Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Pratchett on Chaos Theory

"The Quantum Weather Butterfly (Papilio tempestae) is an undistinguished yellow colour, although the mandelbrot patterns on the wings are of considerable interest. Its outstanding feature is its ability to create weather.

This presumably began as a survival trait, since even an extremely hungry bird would find itself inconvenienced by a nasty localized tornado. From there it possibly became a secondary sexual characteristic, like the plumage of birds or the throat sacs of certain frogs. Look at me, the male says, flapping his wings lazily in the canopy of the rain forest. I may be an undistinguished yellow colour but in a fortnight's tone, a thousand miles away, Freak Gales Cause Road Chaos."

(Interesting Times, Terry Pratchett)

Friday, August 17, 2007

A different take on theology -II

1) There are billions of gods in the world. they swarm as thick as herring roe. Most of them are too small to see and never get worshiped, at least by anything bigger than bacteria, who never say their prayers and don't demand much in the way of miracles. They're the Small Gods- the spirits of places where 2 ant trails cross, the gods of micro-climates down between the grass roots. And most of them stay that way... because what they lack is belief.

...what gods need is belief, and what humans want is gods.


2) "... I never did thundering. demarcation, see. Bloody I've-got-a-big-hammer Blind Io up on Nob Hill does all the thundering."

"You said there were thousands of thunder gods."

"Yeah. And he's all of them. Rationalization. A couple of tribes join up; they've got thunder gods, right? And the gods kinda run together- you know how amebas split? Well, its like that, only the other way."

"I still don't see how one god can be a hundred thunder gods. They all look different..."

"False noses. And different voices. I happen to know Io's got 70 different hammers. Not common knowledge, that. And its just the same with mother goddesses. there's only one of them. She's just got a lot of wigs and of course, its amazing what you can do with a padded bra."

3) People said there had to be a Supreme Being because otherwise how could the universe exist, eh? And of course there clearly had to, said Koomi, a Supreme Being. But since the universe was a bit of a mess, it was obvious that the Supreme Being hadn't in fact, made it. If he'd made it, he would, being Supreme, have made a much better job of it, with far better thought being given, taking an example at random, to things like the human nostril.
Or, to put it another way, the existence of a badly put-together watch proved the existence of a blind watchmaker. You only had to look around and see that there was room for improvement practically everywhere.

This suggested that the universe had probably been put together in a bit of a rush by an underling while the Supreme Being wasn't looking...

So, reasoned Koomi, it wasn't a good idea to address any prayers to a Supreme Being. It'd only attract his attention and might cause trouble.

Koomi's theory was largely based on the good ol' Gnostic heresy, which tends to turn up all over the multiverse whenever men get up off their knees and start thinking for 2 minutes together, although the shock of the sudden altitude means that the thinking's a little whacked. But it upsets priests, who tend to vent their displeasure in traditional ways.

-Terry Pratchett (Small Gods)

What/who are you when you're floating protoplasm?

"Imagine y'self floating alone in the ocean, abandoned.

What assets do you have?

You have your mind, your brain. Your mind's stored information on survival situations, shipwreck situations, and your ability to swim.
Your brain functions as a product of your experiences and training. Inside your mind are your decision-making and problem-solving faculties; the machinery to help you decide whether to swim for land, or to float for as long as possible in the hope of being picked up. Your mind's synonymous with your heart, reflecting the levels of toughness, determination and emotional control that you bring to the situation.

The state of your body might be critical. Is it fit? have you eaten recently? Are you hydrated?

What's your level of hope?

Do you have friends or family who'll definitely be searching for you?

Are you feeling lucky?

Do you believe in God?

How long you survive will likely be decided by the answers to these questions. Reduced to floating protoplasm, we have an excellent opportunity to look at ourselves. What do you have to live for? Have you pretty much done and seen it all? do you feel your life mission's complete?"

Mark Bender (Operation Excellence)

Monday, July 30, 2007

A different take on theology

"... Suppose the neutral angels were able to talk Yahweh and Lucifer into settling out of court. How would they divide the assets of their earthly kingdom?

Would God be satisfied to take loaves and fishes and itty-bitty thimbles of Communion wine, while allowing Satan to have the red-eye gravy, 18-ounce New York steaks, and buckets of chilled champagne? Would God really accept twice-a-month lovemaking for procreative purposes and give Satan the all-night, no-holds-barred, nastry "can't-get-enough-of-you" hot-as-hell fucks?

