Anakana Schofield – Award Winning Author of Bina, Martin John and Malarky

January 11, 2012

Neuro New Year

Good news, Radio 4 history of the brain radio series: 10 programmes. Nice one! More please! Until then listen here

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August 13, 2010

Radio neuro

HM Neuro Celeb radio documentary…

When a 27 year old man known in the text books simply as HM underwent brain surgery for intractable epilepsy in 1953, no one could have known that the outcome would provide the key to unravelling one of the greatest mysteries of the human mind – how we form new memories.

Listen to radio doc here HM – The Man Who Couldn’t Remember

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November 25, 2009

B 0004

I’ve had to place myself on a strict Bataille diet. I’ve had to limit the Monsieur to un chapitre per journee towards the end of the journee otherwise I spend the entire journee wandering in his words. And there are a couple of other pressing priorities such as feeding the chickens and learning to write Ruby computer code or shoes code (or building v simple graphic apps in Shoes with Ruby language), whichever it is the Puffin and I are learning, thanks to the mighty Sarah Mei and her inspired ideas and instructions.

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November 21, 2009

On furthering the construction

To add to the construction of reconstructing: what if pieces of the book were to then disappear. Thus the author was to randomly remove them each week. Or if the author was to upload them in sporadic episodes and then take them away. Would the reader form attachments to single parts? Would the reader check to see when that part might return?

Would there be any point at all? I hear you ask. Well I read something where Cormac McCarthy alluded to the fact that the brain had changed and thus it would not matter if you wrote some 5000 page epic and it was almighty in quality. People won’t read it was essentially what he was saying. If this is true, then how has the brain changed and what are its newer appetites (note the petit in appetit(e))

Are readers more willing to have a relationship with an ongoing piece of prose, the way they’ll have a relationship with a going  blog or stream of tweetation. You could argue that the episode is seeing a resurgence like no other form. Whether it is through the web comic, or the blog, or the podcast, or the moment a la tweet.

If our brains have changed to embrace smaller amounts of text will we embrace a flittering manner of delivery?

I’m increasingly curious about the visual conquering the theatrical in cinema (tho’ I accept this happened eons ago). A droning monologue once had a place in a film that it may no longer have. Yet the monologue is a mainstay of youtube.  In my earliest memories of being read to was Listen with Mother (we were sat on the kitchen floor beside a wireless and each day a voice said are you sitting comfortably, then we’ll begin…) It was somewhere around lunchtime I think. Then there was Jackanory (sp?) where a person in rocking chair read a book on television. There was also the man who drew and talked and stories unfolded. But essentially there’s very little in the difference between that and sitting on a train listening to a podcast or a comedy. My child consumes far more audio than I had access to.

I digress.

We need to consider if the brain has changed, how it has changed.  The neuroscientists could enlighten on this.

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November 2, 2008

Freethinking Festival 2008

It’s that time freethinking time again:

BBC Radio 3’s Free Thinking Festival is back in Liverpool from 31 Oct to 2 Nov 2008, with conversation, film, performance, drama and debate about the ideas that are changing the world.

Better online access this year, so no need to hug the speakers close with an eye on the clock — it’s archived here

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June 22, 2008


“He was greatly distressed in his head. All night the parrot had swung roosting from his palate…”

From Dream of Fair to Middling Women. A Novel. Samuel Beckett. (Arcade Publishing, New York, first Arcade paperback edition 2006)

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December 30, 2007


900 years behind the rest of the world here, and due to frugal amounts of telly watching, (aside from the unmissable or I shall surely expire… 3 versions of the weather forecast) I saw one episode of House yesterday. Instant relief Mr Laurie playing an obnoxious crankpot, mais oui, how fine, but House nowt to do mit habitation, mais non, it’s another Hopital a la tele fiasco.

Thanks to the domination of sincerely mad and nothing to be learnt from them medical dramas on the tube I have lost all interest in medical matters and acquired a medical pain in my hole at the sight of white coats or get a trolley in here on-screen.

It beggars the question:
have screenwriters/television producers had an naturally high number of encounter with obnoxious doctors or are there genuinely a very high number of obnoxious doctors populating the planet? You can find out for yourself at

The point being I’d like to offer some alternative and varied occupations for successful onscreen portrayal and all of whom have the onscreen potential to be both interesting and obnoxious. (disclaimer: meant in the fictional sense only)

– bus drivers

– dental hygienists

– Greenhouse owners (specifically pushing the limits on tomatoes)

– librarians

– dinosaur egg experts

– elevator companies

 The medical confusion that evolves from these hospital dramas is intense: what! you can’t have an MRI if you’ve plates in your face? Pity they don’t tell those of us with plates that. We have to learn it from sodding House, if indeed it’s even true. And doctors complain about hyper educated patients graduated from the medical school of Google!

