I am killing some time before I can meet Jeff in Dallas, so I came by Waco Lake to hang out for a couple of hours and do some reading or just chill in a quiet spot. It’s very quiet here and I’m enjoying listening to acorns fall and fish jump.
Tomorrow I am leaving Las Cruces and heading up to Roswell, NM. Considering my love of science fiction and interest in space and aliens and conspiracies, it seemed a shame to leave NM without visiting, even though I know it will be cheesy and tourist-y. Still, it should be fun. After I spend a couple of hours there, I will be camping at the Bottomless Lakes State Park for at least one night, but very possibly two nights. I am really looking forward to the quiet and the outdoors and the lack of internet and distractions. I expect to take some pics, do a bit of hiking around the lakes, finish Anethem and do some of my own writing. After that I’ll be going over to Texas, definitely hitting Dallas, possibly hitting Austin as well to visit an old high school friend. Then to Maryland to visit Lightly Organized Chaos for a day or two as well as a few other friends. Then I’ll get my ass up to Rhode Island and start looking for work, a place to live, some creative challenges and begin starting my business.
Richard Wright, the keyboardist whose somber, monumental sounds were at the core of Pink Floyd’s art-rock that has sold millions and millions of albums, died Monday in London, where he had lived. He was 65.
In this political season of lies, lies and more lies, of idiots and incompetents, of selfishness and greed, and of the basest human instincts, it’s nice to be occasionally reminded that our species can be pretty amazingly smart and clever sometimes. I mean, we have figured out how to find specific molecules floating around in space 700 lightyears away.
A team of scientists led by researchers from the Instituto Astrofísica de Canarias (IAC) has succeeded in identifying naphthalene, one of the most complex molecules yet discovered in the interstellar medium. The detection of this molecule suggests that a large number of the key components in prebiotic terrestrial chemistry could have been present in the interstellar matter from which the Solar System was formed.[From Interstellar Space Molecules That Help Form Basic Life Structures Identified]
IAC researchers Susana Iglesias Groth, Arturo Manchado and Aníbal García, in collaboration with Jonay González (Paris Observatory) and David Lambert (University of Texas) have just published these results in Astrophysical Journal Letters.
The naphthalene was discovered in a star formation region in the constellation Perseus, in the direction of the star Cernis 52. “We have detected the presence of the naphthalene cation in a cloud of interstellar matter located 700 lightyears from the Earth”, says IAC researcher Susana Iglesias Groth. The spectral bands found in this constellation coincide with laboratory measurements of the naphthalene cation.
That’s damn cool if you ask me.
I’m sure that later today I’ll read something that makes me feel rather ill-disposed toward our species, but for now, I think about the fact that we are exploring the universe and taking pictures like this:
and I can’t help but smile and be amazed that I am human and alive and part of an incredible universe that is being discovered by a darn clever and remarkable species.
I’m currently about halfway through Stephenson’s latest book and it is an amazing, rich, thought-provoking, deeply intellectual, and engrossingly emotional novel. The kind of novel that you want to live in for a good long while. Even though I have over 400 pages to go, I’m already a bit sad that it will end in such a short time! With all the hype and build up focusing on the semantics of the world, I was afraid it would be a bit like Clockwork Orange, creating a rich and varied world but with the language being a pretty high barrier to entry into that world. However, Anathem is nothing of the sort. Yes there are words and cultural signifiers that are alien and I’m glad that he included a lexicon of words so you can look up key terms, but as a whole, the book is remarkably accessible. While there are some brain-twisting sections (especially if you aren’t used to thinking about geometric or logic problems), they are so integral to the story and the characters that they are no more off-putting than a description of a room or a character’s emotional state. Stephenson is a master at incorporating lessons—on the creation of money (among many other things) in his Baroque Cycle, on cryptography in Cryptonomicon, or on geometry and metaphysics here—into his novels without being pedantic or boring.
Anathem is quickly becoming one of my favorite science fiction novels of all time and I can’t recommend it enough for anyone who likes their novels rich with ideas and intrigue and characters that feel like old friend, or who likes their world-making detailed, internally consistent. This is a book that will offer you a new world and make you look at ours in a new way.
I have to admit that I’ve missed the last several films by the Coen brothers, but am sure glad I saw this one. There is something very relaxed about this movie. Not so much in the content, but in the execution of the movie. I don’t mean relaxed in a lazy way, but relaxed in the way that a gymnast can make the most complex routine look effortless. The script is tight, nearly pitch perfect and treats the audience to one of the best comedy of errors made this decade: perfectly balancing the laughs with a dark undercurrent of tragic ridiculousness. In addition, the characters all zig toward stereotypes but then zag into complexity. Well, almost all of them. Of the main characters, Tilda Swinton’s never quite makes that zag, which is a shame because she’s an incredible actor. The actors, even Swinton (given her character’s limitations), are at the top of their game. Even the minor characters are invested with a fullness that I usually associate with British films more than most American ones.
