Category Archives: iThinks

Repository for review-like categories and opinions.

Consilience by Edward O Wilson

A good read but probably narrowly of interest to those who read in the area of the history and philosophy of science.  Regardless it would be an important read outside of that sphere.

This quote is taken from page 241 in my copy.

On religion I lean toward deism but consider its proof largely a problem in astrophysics.  The existence of a cosmological God who created the universe (as envisioned by deism) is possible, and may eventually be settled, perhaps by forms of material evidence not yet imagined.  Or the matter may be forever beyond human reach.  In contrast, and of far greater importance to humanity, the existence of a biological God, one who directs organic evolution and intervenes in human affairs (as envisioned by theism) is increasingly contravened by biology and the brain sciences.

Here are some literary archetypes he lists out from page 223 and 224.

In the beginning, the people are crated by gods, or the mating of giants, or the clash of titans; in any case, they begin as special beings at the center of the world.

The tribe emigrates to a promised land (or Arcadia, or the Secret Valley, or the New World).

The tribe meets the forces of evil in a desperate battle for survival; it triumphs against heavy odds.

The hero descends to hell, or is exiled to wilderness, or experiences an iliad in a distant land; he returns in an odyssey against all odds past fearsome obstacles along the way, to complete his destiny.

The world ends in apocalypse, by flood, fire, alien conquerors, or avenging gods; it is restored by a band of heroic survivors.

A source of great power is found in the tree of life, the river of life, philosopher’s stone, sacred incantations, forbidden ritual, secret formula.

The nurturing woman is apotheosized as the Great Goddess, the Great Mother, Holy Woman, Divine Queen, Mother Earth, Gaia.

The seer has special knowledge and power of mind, available to those worthy to receive it; he is the wise old man or woman, the holy man, the magician, the great shaman.

The virgin has the power of purity, is the vessel of sacred strength, must be protected at all costs, and perhaps surrendered up to propitiate the gods or demonic forces.

Female sexual awakening is bestowed by the unicorn, the gentle beast, the powerful stranger, the magical kiss.

The trickster disturbs established order and liberates passion as the god of wine, king of the carnival, eternal youth, clown, jester, clever fool.

A monster threatens humanity, appearing as the serpent demon (Satan writhing at the bottom of hell), dragon, gorgon, golem, vampire.

And finally this gem from page 290.

Much of the technology required to reach that goal [“the diminishment of the total ecological footprint” of humanity] can be summarized in two concepts.  Decarbonization is the shift from the burning of coal, petroleum, and wood to essentially unlimited, environmentally light energy sources such as fuel cells, nuclear fusion, and solar and wind power.  Dematerialization, the second concept, is the reduction in bulk of hardware and the energy it consumes.  All the microchips in the world, to take the most encouraging contemporary example, can be fitted into the room that housed the Harvard Mark 1 electromagnetic computer at the dawn of the information revolution.

JamesIsIn

Separated at Birth? (John Mayall v Wilco)

I have long been interested in songs which have (in my admittedly warbled mind) a musical connection.  This is my first in what I hope to be a series of posts designed to offer these relationships to them Interwebzians like yourself.

First up I came across this old John Mayall song which reminds me of a Wilco song.  I’m not claiming thievery (any more than all art is on some level fantastic thievery); no, I’m merely saying these have a musical relationship which a casual observer might enjoy.

Enjoy!

First we have John Mayall’s “I Still Care”.

Followed by Wilco’s “Hate It Here”.

After hearing a melodic connection I then noticed that the messages of the two songs have much in common.

Your opinions are welcome in the comments.

JamesIsIn

Cryptonomicon

A compelling and poetic paragraph from page 445 of my copy of Cryptonomicon.

The sand at the surf line has been washed flat.  A small child’s footprints wander across it, splaying like gardenia blossoms on thin shafts.  The sand looks like a geometric plane until a sheet of ocean grazes it.  Then small imperfections are betrayed by swirls in the water.  Those swirls in turn carve the sand.  The ocean  is a Turing machine,  the sand is its tape, the water reads the marks in the sand and sometimes erases them and sometimes carves new ones with tiny currents that are themselves a response to the marks.  Plodding through the surf, Waterhouse strikes deep craters in the wet sand that are read by the ocean.  Eventually the ocean erases them, but in the process its state has been changed, the pattern of its swirls has been altered.  Waterhouse imagines that the disturbance might somehow propagate across the Pacific and into some super-secret Niponese surveillance device made of bamboo tubes and chrysanthemum leaves; Nip listeners would know that Waterhouse had walked that way. In turn, the water swirling around Waterhouse’s feet carries information about Nip propeller design and the deployment of their fleets—if only he had the wit to read it.  The chaos of the waves, gravid with encrypted data, mocks him.

