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Train your brain - 18th May 2017

Train your brain Mozart's Brain and the Fighter Pilot: Unleashing Your Brain's Potential
by Richard Restak, M.D.
Learn as much as possible about how your brain works.
Apply your knowledge about the human brain to organize your ideas.
Learn about the brain's motor programmes and how to use them.
Improve your memory by using a memory system.
Think in terms of brain geography.

I was pretty worn out and demoralised after the first couple of pages and had lost the will to try and enhance my mental functioning. It seemed to require more cognitive effort than I was prepared to expend. Of the 28 short chapters or steps, only 19 and 21 appealed and fell within the limited effort I'm prepared to make:
Develop a tolerance for uncertainty and ambiguity
Increase mental acuity through wide and varied reading.

Apparently you're not meant to start in the middle so I'm giving up before I've started (wimp) but it does appear to be quite a realistic approach to improving your brain power. Do a bit more than me and let Richard Restak teach you how to be smarter through neuropsychiatry. 
It comes highly recommended according to the blurbs on the back. Please read it and tell me whether it was worth the effort or not?


Archibald McIndoe - 17th May 2017

Archibald McIndoe If you're an Otago Daily Times' reader, then you will know that there is an upcoming film about the life of Sir Archibald McIndoe. The film will star Sam Neill and the Australian actor Richard E Grant as McIndoe. 

Archibald McIndoe was born in Dunedin, educated at Otago Boys High School and then studied medicine at the University of Otago. He worked with the Royal Air Force during the Second World War and pioneered plastic surgery with badly burned pilots and air crews. (You can remedy the appalling brevity of this summary - which has wrapped up 60 years of a very worthy life in two sentences - by reading the book & then seeing the film.)

The film is to be called 'The Guinea Pig Club', the name the men he treated gave thenmselves. Filming will start next year here in New Zealand. However, before the film's release, it might be interesting to read Leonard Mosley's biography of McIndoe.

Faces from the Fire: A Biography of Sir Archibald McIndoe
by Leonard Mosley

Literary Characters - 16th May 2017

Chambers Dictionary of Literary Characters

This is a browser's heaven - the perfect foil for a bookshop when you can't find one or it is closed - and after a few days of dipping into this, you'll wonder how you ever lived without it. 

Covering characters from plays, novels and poetry and ranging from the likes of Elizabeth Bennett and David Copperfield to modern stars such as Harry Potter, this book provides concise and informative entries. The whole thing is fully cross-referenced and has a thorough index of authors, titles and characters.

Try this and see if you can guess the author and the character:
An alarming creation: a charming, cultured, but deadly hero who is a totally amoral psychotic. Leaving a trail of corpses which stretches from America to Europe, ..... tantalizingly evades police scrutiny using a mixture of phlegmatic coolness and reckless daring. Bewitching his friends, and the reader, he invites our collusion in his crimes.

How to Draw Anything - 13th May 2017

If you can write your name, you already have all the skills you need to draw (apparently). If you can't write your name, please refer to our article from a few days ago!

This complete course in drawing claims that being able to write means you can actaully draw - even if you think you can't. I am not convinced myself, being one of life's unfortunates born without a shred of artistic talent. I mean I struggle to make a cup look like a cup! However, that is beside the point.

How to Draw Anything: A Complete Guide
by Angela Gair
This book suggests that no musician would be expected to play a Mozart concerto without hours of practice; no athlete would think of winning an Olympic medal without years of training; no politician would dream of becoming PM without years of perfecting lying techniques; so why should an artist be any different.

What is required is regular drawing and sketching and lots of practice and Gair's step-by-step guide will quickly teach you to draw pretty much anything. Get started today and the sooner you will be proficient.

A bit of light reading for the weekend - 12th May 2017

Why do women want to talk so much?
Why won't men stop and ask for directions?
Why do women love shopping?
Why do men continually offer solutions & advice instead of sympathising?
Why do women nag so much?
Why do men know so little about their friends' lives?

Why, why, why? If you answered all of the above questions with ease, then you may not need to read this book (but you might want to anyway). If you struggled to find an explanation, perhaps you should get yourself copy.

Why Men Lie and Women Cry
Allan & Barbara Pease

Even if you don't want to know the answers to these and the many other questions addressed in this book, you may well enjoy reading it. It is an interesting discussion on the differences between the sexes and sheds some light on why the opposite sex does what it does.

It's light and amusing but also well researched, informative and full of practical advice and solutions. Oh wait! doesn't that mean the book should only appeal to men? (See opening questions)


Handwriting - 11th May 2017

Have you missed out on a job because you write like a child?
Do people think you're less intelligent than you are because of your scrawl?
Does your script make you appear uneducated?
Is your longhand illegible?
Does your handwriting let you down? 

If you answered yes to any of the above, then here is a handy solution:
A Handwriting Manual
by Alfred Fairbank

This is a clear, concise and admirably practical book. With this book, and a pen in hand, anyone can master the basics in a day. There are "copies" which are easy to learn and, with practise, should result in fine handwriting.

It should suit students, teachers, professionals, and everyone with the slightest interest in lettering and the graphic arts.

You can open this as a complete beginner or a left-hander and readily master letter formation and spacing. You will be penning italics like a real pro before you know it. It is an indispensible manual for those who would like to improve.

Guess the poet - 10th May 2017

Guess the poet Yesterday I was accused of being gloomy because of the poem I chose, so today I have decided to focus on a few short (cheerful) poems and let you see if you can guess the poet.

I'm sorry to say my dear wife is a dreamer,
And as she dreams she gets paler and leaner.
'Then be off to your Dream, with his fly-away hat,
I'll stay with the girls who are happy and fat.

So fair is she!
So fair her face
So fair her pulsing figure
Not so fair
The maniacal stare
Of a husband who's much bigger.

Were all our words as wise as witty,
We should profit: More the pity.

To keep your marriage brimming
With love in the loving cup,
Whenever you’re wrong, admit it;
Whenever you’re right, shut up.

(Answers: Stevie Smith, Spike Milligan, Helen Brookfield, Ogden Nash)

Philip Larkin - 9th May 2017

Today's piece concerns the admirable Philip Larkin. For those who are not familiar with his poems, this will serve as an introduction. Once you've become an addict, you can get yourself a volume of his poetry to peruse at will. 

This is my favourite:
They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
and add some extra, just for you.

But they were fucked up in thier turn
By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern
And half at one another's throats.

Man hands on misery to man. 
It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
And don't have any kids yourself.

The above comes out of The Complete Poems of Philip Larkin, which is a really thorough collection.

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