Thursday, July 28, 2011

Away, Away to Gangtok!

I am off to Gangtok for a week!  It's a beautiful place up in the Himalayas.  I've been there before, but only for about 3 days.  This time I intend to explore a lot more - provided the rains cooperate.

If you would like to read about it, here's a post I wrote after my previous visit.  Gangtok is also where I met two people who had climbed Mount Everest.  I wrote about it here.


Wednesday, July 27, 2011

TCT - Game of Thrones, Brain Movies, and Readaholism

Did you know that in the 19th century, reading novels was likened to having a drug habit?  

Kinda makes sense if you think about it.  It's addictive, especially when you're so engrossed that you lose track of time and surroundings, and to them that addiction was worrisome. Of course, being addicted to reading doesn't really come with the negative side effects associated with drug addiction. For instance, there's no strain on loved ones - unless you count them having to crane their necks over the edge of a book to catch a glimpse of you at the dining table as 'strain'...

Reading has always been a great source of enjoyment for me.  I've always preferred curling up with a book to watching a movie.  Lately, I've been reading George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire - an epic fantasy series.  I read the first book Game of Thrones last year, but picked up the second only recently, after having watched the HBO tv series based on the first book.

The television adaptation was *excellent*.  I was pleasantly surprised to see that they really stuck to the book as much as possible and that most of the characters fit their roles perfectly.  Tyrion Lannister, kept me giggling; Daenerys Targaryen and Arya Stark were simply brilliant; and I even wanted to punch the clementine-faced whiny prat Prince Joffrey in the face!  Tyrion actually got to do just that in the second episode:

One of my favourite scenes, I must say!

Because the characters, scenes, and sets of the HBO series fit the story so well, I can picture the events of the second book much more vividly than I normally do while reading books - and my imagination is quite vivid, if I may say so myself. As a result, reading Clash of Kings is like watching a long  movie for me, minus the eye strain.  It's friggin amazing!

So, why is it that we can lose ourselves in books?

Neurological studies have shown that the brain processing required by books is more than what is required by other media like television, but that's actually why we are more likely to block out distractions while reading.  The countless number of times I've wanted to chuck popcorn and coffee at obnoxiously loud people at the theater forces me to agree.

It has also been found that we are more likely to lose ourselves in light fiction or narrative non-fiction books than other types, and that we tend to 'find ourselves' in the fictional characters we read about.  It's empathy on a whole different level, apparently.   However, no one really knows exactly how the brain processes reading and how we visualize what we read.

In the words of E. B. Huey:
To completely analyze what we do when we read would almost be the acme of a psychologist's achievements, for it would be to describe very many of the most intricate workings of the human mind.

I did find a couple of interesting articles on the subject but I'd like to learn more:

Books that look promising:
The Psychology of Reading by Keith Rayner, Alexander Pollatsek
Visualizing Psychology by Siri Carpenter, Karen Huffman

Sunday, July 24, 2011

SS - Professor McGonagall

As you probably know, part two of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was released on the 15th.  I watched the first show on the first day - how could I not?  I even took my wand.  Yes, I am that kind of fan.  

I fervently waved the wand towards the screen whenever things got tense, so I like to think that it is because of me that Hogwarts remains standing and that Voldemort is dead.  Well, I'll give some credit to McGonagall too, because she was freakin' awesome.  Okay, okay, so was Snape. But, yeah, it was mostly me.  You're welcome, fellow Harry Potter fans. :D

A quick Google search to find a good representation of McGonagall led me to these fantastic Magic Cards, made by moonchildinthesky on deviantART. Here's the professor:

It's actually an animation.  Check it out here.

There's another reason I like this artist.  I have a soft-spot-bordering-on-obsession for Disney (yes, I admit it) and moonchildinthesky makes excellent Disney portraits.

You should check out the rest of this artist's galleries!

Friday, July 22, 2011

FF - Celtic Mythology

Over the past two days I've been reading a lot about Celtic Mythology.

The stories are absolutely lovely, but let me tell you, a lot of the names given are awesome but unpronounceable!  I sat staring at my screen trying to say them out loud and ended up tripping over my tongue a number of times.  There are names like 'Mygdonia' and Lacedaemonia' and 'Cappadocia' and 'Hyreania'.  Complicated much?

The two sites that I spent HOURS perusing were:
- - which has all sorts of mythology - which has a collection of old Celtic texts.

I also found, but haven't had time to go through it carefully. It looks promising, though, and I did take the image from it!  The picture is of a mythological being whose name complexity I'll leave for you to determine youself.  It is - wait for it!

...The Green Man.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

TCT - Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire

When I was a child, my mother would ask: "Radha, did you break this?"

