Sunday, October 31, 2004

And Time Goes By ...

... so slowly. Re last post, did read "Beyond Infinity", by Gregory Benford. Didn't really do much for me. 3rd thing I have read lately with humans surviving 1 billion years -- clearly a little too long to extrapolate for me. If we can make 1 million years as a species (the hope), I think that would be crazy enough.

Overall, I can't think of Benford I really like, except for "Great Sky River" and its 1st sequel, "Tides of Light". Good man/machine and machine/man merger thoughts.

Just finished "Freedom Evolves", by Daniel C. Dennett. His "Darwin's Dangerous Idea" is I think one of the best books written on evolution (cranes vs. skyhooks); his "Consciousness Explained" is a nice finger in the eye of those still wanting to believe in a soul or suchlike. I have read 3 or 4 other of his books. This latest one is a look at free will (vs. determinism, what an unworthy stalking horse) from an evolutionary viewpoint. All his writing displays his annoying insistence on explaining why he is right and everyone else is wrong. At the start of this one, he accuses Pinker of "mysterianism" -- has he no allies? In the last chapter, he actually apologizes for not doing more of this -- a philosopher's sacred duty, in his opinion. Blagh.

Anyway, overall not a bad read. Interesting stuff about how the various parts of the mind have trouble synching up, leading to weird experimental results where we do things before we decide to do them. Very valid, the conscious mind is always trying to take credit for stuff it doesn't do (most mentation). Often it just kind of gets notified as an afterthought. Good commonsense arguments for the natural development of morality and ethics in our social species.

Much new music lately. 1st off, the best guitarist in the world lives right here in Lexington! I saw Ben Lacy at Natasha's a couple of weeks ago when my oldest daughter was in town for a wedding. I've seen him twice since then, at High on Rose, Fridays 6:30 - 9:00. Plays bass, rhythm, lead at the same time, or a rhythm machine if he so chooses, incredibly fast and clean. I have yet to see him miss a note.

Of new CDs, "Good News for People Who Love Bad News", by Modest Mouse, has really made an impression on me. I played it in my car for 2 weeks to burn it in. Great songs, quirky lyrics.

Also liked Elvis Costello's latest, "The Delivery Man". Elvis continues to turn out nice, tight, nasty rock & roll.

This kind of reminds me of "11 Tracks of Whack", by Walter Becker. I was a big Steely Dan fan, had all their stuff on vinyl (haven't yet got the CD versions). When they split up, Donald Fagen did 2 solo CDs, Becker did just this one, in 1994. It was like when Lennon & McCartney split, McCartney too sweet, Lennon too sour, with Fagen too sweet and Becker much more sour. "11 Tracks of Whack" is nice, tight, tasty songs, not a vaguely weak one til track 8 or so. BTW, I have the 2 Steely Dan CDs they have put out since getting back together a couple of years ago, they're OK.

Other new CDs:

  • "Antics", by Interpol. Pretty much like their last one, 3 stars.
  • "The Libertines", eponymous. Pretty much like their last one, 3 stars. I have trouble telling these 2 apart, one has a lead singer who kind of reminds me of Jim Morrison.
  • "Electric Version", by The New Pornographers. Some of the songs are OK, but the peppy (preppy?) knob is up a little high, like "That Thing You Do" or the Friends theme song.
  • "Medulla", by Bjork. I am of course a great fan of Ms. Guttmunsdottir. This is a very ambitious concept album. It took me 3 or 4 listens to get past the vocal textures and listen to the songs. Kind of like the 1st time I heard symphonic music (the Boston Symphony, on a $1.50 student ticket in 1969) -- I was so blown away by the texture of the sound (who knew all those fiddles together sounded so amazing?), that I don't think I heard the music at all. Still, "Medulla" does have good tunes, and the vocal textures are amazing.
  • "Smile", by Brian Wilson. Brian Wilson was one of the greatest composers of rock & roll, a true genius. So, I saw this, the long-awaited cult album and had to get it. Then, kind of disappointing, I had already heard most of these on various other Beach Boy albums.
One final piece of media. My wife and I occasionally would talk about how much we liked the Philip Marlowe's done by HBO in the mid-80's, with Powers Boothe as Marlowe. So, go to Amazon, there they are, boxed set of 11 episodes, $54. So, we got them, fun to see again, of course not as good as we remembered. As a reviewer on Amazon put it, Powers Boothe is perfect as Marlowe, but most of the supporting characters are pretty weak.

Oh, I have overcome my natural Luddism and started ripping my CDs to MP3s. Got a 160GB Maxtor USB external drive for $160 (crazy) and even a subwoofer. Currently at: 660 songs, 1.8 days, 3.6 GB.

This posting composed while giving out candy to trick-or-treaters. Ahh, Halloween, always my favorite as a kid, the one pagan holiday.