One of my pet peeves about movies in general, is that characters often seem to come from some never-never land where they have never watched movies or television or read spy novels or romance novels or science fiction novels or . . . you get my point. Most characters in movies don’t carry around the models of reality that we all carry around in our heads. All those books and movies and popular musics and television shows that tell us the world is like this and people are like that. These modesl have an impact on how we behave. Not only on how we behave, but how we actually see the world. The characters in Burn After Reading seem to be making their lives up as they go, and are doing so in ways that reflect a whole set of mental models that include how one might act in a movie or on television. Don’t misunderstand, the movie is not a collection of post-modern references and the character’s never mention movies or tv shows. Instead, the Coen brothers present us with characters whose actions make sense only if they have been raised on a steady diet of popular media.
While I’m sure that Brad Pitt will get a lot of attention for his performance because he is so damn good at playing silly-funny and does it so rarely, and Frances McDormand is as wonderfully delightful as usual, for my money, George Clooney’s performance is the richest and most nuanced of the film. He’s not a very likable guy, but he undergoes a rather profound journey. In fact, his story is almost too serious at times in comparison to the overall tone of the movie. Almost. In the hands of a less accomplished actor, or less accomplished writers and directors, his character might have upset the balance and tone. In the hands of Clooney and the Coens, however, it all just works.
This is a movie that I look forward to watching again and is well worth seeing in the theater.
Along with the Clogs, the Rachel’s are one of my new favorite bands. Lately I’ve been listening to a lot more instrumental music and finding myself drawn to the images and emotions that I can find through music without words. There is a freedom of interpretation to programmatic music and the Rachel’s are evocative and full of humor, intrigue and suspense. I get images of foggy mornings, looking out on a winter scene through a window fogged with breath, a dark-haired woman smiling sadly. And that’s just one song listened to once. Every time I listen I see different images, feel different emotions.
Here is one of their songs from Systems/Layers set to some archival film:
Check out their site and see if you can help.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Ike, the Houston Food Bank needs your support to help disaster victims. We need donations of money, food, and volunteer time.
The Houston Food Bank is working hard to provide relief to families and individuals who are suffering as a result of the hurricane. We are supplying food and other necessities to our partner agencies and to temporary shelters.
To keep up with the growing need for food, we must obtain funds to purchase truckloads of urgently needed, high-demand items[From Houston Food Bank ]
In my play, “Going Out” I wrote
The dream/true transition tends to . . . fuck things up. Sometimes. Don’t you think?
Now, that transition between dreams and actuality does not necessarily lead to fucking things up, but it is a transition and no passage, no journey is ever the same as the plans for that passage or journey. The map is not the territory. As humans, we must have our dreams and aspirations. For me, for some time, it was moving to the Southwest, to New Mexico and being near Spaceport America because of just how cool I think it as that we are building a frakin’ spaceport! While the territory may not have been what I hoped for expected, the journey here has been a positive one, giving me time to reflect and consider my life and my options. While I didn’t exactly go on a spirit-quest in the desert guided by peyote and the ancestors, the past couple of months have still proven invaluable to my sense of direction and purpose. I make the choice to move back east, and back to Rhode Island in particular, with a clear sense of where I want to go and what I want to accomplish. While the going and the accomplishing may be difficult, and my new maps may not always match my new territories, it looks to me like an invigorating and enjoyable trail ahead.
Wish me luck.
And thanks to everyone for listening, for your thoughts and advice, and for your support. You rock!
The Bourne Political Analysis
So he’s only an actor, but he makes some damn good points.
David Tennant Watch Out
This is one reason I love Doctor Who: it’s the kind of show that inspires and makes people want to be a hero. Sure, I can quibble with some of the episodes and the writing and feel like stories or characters are off-track or too thinly written, but in the end, Doctor Who continues to offer stories of adventure and heroism that make kids do things like this:
Science is Pretty Damn Amazing
You may have heard something about the Large Hadron Collider, but here’s some info on what it actually is and how scientist plan to use it.
I wonder why McCain hates poor people so much? Probably because he spent five years as a POW.
Obama and McCain Tax Proposals
According to a new analysis by the Tax Policy Center, a joint project of the Urban Institute and the Brookings Institution, Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain are both proposing tax plans that would result in cuts for most American families. Obama’s plan gives the biggest cuts to those who make the least, while McCain would give the largest cuts to the very wealthy. For the approximately 147,000 families that make up the top 0.1 percent of the income scale, the difference between the two plans is stark. While McCain offers a $269,364 tax cut, Obama would raise their taxes, on average, by $701,885 – a difference of nearly $1 million.
Seriously though, I think that one of the most impressive aspects of these numbers is the fact that Obama’s plan demonstrates a commitment to the poor and working-class of this country. That he has the courage to say, flat out to the wealthiest and most powerful people in this country that he is planning on raising their taxes tells me that he has a lot more invested in doing what is right rather than what is politically expedient.
Today, John McCain’s website talks of serving a cause greater than yourself. Yet, when faced with the largest national debt in history, a war that costs millions of dollars a day, a fragile and crumbling economy, McCain doesn’t seem interested in asking the wealthiest people in the country to serve any cause other than themselves.
I don’t know what you call that, but I call it hypocrisy.
Oh, and I don’t know what you call going around the country telling people that Obama would raise taxes for most Americans, but I call it lying.