Sunday, May 21, 2006

Death to Jehovah

Doing some barroom philosophizing last night, I got onto Jehovah. I blogged before Richard Dawkins' characterization of Jehovah as "one of the most evil characters in all of fiction". I was expanding on that theme. Jehovah was a wholescale murderer of children. He didn't evacuate the children before trashing Sodom and Gomorrah; at one point he ordered the heads smashed of children born of the rape of Hebrew women by another tribe? Worst is the Feast of Passover, celebrated by Jews every year, where Jehovah ordered the deaths of an entire generation of children over a political squabble. I have proposed in the past renaming Passover to "the Feast of the Murdered Children".

My final conclusion was that we're lucky that Jehovah doesn't exist, because if he did, it would be our duty as moral beings to try to figure out how to track the sumbitch down and kill him. That didn't go over very well (duh). But, it's true.

Finally read the 2004 "Year's Best Science Fiction", edited by Gardner Dozois. Somehow I missed it when it came out. It started out with some great stories, particularly one about some nasty post-humans living in a totally trashed and toxic world that they are fine with because they can eat anything, regrow limbs, etc -- then they find a dog. But, some of the stories towards the end were kind of weak. Still, an annual must-read.

I seem to go through spells of music drought vs plenty. Definitely in a plenty period now. 164 songs in my unrated folder in iTunes. I'm thinking, surely all these can't be 3 stars (but I think that's where they will wind up):

  • Andrew Bird "& the Mysterious Production of Eggs" -- maybe 4 stars, very nice;
  • Flaming Lips "At War with the Mystics" -- unbelievable, a cover of "Bohemian Rhapsody" that works;
  • Massive Attack "Collected" -- overlaps with "Mezzanine";
  • "Four Brothers Soundtrack" -- good Motown;
  • The Killers "Hot Fuss";
  • Dr. John "In the Right Place" -- his breakout 1973 album, I bought after seeing him do "Such a Night" in "The Last Waltz". BTW, I can't seem to google the lyrics for that song;
  • Donald Fagen "Morph the Cat" -- mostly not as sickly sweet as his 2 earlier solo albums;
  • Les Nubians "One Step Forward" -- not as good as their 1st;
  • "Les Nubians Presents: Echos - Chapter One: Nubian Voyager". Lots of poetry set to music (does that make it rap?), some of it is kind of interesting. Definitely conceptual tho;
  • Modest Mouse "The Moon and Antarctica" -- only glimpses of what became the 4 star "Good News for People who Like Bad News".
I have also been buying more singles of songs I want to work up, mostly old blues and rock: "Who Do You Love", "I'm Ready".

I did get the album from last week's iTunes free song: "Multiply", by Jamie Lidell -- apparently a Brit techno guy who decided to make a Motown R&B album. Some really nice tunes, I think most of this will get 4 stars.

This past Wednesday at the High Life Lounge Blues Jam, I sang a couple and did OK, but my playing sucked. I need do less working up songs and more practicing my lead licks.

High point of my reborn music "career" was on 5/10/6. There is a woman named Patty Butcher who has apparently been singing blues in Lexington for 20 years. She is really good, great voice and fantastic stage presence. She was 1st there 4/26/6 and I wound up playing rhythm guitar on the 3-4 numbers she did. She offered me a solo and I took a good one, nice expression. So on 5/10/6, she asked for me for her numbers, I sang some harmony, played some good rhythm and leads. As I was leaving that night, her manager/boyfriend/fiancee/SO told me she had a lot of gigs coming up and asked me for my phone number in case they needed me to play any of them!!! Woo-haa, I doubt anything will come of it, but, great to be asked.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

2 Books

I know, boring title, not too snappy -- but it is in Prince-speak, at least. I'm listening to "Kiss" as I write. I printed out the lyrics, so now I am committed to working it up ... OK, picked up the classical, it's in E. And the most excellent Wendy solo is an E9 with a G and then an F# played on top. OK, on to the books.

