Book Review: The Art of Choosing by Sheena Iyengar

Posted on by 5WC in Book
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There is probably something ironic and researchable about choosing to read psychology book based upon a blog post by someone you’ve never met. That because they say “here are the books I like” you accept them as gospel and read them without question. You may have noticed that over the past few months, as a side effect of starting a psychology degree, I have been reading more books about the mind and, confession time, the way I have chosen those books has been exactly the scenario I just described. I’ve essentially stolen recommendations from a blog. I’ve let somebody else choose for me.

One of those entries was The Art of Choosing by Sheena Iyengar and, as is beginning to happen more and more, it overlapped massively with many of the other psychology books I’ve read, especially: Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman and The Compass Of Pleasure by David J. Linden. This meant that a lot of the studies and examples it cites I’ve come across before and while great for reinforcing their ideas also meant in total the book lost a pinch of interest due to its lack of originality. Read more

Film Review: Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Posted on by 5WC in Film

It is fair to say that, in a year which has given us a new James Bond movie, the reopening of Jurassic Park and the insane re-imagination of George Millers Mad Max franchise, one movie has stood head and shoulders above all else. Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I don’t think I can remember a movie being as anticipated and pedestaled in the way it has. To say the pressure of expectation upon its shoulders has been immense would be an understatement and a half.

I’m not a diehard fan of the franchise. I’ve seen both the original trilogy and the prequel trilogy. I hold both in equal measure, liking them but not really loving with them. I find them inoffensive and easy to watch. To me they are just fantasy escapism, I’ve never got caught up with the deeper political messages littered within. As a result, they will never be my first choice movie to watch, yet even so, I have felt the butterflies in my stomach as the franchise was above to scream back into life. It is the final film of my “10 films of 2015” I’ve been waiting to see and, as the marketing machine has saturated my life, for the first time ever, I’ve truly felt the pull of the franchise – the speciality and charm it has to offer. Read more

Film Review: Bridge of Spies

Posted on by 5WC in Film

I mentioned in my review of ‘Salem’s Lot by Stephen King how, in my mind, I liken King to Steven Spielberg. That they have reached the pinnacle of their industries and, as such, command respect and admiration through sheer reputation alone. To borrow a sporting term “they are a safe pair of hands”, however, this idealistic thinking forces their association to raise expectations. Whether justified or not.

The reason I say that is because the one Stephen King novel I’ve read I didn’t really enjoy, and Spielberg has produced an interesting reel of films over the last decade that seem to swing wildly in quality (Lincoln versus War of the Worlds and the 4th Indiana Jones film for example). So maybe the mental image I hold, that they can produce no wrong, is in fact, not entirely right? Read more

Film Review: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2

Posted on by 5WC in Film

The Hunger Games saga seems to have been around forever. Trying to think back to when I first saw Jennifer Lawrence arrive on the big screen as Katniss Everdean, fighting for her life, in the opening salvo of Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games trilogy, it seems like a life time ago. Apparently, it’s only been 4 years, but it’s reached such a saturation point that I would have sworn it was longer.

I remember that opening movie well because I had turned my nose up to it for a long time (it was teenage dystopian nonsense after all) but watching it, it provided so much more, and me so wrong. It sucked me in and, while it pre-dates the reviews on this blog, won me over with the deep emotive messages it so easily conveyed. It felt real and scary, had me panicked and on the edge of my seat. Yes, it’s teenage dystopian nonsense, but it is nonsense about characters I inexplicably came to care about. I wanted them to be safe. So when Catching Fire arrived I was expecting a lot, only to be left disappointed by a film that felt beyond the “difficult second album”  and instead appeared disjointed and unconnected to the level or depth and empathy the first film had created. Read more

Book Review: ‘Salem’s Lot by Stephen King

Posted on by 5WC in Book
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In my mind Stephen King is to writing what Steven Spielberg is to film making. He is “A-List Royalty” and, whether you like his work or not, you have to accept him as being at the very pinnacle of his industry. He, like Spielberg, simply commands respect through what he has achieved.

