You are looking at posts that were written in the month of March in the year 2007.
Last night I forwent the movies and hit the sack early. For the first time in three months, I got more than six hours of sleep on a weeknight. It was divine. I’ve been marvelling all day about how much clearer my perspective is. Everything just…flows. I’m happier. Brighter. And not just because it’s Friday.
The proper amount of sleep has yielded luscious fruit. [Note to self: do this more often!] I made a comment on flickr today that might as well be a blog entry, so I’ll excerpt it here. It was inspired by–what else?–cars.
It’s not just cars…it’s creativity, architecture, engineering, design itself. Like many of my heroes, I am obsessed with form and function. A Formula One car, to me, is one of the most beautiful man-made creations on Earth. In a single, cohesive entity, I witness the fulfillment of the current state of the art, of the leading edge of human understanding in the physical sciences. It’s tangible, we-thought-of-this-and-made-it-real art. When I look at the car I appreciate everything about it; I can see, literally see, the air flowing over it at 200mph, the deflections, the vortices, the resultant forces compressing the suspension, gluing the tires to the road. I can feel the bulging sinews in the driver’s forearm. I can watch her pupils dilate and fix on the road miles ahead. I can sense the snap crackle pop of every synapse as it works in concert in the grand symphonic feedback loop of consciousness. These cars to me are so much more than I can even put into words. There is nothing that compares to becoming one with something outside the body you are given; to melding your mind with a machine, to extending your influence into a larger space. When I watch a skilled driver, I’m seeing more than the finesse with which they apex a turn; I’m bearing witness to the genius of their mind laid out carefully and artistically in the world of visible reality.
Inspiring, ain’t it? I’ve been on this trip all day. But like anything you’re given time to mull over, I have a bit to add: in addition to the driver’s skill, I also appreciate that she is rolling on the dreams, imagination, and hard work of hundreds if not thousands of other humans. This is even and especially if the driver knows nothing of the intricacies of the car’s technology. One of our greatest assets (and biggest potentialities for disaster) is our ability to manipulate that which we do not fully grasp. We can function on incomplete knowledge. This is a perfect example of something that is simultaneously good and bad. Some would say this defines us. Indeed, as finite beings, is there any other way to function besides on finite information? And yet we do it so beautifully. And have the power to misapply it so destructively.
Ok, I’m finished with that topic. Only so long you can spend in the depths of conjecture about right and wrong, the nature of consciousness, and the problem of free will before your head gets all loopy and you have to come up for air.
But I’m not quite finished with this entry. The combination of the night’s rest and watching Meet the Robinsons in 3D tonight has put me in a futuristic mood. I don’t think it will be very long before the iPod phenomenon morphs into something bigger. Imagine the ability to broadcast your tunes wirelessly to nearby iPods. It’s not too much of a stretch to imagine tiny microphones on your throat that can pick up a whisper and transmit your inaudible voice. Then surely it won’t be long before we’re able to sample the brain’s input to the vocal cords and transmit what essentially amounts to your thoughts, to human or machine. How’s that one grab ya?
Posted on March 19th, 2007 by george.
and made you fisher of men?
just when salty sea
had sloughed the scales
from my eyes
comes that gut-wrenching tug
on my heartstring
hooked through the beats
with your barbed tongue
always just enough slack
before the memories reel me back
the harder I grip
the quicker you slip
leaves me flopping
one more breath
not until dusk
in that golden hour
do the epiphanies come
one after another
the pace is accelerating
as our perspective grows
the infinite stretches its limbs
and each choice
gives birth to a thousand universes
one after another
“A picture is worth a thousand words.”
Let’s take a page from the fundamentalist handbook, just for a moment before burning it, and assume we should interpret that old saw literally.
