Sunday, March 18, 2007

Do you have any idea what archetypal narratives are?

Perhaps a bit harsh, but the character on the receiving end of this tirade had really been asking for it:
They're the product of a few chance attractors in flesher neurophysiology. Whenever a more complex or subtle story was disseminated through an oral culture, it would eventually degenerate into an archetypal narrative. Once writing was invented, they were only ever created deliberately by fleshers who failed to understand what they were. If all of antiquity's greatest statues had been dropped into a glacier, they would have been reduced to a predictable spectrum of spheroidal pebbles by now; that does not make the spheroidal pebble the pinnacle of the artform. What you've created is not only devoid of truth, it's devoid of aesthetic merit.
From: "The Planck Dive" by Greg Egan

Gibberish does not improve the view

I like the way humor makes the point so well.

From: "The Planck Dive" by Greg Egan

Timon regarded her nervously. “Prospero was rambling on about flesher culture as the route to all knowledge.” He morphed into a perfect imitation, and replayed Prospero's voice: “‘The key to astronomy lies in the study of the great Egyptian astrologers, and the heart of mathematics is revealed in the rituals of the Pythagorean mystics … ’”

Gisela put her face in her hands; she would have been hard-pressed not to respond herself. “And you said — ?”

“I told him that if he was ever embodied in a space-suit, floating among the stars, he ought to try sneezing on the face plate to improve the view.”

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Reading Greg Egan

This is not the only great passage out of Mr. Egan's collection, just one in keeping with my theme for this blog:
We thought we were passing on everything that mattered to our children; science, history, literature, art. Vast libraries of information lay at their fingertips. But we hadn't fought hard enough to pass on the hardest-won truth of all: Morality comes only from within. Meaning comes only from within. Outside our own skulls, the universe is indifferent.
-- From Greg Egan's short story Silver Fire collected in Luminous


We know that Penn reads Dawkins

I was just noticing the similarities (below), I wonder if the connection is as clear to other people. Since right before this phrase Penn is talking about his family, it might seem like he is evaluating his good genetic health, and that of his children, instead of the improbability of his own existence:
I won the huge genetic lottery
-- from There Is No God

We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born. The potential people who could have been here in my place but who will in fact never see the light of day outnumber the sand grains of Sahara. Certainly those unborn ghosts include greater poets than Keats, scientists greater than Newton. We know this because the set of possible people allowed by our DNA so massively outnumbers the set of actual people. In the teeth of these stupefying odds it is you and I, in our ordinariness, that are here.
-- Richard Dawkins from Unweaving the Rainbow


I think Penn is more succinct, and Dawkins is more detailed and poetic at the same time. I think both are needed.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

At least she didn't post a picture of me :-)

indexed: A meeting at midnight? Where?

Very close to home!

This is a brilliant blog (I think she just got a book deal). One of the last things Penn Jillette brought to our attention before packing up the radio show.


My Logo

Just fooling around with blogging pictures.

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Penn has left my head

I miss him already.

Penn Jillette closed down his radio show (always a podcast for me). I cannot express how important it was for me to listen to Penn scream "There is NO GOD!" at the top of his voice.
I was well on the path to becoming vocal materialist by this time, but I was alway looking over my shoulder, to see Penn running ahead with such unbridled joy made me look forward.
He always brought a smile to my face, made me think, and warmed my heart, even when I could not agree with him.

I'm pretty sure I'm sad, still too soon to tell. I had a sense it was coming. I'm afraid watching Identity will be no replacement at all.

As a random example of the quality of Penn's discourse, I recently transcribed this quote from a show that aired a few days ago:

"You aren't supposed to deliberately misrepresent the world to your fellow human beings."
-- Penn Jillette ( 2/28/2007 (26 min into the podcast version))

I hope someone with greater skill than I (and more time on their hands) puts together a few CDs with the "Best of Penn Radio". Clearly we would need "Penn Troubled by Frosty" and MANY others. I think I have them all either in my iPod or on backup DVD. Many if not all are still online somewhere.