Gifts for Brain Enthusiasts #2 (Birthday Edition)

Time for more neurologically-relevant items, given people seemed to like the first set so much. Recently it was my birthday. I’m struggled to come to terms with my transition to ‘adulthood’ and the realisation that I may have peaked, cognitively (indeed, I think I may actually have peaked around the time I sat my AS Levels aged 17, and been on a decline ever since).

Anyway, the occasion was made all the sweeter for some fantastic presents some lovely people got me. They seem to know what I like.

Asylum – The photographs of Christopher Payne

I’m something of an amateur urbex-er and I’ve always loved the old hospitals and asylums the best. This beautiful book is full of photos of america’s old mental hospitals. Beautiful and haunting, the buildings are often derelict, left to be recalimed by nature. These images seem at once strange and startling, they serve as a reminder of the dark places psychiatry has come from. Also includes a moving introduction from the wonderful Oliver Sacks.

Usborne’s See Inside Your Head

This book may technically be aimed at a younger audience, but I’m pretty thrilled with it. So many flaps to lift! Hours of entertainment here. If I ever get a job in paediatric neuro, I may take it into work.

Old anatomical print 

Isn’t this just exquisite? This wonderful print of the inferior view of the brain is about to gain a proud place on my wall. I’d say an old print makes a really good gift for any fans of the biological sciences, there are some really beautiful and intricate ones out there. One of my best friends found this for me at an antiques market, apparently it’s over 170 years old! It’s been cut from a book and is a bit crumbly on the edges. You can find similar items on ebay too.

Yes, I’m a massive nerd and I have a rather limited set of interests. Stay tuned for part three…

Cultural Review: March Madness and Beyond

Here comes my round-up of the new and recent culture that has caught my eye. With a bit of a mental-health slant (well, sort-of). Here are a few of my picks of recent weeks, enjoy!

The Apprentice

Last week saw the return of the nation’s favourite display of arrogance and narcissism and general meanness. Another group of entrepreneurs brutally fight it out to go into business with Sir Alan Sugar. Cue bitchy back-stabbing and stitching-up, compulsive car-crash viewing. Watching this always reminds me of the Board & Fritzon paper on high levels of personality disordered traits (psychopathy, OCD, narcissism) in business managers. Wednesday at 9.00 on BBC1.

The Master and Margarita at the Barbican

I’ve been excited about this one for a while. Bulgakov’s classic of black magic, decadence and insanity on the streets of Moscow, is this month brought to the London theatre. The book, which inspired Mick Jagger to write ‘Sympathy for the Devil‘, features naked, flying witches, a talking cat and a rather brutal decapitation, so I’m very curious as to how they will bring this to the stage. Rather like an grown-up Alice in Wonderland, this surreal and often very bizarre tale tells of how the devil comes to Russia, and sooner or later everyone is losing their heads (some literally).

50 Shades of Grey by E.L. James

I decided to read this book after hearing all the fuss about it. Baring in mind I have neither read Twilight, nor am familiar with fan-fic (aside from a time about aged 15, when my all-girls school had a bit of a craze for Harry Potter slash, passed around at the back of the classroom), I can’t really comment on the book’s relating to either. There are no vampires in this one, but stars an emotionally aloof playboy love-object who bewitches our rather personality-less virginal heroine. She wants him, he wants her, but on the condition that she enter his kinky world of BDSM. If you’re looking for a good bit of book-porn, you might be disappointed. The sex scenes are actually remarkably short and simplistic, there’s a lot more time given to a rather twee and trite love-story. High-class erotica this also isn’t; there’s rather a lot of cliched phrases like ‘come for me baby!‘ and our heroine is always saying things to herself like ‘Holy cow!‘ when she sees her beau take off his shirt. It is rather silly but enjoyable in that way. There’s quite a bit of speculation about how Christian must have had an awful past to develop his ‘need’ for domination, which I found a little unconvincing. Apparently there are 2 more books to come, not sure if I’ll bother.

Mad Men

Ah advertising, one of the greatest abuses of psychology to date. Don Draper and Co return today for more whiskey in the morning, casual adultery, sexism and sharp dressing.   I’m hoping there’ll be a bit more of a focus on little Sally Draper, child of the Draper’s broken marriage, carted off to therapy in previous series by her neurotic mother. Undoubtedly smarter than she is disturbed, Sally seems to work people out. And she mixes a good cocktail.


My favourite daddy-hating, adidas-wearing nu-metallers are on tour this week. There can be something very therapeutic about screaming ‘Shut up! Shut up! Shut up, I’ll f**k you up!’ at the top of your lungs. There’s no-doubt to be some coverage of tracks from their marmitey dub-step album, produced with Skrillex. If you prefer something with a little more depth, prog-metal superstars Tool just announced their releasing a new album.

Dystopian literature on your chest – The Affair T-shirts

In a wonderful melting-pot of several of my favourite things, London-based company The Affair produce amazing t-shirts with prints inspired by cult literature. They veer towards the dark and dystopian of novels, including Poe’s The Raven, 1984, Slaughterhouse 5 and Camus’ The Outsider. The designs are so intricate and clever, if I saw someone wearing one of these I know I’d want to go over and speak to them. Reading is, after all, sexy. They mostly cater for men but have introduced a few female sizes, I hope they bring out more! There are short runs of each design and they sell out quickly, so book-worms be quick.

My absolute favourite, this design is inspired by Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita and features the infamous talking cat, Behemoth. The Affair say ‘Now you can wear that gun-toting, chess-playing, vodka-sipping fire-starter whenever you feel like kicking off a bit of mischief.‘ I’m inclined to agree.

Brave New World’s magical drug, Soma.

A lovely bit of typography on this Clockwork Orange design.

See more here on their website. It excites me that such a company exists, shall be placing an order soon!