Finished "The Resurrected Man"(2005), by Sean Williams (Australian), a couple of weeks ago. There was a sophomoric quality to the writing that just wasn't working. I think that appendices of Acronyms and Foreign Slang are red flags. The way the suspense was held and the mystery's resolution both were not just up to paar. Where's Greg Egan (or Richard K. Morgan) when you need them? 3 stars.

Finished "A History of the Mind: Evolution and the Birth of Consciousness"(1999), by Nicholas Humphrey, a few days ago. I have read some of his stuff before, very well-written and insightful. He's somewhat of a protege of Dennett, hopefully that won't hold him back too much. A very nice read, written in the style of a natural philosopher, 228 pages. Some references to Oliver Sacks, skin vision, blindsight, and phantom limbs, otherwise straightforward reasoning from 1st principles. The basic contention is that consciousness arises from sensation, which is modal, not from perception, which is modeless -- medium neutral representation of concepts. The characteristics of sensation are (review p 192):

  1. they belong to the subject;
  2. they are tied to a particular site in the body;
  3. they are modality specific (pain is pain; smell is smell);
  4. they are present tense;
  5. they are self-characterizing in all these respects.
He contends that from an amoeba up, sensations are processed to produce reactions. Then, once there's enough of a brain, rather than just being simple feedback, the sensations are mirrored in a body image in the brain. There's a very unintuitive argument that, based on this feedback, sensations are a form of subjective mental activity. This feedback loop becomes disconnected from the sensations to form mental images and the mental narrative "I" (our inner voice), which are two of the main pieces that our consciousness are made of. The time delay involved also produces the "conscious present", (time 50-200 milliseconds?), in which we convince ourselves that we are conscious.

He introduces the terminology that this process produces "sentiments" that we process through the activity of sensing, "sentition". "I feel, therefore I am."

Two things I was disappointed he did not get into, that would seem to be germane to his arguments:

  • Sensory deprivation experiments. I would have thought there was a lot of info on this. If we are what we feel, what happpens when we don't feel anything?
  • Synestheasia. We read "Mind of a Mnemomist: A Little Book about a Vast Memory", by A.R. Luria (1960?) in a psychology class I took in college. The subject of the book's total recall seemed to be based on his having synestheasia, where all the senses are mixed, sights are smelt and felt, etc. Again, if we are what we feel, this would surely seem relevant (I 1st wrote "feel relevant").
I just decided, as above, to put year published in my book references. It do make a difference. One annoyance I have with iTunes is that they put the dates of when something is put on iTunes as the date of the music, rather than when it was created. I downloaded "Fresh Cream (remastered)" and "Disraeli Gears (remastered)" a couple of weekends ago and they came down with a date of 1998. Easy to fix, discographies google easily and give the proper years (1966 and 1967), but still, annoying.

Re Letters to the Editor, I sent an e-mail of encouragement to a professor at Lindsey Wilson College, a babtist school here in KY, re an article he had published in "Free Inquiry" on teaching evolution to babtists. He invited me to join the Kentucky Association of Science Educators/Skeptics forum, which I did. After the letter was printed, along with another rational letter on an Intelligent Design debate, someone posted to the forum, how nice is was to have letters that didn't require a reply. I responded:

Au contraire, I think my letter espousing neo-Darwinism does demand a response. It ignores Lynn Margulis' endosymbiotic theory, that eukaryotic cells, the basis of all more complex life, came about from the symbiotic union of primitive prokaryotic cells (paste from Wikipedia). It doesn't mention prions, which seem to have figured out how to turn other proteins into prions without DNA based replication. It greatly oversimplified a complex and dynamic field of research -- tsk, tsk.
Somebody posted back, "What a wonderful world it would be if those were the arguments turning up on the letters-to-the-editor page."

I posted:

That is my idea exactly. I had figured I would pay attention to the letters for the next week or so and see what bible quotations would be thrown out as counter arguments, and give me a chance to reply with some more science. Wouldn't it indeed be better if instead there was a reply like the one below. Come on, can I get a shill?
But, no shills forthcoming. Too bad, we're fighting the republicans here, who have perfected "win at any cost". Surely an orchestrated intelligent discussion in the letters-to-the-editor would be preferable to the normal bible-quoting dumbasses?