Archive for June, 2005

EVERYBODY LOVES DFW, EPISODE 19844

Saturday, June 25th, 2005

David Foster Wallace delivers the commencement speech at Kenyon College. For some reason, Conversational Reading thought it was a “bit of a letdown.” I’m not sure what he was expecting, but it’s pretty darn insightful from where I’m sitting. Here’s an exerpt, but you should read the whole thing anyway because it’s great.

Because here’s something else that’s weird but true: in the day-to day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And the compelling reason for maybe choosing some sort of god or spiritual-type thing to worship –- be it JC or Allah, be it Yahweh or the Wiccan Mother Goddess, or the Four Noble Truths, or some inviolable set of ethical principles — is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive. If you worship money and things, if they are where you tap real meaning in life, then you will never have enough, never feel you have enough. It’s the truth. Worship your body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly. And when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally grieve you. On one level, we all know this stuff already. It’s been codified as myths, proverbs, clichés, epigrams, parables; the skeleton of every great story. The whole trick is keeping the truth up front in daily consciousness.

Worship power, you will end up feeling weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to numb you to your own fear. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart, you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out. But the insidious thing about these forms of worship is not that they’re evil or sinful, it’s that they’re unconscious. They are default settings.

STATIC IN THE ATTIC

Thursday, June 16th, 2005

Hey this is a very interesting study!

Majikthise points out that more people seem to believe in haunted houses (37%) than believe that ghosts (32%). From this we must logically conclude that five percent of houses are haunted by non-ghosts (possibly a bigfoot or Samsquanch).

I was trying to find some comparable statistics for Canada, and I came across this article about UFO sightings in British Columbia. Did you know that there are over 300 sightings here every single year? Mostly in Surrey you say? I dunno it’s crazy. I only mention it because the article contains what I believe to be one of the more superior sentences of the English language:

“I like to consider myself skeptical,” said Heather Anderson, director of the B.C. Ghosts and Hauntings Research Society, a three-year-old organization.

That’s…….terrible. :(

Anyways, you should continue reading after that sentence, because they go on to describe the B.C. Ghosts and Hauntings Research Society (BCGHRS)’s highly skeptical investigation into the mysterious case of what may be a haunted apartment complex on Marine Drive. I don’t want to ruin the surprise, but it turns out there are ghosts there.

Wow actually that page is like an insane bottomless pit of craziness that never stops giving. Take John Kirk, president of the B.C. Scientific Cryptozoology Club and tireless protector of Samsquanch habitats. He has no time for baseless fantasies like ghosts or leprechauns or pirates. “We have absolutely no interest in the paranormal whatsoever,” he says. “Our entire investigations are based on the principles of science. And we have arrived at conclusions rather than beliefs.”

SFU psychologist Barry Beyerstein responds to Kirk and his ilk:

“Some of it is kind of a chip on the shoulder, wanting to prove the experts wrong,” he said. “[Or that] despite the fact we’ve messed up the world and polluted it, there are some creatures that are too smart for us and keep out of our clutches and … remind us that we aren’t so smart after all.”

Turns out we actually are so smart after all! Go us!

Here’s some Canadian stats about paranormal belief: a 2003 Ipsos-Reid poll about “God and Other Mysteries.”

CAREER DAY

Wednesday, June 8th, 2005

There’s a well-known statistic to the effect that the average modern first-worlder will change careers three times in his or her life. Breaking into a new field is always difficult, not just because of the income disruption, but also the simple fact of self-reinvention. Whenever you drastically rearrange your life, people are going to be skeptical. It’s not their fault, they’re just too timid to grab life by the balls and squeeze out their just desserts. The important thing is to stay positive, stay focused, believe in yourself, and know in your heart of hearts that you will succeed. So, with that in mind, I’ve decided on my new career:

I’m going to be an astronaut.

Now, I know what your thinking, “Canada doesn’t need astronauts, we don’t even have spaceships.” “You have to be in good shape to be an astronaut, and you can barely walk up a flight of stairs without crying.” “Space is for fags.” Well friends, that’s exactly the kind of stinkin’ thinkin’ that keeps people from achieving their dreams.

I know I make it sound easy, but it certainly is not. Staying focused and positive is hard work. During my Astronaut Training Sessions, (lying down in the bathtub with my snorkel), I sometimes have exactly those kinds of negative, “rational” thoughts. But then I just remind myself: Would Jesus have become God if he had thought about it “rationally”? No sir he would not have. Exactly.

BECAUSE LIFE IS PRECIOUS AND GOD AND THE BIBLE

Tuesday, June 7th, 2005

I’ve noticed a few things since I quit smoking dope and cigarettes. One is that the Internet is actually totally fucking boring. I’ve also started having really vivid dreams and I’m horny all the time, I guess to make up for being emotionally dead for the past two years.

Last night I dreamt I was at the bookstore and the power had gone out, there were candles everywhere. While engaged in some co-ed rough-housing, I developed a stigmata: I noticed my chest was covered in blood, pouring out of this wound on my right side. In the reality of the dream, the wound was an injury acquired earlier which had been opened in the course of the energetic foreplay session. In actual reality, my wound is on the left side, but it was identical with the dream injury. Anyways, there was blood everywhere and the cut was sort of bubbling when I breathed, so I decided to go to the hospital. Like I said, the power was out, and when I went outside I saw that everything was covered with ice. I got into the car and started making my way to the hospital and discovered that the brakes didn’t work. (The dream car had about ten different pedals, which I could barely reach.) I was starting to get pretty flustered and said, out loud, (in the dream), “This can’t be fucking happening!” Of course it wasn’t, and I woke up at that moment.

