Brain Pickings

Archive for the ‘PICKED’ Category

27 NOVEMBER, 2012

The Science of Your Brain on Alcohol, Animated

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How your GABA receptors keep you gabbing while tipsy.

In a sequel to their animated explanation of what marijuana does to your brain, the creative duo behind AsapSCIENCE — who have previously illuminated such enigmas as the science of lucid dreaming, how music enchants the brain, the neurobiology of orgasms, and the science of procrastination — explain the science behind those familiar “feelings of release and freedom” that alcohol produces and why you tend to “think very little, but with great clarity.”

Because glutamate sites become less effective, information flow become slow, and only the largest signals can make it through. This means you feel less, perceive less, notice less, and remember less.

Complement with this fantastic 1951 black-and-white animation of how different drugs work, then wash down with an animated look at the scientific cure for hangovers.

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15 NOVEMBER, 2012

Kurt Vonnegut: You’re Allowed To Be In Love Three Times In Your Life

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An existential quota held in three long fingers.

It’s a fertile season for unprecedented glimpses of Kurt Vonnegut’s character, thanks to the newly published anthology of his letters, which has given us such treats as the author’s uncompromising daily routine and his playful, romantic poetry. But in the introduction to the recently released We Are What We Pretend To Be: The First and Last Works (public library) — a slim volume containing Basic Training, Vonnegut’s first-ever novella only published after his death, and If God Were Alive Today, his last unfinished novel — the author’s youngest biological daughter, Nanette Vonnegut, shares a piece of the author’s life-credo that feels at once more personal and more relatable than the vast body of what has been written by and about Vonnegut in his lifetime.

Most times I’d find my father in a very receptive mood to my prying questions, like ‘How many times have you been in love?’ His answer was instantaneous, and he held up three long fingers. I was relieved to hear my mother was one of them. His explanation of the merits and failures of each true love struck me as completely fair. Whether or not my mother really did not love him enough did not matter; he felt that love was lacking, and I believed him.

Indeed, in this wonderful recent interview on The Rumpus, she corroborates the anecdote and cites her father’s words directly:

I think you’re allowed to be in love three times in your life.

What is it about famous intellectual-authors having such prescriptive rules about love? And where does that leave the essential process of doubting love? Perhaps the poets of yore knew best in observing that “Love is not kindly nor yet grim / But does to you as you to him.”

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25 OCTOBER, 2012

Who Could It Be At This Hour? Lemony Snicket Asks All The Wrong Questions

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An irreverent story of secrets in black, gray, and blue.

As a lover of Daniel Handler and his Lemony Snicket alias for young readers, I was thrilled for the much-anticipated release of his latest: “Who Could That Be at This Hour?” (public library) tells the story of a young Snicket, who begins his apprenticeship in a secret organization and soon finds himself in trouble after asking “four wrong questions, more or less.” The black-gray-and-blue illustrations by celebrated cartoonist Gregory Gallant, better-known as Seth, are the perfect complement to Snicket’s signature style — mischievous, sophisticated without taking itself too seriously, brimming with a playful love of language.

The story pulls you in by the collar from the very first paragraph and doesn’t let go until the very last page:

There was a town, and there was a girl, and there was a theft. I was living in the town, and I was hired to investigate the theft, and I thought the girl had nothing to do with it. I was almost thirteen and I was wrong. I was wrong about all of it.

“Who Could That Be at This Hour?” is the first installment in a four-book series titled All The Wrong Questions.

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