Saturday, July 22, 2017

Dream Log: Physics and Disapproval

I dreamed that my brother was living with some fanatical Christians. They may have been his father- and mother-in-law, but I don't remember meeting his bride. Their home, a large apartment on a high floor of a drab brick building among high drab brick buildings, had the look of guilty religious conformity. Even the benches on either side of one long narrow table looked like church pews.

I had brought with me an armload of books, mostly books on topics of physics and math published by Dover, such as this one:


My brother had some Dover books on related topics, and he seemed to deliberately be mixing up his Dover books with mine. I kept trying to separate them again, and I asked myself in vain why I had brought so many books with me to begin with. It wasn't as if I was going to teach my brother anything about such things. He's an accomplished mechanical engineer, his knowledge of physics and advanced math is far ahead of mine. And I also wasn't intending to give him any of the books or loan any of them to him. And I felt sure that my brother knew all of this. I wondered whether he was teasing me by mixing up his books with mine.

I scrambled around, trying to make sure that I had all of my books and none of my brother's, getting ready to flee this place. I asked myself why I hadn't carried the books in a backpack, or at least in a box: there were too many of them to comfortably carry in my arms.

My brother's mother-in-law (I presumed) was darting around and loudly disapproving of me and my scientific outlook. Then she spotted, among my books, this one --


-- which may well have been the only book ever written by a communist, small- or capital-c, whose title or author she would've recognized -- and she became louder and more agitated still, screeching, "He's communistic! He's communistic!"

For a moment I thought of correcting her, telling her that the correct adjective was "communist," or, even better, she could use the noun form and say that I was a communist. But immediately I asked myself what good that could do. It was about then that I woke up.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Reputations

John Irving went a long way out of his way, in his novel The World According to Garp, to diss the Austrain writer Franz Grillparzer, 1792-1872, remembered today for dramas such as Das goldene Vlies. Actually, in den US today he's probably most famous for being the first famous writer better than whom the fictional novelist Garp, a thinly-disguised version of John Irving, was certain he could write. This was supposedly an important milestone in any developing writer's life: finding a writer to whom one feels superior -- as a writer, at least.

I don't know whether or not that makes any sense: that you have to find some famous writer whom you are certain you can outwrite in order to become a successful writer. Perhaps it makes sense only for kinds of writers I was never interested in being. I'm not sure whether anything that John Irving has ever asserted makes much sense for people like me: the implication that he is a better writer than Grillparzer is really rather silly; the implication that he even deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as someone like Grillparzer is rather silly. The assertion by Irving that he has read anything by Grillparzer in German and understood it strains my credulity. I think Irving thinks that the name Grillparzer sounds silly, and that that is about the extent of what Irving has to say about Grillparzer. Or consider the advice he gave at a writer's conference for dealing with writer's block. He called it the constipation method: wait as long as you possibly can, and then run to the typewriter. I am certain that another writer's retort was much wittier than anything Irving has ever written: she asked, what if you don't make it to the typewriter in time? I'm sorry that I don't remember her name.

I was sure, as a young squirt reading The World According to Garp, that I could outwrite Irving, but I already knew by then that I could outwrite many -- no, most writers of bestsellers: Crichton, Ludlum, Richard Adams (Author of Watership Down), Peter Benchley, son of Robert, author of Jaws, and so forth. That I could add one more to that list, Irving, who managed to fool some people for some time into thinking he was the sort of author who deserved awards, was no big deal.

The big deal was discovering writers like Gaddis, Gass, John Hawkes, Robert Musil, Pynchon, Yeats, Doeblin, writers who really challenged me and continue to do so, and learning how close to unknown some of them were during their lifetimes, and how far most of them were from bestseller lists for most or all of their lives.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Materials of Which Watch Cases Can Be Made

* Stainless steel. Seems that everywhere I turn, people who write about watches are writing enthusiastically about stainless steel watches. I haven't been watching the world of watches very long, and I don't know what they were writing not long ago, but I clearly gather that stainless steel is being treated as the New Cool Thing. Whether this reflects an actual change in taste among people who used to buy gold or platinum watches, and still could afford to, but now have decided that it's more tasteful to be less ostentatious in their choice of wristwear; or whether those tastes haven't changed at all among those who can afford any watches they want, and what has changed is the approach of those writing, who have decided to try to reach more readers buy writing about watches more people can afford; or if the answer is some Door #3 which hasn't occurred to me, I don't know.

