Sunday, January 29, 2006

Memory

I was thinking about the folk wisdom that we somewhere remember everything, and that we can recall it all under hypnosis. Seems to me to be definitely an old wive's tale. Short term memory is in the front of the brain, long term memories are formed in the back. It's well known that trauma can prevent the transfer from short to long term memory -- hence accident victims commonly don't remember much about their accidents. It also seems like we can't be remembering repetitive stuff, like the details of getting in the shower every morning, or, even worse, the activity of someone on an assembly line. Seems like the brain would reject the duplicate memory, or overlay or reinforce the preexisting one.

Finished my 5th library book (turned in 2 days overdue), Frederik Pohl's "The Boy Who Would Live Forever". It's a return to his Gateway/HeeChee stories, very meandering (new characters introduced over halfway through). I kind of like the meandering stuff, more realistic and life-like. I remember Bruce Sterling's "Schismatrix" was one of the 1st books that struck me that way.

Frederik Pohl has been producing nice works of sci-fi for decades now. I remember his novel "Jem" as being one of the most cynical novels I ever read.

My wife worked both days last weekend so I caught up on my comic book movies. Watched "Fantastic Four" and "Batman Begins". Both well done, #13 and #8 in box office last year (ain't the web great) so they will probably be back. Still, best comic book movies to date have been X-Men 2 and Spiderman 2 (and maybe Superman 2 -- hmm, maybe a pattern?)

Finally seem to have digested all the music I got late last year, ready for more. Downloaded "More Shine" by Si*Se, who was a iTunes free song. Listenable world beat (actually fairly western), 3 stars.

Cooking a pot of 15 bean soup, time to stir. Have to miss the blues jam tomorrow night for a business dinner. Only got to play around 1/2 hour last week. My chops are definitely getting better, the speed of both my hands is improving.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Pretty Pictures

My baby sister sent me the link to NASA's Astronomy Picture of the Day. The pictures are beautiful, some great Hubble shots. So far I have downloaded 3 and made them my wallpaper. My wife commented on how pretty the shot of M101, the Sombrero Galaxy, was -- this has always been a favorite of mine. When I was a kid, "The Outer Limits" used to show pictures of galaxies behind their credits, I'm sure M101 was one of them.

Looking at M101, you see the beautiful diffuse halo of stars. It's so amazing to see this mist and realize every spec is a star. I was thinking, those would be nice places to live, placid (no supernovas or spiral waves passing through), with a beautiful view of the galactic disk. Then I realized, these are all Population II stars -- formed from the initial primordial hydrogen and helium. So, no metals, no life as we know it. Life-bearing planets are most likely confined to Population I stars in spiral arms. These stars and their planetary disks include the material from supernovae, which is everything heavier than around nitrogen. "We are made of stars" -- the iron in our blood is only formed in supernovae. So, no life if it's too peaceful -- it seems only fitting.

Finished the 4th library book, Nancy Kress "Crucible". This was the sequel to "Crossfire", which I think I somewhat panned. This one, I just wanted it to be over.

Before that, read the 3rd of Walter Jon William's "Dread Empire's Fall" series, "Conventions of War". Hopefully this trilogy is done. Readable, but, why?

I have now been 4 times to play at the Monday Night Blues Jam Session at -- the American Legion. It's really fun -- ""Blueberry Hill" in G -- got it; "Knock on Wood" in D -- got it. The last 2 times, I got to play most of the lead guitar. I have improved greatly, still a long way to go. Still, it really resonates to do this. I remember that I was a professional musician -- I keep it sparse and simple, I will do more as my chops come back. There has normally been 6-10 musicians (drums, bass, keyboard, 3-4 guitarists), and maybe 10 people there. This past Monday, there were a couple dozen specators, and there was a good harp player who I've seen around Lexington before; a great black keyboardist / lead singer; and an outlaw guitarist / Johnny Cash type who was wild. Nobody knew any of the chords to the 2 songs he did (but we figured them out). My wife went and we danced to one when I was sitting out. She enjoyed it OK but it's a smoking place (woo-haa), and her eyes were burning. Still, I got to play the better part of an hour and a half.

Another milestone Monday: there was a guitarist there whom I was better than! Up to that, the other guitarists had seriously more chops than me. Dave Brown Sr (dad of my son's business partner), who got me to come, is an excellent player, and there's a guy Lindsey Olive who is unbelievable -- totally fluid. He has mostly played bass the last 2 weeks.