I think it’s safe to say that one frame of video counts as a picture. Tyrese takes grainy video in 3GPP2 format, which best I can tell is at a rate of 15 frames per second. Each video maxes out at 15 seconds, so that’s 225 still shots per file. Multiply that by the eight videos below, carry the four, then the two, and you’ve got 1800 pictures. Not counting sound or dialogue, and someone check my math here, but that’s an equivalency of one-point-eight million words. Given that the agreed-upon average word count for one page of a standard novel is 250, I hereby present you with a recap of my trip to Houston that eclipses War and Peace five times over. Added bonus: you can’t read War and Peace in two minutes. Considering I didn’t want to write a novel to express the joy and wonderment of this trip, and you certainly don’t have time for Tolstoy, I’d say that’s a square deal. And all the words of this introduction are just gravy.
Beats a list, don’t it?
You’ll notice two of the vids are private. I hope you’ll forgive my reluctance to show aspects of JSC that aren’t part of the tour. If you know me feel free to ask, and I can grant you behind-the-scenes access to high-tech labs and Mission Control.
If you’re reading this in 2007, chances are pretty good that, like me, you’re going to die in the 21st century. This supposition, of course, is predicated on the idea that the next few decades won’t see some sort of major medical advancement that stretches the human lifespan beyond a century. Given the accelerating pace of technology, perhaps this is not the greatest assumption. Ok, say it is possible for you to live to see 2100. Assuming the robots don’t get you, would you really want to?
I vacillate on the question. Some would argue that immortality robs life of its meaning. But even if we could keep the human body running indefinitely, there’s no ruling out accidental death. Unless of course you lock yourself in a secure room, paid for in perpetuity, with an automated life support system and allow your body to slowly wither away while your brain cavorts in virtual reality until the Sun swallows the Earth. Science fiction aside, I look back at the 20th century and think, who wouldn’t want to live through such awe-inspiring times? The answer, of course, is who would?
Dickens had it right. Nothing changes, everything changes. Any slice of history, however dark or enlightened, would be worth living in. In fact, given the immensity of human experience, you can pick any moment, past or future, and be absolutely sure that in that drop of the river of time that good and bad coexist. Someone was happy and someone was sad. Someone was dying and someone was being born. Someone was in the heaven of ecstasy, someone was in the depths of despair. Indeed, these spectra exist within the confines of one human life.
I was inspired to write tonight by one of my favorite pieces of music; the one that got me through endless nights of study in college; the one that centers me, plunges me into the most profound depths of thought; the one that I would love to have sung at my funeral (impractical as that would probably be); and the one that itself is so deeply associated with death: Mozart’s Requiem. Mozart himself died after composing it. Kubrick used it in his last film, one obsessed with death. A requiem is, by very definition, a hymn for the dead. Hey, if it’s good enough for Chopin, it’s good enough for me.
I can see the benefit of living past this century, and I can see the drawback of living through it. I cherish every breath that I take, but I also plan to embrace death, and the great unknown that follows it. Kill me in the next second or prop up my mortal frame until doomsday; either way I shall be content. Then again, who wants to inhabit this plane forever? Even as humanity matures, even with all there is to see, wouldn’t you at some point grow weary of being human? I know some will read this and think, “I already am.”
Though improbable, this century may yield a master capable of creating beauty and distilling the essence of life and death as magnificently as Mozart. Wouldn’t that be worth sticking around to see? Nonetheless, I sometimes wonder if I’m not diluting the Requiem’s meaning by abusing technology’s gift of being able to listen to it whenever I please. Surely it was more potent, surely it had more meaning to the person who heard it only once in a lifetime, issuing forth from behind the black of a velvet curtain rather than that of a paper cone. Still, there is something to be said for this age. One could safely argue that recording and reproducing music has brought its enriching effects to a much greater audience, and expanded the scope of its influence. I’ve heard more types of music, and a larger number of deeply moving pieces, than Mozart ever did. At least with his ears. Then again, he was Mozart.
All this, like anything I write, is to say that I’m happy to be alive. I’m glad that humans die. I appreciate suffering, tests and growth. I delight in beauty, joy and love. I’m content to live in this age, just like I would have been in any other. But I’m excited to see what the future holds. As those now dead were, and as they not yet born will be after I die. Come on, 21st century, you started with a bang. Let’s see what you got.