When I think back down the years to working in a nameless London hospital I have the most hilarious memory of being informed by one of those NHS manager types that one snotty doctor, who I’d been greeting in what was considered in those staid old days as too cheerful a manner (you know what doctors are like he’d ho-hummed embarrassed to us …)  had requested that we not speak to him.

Imagine here we are checking his patients in at the waiting area and we must not speak to him. What exactly were we supposed to do if one of them fell in a heap? The ironic thing was they were all suffering from serious illnesses and our chirpy greetings were no doubt keeping them afloat as they collected the grim news of what I think were called T Cell counts and CT scans.

Once one of the patients gave me thirty oranges (did he think I had scurvy?) another handed me a very sober looking grey wool suit (point taken, I was in a punk rock phase) another fifty quid, gloria in excelsis etc.

No doubt this is the kind of pompous nonsense (the don’t speak to me rule, not the presents) that spurned such TV shows and ruined the lives of medical students, who had to put up with his morse code style of communication.  In that context ratemydoc frankly doesn’t seem such an outlandish concept.

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December 11, 2007

Einstein’s Fiddle

Einstein partial to the fiddle: interesting radio piece on Einstein’s relationship to the violin here.

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October 19, 2007

Autumn weather and brains

It’s Autumn so necessary to nest with my two Autumnal obsession the weather and the brain.

 And how we’ve been tantalized by prospects of windy weather that has not actually landed. Tropical storm Ling ling’s leftovers joined us yesterday. It was like the dumping of a giant melting icecube. Seemingly we’re going to experience La Nina weather cycle this year. Last year’s big storm prompts the reoccuring image of trees falling straight through houses. 

 And on the brain, of which we truly know so little, two fine BBC Radio 4 program links:

 This one is all about the science of acquiring and learning languages

 Image Of A Troubled Mind

Brain scanning is perhaps the most extraordinary and powerful technique scientists have for exploring how people’s brains work. Dr Mark Lythgoe, a neuroscientist at London’s University College, investigates whether it will ever help those who have mental illnesses such as depression and schizophrenia.

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August 5, 2007


Could this be why it’s so damn hard for writers to make a living:

Living Modestly Despite a Nice Nest Egg

He seems to derive a kind of Zen pleasure through living modestly. He takes books out of his local public library rather than buying them at a store. He rents a one-bedroom apartment in Palo Alto, Calif., although he can afford a larger place.

 The, he, in question is: “By Silicon Valley standards, Brian Wilson is not rich. But despite a nest egg of roughly $1.5 million…”

Article on rich folk in Silicon Valley in today’s NY Times who have financial anxiety.

 With respect to the folks of Silicon Valley, who are sitting on a million and a half, but proudly wandering with brillopads on their feet instead of shoes because of “wealth anxiety” I say that by the time you come to retire and take your wads out of the bank and lie on your arses on distant beaches on misshapen spines, you’ll have nowt to read because the poor writers your miserly ways are depriving of a living will be forced to procure a life of software piracy instead to feed their chickens.

For God’s sake would they ever buy a sodding book, painting, if they want to really live dangerously they could shell out for a poetry collection, or the much maligned no one wants to publish them anymore short story collection … share the damn wealth and stop being such stingy gits.  

To all those who do buy books un grand merci beaucoup. The simple fact is if people don’t buy books writers cannot make even the paltry living most of them actually make.

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May 7, 2007

in yer ear

Sat down next to gal on bus yesterday discussing her “finance” exam marks on a mobile phone. Pitiful assault on the ears as I am trying to get to grips with Mr Roth’s rumination on his losing his modern library collection and disappointing his mother or plucking the feathers out of a pigeon or peeling grapes or… that’s the point the endless humphing in my left ear about a 71 that should have been an 84 like, (that word is the equiv. of a blink in this dialect, it’s so overused) meant there was no possible way to ascertain anything from the pages of my book.

Conversations about finance marks are useless. I could appreciate you won’t come to my wedding, I have a strange worrying bump on my elbow, I don’t know which way I should vote, I only have three Christmas’s left, type conversations, but this was unfathomable, unnecessary and likely to continue for 25 bus stops.

I moved. Enraged. To the dangerous seats in the centre of the bus, which turn about, and I have been ejected from a couple of times.

On moving I note a woman who I thought might be a woman I recognize from theflower-shop, but because recognizing people aint my strongest skill I cannot be sure. Today I ran into her. Were you on that bus? She confirms she was sat there trying to repeat a Latin word for some obscure muscle or tendon in her head in an effort to drown it out.