On the one hand, I have a stainless steel watch:


and am therefore unintentionally stylish at the moment. On the other hand, I not only didn't intend to be trendy when I got my Seiko 5 (there are any like it, but this one is mine), I really don't care about being trendy. I refer you to Thorstein Veblen.



* Brass. Boring. And high-maintenance unless you want it to look as dull as dirt or plate it with gold or nickel or something.

* Silver. I don't know any thing interesting to tell you about silver watches cases.

* Titanium. It doesn't move me. Sorry.

* Tantalum. I wrote a whole post about that one.

* Gold. It costs about 2/3 as much per ounce as it did in 2011, and that fall in the price of the metal has definitely been accompanied by a steep drop in the prices of gold watches. Perhaps the snooty exclusive rich class really has taken a recent like to stainless steel watches, and maybe part of the reason for that is that suddenly, many more people could afford gold watches, making them suddenly much less fun for the snooty exclusive rich class.

* Platinum. Everything I just speculated about gold except more so, because in the past few years the price of the metal has fallen even more sharply than that of gold.

I wish I had a watch made of gold, or, even better and even more expensive, platinum. And I really don't care what snooty exclusive rich people think of that. And I don't care that some of them will be convinced that I'm lying when I say I don't care, and that I want a watch like that for completely other reasons than any having to do with their exclusive hamster wheels. They are hamsters, those snooty people. Hamsters on exclusive wheels. Veblen. He covered all this.

* Sapphire. Yes, sapphire. If you're like I was recently, you didn't realize that sapphires aren't always blue, and that synthetic transparent sapphire is used instead of glass these days for the crystals of high-end watches. It's much tougher than glass. At least one watch company, Hublot, has made entire cases from sapphire for certain models.


Which I happen to think is wicked cool, and I don't care if the Watch Snob thinks everything Hublot does is horribly tacky, this isn't the first thing Hublot has done which I like very, very much. (For example: the watch in that picture has a 40-day power reserve. As far as I know, that's the 2nd all-time longest power reserve for a watch, behind that other Hublot with a 50 day power reserve which is also available in a variety of case materials including sapphire.)

The Watch Snob wrote in one of his columns that he guaranteed that Hublot would be out of business by the time he turned 40, which makes me wish I knew when he wrote that and how old he was then. We'll see what we see about what kind of shape Hublot is in as a company.

* Wood. Today, not in the 16th century when one might be more inclined to forgive a watchmaker for not knowing any better, but today, some watches are made with not only their cases but also quite a few of their moving parts made from wood. This makes me feel perhaps somewhat the way the Watch Snob feels about Hublot. I feel that wooden watches are wrong. I feel that it's wrong for people to buy wooden watches, as that will only tend to encourage them to make more of them. I don't feel inclined to discuss it.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Jemand fragte, wie gute Literatur ihre Leser findet.

Wenn ich ueberhaupt eine Ahnung davon haette, wie gute Literatur ihre Leser findet, waere ich langst reich und bereuhmt und nobelgekroent und wuerde noch andere gute Schriftsteller helfen, alle die schiere Scheisse auf den Bestsellern beiseite zu schieben und verdientvollerweise reich und beruehmt zu werden, und wir waeren oft auf Fernsehen, mal, um die Talkshows viel interessanter zu machen, mal, um als Weise die Leute dieses seltsamen Planeten guten Rat zu geben.

Vielleicht wuerde ich ein Haus in Suedkalifornien haben, nahe genug Conans Studio dass ich bequem von daheim dorthin zu Fuss gehen koennte; und eine Wohnung in New York, vielleicht in New York by Gehry;


und eine in Berlin, und eine in Paris -- oder vielleicht wuerde ich lieber in Hotels wohnen, als viele Wohnungen selbst besitzen. Wuerde ich gern per Flugzeug reisen, wenn ich es stets in der Luxury-Klasse taete? Ich weiss es nicht. Ich flog einmal in First Class, aber ich weiss nicht, ob diese First Class wirklich Luxury-Klasse war. Wenn es wirklich war, wenn es kaum besser als das gibt ohne ein eigenes Flugzeug zu besitzen, dann waere es offiziell: ich moechte fliegen nicht sehr. Ich glaube, dass es etwas luxurioeser geht als auf der First Klasse, welche ich erlebte. Aber ich weiss nicht, ob es irgendwo so gut fliegt dass ich es geniessen wuerde.

