I'd read Rajaniemi's first book in this series, The Quantum Thief, a little over a year ago and have been anxious for the follow-up. Where the first riffed on themes of presence as identity--common in posthuman lit--this worked through story as identity, modeling it's chapters after those stories in The Arabian Nights. This has the same fire hose of information as the first but with a different character: the primary setting is Earth gone desert and infested by nanotechnology that can both steal your mind (through stories) and subvert your body to destructive growth. Perhaps more moody than the first?
It's an effort not to be irritated by a book that demands multiple readings and earns them.Continue reading "The Fractal Prince; Hannu Rajaniemi"
Wait Wait ... Don't Tell Me! at The Fox on Thu 20 Sep. Panelists were Roy Blount, Jr., Faith Salie, and Mo Rocca and the sharp CDC Director Thomas Frieden. After was dinner at the new Proof and Provision in The Georgian Terrace building (along with everyone else from the show). The following two days were the second annual return of Music Midtown. Our Saturday brunch till 1 turned extended into much later, but we made it in time to see Garbage. Other highlights were Foo Fighters on Friday (covered Pink Floyd's "In The Flesh?" from The Wall), Adam Ant and his band's crazy get-ups, and Girl Talk. By then, we were too tired to stay for Pearl Jam, so we ended up at Gilbert's for drinks+food. Sunday was Lisa's b-day dinner at Il Localino.
The weekend starting Thu 27 Sep was in Chicago to continue our year of music with the Peter Gabriel So concert. Too much mayhem to relate, starting with this:
Curse you, gay bar above that Armenian restaurant! We made it to the concert afterwards, but it wasn't our most shining moment. The next day, Friday, was the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA!). Highly recommended and digestible in a single visit. It will be included in any return visits. Evening was science silliness with Radiolab's In the Dark show at a beautiful old theater. Saturday was a jog along the river where I did a 53-minute 10k--personal best! Later, walking along the Navy Pier (right next to our hotel) before seeing the National Theatre of Scotland performing "The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart" at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater. This was an impulse event that caught both of our attentions and we struck gold: half of it read like lit crit cool and the other like a Three Stooges short. Five performers swapping roles and instruments as they tell a tale that both is a Scottish ballad and is about Scottish ballads. Hoping it comes on tour. Dinner at the amazing MK Restaurant. You are not as cool as us. Hell, we're not as cool as us.
[ updated 4 Jan 2014 ]
October involved Lisa travelling for LSU games, so I went out a lot for soft-serve ice cream from Checkers down the street and took pics of my feet on Marta:
More social events included Silversun Pickups at The Tabernacle w/ Lisa&Mason and the L5P Halloween Parade with Tedra&Bill. My first Halloween parade; there was so much craziness and fun that it must become a habit.
November has continued our Year of Music with the long-awaited Quadrophenia at Gwinnett Civic Center. The show and spectacle were outstanding, and we had the bonus prize of running into two of my coworkers. How random. Julia visited for a weekend and we nearly got kicked out of The Vortex (not really (well, maybe a little)). And the Monday after we late-in-the-day bought impulse tickets to Asia performing their first album at Variety Playhouse. We were wiped out but the battle of regret vs. exhaustion found us with the rest of the old folks once again in L5P. A week before, I swore that Quadrophenia was the last classic rock concert of the year and that the only thing that would change my mind would be if Genesis reunited and restaged their Lamb Lies Down on Broadway tour. Cut to the Variety Playhouse lobby with posters advertising the Genesis cover band The Musical Box's upcoming performance of LLDoB the 12th of next month, sanctioned by Genesis and Peter Gabriel. Tickets purchased. You win, fate. Post-concert was the L5P Vortex where we chatted with the bartender who caught me trying to leave the Midtown location with a beer in my jacket two evenings prior. Yes, I am 14 years old.
A month ago, I decided to get caught up with My People's sacred texts: Harris' The End of Faith from 2005, Dawkins' The God Delusion from 2008, and Hitchens' God is Not Great from 2009. It was helpful to read them in order as both Dawkins and Hitchens refer to earlier events and writings.
I didn't expect to learn too much, not out of arrogance but more that I swim in those waters so much that I thought I'd already been exposed to most of the ideas. There were, unsurprisingly, surprises. Harris opened with a scathing and convincing denouncement of politeness towards Islam. I dismiss it as just another religion as silly as the next, but he pointed out that religion in western society has been neutered by knowledge. The totalitarian violence that was possible in Medieval Europe is long gone, but there's no doubt that Catholics and many American Protestants would impose their ideas violently if they could. In the Middle East, Islam can. His concerns were echoed by the other writers. Dawkins was a delightful read and he is a very clear writer. It was like being lectured by Mr. Rogers! I was, however, most sympathetic with Hitchens' book, maybe because of his mix of world-wide travel stories, an encompassing understanding of religious and political history, and his barely suppressed anger at the primitivism that persists. Dawkins gets angry at religion as child abuse (indoctrinating them when they can't fight back), but Hitchens is just angry and how they've held back society as a whole.Continue reading "Three books on atheism"
One cause I see for the anger of this election, and much of the vitriol of the right, is as a group fighting against their impending extinction. Before mainstream bigotry of the poor (unelectable) can die, the group that holds these beliefs must boldly reassert its position. This light brigade charge ended with our first lesbian Senator, an increase of legal same-sex marriage from six states to nine, and the defeat of two Republican Senate candidates with a shockingly ignorant understanding of rape. Not to mention Obama's reelection.
The most cringe-inducing statements that conservatives made were just verbal leaks of commonly-held beliefs within this angry, dying demographic. They all believe the absurd statements, but must mince with apologies and half-apologies because, spoken aloud to outsiders, those beliefs are embarrassing. Murdock, who declared that rape is something
God intended to happen apologized ("apologized") with:
That anyone could come away with any meaning other than what I just said is regrettable, and for that I apologize. The belief that rape can't cause pregnancy is widely held in conservative religious circles but never spoken of to outsiders, presumably because it's easily proved false. In God Is Not Great, Hitchens tells of a debate he had with a member of the clergy. When Hitchens brought up the absurdist stories of Adam and Eve or Noah's Ark, the other waved the discussion off as if a bodily function was made apparent. When in-group falsehoods are accidentally exposed to outsiders, the falsehoods of the entire system become more visible.
When pro-rape candidates accidentally leak their group's secret beliefs or theists are confronted with ignorance they've long ignored, they may choose to go all in and lash out. Truth is not on their side. The hypocrites of the fundamentalist 80s and 90s should have ended this but did not. We have a much better chance now as those with such primitive beliefs become more angry and speak their absurdities more proudly. There will always be those on the winning side of history to speak up against them (sometimes from unexpected sources).