So, it's been really fun. The songs we play I don't know well, I come home and practice the chords. I'm playing 3-5 times a week, both my hands are getting a lot stronger.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe: Jebus Says It's OK To Bite Your Enemy's Face Off

Wanted to see "King Kong" or "Memoirs of a Geisha", but no 7:30-8:30 playtimes. So, we went to see "Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe". I read the books around 30 years ago, OK but certainly not Tolkien. Anyway, at 2h12m, the movie went by fairly quickly given that it was relatively boring. Lately, I seem to have a problem with fantasy when it is entirely of an arbitrary nature -- like "what are they going to pull out of their ass next?" I think you have to stay very close to the archetypes for a fantasy to work. I think, tho, even worse, is when it is fantasy with a subtext, particularly when the subtext is christianity.

It is well known that C.S.Lewis was a christian apologist, and that Aslan is indeed supposed to be a jebus figure. *** SPOILER ALERT *** But, in a fantasy context, what a load of crap. The movie is full of Greco-roman mythological creatures, all of which christianity seriously suppressed. My favorite was the ending tho, where Aslan (off-camera of course) bites the face off of the White Witch. Which gospel is that in?

It was amazing tho. No show times for King Kong, and this thing was playing on 2 screens, and the theater was full -- of dumbass christians, sent by their preachers to enjoy the christian values of this "wonderful" movie. Fucking shit, these morons will apparently believe anything that anybody tells or even suggests to them. They started out the movie laughing aloud at not particularly funny stuff, and ended it with "Wasn't that just wonderful?", "Oh yes, wonderful.". Grrr. I'd say a mind is a terrible thing to waste, but I think that sometimes, when you raise people to believe instead of think, that not much in the way of a mind ever develops.

My friend David sent me this link to some great atheist t-shirts. I have to pick out a few and start wearing them to the Fayette Mall on Sunday.

Been on a science fiction binge since finishing "Meta-Math!". Read a collection of short stories by John Crowley, "Novelties & Souvenirs". These are nice stories, an extended time travel one "The Great Work of Time" is very nice. Crowley writes very well, i.e., almost serious literature. His early novels "Engine Summer", "Beasts", "The Deep", and "Little, Big" are most excellent. He hits the archetypes hard -- a very nice recursive turn in that they tend to be fairy tales where at some point the characters begin to realize that they're in a fairy tale. His newer novels, "Aegypt" and "Daemonomania" are very well written, but don't have the charm of his earlier stuff.

Then hit my excellent local library where I have not been in months. Interesting, "No Cell Phone" signs up. Picked up 5 sci-fi novels. First read one of Octavia Butler's early short novels that I seem to have missed somehow, "Survivor". Very nice read. I really liked how her first 5 or so novels had 2-4 intertwining themes, but done in a way such that you can read them all standalone. Her 3 Xenogenesis novels were very good, and her newer stuff is also very readable.

Then read Greg Bear's latest, "Dead Lines". So, as previously blogged, after having one character experience god in "Darwin's Children", now we have a life-after-death novel. I was wondering, is he just getting old -- checked, he's 2 months younger than I am -- so he's definitely getting old. Well, he has a new one out, "Quantico", we'll see if it has creeping supernaturalism in it as well.

Just finished yesterday "Reflex", by Steven Gould". This is the sequel to his 1st novel "Jumper", which I loved. It reminded me of a book I would have loved when I was 12-15 and 1st reading escapist literature heavily. Plus, the main character's superpower, teleportation, is reminiscent of Gully Foyle in "The Stars My Destination" (still no apparent progress on Russell Crowe playing Gully Foyle). Anyway, "Reflex" is a totally pleasant read, I was sorry when it was over. Gould's other novels, "Wildside" and "Helm" are also great reads, they do the same thing, somehow make me feel like I'm a teenager again.

Made a fire in the fireplace yesterday, 1st time in probably 15 years. Only 4 seasoned small logs, kept it going around 2.5 hours. Tending a fire is great stuff, I love the smell and the feel of it. When I'm biking and I smell woodsmoke, it really slaps my mind -- million year old circuits kicking in.

It's like walking in the dark. I have gotten to really enjoy that in the summer, it really wakes up your senses and your old, old brain -- you're back to being a primate who knew that there were lots of things in the dark that wouldn't mind eating you, better be alert. Like the time I was hiking in the Saguaro National Monument east of Tucson and Mr. Rattlesnake rattled "hello" from 18 inches away -- I was definitely more awake and alive for the next hour of the hike.

Time for lunch, then see if I can get a load of firewood delivered. High in the 50's today, but we should have some more cold weather before the winter's over, I am looking forward to more of the fire thing.