This puts me about half way through what has proven to be a wonderful novel.

My copy has a large number of typographical errors prompting me to ponder if they are not purposely inserted cryptographic messages of some design.  It’s a book that encourages this sort of thinking.

See you on the other side.

JamesIsIn

A Wise Guy Gets Wise

I have long been a fan of George Carlin.  I went to see him when I was maybe 13; my mother took my brother and I to the Paramount to see him.  I think it may have been for my birthday.  Anyway… long-time fan, first-time reader.

I discovered that he had a book called Napalm & Silly Putty recently and though it was quite old by then I bought a used copy and had a go at it.

Napalm & Silly Putty
Napalm & Silly Putty

If you are acquainted with his stand-up material you are going to see a lot here that’s familiar territory.  No harm there.  Intersperced between the familiar you will also find some novel bits and I’d like to share one of those for you now.

It’s not comedy, just pure political philosophy.  It’s titled Don’t Blame the Leaders (You, the People) (p 234).

In the midst of all my bitching, you might’ve noticed that I never complain about politicians.  I leave that to others.  And there’s no shortage of volunteers; everyone complains about politicians.  Everyone says they suck.

But where do people think these politicians come from?  They don’t fall out of the sky; they don’t pass through membrane from a separate reality.  They come from American homes, American families, American schools, American churches, and American businesses.  And they’re elected by American voters.  This is what our system produces, folks.  This is the best we can do.  Let’s face it, we have very little to work with.  Garbage in, garbage out.

Ignorant citizens elect ignorant leaders, it’s as simple as that.  And term limits don’t help.  All you do is get a brand new bunch of ignorant leaders.

So maybe it’s not the politicians who suck; maybe it’s something else.  Like the public.  That would be a nice realistic campaign slogan for somebody: “The public sucks.  Elect me.”  Put the blame where it belongs: on the people.

Because if everything is really the fault of politicians, where are all the bright, honest, intelligent Americans who are ready to step in and replace them?  Where are these people hiding?  The truth is, we don’t have people like that.  Everyone’s at the mall, scratching his balls and buying speakers with lights on them.  And complaining about the politicians.

That’s it. That’s your cheery thought for the day.

JamesIsIn

You Think My Backyard Is Cool, but John Elliott’s Backyards Rocks

My old friend Ian Parks moved to LA a few years back and set himself in a sweet little place with a cool courtyard.  He puts on music shows there calling it Frog Town.

Living in Seattle I’ve only been able to catch the bits that get posted to YouTube.  Regardless, after I listened to a performance by John Elliott I was impressed.  When I found out he was putting together an album I got in touch with him so I could check it out and maybe write  a review for both of my dedicated if mildly retarded readers.

"James is a writer of elegance and sophistication."
“James is a writer of elegance and sophistication.”

You like watching videos of live performances?  Ok.

So his new album is called Backyards and is published under John Elliott & the Hereafter.

Backyards
Backyards

If you are reading this early enough (and you are in the LA area), you can still catch the album release party (13 August 2011).  If you want to get tickets for the release party you can do so here.  It’s a show for adults so become an adult before you go, eh?

Long story short, this is that review.  Let me just cut to the important part: this is good music and should be bought, posthaste.  Zoomzoom, amigos!  Buy it here.

The audio and recording quality throughout is excellent.  The same holds for the musicianship and the mixing.  Coincidentally, John shares my distaste for the ubiquitous mp3 and what it has done for the expectations of quality in musical recordings.  That’s a good thing.

I’ll just talk about a few tracks that stood out for me.  You might end up getting more deeply into different tracks.  I might change my affiliations over time.  Music is like that.

The first track, called The American West, reminds me of one of my favorite albums of recent years.  If One Fast Move or I’m Gone: Kerouac’s Big Sur isn’t already in your collection you are missing out, but American West both in musical feel and thematic scope would fit right into that set.  Good company, that.  (This is the same song as in the video above, but this version is with The Hereafter while the video is a solo performance with just John Elliott.)

The third track is a sweet up-tempo romp about winning and losing and the shape of life in sketches seen through timid fearless eyes.  It’s called “Daylight Saving”.  I like this song a lot and wonder if it’s going to be a hit one day.

“Losing Streak” is in the fourth slot and I don’t know what to say about it.  Is it a lamentation?  Could be.  Mellow for some I suppose but musically rich and in a way exciting.  Having listened to them several times now I have come to view these first three songs as a kind of trilogy: they each tell a different story but they have a commonality between and through them.

“I Think I Found a New Friend” (track five) has some nice backing vocals.  When I find out by whom I’ll update it here.

