Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Solid proof of cultural (as opposed to genetic) behaviour in dolphins finally arrives, and what strange proof it is.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

"Islam is rising
The Christians mobilizing
The world is on it's elbows and knees
it's forgotten the message and worships the creeds"

Matt Johnson ( aka The The), from 1989's "Mind Bomb", one of the most prophetic albums I own.

Southbound, Over Zilinsky.
Just watched Jehane Noujaim's "Control Room," one of the best films I've seen in years, and a welcome respite from the glut of "opiniontaries" that seemed to have replaced real documentary filmmaking in North America.
As usual, the people being bombed possess a deeper understanding of the reasons for their bombardment than the people executing it.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

An old friend sends in the following dilemma. I'll admit, I had to think about it.

Ethics Test

This test only has one question, but it's a very
important one, so please answer honestly.

You are in Florida, Miami to be specific. There is
chaos all around you caused by a hurricane with
severe flooding. This is a flood of biblical
proportions. You are a photojournalist working for a
major newspaper, and you're caught in the middle of
this epic disaster. The situation is nearly
hopeless. You're trying to shoot career-making
photos. There are houses and people swirling around
you, some disappearing under the water. Nature is
unleashing all of its destructive fury.

Suddenly you see a man floundering in the water. He
is fighting for his life, trying not to be taken
down with the debris. You move closer . . . somehow
the man looks familiar. You suddenly realize who it
is. It's George W. Bush! At the same time you notice
that the raging waters are about to pull him under.

You have two options: you can save the
life of G.W. Bush or you can shoot a dramatic
Pulitzer Prize winning photo, documenting the death
of one of the world's most powerful men.

So here's the question, and please give an honest
answer :

Would you select high contrast colour film, or would
you go with the classic simplicity of black and white?

Monday, June 20, 2005

Dan Russell's Acoustics and Vibrations Animations page, where I've been spending way too much time lately. Warning: The aesthetic logic and cyclical grace of some of these animations may cause feelings of momentary contentment.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Brian Eno, speaking with Paul Schutze, ten years ago.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Hotel Lobby, Big Island of Hawaii.
Cody Shepherd of Vancouver sends along this quote from Douglas Adams in response to an earlier post:

Now, the invention of the scientific method and science is, I'm sure we'll all agree, the most powerful intellectual idea, the most powerful framework for thinking and investigating and understanding and challenging the world around us that there is, and it rests on the premise that any idea is there to be attacked and if it withstands the attack, then it lives to fight another day and if it doesn't withstand the attack then down it goes. Religion doesn't seem to work like that; it has certain ideas at the heart of it which we call sacred or holy or whatever. That's an idea we're so familiar with, whether we suscribe to it or not, that it's kind of odd to think what it actually means, because really what it means is, "Here is an idea or a notion that you're not allowed to say anything bad about; you're just not. Why not? Because you're not!" If somebody votes for a party that you don't agree with, you're free to argue about it as much as you like; everybody will have an argument, but nobody feels aggrieved by it. If somebody thinks taxes should go up or down, you're free to have an argument about it, but if on the other hand somebody says, "I mustn't move a light switch on a Saturday," you say, "Fine, I respect that." The odd thing is, even as I am saying that, I am thinking, "Is there an Orthodox Jew here who is going to be offended by the fact that I just said that?" but I wouldn't have thought, "Maybe there's somebody from the left wing or somebody from the right wing or somebody who subscribes to this view or the other in economics, when I was making the other points. I just think, "Fine, we have different opinions." But the moment I say something that has something to do with somebody's (I'm going to stick my neck out here and say irrational)beliefs, then we all become terribly protective and terribly defensive and say, "No, we don't attack that; that's an irrational belief, but no, we respect it."

-Douglas Adams, Cambridge, September 1998

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Camping up in Desolation Sound, provincial marine park for the last week. More eagles, seals, jellyfish and oyster catchers than you could shake a stick at (if you had a stick and you wanted to shake it at a bunch of animals). Also more mosquitos.
I took one book with me- Robert Wright's "The Moral Animal, The New Science of Evolutionary Psychology"- and about halfway into it I found the following passage about William D. Hamilton's theory of kin selection, which filled me with an overwhelming and inexplicable sense of deva vu.

"Consider a young ground squirrel that has not yet produced any offspring and that, upon sighting a predator, gets up on its hind legs and delivers a loud alarm call, which may attract the predator's attention and bring sudden death. If you look at natural selection the way almost all biologists looked at it through the mid-twentieth century-a process concerned with the survival and reproduction of animals, and of their offspring-this warning call doesn't make sense. If the ground squirrel giving it has no offspring to save, then the warning call is evolutionary suicide. Right? This is the question that was momentously answered in the negative by Hamilton.
In the Hamiltonian view, attention shifts from the ground squirrel that is sounding the alarm to the gene (or, in real life, the series of genes) responsible for the alarm. After all, ground squirrels don't live forever, and neither do any other animals. The only potentially immortal organic entity is a gene (or, strictly speaking, the pattern of information encoded in the gene, since the physical gene itself will pass away after conveying the pattern through replication). So, in an evolutionary time frame, over hundreds or thousands or millions of generations, the question isn't how individual animals fare; we all know the finally grim answer to that one. The question is how individual genes fare.
...If the [ground squirrels] warning call saves the lives of four full siblings that would otherwise die, two of which carry the gene responsible for it, then the gene has done well for itself, even if the sentry containing it pays the ultimate sacrifice."