I’m not the biggest horror fan – I don’t really like scary movies and I try not to read scary books –  so the musing’s of King are not a natural draw for me. I think the reason for my slight dislike towards all things “scary” is due to a TV mini series in the mid 1990s called The Langoliers. Ironically, it was an adaptation of the King’s novella and it scared the heck out of me! Since then I have just never seem why people would actively go out of their way to be frightened for enjoyment and so, have always shied away from it as a genre. It wasn’t until I read King’s On Writing that I felt even the slightest draw back to the area. And then it was only because I wanted to see King “praise what he preached” more than the story itself. Read more

Film Review: Carol

Posted on by 5WC in Film

It is fair to say that Carol, Todd Haynes first film since his strange Bob Dylan biopic ‘I’m Not There.’ in which 6 different actors all played the titular role (including Cate Blanchett), is never going to be a mainstream movie. Its appeal will never be broad and I fear it’s going to be forgotten long before it’s time. And that, in part, is a shame.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a cult classic waiting to be discovered, there is no rough diamond in need of a polished. What there is, however, hidden beneath a ponderous exterior, is a very thought provoking look at not only the power within a relationship, but also, the power within forbidden love and the psychology of desire, lust and passion that encompasses it. While they approaches these subjects from very polaristic starting points, I came away from Carol thinking it’d make a great companion piece of The Duke of Burgundy. Read more

Book Review: Fermat’s Last Theorem: The Story Of A Riddle…

Posted on by 5WC in Book
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At the same time as I was given Simon Singh’s The Simpsons and Their Mathematical Secrets, I was also presented with his book on Fermat’s Last Theorem (The Story Of A Riddle That Confounded The World’s Greatest Minds For 358 Years). Fermat’s Last Theorem is the idea that xⁿ + yⁿ ≠ zⁿ when n > 2 or in other words, that there is only a solution to Pythagoras’ theorem, any power greater than 2 and the formula that would give you the length of the hypotenuse of a right angle triangle falls totally apart.

This may sound like a really boring topic for a book. And in one respect you’d be right, however, it’s a problem that has plagued the mathematical work for over 350 years. It’s an itch that refused to be scratched. In maths an idea isn’t true until proof categorically provided. It has to be universal to be accepted. Pierre de Fermat, who created the theorem and gave the world the problem, simply stated that he had the proof it was true but not enough space to explain it in the margin of his book. In other words, he claimed it as fact but refused to divulge how he knew. Read more

Film Review: The Martian

Posted on by 5WC in Film

I have an interesting relationship with Ridley Scott. I cite Gladiator as one of my few “turn to” movies, those films you can just watch over and over without losing any impact. He directed Blade Runner and Alien, Hannibal and Black Hawk Down. I like his films, and yet recently he’s lost his way. Prometheus teased as a modern spin to his Alien franchise but simply crushed my expectations leaving me bored, confused and feeling completely flat; whilst Exodus: Gods and Kings arrived with a trailer promising an epic scale and spectacle that not only failed to appear, was so monotonously dull I actually fell asleep!

Then we have Matt Damon. The man who very nearly destroyed James Bond through his character Jason Bourne. I have always been a fan ever since he stole the show from underneath Robin Williams in Good Will Hunting and even though he often has a smugness to him that oozes a arrogant knowledge of just how good he is I somehow still forgive him all his ills. So when I heard he’d teamed up with Ridley Scott to make a science fiction story called The Martian, it’s fair to say I was expecting something with a bit more of a serious edge. Read more

Book Review: Thinking Fast And Slow by Daniel Kahneman

Posted on by 5WC in Book
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The human mind is a fascinating thing. Or at least I think it is. My intrigue and interest was sparked when, many years ago, I read that the human mind can’t feel pain. And that, during brain surgery, patients are fully conscious often engaging in physical activity or conversation. I was mesmerised and it is one of the main driving forces behind my love of psychology. I want to learn more about the ball of fat, the wiring of billions of cells, and how it somehow comes together, with a power we cannot comprehend, to give us “life”.

As a result I’ve started to read more and more non-fiction and  this is another example. While the title of the book gives away little as to what it actually contains Thinking Fast And Slow by Daniel Kahneman is more than just a look at how the brain “thinks” and instead covers the way our brain processes the information and requests we give it. The book, essentially, is based around the fact our brain can be split into two distinct processing paths (or systems as Kahneman refers to them throughout). The first, an impulsive pathway that initially reacts to everything the brain processes and secondary, a slower reflective pathway that arrives when the first gets a bit out of its depth. Read more

Book Review: The Compass Of Pleasure by David J. Linden

Posted on by 5WC in Book
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I am certainly no expert, in fact, I expect to spend portions of this review referring back to lecture notes and text books to ensure I get my facts straight where necessary; over the last few months I have been introduced to a broad, but generalised, world of neuroscience as part of my psychology degree. ERP, MRI, the prefrontal cortex; action potentials, synaptic responses, neural pathways I been told about it all, and hopefully, understood some of it.

It’s extremely scientific and took more than a few moments to get my head around the scale of everything involved. The idea of single cells, individual neurotransmitters and resultant systems designed purely for their use seems logical when drawn to fill an A4 sheet of paper, but when you start to reduce that back to reality, and realise it’s one entity within 100,000,000,000, the epic infinitesimal scale of the structure involved in something so power is truly mind-blowing. Read more