Would Satan get New Orleans, Bangkok and the French Riviera, and God get Salt Lake City? Satan get ice hockey, God get horseshoes? God get Bingo; Satan stud poker? Satan get LSD; God, Prozac? God get Neil Simon; Satan, Oscar Wilde?

Can anyone see Satan taking pirate radio stations, and God being happy with the likes of CBS? God getting twin beds; Satan waterbeds? God-Minnie Mouse, John Wayne and Shirley Temple; Satan- Betty Boop, Peter Lorre, Mae West? God- Billy Graham; Satan- the Dalai Lama? Would Satan get Harley bikes; God Honda golf carts? Satan get blue jeans and fishnet stockings; God polyster suits and pantyhose? Satan get electric guitars; God, pipe organs? Satan-Andy Warhol and James Joyce; God- Andrew Wyeth and James Michener?

God- the 700 club; Satan- the C.R.A.F.T. Club?

Satan-oriental rugs; God, shag carpeting?

Would God take cash and let Satan leave town with Mr. Plastic?

Would Satan mambo and God waltz?

Would Almighty God be that dorky? Or would he rather see quickly that Satan was making off with most of the really interesting stuff? More than likely, he would. More than likely, he'd holler, "Whoa! Wait just a minute here, Lucifer. I'll take the pool halls and juke joints, you take the church basements and Boy Scout jamborees. You handle content for a change, apl. I'm going to take- style !"

(Fierce invalids home from hot climates, Tom Robbins)

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Tom Robbins’s riff on colors

“She moved to the acrylic department…She chanted the names of the colors as she dropped them into her basket.

Indian red, Mars red, Venetian red, cadmium red, vermilion and rose madder. There was alizarin crimson, magenta, and that thorn in the backside of the sinful, sister terra rosa.

There was cobalt blue, cerulean blue, Prussian blue, ultramarine blue, and with just a soupcon of garlic, french ultramarine blue.

Hansa yellow (patron saint of jaundiced piano players). Zinc yellow, lemon yellow, yellow ocher, mars yellow, naples yellow and brilliant orange. Thio violet, prism violet, mars violet, cobalt violet, dioxazine purple.

Next those nightmares of newlywed homemakers, raw sienna and burnt sienna. (He likes his medium-rare, boo hoo.) Raw umber and burnt umber (There, there, dear, we’ll send out for pizza), Vandyke brown, brown madder, thalo copper, silver, gold oxide, and payne’s gray.

Viridian, o viridian! Green earth, cadmium green, hooker’s green (protectress of novice prostitutes). Sap green (patron saint of voters who believe all irish-American politicians are honest).

O sing mars black, lamp black, ivory black, and titanium white (blessed are the Caucasians who went down with the ship)…

What did she forget? Lily white, basic black, snow white, black beauty, white Christmas, black Friday, white supremacy, black power, the color purple, people-eater purple, the color of money, long green, lawn green, lone green, Lohengrin, the color of your parachute, the color of my true lover’s hair, puce, mars puce, mars chartreuse, mars bars, little-boy blue, blue bayou, blues in the night, paint-the-town red, do-it-up brown, james brown, dorian gray, red skelton, red October, tom Clancy red, better-dead-than red, better-ill-than teal, Greenberg, Goldberg, long-john silver, mellow yellow, electrical banana, yellow peril, yellow fever, mayonnaise yellow, mustard, relish, and onions.”

(Skinny legs and all)

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Rupert Sheldrake

One of the reasons I feel a special affection for Rupert Sheldrake is that he’s worked in India (Principal Plant Physiologist at ICRISAT, Hyderabad) for a while. The other reasons have to do, of course, with his thoughts and ideas. From studying natural sciences at Cambridge and philosophy at Harvard, to getting his PhD in Biochemistry and holding posts like Director of Studies (at Cambridge again), to eventually postulating theories of formative causation, and morphogenetic fields, makes for a man with diverse interests.

Additional endorsement- Science (the publication) called for burning his A New Science of Life.