This is the sort of idea that Creationists really, really don't like. If Darwin's theory of natural selection is rock music, this is norwegian death metal.
I couldn't figure out where the sense of deja vu was coming from though, until this morning, when I suddenly remembered this entry from Gerhard Richters "The Daily Practice of Painting.":

" is 'Life' that creates the physical organisms for itself and uses them until death, in order to remain active as Life.
A terrifying - because utterly inexplicable - vision. Aliveness, Life, as an invisible, non-material Something; a monstrous Unknowable, by which we are abused."

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Kelly Creek Elementary.

Monday, June 06, 2005

We are children for such a short time, but in that time there seems to be compressed an endless reservoir of memory for us as adults. If I were to take the years between age 4 and 10 and sort through my memory of them, and then try to convey those memories to another person, I might never stop talking. On the other hand, if asked to do the same thing for the years between 24 and 30, I could probably make do with a few paragraphs.
Why is that?
I don't think it's just because the 24 to 30 section is closer to me in time.
Childhood is another country altogether. We all travelled there alone at one time, with no experience to guide us, and we all crossed over its borders into adulthood at different locations and different times. But the experiences that we had there are uniquely ours, in a way that nothing else can ever be.
Is that why our days as adults seem rushed and forgettable in comparison? Or is there an actual contraction of time that occurs as we age?
My aunt thinks that the days are actually becoming smaller. That time is literally shrinking. Thats why years now feel like months to her, weeks like days, days like hours. At the end of our lives, will years seem like hours?
Woke up this morning to discover that the Daddy Long Legs spider that lives above the shower faucet in our bathroom was now a daddy for real. About 100 little guys all crawling around in the web with him. He's never really bothered me, living there, and I don't think I've ever really bothered him, (unless the mist in the air from my showers bothered him.) I always liked Daddy Long Legs. They keep to themselves, eat other spiders, and do this nifty vibrating thing with their webs that makes them go invisible when they think they're under attack.
That said, I still had to kill him and his children (instantly with the old kleenex squash) and flush them down the toilet, because I don't want a bathroom full of Daddy Long Legs.
Maybe I should change the name of this site to "All the Little Dead Things."
Slugs have been eating the sunflowers in our garden, and we've tried slug-bait (those little white mouse turd looking things that you scatter around) but it doesnt seem to be doing much good. So last night we went on a slug hunt with flashlights and a tin can. All slugs caught out in the open went into the can, and the can was then emptied onto the rocks below the high tide line. If the salt doesn't get em, the crabs will.
Don't look at me like that, this is war.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Queen of Burnaby, June 2nd, 2005
Spent my birthday on Quadra with V and friends, the most beautiful gulf island I've seen yet. Were it not for the tiny winding driveways arcing off into the woods you could be forgiven for thinking no one lived there at all. Nothing but lush green forest and scattering deer around every corner.
Stayed in the recently finished "executive suite" at an oceanfront hotel on the east side of the island. This consisted of a newly renovated two-level attic reeking of fresh paint and drywall with a few clumsily positioned pieces of furniture scattered about the unfinished wood floor.
Downstairs to the restaurant for dinner, which is cut short by the sound of ground level renovations (starting promptly at 9 pm, continuing late into the night.)
Lacking a TV or even a radio, we are forced to pilfer a sawdust coated boombox from the workmans storage space, just to drown out the hammering. Barely recognizable pop music wafts out of the speakers through a haze of static and drywall dust as we drink warm beers and play increasingly less complex card games, culminating in a seemingly endless round of "spoons."
Awake the next morning to find the toilet in the suite does not work.
The ferry ride back is shared with what feels like the entire student body of a local high school, as if I wasnt feeling old enough already. Outside on the deck, there are still some quiet places to watch the clouds rolling in.
How many of my life experiences have been framed by rides on these big, beautiful boats? When I was a kid, the ferries were the height of adventure. Packed to the gills with people in the summer, eerily empty in the winter, they were jungle gyms on a massive scale, moving playgrounds. At night, with the front blinds pulled down and the engine vibrating, a bc ferry was as close to riding in a spaceship as I could imagine. Not some dinky buck rogers spaceship, but one of those slow moving industrial behemoths from "Alien" or "2001."
In the winter on the upper sunshine coast, at night, it's still not uncommon to be one of the only people onboard. There is something comforting about the idea of a boat that travels it's route regardless of how many passengers are aboard.

Friday, June 03, 2005

" A long time ago-in the 50's or early 60's-there was a guy on 23rd Street who I never met, a commercial photographer, I think. He had a little showcase on the walls, and each day he put something in there, something he found on the street, or some words. It changed every day. That was before Conceptualism was blown up big and shown in museums. It was very good, one of those silent cries in New York. I'll never forget it and I don't know who he was. But I mistrust conceptualism. I'm not the type. It doesn't have anything to do with life. It comes from the brain. For me, it has to start with where I live; not with calculation."

-Robert Frank, from an 1997 interview in Border Crossings.