Thursday, November 24, 2011

‘Subspace parasites’, brain boards and DVD sets

I oft wonder, while I wander, though my mind, why people choose ignorance, leaving stereotypes, like the troubles with tribbles, to run amok. I watched ‘Twilight’, an episode from season three of Enterprise, the ‘pre-series’ to the original TV Star Trek.

I used to know as a ‘tween’ the Harvard Lampoon’s parody of science problems with Star Trek, starting with Spock and Captain being beamed down to the planet, then falling into a coma from the shock of sub-atomic re-assembly and dying from a bad atmosphere mix by suffocation. Later Spock is able to find a small lichen on a rock, and confirm alien life so Captain Kirk could start stomping on it and yelling, “That’s one more alien lifeform that won’t threaten the Federation!”

Looking back, I think I thought knowing a lot of different things made me ‘worldly’, but realize they probably just made me weird. Ironically, it is those things which all should know which make me most alienated from the population, like strokes.

In ‘Twilight’, the ship encounters ‘anomalies’, literal bubble which don’t follow rules of logic, much like ‘The Mystery Spot’. The Captain is hit and instead of doing a ‘alternate reality’ (which is common with Star Trek and spin-offs), we have the perspective of someone who can’t form long term memories. The doctor aboard ship, an expert in many, many medical fields, isolates these as ‘quantum subspace parasites’. This stops Captain Archer from remembering anything new each day, and as Archer ages we find out from the Vulcan science officer T’pol what has happened in the meantime. T’Pol shows no weariness or irritation at having to explain the same thing over and over again, which is not only a universal irritant point for family members but other caregivers for conditions from Dementia to temporal lobe damage. Perhaps, it is because vulcans’ are good at suppressing emotion, or better, that they realize it is illogical to blame the person who does not know, any more than yelling at someone who doesn’t know your language (oh, wait, is that not something English speakers, and Americans in particular are known for?).

Back when doing the Bachelors’ the word ‘meta’ was used a lot, and if you wanted to be cool or hip, you had to have ‘meta’characters (self aware characters) in a metaplay, in a metaworld, blah, blah, blah.

So, how Meta is it to watch a show about someone who can’t remember due to brain damage, look at the way they are tried to be kept in the workplace, but as they cannot continue at the same pace, and no accommodation is made, then they are retired. Which is odd, as if I was better, I would work retail, since having someone bring something up, ring it up and take money in some form is something that requires no advanced accumulation of learning. So, I cannot remember what comes in the next second of this story, not even to find out why this is happening to the character, and yet, I know, according to my keeping account of things, that this is the THIRD time I have bought and watched this exact DVD package, before selling it on again. Meta-viewing, perhaps? So, what am I going to find out is causing my problems? Is it the autoimmune disease, the temporal lobe stroke or dozens/hundreds of microstrokes? No, it is parasites which live out of time and if I wait until, well, a few hundred years, but 15 years after a warp 5 ship called Enterprise, the technology will exist so I can remember watching this TV show before. Oh what a glorious day.

It is maybe a good or bad episode, I can’t really tell because it is a painful episode to watch. On screen I see a person talking to the Capt. They are exuding comfort and does the ‘telling’ but here, patiently saying the same thing each day and in the sunshine. That is what life with a memory issue is THERE, but here I am here freezing and raining, sometimes confused with someone angry and frustrated with me. Watching his realization of how growing useless he has become was hard, I had tears in my eyes. I am a 'meta-viewer'.

I fevertly wish that people would understand what it is like not knowing, not remembering, not being able to do anything about it, and just living with the distance that grows between you and everyone because of it. But that would be empathy, and that would mean people would learn that they, not the person who is ill, are the ones doing a bad thing: hurting someone vulnerable and unable to defend themselves equally.

It is easy, when remembering all to humiliate a person who can't; easy to become a bully. But that is how it often or at least sometimes will be, that horrific experience, the shame, humiliation and terror combined into a burning mass in the gut as we must sit, watching the caregiver 'lose it' and ‘lash out’ or yell. We don't tell them that this strong emotion will combine over time until we just are afraid around them, but can't say why. It happens most not from medical staff but from 'family', the loved ones and occurs mostly because they are too proud of themselves to be able to monitor themselves enough to realize, ‘I’m not at my optimal, I need help. If I can't be here for them, I need to walk away for a moment,’ and communicate that. I have heard dozens of people talk about the frustration, and talking, asking questions, found it wasn't that they were trying to connect to that person where they were, it was because they were trying to get the person to come up to their speed, their memory, they are impatient. Yet in life have we all not hadteachers, parents and others patient with US for decades.

As for this show, and the meta view, it is only sadness that in all the actors, writers, producers, no one could be bothered to say, ‘It is a fucking stroke, not intergalactic parasites’. But then, I suppose when House M.D. usually has four doctors who can’t get a basic endocrinologist panel done and don’t seem to read journal articles, I guess expecting science from a science show is too much to hope. Let us avoid learning with a little entertainment. Except for those of us who get to watch it again, and again, and again, and again.