On his work:

The theory of formative causation is concerned with how things take up their forms, or patterns, or organization. So it covers the formation of galaxies, atoms, crystals, molecules, plants, animals, cells, societies. It covers all kinds of things that have forms, patterns, structures, or self organizing properties…what my theory is concerned with is self-organizing natural systems, and it deals with the cause of form. And the cause of all these forms I take to be organizing fields, form-shaping fields, which I call morphic fields, from the Greek word for form. The original feature of what I'm saying is that the forms of societies, ideas, crystals and molecules depend on the way that previous ones of that kind have been organized. There's a kind of built-in memory in the morphic fields of each kind of thing. So the regularities of nature I think of as more like habits, than as things governed by eternal mathematical laws that somehow exist outside nature.”

A good explanatory interview can be found at

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Timbuktu U

In "Half asleep in frog pajamas", Tom Robbins mentions the fictitious "faculty of Timbuktu U", a list of fringe-science/counterculture gurus. The list included Robert Anton Wilson, Terence McKenna, Diane de Prima, John C. Lilly, Timothy Leary, carlos Castaneda, Andrei Codrescu, Ted Joans, Rupert Sheldrake, R D Laing and Fritjof Capra.

Reads like the actual "visiting lecturers" at the Esalen Institute at Big Sur.

I'll be writing about each of these guys over the next few days.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Masters of War

1. (from Lucky Strike by Kim Stanley Robinson)

…A thug. In peacetime, Fitch would be hanging around a pool table, giving cops trouble. He was perfect for war. …Moving past Haddock, January stopped to stare at the group of men in the navigation cabin. They joked, drank coffee. They were all a bit like Fitch: young toughs, capable and thoughtless. They were having a good time, an adventure. That was January’s dominant impression of his companions in the 509th; despite all the bitching and occasional moments of overmastering fear, they were having a good time. His mind spun forward and he saw what these young men would grow up to be like as clearly as if they stood before him in businessmen’s’ suits, prosperous and balding. They’d be tough and capable and thoughtless, and as the years passed and the great war receded in time they’d look back on it with ever-increasing nostalgia, for they would be the survivors and not the dead. Every year of the war would feel like ten in their memories, so that the war would always remain the central experience of their lives- a time when history lay palpable in their hands, when each of their daily acts affected it, when moral issues were simple, and others told them what to do- so that as more years passed and the survivors aged, bodies falling apart, lives in one rut or the other, they’d unconsciously push harder and harder to thrust the world into war again, thinking somewhere inside themselves that if they could only return to world war then they would magically again be as they were in the last one- young and free, and happy. And by that time, they’d hold positions of power, they would be capable of doing it.

So there would be more wars, January saw. He heard it in Matthew’s eyes, saw it in their excited eyes. … He saw more planes, more young crews like this one, flying to Moscow, no doubt, or wherever, fireballs in every capital, why not? And to what end? To what end? So the old men could hope to become magically young again. Nothing more sane than that.

2. (Masters of war by Bob Dylan)

Come you masters of war
You that build all the guns
You that build the death planes
You that build the big bombs
You that hide behind walls
You that hide behind desks
I just want you to know
I can see through your masks

You that never done nothin'
But build to destroy
You play with my world
Like it's your little toy
You put a gun in my hand
And you hide from my eyes
And you turn and run farther
When the fast bullets fly

Like Judas of old
You lie and deceive
A world war can be won
You want me to believe
But I see through your eyes
And I see through your brain
Like I see through the water
That runs down my drain

You fasten the triggers
For the others to fire
Then you set back and watch
When the death count gets higher
You hide in your mansion
As young people's blood
Flows out of their bodies
And is buried in the mud

You've thrown the worst fear
That can ever be hurled
Fear to bring children
Into the world
For threatening my baby
Unborn and unnamed
You ain't worth the blood
That runs in your veins

How much do I know
To talk out of turn
You might say that I'm young
You might say I'm unlearned
But there's one thing I know
Though I'm younger than you
Even Jesus would never
Forgive what you do

Let me ask you one question
Is your money that good
Will it buy you forgiveness
Do you think that it could
I think you will find
When your death takes its toll
All the money you made
Will never buy back your soul

And I hope that you die
And your death'll come soon
I will follow your casket
In the pale afternoon
And I'll watch while you're lowered
Down to your deathbed
And I'll stand o'er your grave
'Til I'm sure that you're dead.