Thursday, July 22, 2004

Turn me on

While watching crap TV the other night, I saw a commercial for the Maytag Neptune Drying Center. And I can't get it out of my mind. It's so sexy. Not so much to look at it, but just think of what it does!

Why did no one think of this before? And why did they call it Neptune?

Hearing about the debate as to whether to open Hemingway's Idaho house to the public is enough to make my head explode. How morbid. Unless they make it a writing center.

Great. Just great. Now I've got that song in my head — it's going to be there all day. Remember that song?

Just like Hemingway,
he did it anyway.
You can be a hero all you have to know is what to say...
And if I want to die
just like Hemingway,
I'll put a pistol in my mouth and blow my head away.

Ah, the 80s.

I was reminded yesterday how much I love J-F. Home from work, he recounts his day and the unpleasant conversation he was having with a lawyer advising him on one of his cases while on some other level his mind was grappling with Fermi's paradox, and in an instant grokking it and feeling elation and dismay at once.

(The paradox can be summed up as follows: The commonly held belief that the universe has many technologically advanced civilizations combined with our observations that suggest otherwise, is paradoxical, suggesting that either our understanding or our observations are flawed or incomplete.)

So we had pizza and beer and discussed fascinating things all evening. (I won't bore you with details. What's that? Too late you say?) But I will note them here to remind me to keep thinking about them, in hopes that someday I may reach an epiphany:

How can one like science fiction and not care about the science of it?
Can someone read books and watch movies about ETs and absolutely not believe in (hope for) the possibility (however faint) of their existence?
Exactly how incompatible are science, or science fiction for that matter, and God?
Are science fiction readers churchgoers? Do they see the need to reconcile these worldviews?

Why in English do we not use the term "anticipation novel"? It's so evocative.

Here are a couple essays on French science fiction:
French Science Fiction: The Occluded Genre
The Fantastic Science Fiction of Maurice Renard

This morning Salon has an interview with Alan Moore in which he discusses pretty much everything, and more. I have only a passing familiarity with his work. I'm not convinced his status is deserved.

People's heads are stuffed with a fantastic amount of information, and I think all too often they cannot assimilate, digest or connect up that incredible amount of data into a coherent worldview. And I like to think that if my work is complex, it's because we live in a complex world. What I'm trying to do is give a bit of coherence to that complexity, to say that it is possible to think about politics, history, mythology, architecture, murder and the rest of it all at the same time to see how it connects.

Information is funny stuff. In some of the science magazines I read, I've found it described as an actual substance that underlies the entirety of existence, as something that is more fundamental than the four fundamental physical forces: gravity, electromagnetism and the two nuclear forces. I think they've referred to it as a super-weird substance. Now, obviously, information shapes and determines our lives and the way we live them, yet it is completely invisible and undetectable. It has no actual form; you can only see its effects. Information is a kind of heat. I would suggest that as our society accumulates information, from its hunter-gatherer origins to the complexities of our present day, it raises the cultural temperature.

I feel that we may be approaching a cultural boiling point. I'm not saying this is a good thing or a bad thing; I really don't know because I can't imagine it, quite frankly. But I think we may be approaching the point at which the amount of information we are taking becomes exponential, and I'm not entirely certain what kind of human culture will exist beyond that point. Except it will happen sooner than we expect, and the difference between us and the kind of people that will exist after such an event will be vastly different than the difference between us and the hunter-gatherer society we've evolved from.

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