Items overheard on BBC radio this morning: Japan is forbidding entry to anyone with tattoos; and Argentina is suffering a plague of beavers, a non-native species that has has changed water drainage patterns sufficiently that native plant species are going locally extinct. All this comes hot on the heels of Trump winning the US presidential election, and I take it to be further evidence of space-time dimensional slips that have us careening from one progressively less adjacent parallel universe to … Read more
Overheard, an item of happy hour flotsam: “I never read fiction. I’m only interested in the real world.”
Yeah, well. So you go ahead and tell me all about your ‘real world.’
Personality, culture, our realities themselves are narrative in structure. We and our worlds are stories we tell ourselves and each other, individually and collectively. This is something most people don’t understand. Reality is a social construct. Always. Once people do recognize this, even only tacitly, then the construction … Read more
In my last post, ‘Interpermeable realities, material & digital,’ I suggested that manipulative impulses, as well as sources of addiction, are leaking over from our digital worlds into our material realities. The impulse to conduct a word search in a paper book for just one example.
Even before the digital age, of course, we’d experience impulses to alter our material world merely by wishing hard. A faux pas, for instance, could make you wish you had access … Read more
Do you ever try to conduct word searches while reading a print book? What an odd sensation. Just for a moment, you mentally reach for a control that isn’t there. Then you realize this is a paper book, and if you want to find that word or passage you have to use the index, if there is one, or else estimate where in all those pages it’s most likely to appear, and then skim the actual material book manually. What … Read more
Metathesiophobic catatonia (n.): paralysis induced by fear of the perception that any action, including any decision, will change the future. Those of the multiversal persuasion might decribe this as inertia brought on by terror that the slightest exercise of agency will result in the agent entering an adjacent parallel universe, forever barred from the one in which the action was performed, unable to return to a world where the decision was never taken.
And … Read more
Jack Shackaway here.
Friends have just suggested I join them on a sailing trip at the end of November. Joyous news, right? Not so. Now I have to weather the usual squall of anxieties and conflicting inclinations, maybe even a massive storm of dither.
“How soon do I have to tell you one way or the other?” I ask them.
“You’ve got a problem with free sailing trips?” they say.
The problem. Following an extended period of freelance-writerly doldrums … Read more
“[E]ssentially the camera makes everyone a tourist in other people’s reality, and eventually in one’s own.”
First published in 1973, Susan Sontag’s On Photography speaks to us with even more force today about what cameras and the mass reproduction of images have done to our appreciation of ourselves and our worlds. And she offers this insightful spin on our lemming compulsion to photograph our … Read more
The Peak Experience.
In a recent post, I reflected on the strange compulsion to record every iota of our individual and collective experience and then share it with everyone else, each of whom is trying to do the same. How can anyone enjoy an unmediated experience of night-time Hong Kong from Victoria Peak, for example? (“Colonialized: The Peak Experience”)
There I stood at the rail on the viewing platform, getting a many-elbowed massage from others who had mounted … Read more
The big news du jour — after the colorful and convoluted transgressions of celebrity athletes — is the imminent Academy Awards. The three top contenders for Best Picture are Argo, Lincoln, and Zero Dark Thirty. These three have at least one thing in common: They all stand accused of playing fast and loose with the historical truth of matters.
But what is “objective” about history or, for that matter, about reporting? History is always written by the … Read more
In I Am a Strange Loop, an attempt to show how consciousness arises, Douglas Hofstadter at one point is explaining how Kurt Gödel deflates the grand ambition of Bertrand Russell and Alfred North Whitehead’s Principia Mathematica.
I’m reading this explanation, and not following it at all—I’m that mathematically adept I still have problems with fractions—when I come across the following passage, which teases me with the notion I might finally be getting a glimmer.
“This may sound a … Read more