* * *

The reason I’ve had to quit smoking is that last Saturday that I had a “spontaneous pneumothorax.” This is where bubbles on the surface of the lung called “pleura” — they’re a kind of congenital defect — randomly explode and then your chest cavity fills up with air and blood and then you die. I had one before, about five years ago, and I was in the hospital for a week with a tube in my chest. Not fun.


The facial expressions in this medical diagram are uncannily accurate.

While I considered my options, I made some breakfast, then had a shower, then finally packed my bag with stuff I’d need at the hospital, (Ian McEwan’s Atonement and a sketchpad). Then I walked down to the bus stop and waited for the 99 B-Line to Vancouver General. I knew I had a few hours at least and I felt very calm, serene even. It was pretty surreal. Some guy at the bus stop kept trying to make small talk. Even through the pain and existential reflections related to the brevity of life and so on, I was still checking out girls. The bus took forever, but eventually I made it to the Emergency Room.

When I got to the hospital I began the first in an seemingly endless sequence of questionaires. No, I have no allergies. No, I’m not on any medication. On a scale of 1 to 10, I’d say the pain is about a four. Maybe a five. I don’t know, I actually had a really hard time answering that question, which I was asked about five times a day for the next three days. I decided to go with five, and then just increment or decrement depending whether it was getting worse or better. It’s good to have a system. In my first triage interview, the question was to ascertain my level of urgency, selected from a drop-down list consisting of:

1. Resuscitation
2. Emergency
3. Very Urgent
4. Urgent
5. Not Urgent
6. Crybaby

Ok, I’m making the last one up, but the others are accurate I think. It took the admitting nurse a few moments to decide on a category, while she consulted a chart pinned to the wall just out of my line of sight. I was relieved when she chose “Very Urgent,” because I knew I wouldn’t have to wait very long.

* * *

When I finally got a bed AND a room, I was given yet another questionairre by my nurse, Lolita. One of the questions was about whether I had any particular religious affiliations or rituals which needed attending. “No thanks, I’m a nihilist,” I said. “I believe in nothing,” I added, for clarification.

“You read a lot of books and you don’t believe in God?” she asked incredulously, as if these two attributes were mutually exclusive. I indicated that this was accurate. I felt we were beginning to diverge somewhat from the literal text of the questionairre.

“So why is it that we have two nostrils instead of one?” You see, she felt that the fact that we have two nostrils was an strong indication of God’s design and His love for humanity. I wasn’t about to argue Intelligent Design vs. Evolution while being prepped for surgery, so I just smiled and adopted a bemused expression, as if to say “A clever insight! I will ponder this deep and interesting question at a more appropriate time.”

* * *

The rest is boring and involves laying in a hospital bed for three days on morphine and then laying around at home for a week. THE END :(

KILL YOUR IDOLSa short review of Ryan

Thursday, June 2nd, 2005

One of the main lessons of Ryan, Chris Landreth’s short computer animated biography of Canadian animator Ryan Larkin, is the same as this season’s other computer-effects extravaganza, Star Wars Episode 3, and that is: child prodigies rarely pursue a constant upward tragectory. Whether it’s a spectacular, violent flame-out like Yukio Mishima, (or Anakin Skywalker), or the more common gradual descent into creepy irrelevance of, say, Saul Kripke, your own is always the toughest act to follow.

Ryan Larkin joined the National Film Board in the 1960’s at age 19, and created three short animations, Syrinx, Walking, and Street Musique, all of which are included as extras on the DVD, along with Landreth’s two other computer-animated shorts, the end and Bingo. All of these are worth seeing; the contrast between Landreth’s work, with it’s dark humour and pomo ironic self-awareness, and the simplicity, psychedelic beauty and personality of Larkin’s work, is remarkable. There doesn’t seem to be a single stylistic or thematic point on which Larkin and Landreth converge. It’s a strange and unfortunate choice of subject matter for Landreth.

The major failing of the titular animated feature, brought to the forefront in the extended documentary, is Chris Landreth’s grating moral tone. Instead of offering us insight into Ryan Larkin, instead it shows Chris Landreth’s uncharitable and indignant impression of his subject, drawn in the shiny mechanical realism of pixel-shaded polygons.

The perspective that Chris brings to his feature is that Larkin’s story could cease being a tragic one if only he would take up Chris’ generous offer to stop drinking and become a brilliant animator again. As if being a brilliant animator is an simple binary property which has merely lain dormant for the forty years of Larkin’s “retirement.” Chris himself clearly has issues with substance abuse, and we’re treated to a short, sepia segment noting the decline of his mother due to alcohol. In the extended documentary, after showing his animation to Larkin, who is understandably horrified, Chris tries to justify his work by claiming that he put his own weaknesses and demons into the film as well as Larkin’s. This is a flimsy cover; while we’re treated to great detail and specificity regarding Larkin’s personal failures and general debasement, Chris’ troubles are only hinted at. And anyways, Landreth’s film cost one million dollars to produce, and as an engineer for Alias-Wavefront, (a Silicon Graphics company), I’m sure he’s doing just fine for himself. To compare his own struggles with Larkin’s is demonstrates even more his own failure to understand the nature and tragedy of young genius.

What Chris fails to understand is that geniuses, just like everyone else, are perfectly within their rights to abandon their talents. Just because you’re born gifted doesn’t mean you have to stay that way; we’re all free to bash our brains out with drugs or drink until we fall down. Larkin doesn’t owe us anything.

And let’s make no mistake, Larkin’s work is pure genius; Walking and Street Musique are both masterpieces of visual art. That’s two masterpieces to Chris’ zero. Give the guy a break.

(If you want to know more, here’s a fairly extensive biography of Ryan Larkin from Animation World Magazine.)

LIVEJOURNAL vs KRIPKE

Wednesday, June 1st, 2005

LiveJournal wins.