Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Book: Ther Planets

(2005) Dava Sobel

As I absorb more and more literature and documentary film concerning the spaces beyond Earth (my infatuation with such is apparently boundless) I learn new facts or am reminded of forgotten ones less and less often.

The slide ended here. Many interesting new perspectives on our lonely little star system emerged from this excellent work and Dava’s refreshing non-partisanship has much to do with it.

The disdain that the poetic voices and scientific voices that I most revere tend to hold for one another are a great lament for me – tragic given the elements of both their works most laudable and profound seem plainly compatible, as both concern the courageous and diligent study of real observation in pursuit of truth. Dava here embraces the science as well as the more poetic offerings from religion, mythology and even astrology without detectable prejudice. I can’t overstate how joyously I celebrate this.

While such work may serve to draw poets and astronomers closer together, the wider
relevance is the delightful experience she delivers to the amateur poet and scientist in all of us. While also drawing in significant artistic and historical vignettes, she honors the perspective of the lay-person, painting the kind of compelling imagery that can turn the mildly curious into rookie astronomers.

Looking beyond the figures concerning Venus for instance - the temperature ranges of its layers, the component ratios of its tumultuous atmosphere, the geometry of its orbit and rotation – she constructs a vision one would be presented at the dusk of a long long Venusian day with the dim masked light of the never-seen sun giving way to a sky glowing red, reflecting a landscape of hot embers, given, of course, one could somehow survive the immense heat and atmospheric pressure that destroyed all ten Russian Vega and Venera craft, each within minutes of landing there.

And speaking of those voyages, somewhat useful in their very brief information gathering, by the way, it brings to mind my long wondering why Mars, not Venus has so fully captured our attention in the realm of pop culture while it is Venus that has so much more in common with the one planet decisively conducive to the support of life. Venus and Earth are at their essence, practically twins with Venus, at its ultimate greenhouse evolution, bearing an Earthly past, once encased in seas while Earth now evolves toward a Venus-like state, its own nascent greenhouse effect threatening the permanence of its own seas.

So here’s my question. Is it tribalism? NASA set their sites on Mars, The Russian Space Agency on Venus. So to what degree is our Mars infatuation just another manifestation of political delusion and the mighty tongues of statesmen crushing free thought in all but the most robust minds of their constituents – democratic and communist alike? I’d like to hear from a Russian on this matter. Is it Venus that compels there instead?

[Editor’s note: Any further political ranting will be deleted from this piece. Knock it off, Fwig.]

And on the subject of Earth, this book agitates another of my quandaries. The name Earth. How tragically inappropriate this name it was given under folly that it should centre the universe. Given the mythological conventions governing the naming of all the other planets, what, were it somehow possible to disassociate it from its homely connotations, would we have named this brilliant blue orb instead? I suspect this could be logically predicted and I look forward to taking a stab at it! Any other takers?


Monday, April 28, 2008

Hello friends

I guess I’ve been absent a while, eh?

I’ve had plenty bloggable ideas. I was going to post a notice that it was safe to take the gun away (from his “cold dead hands”) now that old Charlton got his wish and passed on to the Happy Hunting Grounds. Maybe it’s better I didn’t. A joke couldn’t be more obvious, eh? It’s probably been done on every late-night TV show by now.

I haven’t been very motivated lately.

The day job has been more challenging with the sudden departure of an associate and the portion of his work falling back to me until someone new is hired. I’ve barely been pulling my weight with regards to the media company. Attendance with the writing group – very weak. And I haven’t updated their web site in forever. Lacrosse season is back so that’s one night a week eaten up until late August. At least it’s valuable exercise. Haven’t been going to the gym. The writing’s been sketchy. Been pushing out words but not at the rate the ideas come so that deficit still grows. I’m sleeping terribly. Strat-o-matic is the only thing I’ve kept up with and it’s surely the least important thing going on in my life. Been reading plenty and watching too many movies and doing a whole lot of thinking and dreaming. And I’ve ignored you, my excellent blog friends, though I think of many of you often.

The further I get behind the less motivated I am to do something about it. That’s always been the way with me.

It’s more than that, though. I’ve been restless and growing more so all the time. At my performance review last week I told my boss I feel like an imposter there and I don’t know how long I can continue to work there. Great career move, eh?

I’m still very happy by normal standards. Don’t for a second feel bad for me. I still enjoy much peace and sense much freedom. But I know I must make changes soon. This life formula isn’t working. Not at all. So much of what I do feels like a great waste of time. But at the same time everything I do involves good people – friends I can’t bear to pick and choose between.

I know what brings me joy. I know very well. A full time career does not. Financial security does not. Owning a truck doesn’t. This furniture, these possessions – I don’t want any of it anymore. I really don’t. I’m changing all the time. I keep evolving. Where does it end?

I want to just quit the day job and work part time and write for money – even if it’s a struggle.