I can understand the way the character shuns the pity in the eyes of those who 'knew' them. Though, I would think that the future would have some aspect of a brain board. I saw another Brain Board: it was on the Oliver Sack's based film, The Music Never Stopped, a 5 star award winner which I recommend highly. It is about a guy who they use the music to connect to, and when he is connected by music he remembers his life, but can't build new memories. It just takes patience and finding out how HE understands and how his brain works.

But his parents had given up on him until his father decided that he was running for a second time. But that is the way of it, isn't it. We make decisions, judgements about others without even accepting that the person is ill. It is not enough that we have this history, triggers they push without knowing, but we decide in our actions to blame them for the disease too. As the father in the film says, he blames the music which his son responds to for destroying both lives; hates that music. Yet it is the music that allows him to learn about his son the person, not the image he had in mind. All it takes is patience and compassion. As they learn how to connect to him, it helps all his schema connections, to build emotional links, a brain board starts, and grows. It was good to know that I wasn't the only one using one. But sad that it took Oliver Sacks 14 YEARS to start connecting to the main character. And how they did create new memories, I knew that one too.

I picked up one or two DVD sets in the sale and hope to get more, as the sale unfolds (sets for $10 at the right time on the right day, that kind of sale), and there are five in the UK I will get once I get some funds (including the Judge Dee Mystery). Here is a advert or reason to gift me a certificate at or (link on the right side): I will get DVD’s that I can watch over....and over...and over. As a gift goes, it is great value for funds. I am only getting the ‘Black Friday’ sales of sets. I find in watching DVD series that ones with stories rather than ones that require just one thing to remember, like who is the killer, to be the ones I can enjoy the most and forget the easiest. Also, I used the sale money and got a jacket for Linda. It is cold here and she needs one, as it is below freezing or freezing in the morn and eve, and even if she drives it is around freezing inside the van we are saving for a tune up. So now, or once it comes, I know she will be warm (and with me sick the last two days, I must have saved on meals, ne?).

Happy Thanksgiving to those in the USA (as I remember it should be for more than shopping on the internet) and I hope that your year, and your heart has created much to be thankful for. And that the tale of intercultural and person acceptance is what makes the Thankgiving a day where essentially accomodation shown as a good thing is celebrated. And so was survival. I'm still here, and while it isn't what it was, and hope is a wee thin to find these days, it is enough, most days.


Linda McClung said...

I think it would take a vulcan to never run out of patience, having to explain everything over and over and over again. I find no matter how patient I tell myself to be, at some point that patience runs out and I snap. That hurts you and makes me feel bad. Neither result is good.

I am glad you have found shows and movies you can connect with. I thought it was very cool to see the brain board in the movie.

Thanks for putting a new spin on Thanksgiving. It's isn't just about being grateful for what we have but also acceptance of who we and others are, warts and all.

SharonMV said...

Dear Beth,
I think that episode of Enterprize was well done. A Vulcan would be a good caretaker, one with compassion as well as logic. I remember the captain's struggle to fit in, to be useful at his work. As time went by, it became too much for the others to try & keep him in the loop. He tried working in engineering, but that didn't work out well either. I like to think that had they been in a less dangerous position, ie running for their lives, these future presumably more advanced people would have found a way to use Captain archers knowledge & skill & incorporate him into the community. It seems like once they settled on the refugee planet there would have been work for him. But the story had to move on. The scenes where T'Pol tells him what happened, his story are poignant. It seems more like her feelings & story are at the forefront, after all she is the more "aware" one. They don't delve into what it's been like for Captain Archer. I guess they didn't have time for all that as they had to cure him, change history & save earth.

I'll have to look for the brain board when I see this episode again. By the way, have you seen the movie, Memento? It also deals with a protagonist who has short-term memory loss (can't make new memories). it's very twisty & hard to follow as the action/plot goes backward.

Love, Sharon

JaneB said...

Vulcans do have a nice long life and training from the earliest age in 'passion's mastery'...

I liked Star Trek too. I wanted to be Spock - knowing all this stuff, being smart AND getting to be the hero AND not being BOTHERED by all the yuckiness of emotion and people? That looked really, really neat. I like the knowing, fortunately, as that's the only bit I got anywhere near achieving.

Thank you for being you, for sharing your journey, for being brave and honest and truthful. I'm grateful I know you!

Raccoon said...

I'm still here, too! Honest!

You would've really hated Friday's episode of Sanctuary (sci-fi Channel, starring Stargate SG 1's Amanda Tapping as Magnus, a 300 or so year old Victorian scientist). In this episode, it was a parasite causing genetic changes so that a person could only understand songs. Dialogue spoken wouldn't even be heard.

And yeah, there's a reason that none of the actors have singing careers…

Don't get me started on the STNG episode where Worf broke his neck (S05E16)… That aired about six months after I broke mine…

Vulcans or androids in Star Trek seem to serve the same purpose: logic with a sprinkle of compassion, but leave the emotions out of it. Once you toss emotions into the mix (Data's brother Lore), you're no better than humans…

I've always had a problem rereading books. I'll get one or two chapters in, and then remember the basics of the remainder of the story. I think, between that problem and no short-term memory, I'll stick with what I've got.