Every time I see a mobile phone I think of Harold Pinter and his piece. Neither Literature nor Latin could tumble finance yesterday. I think the only thing for the job is sean-nos singing. One of these days I will pluck up the courage to breathe in and let a desperate ballad of unmitigated ugly wailing out from between my lips about a woman seeking a decent shampoo and set or a large bowl of pea soup. The notes will be long. One word sung in an elongated manner to mimic the husky exhales of a hungry donkey. The song belted out, will travel up that bus and every head shall turn. I will bear the excruciation of it, risk getting myself sectioned for the glory of a hurriedly uttered “yeah gotta go man”.

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February 23, 2007

Sack race

Japes they are gibbering on over on the Guardian ’bout the GLA (not to be confused with Ransome’s GA or the Great Aunt lest any 7 yr olds be reading) Britain’s greatest living author. Would there be any difference in this question and lining up six different varieties of puppies, lying down on the pavement, and trying to assess which was the best tail wagger. I think not.

 I have a much more cavalier solution to the quest. Stick the writers into sacks and instigate a race, preferably down a traffic congestion charge street to add challenge as they locate change. Or make them trot the railway tracks to Dundee. If there’s no track due to the Tory assault on British Rail, then make them lay one, pick axe and bucket provided. Finally take all tomes dump them in deep bucket of water and then sling them at various heads of candidates or volunteers to be entirely democratic, and let them decide which title makes the most violent impact. Eh voila.

The World’s Greatest Reader is certainly the Puffin who I noted kissing a book the other day and murmuring to himself “it’s so beautiful.” I doubt even the edgy — voice of a blah blah generation, I can describe a traffic light like no other, verbally plumb in a sink before you’ll find the plug and get to literary grips with the arse of end of donkey … Monsieur Amis can top that.

Mr A is however my best hope for a novel about teeth and dodgy jaws.

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February 21, 2007

Jazz knees

Having only recently learned about the Jazz funeral and seen what it involves I can’t help wondering about the knees on the man (or woman?) who leads the procession. Also, in the various parades where they do the dipping dance. I have this resounding wonder about their knees and how they manage to support their body weight doing all those moves and not get trouble with their ligaments? The parades must go on for miles and yet they never loose the moves. Or perhaps the one I saw was a more adventurous dancer. In anycase it’s a great send off they give you.

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February 20, 2007

Take it to the source

Here’s a man who took his feelings to the source (Dick Cheney) and said what many people may have rehearsed to deliver to any number of gobshite politicians. This, however, was the bullseye of all possible recipients. 

this clip features the part of the movie where Ben Marble, M.D. says “Go F*ck Yourself Mr. Cheney”

 This clip is from Spike Lee’s When the levees broke — a four part requiem. If there was any justice a great deal of the people in that documentary would actually be elected representatives for you’d be hard pressed to find a more articulate and dignified group of people. When you see the indifference these people have suffered it would make you wonder if “to have known some kind of real suffering” should be a prerequisite before you can stand up and represent anybody. Just the way you can’t operate a blood pressure cuff without showing you’ve grasped biology. There’s a great soliloquy in one of the final acts from an activist Fred Johnson (?) where he points out who these politicians work for. It’s bang on because even now in the aftermath there’s next to nothing being done to help these people and throughout the film you get little sense of the people through the politicians. You hear the words: business, resources, state guard, federal, city, you even get the mayor describing taking a shower in Air Force 1, (verging on blasphemous in the context of what’s happening outside in the streets), yet very little reference to their people.

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February 13, 2007

On a similar theme of risky endeavours…

Here’s a link to a video of a skydiver whose parachute failed to open, as he jumped from some insane height, but fortunately he was saved by a bunch of thicket bushes. He’d a camera on the front of his helmet which captured his descent:

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February 13, 2007

Crane brain?

Which part of the brain is responsible for insisting one must scale a crane? Is there a polar opposite to fear of heights in the brain? Some part that improves the higher you put your head up into the air?

A new craze for climbing Britain’s highest cranes, taking a picture of yourself and posting it on websites is seizing self-styled ‘urban explorers’.

Example of a man parachuting off one can be found on the reliable video source for much human lunacy youtube.

 I once witnessed a young man ride a small bicycle down the very steep side wall of a set of stairs. I spied him at the top, ready to attempt this urban devilment and felt if he was about to risk his cranium someone ought to bear witness to it, so put down my shopping and settled in. Another man stopped and we debated whether or not he’d do it. Several other mutterers stopped and expelled how stupid he was. Whether or not he was stupid was unlikely to change his mind as he was perched up there on that bicycle and appeared to be a few stages beyond weighing up the risks involved.