I want to trade the truck for a van and travel across the country. See my relatives in BC and California. Maybe stay there.

I want to go to some piss-poor nation and do some kind of missionary work or something.

Sometimes I want to just walk out the door and leave everything behind. Live off of hand-outs in exchange for showing people the way! “Peace and love, brother! Your life is an illusion! Let me rescue you from this slavery in exchange for a hot dog and a night’s rest on your couch!” Yeah, that’s bound to work out well, eh?

Do you think I’m crazy?

Freedom! I know I got it. In my head, no question. But on the ground – on the ground - I’m not doing anything with it.

Something has to change. I can’t keep playing it safe and getting nothing done. There’s a big fat world out there and it needs some shaking up, dammit.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

For Claudia Supermom:

In response to your very own 'tag':

1. Who are your much loved Bands? Favorite songs by them?

Rush. A very unusual band. Unique style. Been around since the seventies. Their songs tend not to seem even catchy the first couple times you hear them but when given a chance to grow on you they captivate in a way unlike anything else I’ve ever heard and they never ever ever get old. As a result, almost everyone falls into one of two camps; those who are deeply into them and those who’ve made no connection with them.

Neil Peart is the most incredible drummer ever – hands down. Super-human, what he can do with his bazillion-piece kit (I swear – you’d think he has 12 arms and 3 brains) but that pales against his poetic contribution. He’s a marvelous writer and his sophisticated lyrics are rare in the rock world – dissecting society and the human condition in a way that captivates male youth while promoting views that champion balance, freedom and kindness.

Incredibly positive role models that deeply affected my life emerging from adolescence and likewise that of (surely millions) across the globe. The world would be a far uglier place without them. That’s a huge statement but I know it to be true.

Fave songs: La Villa Strangiato, Spirit of Radio and every single song on the album Farewell to Kings and on all six consecutive albums from Moving Pictures through to Roll the Bones. And many more…

I also love Bruce Cockburn for much the same reasons.

2. Do you like your job? Could you do your boss' job?

I work for a company that sells BS. I take no pride in it but it pays the bills and it’s pleasant. I like the job but don’t covet it. I like the security about as much as I like the idea of giving it up to start the next chapter of this adventure called life; which is a very nice circumstance to be in. I don’t kiss anyone’s ass.

I can’t even contemplate my boss’s job. I’m not interested in managing people. I once had a tendency to gravitate to leadership roles but never in the workplace.

3. What is the first thing you would do if you won the jackpot? (I mean after you collect your winnings.)

After collecting my share of the winnings from whomever I sold the ticket to in order to negotiate my privacy, I would pay off my debts and those of my friends and relatives, and then acquire:

a small publishing company
a modest home at a remote location of high altitude
an eight-foot telescope
a horse and carriage
a few cases of wine
twenty boxes of Cohiba Espléndidos.

Hopefully there would then be plenty remaining to give to worthy causes.

4. Most annoying thing in the newspaper?

The words. Every insipid lying one of them. Oh, and the pictures. On the up-side I like the little flecks – the recycling imperfections. They’re quite soothing.

5. Best line from a movie?

No question: “You take the red pill, you stay in wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.”

Monday, April 07, 2008

Film: The Wild Dogs


Stray dogs. Small children. Prostitutes. The handicapped. The poor. The enslaved.

This film concerns the vulnerable and those who hold power over them; the men and women of privilege who choose between self-interest and mercy at every moment. Hard choices.

It’s a simple story; more or less a glimpse of things; food for thought, though not delivered with perfect objectivity. Parallels are drawn with transparent calculation.

Much of it is gently delivered with performances so real you know that there are some non-actors here, just being themselves; wonderfully comfortable in front of cameras.

It’s schizophrenic in style and method; at times as deeply resonant as a superior documentary; at times haunting and artful; and at times smacking of CBC made-for-TV; stiff and under-produced.

Overall a sincere little flick reminding there is still regard for kindness in the world. Good good stuff.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

The Farm

Dropped in on my folks. They weren't home. It was a nice half-thawed day so I wrecked an old pair of running shoes tromping around in the slush taking photos.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Friday, April 04, 2008

And now, a word from our sponsors

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

FWG's nugget o' wisdom #285

Bald men driving flashy convertibles are in no way trying to compensate for their lack of hair any more than drivers of large trucks are trying to compensate for small penises.

Bald men drive convertibles because they can; not having hair that, blowing in the wind, might painfully flog their eyeballs.

Much as men with small penises can safely climb up into big trucks without an enormous endowment hampering their mobility.

This has been an original nugget o' wisdom from the brain of Fantasy Writer Guy. Store at room temperature and out of reach of children. Do not use nuggets o' wisdom if you have eaten a meal withing the last sixty minutes or if you regularly hold conversations with the pimple on the lobe of your left ear.