Friday, November 28, 2008

Doors of Perception

This fascinating paragraph from a recent Newsweek article ("Why We Believe," 11/3/08) is worth a careful reading:
"A bundle of neurons in the superior parietal lobe, a region toward the top and rear of the brain [...] distinguishes where your body ends and the material world begins. Without it, you couldn't navigate through a door frame. But other areas of the brain, including the thinking regions in the frontal lobes, sometime send "turn off!" signals to this structure, such as when we are falling asleep or when we feel physical communion with another person (that's a euphemism for sex). During intense prayer or meditation, brain-imaging studies show, the structure is also especially quiet. Unable to find the dividing line between self and world, the brain adapts by experiencing a sense of holism and connectedness. You feel a part of something larger than yourself."

The article claims that this "ability to shut off the sense of where you end and the world begins" may help explain why people are inclined to accept irrational beliefs, such as belief in the paranormal. It implies that this false sense of connection allows us to accept beliefs that are false.

But my question is this: What if the experience of holism and connectedness is not merely an adaptation to a part of the brain being shut down, but that shutting down that structure is a way for the brain to allow itself to experience holism and connectedness? In other words, the brain is actually designed to allow us to perceive a higher truth--to step through another kind of doorway entirely.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Bookgasm Q & A

Hey, have you read the new Nora Roberts?
Are you a member of Oprah’s Book Club?
Do you enjoy stories about the struggles of the disenfranchised in our society?
If you answered “no” to all those questions, we’d like to welcome you to BOOKGASM, the site dedicated to READING MATERIAL TO GET EXCITED ABOUT.
This is from the "About" page of one of my favorite book review websites--BOOKGASM. The site is edited by pop culture enthusiast Rod Lott, who's excellent reviews of Dark Gold and Night of the Furies have naturally endeared him to me. But what I love most is the attitude of a site "that includes all kinds of genre fiction, from horror and sci-fi to mystery and suspense. It also includes graphic novels, trashy paperbacks, cheap magazines and other things that much of America pretends to be ashamed of, for no good reason."

For cheap thrills, Shakespeare, mythology and more, take a look at Rod Lott's Q & A with me.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Stiff Measures

Will economic hysteria revive the bacchanalia?

CANBERRA (Reuters) - An Australian holiday resort will hold a month-long, nude "anything goes" party to combat an expected economic downturn, media reports said on Thursday. "Tough economic times call for stiff measures," Tony Fox, the owner of the White Cockatoo resort in Mossman, in tropical Queensland state, told the Courier-Mail newspaper. "It will be a hedonism resort, where anything goes for a month. It doesn't take rocket science to work out what it means," Fox said, naming March as the risque party month. (more...)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Traveling to Greece?

My screenwriter friend Leon Capetanos is of Greek descent, and he's traveled many times to the country. In fact, one of his movies, Tempest, which he wrote with the great American director Paul Mazursky, was shot in the Peloponnese, at the tip of one of those finger peninsulas, the area known as the "Mani." (Paul said he used to sing "We're in the Mani" every morning on location).

Paul Mazursky with my wife, Joanna
Farmer's Market, Los Angeles

When I was planning my research trip for Night of the Furies, Leon had one recommendation: Harry's Greek Travel Guide. This is not a guidebook, but a massive website run by a Greek-American (or American-Greek) named Harry Grant. Harry rivals the ancient geographer Pausanias in the depth and breadth of his knowledge of Greece. The site is almost overwhelming. But it's very well designed and absolutely invaluable. If you're planning a trip to Greece, I strongly recommend you take a trip through Harry's website first.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

NIGHT OF THE FURIES is a Fugue on Freedom

Chicago Tribune journalist and author Gerry Doyle (From the Depths) has written an online feature about Night of the Furies at The Big Thrill. If you're curious about the difference between ancient Greek and Roman orgies, you might want to give it a look.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Dying to Know

To fear death, my friends, is only to think ourselves wise, without being wise: for it is to think that we know what we do not know. For anything that men can tell, death may be the greatest good that can happen to them: but they fear it as if they knew quite well that it was the greatest of evils. And what is this but that shameful ignorance of thinking that we know what we do not know? Socrates

A Popular Science article reports that a three-year study will explore the nature of death and consciousness: "After countless accounts of near-death experiences, dating as far back as ancient Greece, science is now taking serious steps forward to explore the nature of the phenomenon. A new project aims to determine whether the experience is a physiological event or evidence that the human consciousness is far more complicated than we ever believed.

"The Human Consciousness Project sets out to explore the nature of human consciousness and the brain. The first step of the project is the "Awareness During Resuscitation" study, a collaboration among more than 25 medical centers throughout the United States, Canada, and Europe.

"...the most intriguing aspect of the study is its attempt to study consciousness during clinical death. According to [leader of the study, Dr. Sam] Parnia, the science of these "consciousness events" may be somewhat similar to the relation between Newtonian physics and quantum physics. Scientists once believed that Newtonian physics could answer all the questions in the universe. When they ventured into the sub-atomic realm, though, Newtonian physics no longer applied. But quantum physics did. Similarly, the near-death experience could be another state of consciousness with a different set of rules than what we currently understand, and beyond the limits of what current scientific methods can explain."