I thought “Over a Year” might have been influenced by The Edge (guitarist for U2), but even if it’s not it has some great guitar work and some punk influence, making it a nice lead into the next song.  As a side note, this seems to be the song from which the album title comes.

Track seven is a change of gears.  I’d maybe call it a punk jam calling upon the ghosts of The Clash and Joan Jett.  They called it “Cassius Clay”.

Now we come to quite a contrast to Cassius.  Track nine, called “So This Is When It Comes”, is what we might call a spacey ambient tribute to ambient space people everywhere.  Really shows the broad musical range of this album.

Eleven tracks in all.  A clandestine reference to Spinal Tap?  Who can say?

The final track, “Empty in the Heartland”, musically strikes me as a sort of reprise to the first track and thus makes for an excellent bookend for Backyards.  It’s the sort of song you can find yourself fading off into the land of dreams.  Sort of like at the end of a party.  When everyone else has already passed out and you’re looking around your own backyard yawning and thinking “look at all those fucking beer cans where’s my lawn chair?”.

If you’d like to follow The Hereafter, you can check out their site.  They are also on Facebook.  Oh, yeah; and buy it here.

Happy the end.

JamesIsIn

Dummy Is Polished Wood

I’ve been watching a lot of films with Adrien Brody of late (since a certain princess I know really likes him). I was surfing a film site and noticed that he stared in a film along side Milla Jovavich. I had never heard of the film, called Dummy, but I figured with those two in the lead roles I could do worse.

Dummy
Dummy

Very pleasantly I would have a hard time having done better. It’s a great and heart-felt movie worth every penny I doled out for the used DVD. Terrifically personal and passionate, it will make a fine edition to my permanent collection.

It’s one of those little gems we all love to discover: obscure, independent, and magnificent. Get thee to the video store!

Move your ass!

JamesIsIn

A Nudge in the Right Direction

This has been on my list of things to do for a while now, and I’m sorry to have made you wait so long. You may or may not have already seen the video for the poem called “How to Be Alone”.  It has nearly 2 million hits on YouTube.

Not bad for a poet, eh?

The poem is by Tanya Davis and you can find her Web site here.  (The video is a collaberation with independent filmmaker Andrea Dorfman and you can find her site here.)

If you find you’d like to get some of Tanya’s material on CD (or download), you can visit Tanya’s page at Sand Bar Music.

I wish Tanya all the best and I hope you enjoy her as I have.

JamesIsIn

Rocket Me Bottle!

I’m a big Wes Anderson fan and have been since I took a chance and bought Rushmore on DVD.  He’s really quite good at making movies.

A friend insists that Bottle Rocket is his best film.  I finally bought a copy on Blu-ray and have now watched that great film.

Bottle Rocket
Bottle Rocket

I think what makes this a great film is that you get to see Wes Anderson and the Wilson brothers at the very beginning.  There are flaws in the film which they correct in later films, but this film really shows the talents that were waiting down in Texas aching to explode on the big screen.

If you also enjoy Wes Anderson films, you will likely also enjoy Bottle Rocket.  I can’t say it’s for everyone though.  If you were going to pick only one Wes Anderson film to watch I would probably still recommend Rushmore.

Now this Criterion Collection Blu-ray has some excellent extras thrown in for fun.  It does have the original Bottle Rocket short film which Wes and Co sent to Sundance.  Also there are a host of cut scenes from the film which are interesting to watch (if you are into film making as a craft).

The best gem of the lot though is a documentary film called Murita Cycles by Barry Braverman.  (I understand this is also included on the 2 DVD Criterion Collection set as well.)

There you have it. Not my most exciting review, but you know what you need to know. Get busy.

Thanks for reading.

JamesIsIn

Everyone Should Have a Big Night

My brother gave me a couple of DVD’s a while back and I’m just now getting to watching this last of them. A film with Ian Holm, Stanley Tucci, Minnie Driver, and Isabella Rossellini (a woman so beautiful she could do me), it is called Big Night.

Big Night
Big Night

It’s basically the story of two Italian brothers who come to the States seeking to make their fortunes as restaurateurs. Things are not going well and they begin to reach out for other ways to succeed, each brother in his own manner. The brothers represent a variety of polar opposites and the interplay between them and between all the characters is well done.

Essentially it is a story about food and should be placed on a shelf along with Babette’s Feast, Tampopo (Dandelion), and Chocolat (with Juliette Binoche, meow).

The story itself is caught somewhere between Tampopo and Waiting for Godot. It is a rich philosophical film filled with brain candy. And the food will make you hungry. I especially liked the timpani. (You can find an example of this dish here and here, the second probably being more closely authentic.)

Get to it, kiddies. The couch is waiting.

JamesIsIn