Media Diet #2: 07/16/2018

Nicola Twilley in the New Yorker has a fabulous story on The Neuroscience of Pain that explains in fascinating detail how little we actually know about how our bodies interpret and experience pain. She undergoes an experiment with a cream containing capsaicin, the same stuff in hot pepper, that is applied to her arm and, at one point, burns furiously (or so her nerve endings are telling her).

At the same time, her head was inside a powerful MRI machine called the 7-Tesla MRI, of which there are fewer than a hundred in the world. The magnetic field it generates (teslas are a unit of magnetic strength) is more than four times as powerful as that of the average hospital MRI machine. The MRI machine allows scientists to see where pain is processed in the brain in greater detail than ever before, providing them with a better understanding of how and why we feel pain, and perhaps how we might better control it in the future.  


This short film from the National Geographic Short Film Showcase is one of the most visually stunning things I’ve seen in a long time. It shows the Mauritania Railway, a 430 miles long pair of tracks that have been transporting iron ore across the brutal, yet beautiful landscape of the Sahara Desert since 1963. There is very little dialogue or exposition, mostly just a few text cards that explain how this railway came to be built and it is really the backbone of the country’s economy. The imagery is stunning. You have likely never seen anything like it before.  

Straight Man by Richard Russo: I’ve been reading a lot of books lately. Far more than I normally do. I love to read, mostly non-fiction, but usually average about a book or two a month, on top of the many magazines, newspapers and blogs I read every day. Anyway, I’ve been trying to get through previous Pulitzer winners, and other books that have been recommended over the years by friends. I was looking for another light, funny, summer read (having also recently read The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, a Pulitzer winner). A friend pointed me to Straight Man by Richard Russo. I loved it. It does not move at a quick pace, plot-wise, and it feels at times like yet another “mid-life crisis suburban male” story in the vein of John Updike, or John Irving, which it is. But it’s also riotously funny with snappy, smart dialogue, mostly all of which comes out of the mouth of the protagonist, William Henry Devereaux, Jr., a once, semi-famous author, who now finds himself at a mediocre college in Pennsylvania where he has become jaded about life, career and family, but deals with hs transition into middle age with a fierce, biting humor that had me giggling many times over.


Goliath: Season 2: I had very low expectations for the first season of Goliath on Amazon Prime, and really just watched the first episode out of a lack for anything else to watch one night. But immediately, I was hooked and blazed through the entire season in three evenings of indulgent binge-watching. And so when the second season came out, I was excited to watch. Billy Bob Thornton’s performance as the alcoholic, demon-plagued - yet brilliant - attorney Billy McBride, deserved the Golden Globe. While not as good as the first season, the second season offers up some great plot twists and moments of riveting lawyering as McBride once again fights to find redemption. My only complaint is the silly, if not stupid, subplot involving Mark Duplass as LA developer Tom Wyatt, who has a lame and absurd fetish that I won’t spoil.