Eventually he not only rode down the skinny, mad steep wall but performed this exceptional jump when he took off. The stranger beside me was so overcome at the sight of it, he grabbed my arm and we both shouted in surprise when he got to the bottom that what he’d managed was incredible. Beside us a confused mutterer shrieked he should stop wasting tax payers money.

 Not that I’d be heartily recommend people drive bicycles down walls, but the young fella had as much chance as making it to the bottom as not and yet we were exclusively fixated on the likelihood he might not.

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February 13, 2007

Medical school in the front room anybody?

Can’t be the only one out there with medical envy… not sure if it’s the white coats, the strolling about with pencils in the pocket, the pulling across of those unfortunate curtains or just the ability to stare into someone ear with intrigue on its top setting. I fancy the most likely envy is the ability of doctors to stay awake as long as they do.

 The only time I had television channels I spent the entire televisual time on Channel 42 watching those three pronged fork yokes puncturing dodgy gall bladders. I had to cut it out when one day the much younger Puffin climbed up beside me and clunked me on the nose with his plastic hammer and announced he was giving me a Rhinoplasty. Should add that I was constantly dizzy watching those procedures, but reminded myself to stick with it, since medical students pay thousands of dollars for such information and here it was gratis thanks to the TV channel trial offer on a postcard.

 It’s a grateful day when one finds handy medicine with no pictures: Andrew Cunningham writes and narrates a major new 30 part narrative history series charting the development of western medicine. Six weeks of radio programmes in this series.

Unlikely you’ll actually get any directions on how to deal surgically with bursitis, but who can miss episode 7 about fever. TV adaptions of books owe so much to the flannel patting rituals fever requires at the side of the four poster beds as the husband/ wife watches their loved one pass on from the doorway.  Even today with a packet of tylanol extra in the cupboard fever still has that threatening quality that drags you back and forth to the forehead, esp if presenting in a small Puffin. It’s rather like a politician you can’t trust exactly how it presents itself.

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February 6, 2007

O’Neuro: the insula

Curious bit of the brain that could come in handy if you’re trying to say give up the smokes or interior decorating magazines..

From today’s NY Times:

According to neuroscientists who study it, the insula is a long-neglected brain region that has emerged as crucial to understanding what it feels like to be human.

They say it is the wellspring of social emotions, things like lust and disgust, pride and humiliation, guilt and atonement. It helps give rise to moral intuition, empathy and the capacity to respond emotionally to music.

The rest is here

Based on that last sentence all my mutterings about Dvorak and human despair may only be apparent if you’ve got the same insula. At the risk of repeating myself it would be very helpful for everyone to carry a diagram of their particular brain, thus in a moment of intense conflict people could whip out their various diagrams (rather than usual left hook style reaction) and compare and contrast instead of creating new patients for maxillo-facial surgery on a Monday morning.

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February 4, 2007

Alphabetical inferiority complex

Glory be, glory be, L’alphabet, L’alphabet.

10.20am, during one of our peut-etre more seismically challenged days, myself and the Arabic language face a trial separation as I declare to bloke beside me I think I’ve reached the end of the road. We are being dunked into the pan of the alphabet and let’s just say there’s more carrots in there than I bargained for. Each letter has 4 different ways of being written depending if it’s at the beginning of a word, medial or final. Many of them look remarkable similar to begin with, so having felt a little faint at the sight of them all as singles, it’s unfathomable that there are now three different other versions that do not look a great deal like the isolated version. The purpose of the isolated version is still a mystery. Perhaps they are only used on tie pins or for decor purposes?

Every-time the teacher asks me a question she erupts in an affectionate set of giggles in anticipation of my answer because my attempts sounds a little more yodelling than the others. I do have the best arm waving though. But by the time I conquer ‘this traffic bollard is bothering me and can I have a shampoo and set’  arm waving may be out of vogue.

 Generally I feel I’ve been raised in an inferior language when I contemplate the complexity of this script and all it’s variations.

 I’m certainly overwhelmed but afterwards sunk in the library in literary ventures I find myself imagining writing that script and then begin to copy and practise the first six letters and find it surprisingly comforting like knitting or swimming must be if you’re good at it. I cannot understand why I am so compatible with it until it all makes sense. It’s written right to left, so it’s got to be in the left brain, which is where all my pigeons roost.

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January 22, 2007

Peg’s ma

Here’s a link to a Writers and Co interview with Margaret Atwood, in which she describes her mother taking up figure skating (ice dancing) at 45 and retiring at 75. I’m assuming she didn’t have the comfortable benefit of hockey skates, which made my second painfully uncomfortable attempt at ice skating a little more optimistic but not yet convincing over Christmas. The assumption can also be drawn that the Atwood gene is one that includes sensible behaviour by the inner ear. All very important literary insights of course, the sort you’ve come to expect from this blog.

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