Saturday, May 21, 2011

Novel: Anthem of a Reluctant Prophet

Despite a single mystical element this work is solid literary fiction with a special appeal for youth. At forty-two, I found it meaningful and thoroughly worthwhile. Kids as young as twelve find it compelling and appropriate although some of their parents may unfortunately not be ready for the abundant street language and sexual references, all of which, Proulx handles responsibly, tastefully and with a healthy respect for genuine reality. How she captures the voice of one rough-around-the-edges teenage boy so convincingly is a marvel and to her significant credit. This itself becomes the style of the book.

Like so many of the best stories this one tracks a character with clear flaws through a period of crisis; a period of transition in life. Will 17-year-old Luke ovecome his significant obstacles; so many of his own creation, and emerge a better person?

Startlingly real characters, heart-wrenching moments, sharp humour, and some very useful wisdom around the legitimacy of death and the profound miraculousness of life. It's one of those great and noble books that is finally noticed as such when you get to the end. Great read. Valuable experience. Thank you Joanne!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Book: Year Million: Science at the Far Edge of Knowledge

(2008, editor Damien Broderick)

Here are fourteen essays by leading scientists and science writers who were asked to predict the look of human existence come the year one-million. Their responses are consistent: The task is impossible but the exercise in trying provides a remarkable wealth of material to ponder for those more interested in the question, who are we, than who will win American Idol. They write with generous restraint, allowing the reader to ponder ramifications and ask the big questions for themselves.

Dougal Dixon's non-partisan perspectives on carbon dioxide cycles bring some clarity to the contentious global warming arena. Wil McCarthy's handling of matters concerning the rarity of life and of intelligent life and the scope of cosmic time and distance are of critical relevance to the alien question. Journalist Jim Holt delves into the nature of mathematics. Fundamental reality or human invention?

Amara D. Angelica explores the digital and analog natures of all things and probes the inherent compatibility of computers, human beings and galaxies while Robert Bradbury and Rudy Rucker "debate" the eventual restructuring of star systems into inhabitable super computers versus the eventual rejection of computers as humans meld with the computation of nature itself.

For those with a view to the parasitic nature of mankind's dominance over the earth, beware of Robin Hanson's treatment on the plausibility and rapidity of space colonization.

Dr. Steven B. Harris's insights into evolution leave apparent the gaping flaws in any notion of grand design theory while he, Pamela Sargent and Anne Corwin delve into biological science and technology, promoting an inevitable confrontation with polymorphability and immortality. Meanwhile Sean M. Carroll, Gregory Benford and George Zebrowski arouse the greatest life-or-death question of all, exploring the troubling matter of entropy and the fate of the universe.

A brilliant collection.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

My Roger Weekend

In October 2009, Roger of Rogers WoodWorks created what I call, the Roger's Weekend. He took on a hefty to-do list and surprised himself by getting through 75% of it. I vowed I would emulate him and dedicate a weekend to getting caught up on my own list of life's annoying little chores (along with some properly useful projects).

Being one of the premier lazy bastards of the entire worldwide community of lazy bastards, it took me only a year and a half to get around to this.

And being one of the premier lazy bastards of the worldwide community of lazy bastards, it took me only half of day one to get around just to announcing my intention, which is this:

My list:

- clean bedroom
- clean bathroom
- clean out truck
- replace spare tire
- laundry
- return library materials
- reserve cargo van
- download borrowed music
- settle "herb and wine" arrangements
- settle cottage arrangements
- email study materials to Neo
- required reading and prep for young readers club
- editing and lesson plan for young writers group
- vacuum and sweep house
- shampoo carpet
- write review for book Year Million
- recreate lost outline for novel-in-progress The One
- create budget spreadsheet
- blog (Saturday - this not included!)
- blog (Sunday)
- walk (Saturday)
- walk (Sunday)
- post another song on the web
- organize and backup writing and music files
- check blood pressure
- finish mind-mapping the poetic compendium (don't ask)
- update resume
- create online questionnaire
- order a SCENE card
- update song journal
- finish lyrics, arrangement for song Indescribable
- finish composing Down Slide and give it a better title
- finish composing He's All Right Now
- Learn to play fave Beetles tunes Strawberry Fields, Ticket to Ride and Day in the Life

Oh yeah - So why now after 19 months?

'Cause the three shifts I was scheduled to work this weekend got cancelled because of my request to drop from full-time back onto the spare-board finally going through yesterday and I found myself with a wide open schedule and no socializing to do on account of having a cold I don't want to share and having, all day yesterday, accomplished absolutely nothing other than a long series of naps and the watching of a couple really dumb movies. I was starting to feel kind of useless.

Okay. Got to go. Got stuff to do.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

What if there was never anything?

I have no idea where I'm going with this. Just a dumb question in my head.

So we live in this thing called a universe which is so freaking big it's beyond our comprehension to grasp just how mind-blowingly big it is. It's so big it's just stupid.

And whether it exploded from God's hand or because that's just what universes do; both perfectly equal mysteries if you think about it, it's pretty obvious that we live in the aftermath of an explosion.

But what if it had never happened?

Well that's easy. If it hadn't happened we wouldn't be here. Simple. But is it? If there were no gods, no explosions, no universe or universes - what would there be?

Well there'd be nothing. Ever. Simple.

Why does this not work?

I can not, no matter how I try - imagine a reality that is utterly vacant of time and space and matter. It is strictly unimaginable. I can not admit such a scenario possible yet I can not offer a shred of explanation. It's like I'm a robot programmed not to question it's prime directive. There's just a blank wall. I try to process the idea of there never existing anything and I'm left with a disctinct impression that such a concept is strictly impossible. But I haven't the first idea how to prove it nor the notion that it's a correct presumption to start with. Surely anything that can exist can also not exist. But take away everything and what are you left with?


It makes sense and yet it just can't be imagined. Is that how everyone feels?

For that matter, what happens at the perimeter of the universe? WHat's after that? Nothing? Well what does that mean? What if you drill a hole into the nothing? Do you even get a hole?

Frankly, it's hard to imagine a perimeter to the universe.

I guess you'd never get close to the universe's perimeter given how fast it expands. But what if it's going to collapse again? What happens after the Big Crunch? Another explosion? What exists between the moment of final contraction and the next bang? Nothing?

It's a popular theory - that the universe continually bangs and crunches; cyclically expanding and contracting, almost like a beating heart, locked in a constant battle against the nothingness.


Postscript: I wrote this some time ago before I realized that the big crunch theory is swiftly losing popularity as evidence mounts that the universe is expanding at an accellerating rate. This news struck me as hard as any news ever has, including the death of loved ones. It was comforting to think of a renewable cosmos where life, human or otherwise, could exist, if intermittantly, at least eternally. An eternity of equillibrium however, with every particle of matter isolated by light-years of darkness - is the coldest thing I've ever contemplated.