life, to move from their old house into another place, and because they refuse they are murdered and then their house set on fire by soldiers who got the order from Faust. Knowing the result that his command had brought he is sorrowful and realizes that al his life he hasn't gained anything from his companionship with Mefistofel, that he has only impoverished his soul and being of an old age he dies. His soul escapes the grasp of the devil and in the end he regains his place in the heavens alongside the angels and his first love.

marți, 5 octombrie 2010

The Well-Beloved

Every person has her/his own opinion about what drives them through life. Thomas Hardy chooses to describe the idea which might drive a person to seek love.

When a sculptor's idea about perfection is driving him to love women in which this perfection resides temporary his whole life is marked by that. It seemed to me like an egocentric way of seeing the beauty in the women which he loved. It was only through the action of his jade "the well-beloved" which he seeks, that any of his romantic interests gained any beauty, and after he considered that the spirit of his well-beloved had passed from that body to another, he only viewed it like a carcass, not able to generate any feelings of attraction.

His pursuit leads him to hurt the first woman which he asked to marry him(Avice), and after meeting the woman's girl(Avice the second) he realizes that what he thought he was searching(the well-beloved), was something that others might search for to, but not under the same name. As fate will have it, he falls in love with Avice the second(her mother dies before) and want to marry her also, but she is wed to another man. He assumes the role of a protector and continues his life, until, after some 20 years he hears again from Avice and goes to see her. Then he sees her girl, a beautiful woman of 21 which resembles most his youth love. She's also an Avice,the third, and he tries to marry her also, but being sixty years old doesn't manage to do that, in spite of the support Avice, the mother, has shown. This intricate plot resumes itself by the death of Avice(the second) after she finds out that her daughter elopes to wed secretly with her sweetheart.

One to many tries for the character, and he falls ill, an illness which has the effect of aging him severely and depleting him of his muse/curse(the search of a well-beloved).

It shows once more that an ideal of something cannot be retain permanently into someone's mind, as the mind is set to age; and that being to trapped in the pursuit of perfection can make somebody alienate from society.

Ultimately he never got a chance to love for a longer time the person in which he thought his Well-Beloved resided. His curse was broken by old age, when he didn't feel any feeling of art, beauty and physical attraction to anybody.