I'd promptly reply with: "No Mommy! Radha did!" and then I'd point to the evil, invisible twin that was standing next to me, now better known as Just Air.  


I was a terrible liar as a child, and that, unfortunately, has stuck with me through the years.  Not that I endorse lying or anything; it's just a useful skill to have at times.  Especially when you're trying to pull off a prank.

I love to act. I really do.  I enjoy the feel of stepping into someone's skin and prancing about a stage as him or her.  It's so much more fun than getting up in front of an audience as myself - something I really can't do without feeling the need to sprint to Timbuktu.  I've been told that I am a decent actress (even won a couple of awards in college and whatnot, if I may brag!), and I've also been told that I'm a lousy liar.

So, I get "You're such a good actress, why can't you just lie well?" when someone wants me to tell a friendly fib for them, which happens, surprisingly, quite often.  The thing is, the two don't really feel the same for me.  I'm still 'me' when I lie so it's hard to put on an act.  I also tend to giggle at inconvenient moments when the fib is particularly amusing.  I just have to come to terms with the fact that the p-poker face is something I will never be able to do.

When an article in Scientific American Mind popped up about 18 things that make a good liar, I was intrigued.

 Most of their points seem obvious when you read them, but I doubt that if we thought about it ourselves we'd come up with more than 5.  And so, here they are:

(1) manipulativeness. "Machiavellians" are pragmatic liars who aren’t fearful or anxious. They are "scheming but not stupid," explain the authors. "In conversations, they tend to dominate, but they also seem relaxed, talented and confident."
(2) acting. Good actors make good liars; receptive audiences encourage confidence.
(3) expressiveness. Animated people create favorable first impressions, making liars seductive and their expressions distracting.
(4) physical attractiveness. Fair or unfair, pretty people are judged as being more honest than unattractive people.
(5) natural performers. These people can adapt to abrupt changes in the discourse with a convincing spontaneity.
(6) experience. Prior lying helps people manage familiar emotions, such as guilt and fear, which can “leak” behaviorally and tip off observers.
(7) confidence. Like anything else, believing in yourself is half the battle; you’ve got to believe in your ability to deceive others.
(8) emotional camouflage. Liars "mask their stark inclination to show the emotional expressions they truly feel" by feigning the opposite affect.
(9) eloquence. Eloquent speakers confound listeners with word play and buy extra time to ponder a plausible answer by giving long-winded responses.
(10) well-preparedness. This minimizes fabrication on the spot, which is vulnerable to detection.
(11) unverifiable responding. Concealing information ("I honestly don’t remember") is preferable to a constructed lie because it cannot be disconfirmed.
(12) information frugality. Saying as little as possible in response to pointed questions makes it all the more difficult to confirm or disconfirm details.
(13) original thinking. Even meticulous liars can be thrown by the unexpected, so the ability to give original, convincing, non-scripted responses comes in handy.
(14) rapid thinking. Delays and verbal fillers ("ums" and "ahs") signal deception, so good liars are quick-witted, thinking fast on their feet.
(15) intelligence. Intelligence enables an efficient shouldering of the “cognitive load” imposed by lying, since there are many complex, simultaneously occurring demands associated with monitoring one’s own deceptiveness.
(16) good memory. Interrogators’ ears will prick at inconsistencies. A good memory allows a liar to remember details without tripping in their own fibs.
(17) truth adherence. Lies that "bend the truth" are generally more convincing, and require less cognitive effort, than those that involve fabricating an entire story.
(18) decoding. The ability to detect suspicion in the listener allows the liar to make the necessary adjustments, borrowing from strategies in the preceding skill set.
I definitely fail at a couple of these points; a fact that should satisfy the people who continue to insist that I should be a good liar just because I'm a good actress.

One thing I really enjoy doing and like to think I'm decently good at is improv.  I like to hold nonsensical conversations on just about anything and steer them in interesting directions depending on the responses I get. But lying outright?  I still suck at it.

...or maybe this whole post was a lie.

Don't look at me like that!  Radha wrote it.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

SS- Secret Cove

When I was out on my secret mission, I found this secret cove:

Isn't it beautiful?

What happened was that I stopped at my parents' place between 'tasks', and ended up going through some of my old documents.  Apart from finding interesting stories that I wrote when I was five years old in which grandmothers slapped little country boys for not paying attention to the circus (yeah, dont ask...), I found a bunch of folders with Christian Riese Lassen's artwork on them.

I had forgotten how much I loved those folders!  I asked our all-knowing friend, Google, and found his website to look at more of his paintings.  And that's when I found Secret Cove.