Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Dr. John J. Ratey’s Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain: A Book Review

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Dr. John J. Ratey’s Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain works to expand upon the classical principle of sound mind and sound body. Written in a basic style and segmented into chapters based upon societal curiosities and problems, the text examines what exactly exercise does to the brain both short term and long term. While a tad repetitive in his later chapters since most of the science had been covered early on, Ratey digs into what exercise does to the brain and all of the practical applications that simple aerobic work has to the daily life of well, anyone. In terms of education, pregnancy, and depression, Ratey digs into the physiological alterations. For example, in an era where the push to improve education has resulted in less physical education, Ratey notes how the educational process is enhanced, not hindered, through exercise. He points to school districts that have PE every day, segmented not by games but by goals, and in doing so reveals how these students score among the highest in the country on standardized tests. With depression, he lays the case for the positive benefits of exercise, especially in concert with current treatments. While not a book of medical advice per se, the well cited studies and real world examples should do more than make one think, but rather force one to consider their lifestyle (and communicate with their doctors). A strong read overall, especially for those interested in the topic.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Batman: White Knight, A review

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As a sucker for a creative comic/graphic novel, I seized on the opportunity to read Sean Murphy’s Batman: White Knight. Written on DC comics black label, the collection of eight issues (the hyperlink above takes you to the collection) explores an alternate universe in which Batman has official run amuck with the law to the point in which he is placed in prison. These facts are established early on, as the opening pages shed light on a Batman in chains and a Joker free from the scrutiny of the law. This fact is not a typo or misprint, and in this universe Joker has successfully become a public hero and Batman, the ying to his yang, has become the enemy of the public.

While the validity argument of Batman as a hero is old hat, this limited series digs far deeper than the classic good versus evil battle. Batman’s crew, ranging from the current version of Robin, to ex-partners gone AWOL, to Batgirl, all question the worth of the man. Is he good for the city, is his quest to take down Joker and his band of villains worth it? Can they, his current and once trusted hands, deal with not only Batman, but the mystique of former sidekicks no longer living in their world? Further, the pages explore the financial cost of flying state of the art military technology through a city, actions that basically destroy the metropolis on a nearly nightly basis and the truth at the heart of Mr. Freeze and Gotham City itself. Packaged neatly and acutely self-aware, Murpy authors a quick, mature journey through the heart of Batman lore.

Salman Rushdie’s Fury: A Book Review

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Salman Rushdie’s Fury follows the life of Malik Solanka. Solanka, estranged from his family, wanders New York in an angry haze, a haze that hinders his existence, clouds his judgment, and even leads the man to question if he is in fact a serial killer. A former college professor and an entertainment mogul ashamed of the very creations that established his wealth, Solanka existentially explores both his existence and modern life in general. Unlike many of Rushdie’s novels, Fury digs into the culture of all humanity in lieu of delving into post-colonial themes. He chips away at consumerism, entertainment, and the culture of now, remarkably in an age prior to the advent of social media.

As always Rushdie’s prose is dense, but the experience is meaningful, for as Solanka discovers who and what he is, who and what he hates, and how to deal with his internal fury, he exposes fundamental truths to all humanity, for all of us are driven by our fury.