Ich haette vielleicht sovielen Einfluss, dass ich hoechstpersoenlich die Eroelbranche vernichte koennte, indem ich fuer Solar und Wind und Gezeitenkraft und Geothermisch und so fort redete.

Moechte ich US-Praesident werden? Ich weiss es nicht. Ich weiss es wirklich nicht.

Aber, wie gesagt, ich weiss nicht, wie gute Literatur zu ihren Lesern kommt. Ich wuesste es gern.

Naja, wenigstens habe ich eine Ahnung davon, was gute Literatur ist, und vermag sie in mehreren Sprachen zu lesen. Das ist ein Trost in meinem Elend.



Friday, July 14, 2017

"Game of Thrones" is Coming

The title of this post is a joke which you might not get if you don't watch the show.

Smug snobs are circulating memes about how they've never watched "Game of Thrones." I used to be those snobs. Yeah, I used to be proud of not watching "Game of Thrones." Then a few years ago, pretty quickly, I got hooked. For a while, being the fan of history that I am, I was very annoyed by the fact that what appeared to be an early-to-High-Medieval Western European world had some literacy, but not in Latin, because in reality, it generally took centuries before it even occurred to Western Europeans to even try to write in the native languages, so that Latin was not only the universal written language, it was the only written language, and Latin persisted along the written native languages for centuries after that. Then I told myself, Yeah, Steve, and in real life there weren't any dragons or magic or giants either, and I got over it. Somewhat. Not completely.

It would still be awesome if you learned Latin. Just the same way it would be awesome if you watched "Game of Thrones." Either way, you would thank me, and you're welcome!

It's a tremendously good show. I, like many millions of other people, am passionately in love with Daenerys Targaryen. I think Jaime is not all that bad. I hope that Arya and the Hound will end up being friends, although I'm not sure how realistic it is to hope for that. And so on and so forth. You know what I'm talking about. It's a tremendously good show. If you're too smart to watch it -- pfffft. Yes, I said pfffft, Sir! Your loss!

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

I am Not Clothed in Immense Power

I'm frustrated that the investigation of Donald Trump is not moving faster. I'm frustrated that Trump is still President, that he hasn't already been impeached and removed from office, or removed by means of the 25th Amendment, or persuaded to resign by the size and intensity of the opposition to him. On Facebook today, I've been debating things with some people who also very much want to see Trump removed from office, but who are concerned that the investigation and eventual prosecution by Mueller not move too fast, because they want above all for it to be thorough. They say they feel the urgency of removing Trump as much as I do, but I don't think they do. This country has been in a continuous state of dire emergency since January 20.

Anything which can be done can be done faster or slower. Faster does not have to mean sloppier or less thoroughly. Have you seen Steven Spielberg's movie Lincoln?



I'm not much of a Spielberg fan usually, but that is an excellent movie. It shows a lot of the horse-trading which Lincoln and other leading Washington Republicans did in order to pass the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery. Discussing Trump these days, perhaps the last Republican President, I think of that movie about the first Republican President. I sometimes feel like Daniel Day-Lewis' Lincoln in one of the film's most dramatic moments, spurring people along, pounding angrily on the table-top with the mighty palm of his hand, pointing a huge finger (Spielberg did an amazing job, as director, of making Day-Lewis look gigantic throughout the film.) and shouting, referring to when he wanted certain things to be accomplished: "NOW! NOW! NOW!"

If only I were "clothed in immense power" like Lincoln, and could make powerful people jump and run and exert themselves to the utmost by shouting at them. Perhaps I've gained a bit of power by virtue of sheer persistence, by having e-mailed various powerful people on the subject of Trump every day for over 180 consecutive days and signed many petitions and marched in rallies and all of those other things that many of us have been doing.

Perhaps I've not gained any power at all. It's not as if I'm going to stop either way.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Dream Log: Big Kind Dutch Museum

Last night I dreamed I was in a big modern museum somewhere in the Netherlands. As I am in many of my dreams, so in this one I was alone, broke and surrounded by strangers. I don't speak Dutch very well at all. In many of these dreams, in addition to my other immediate problems, I don't speak the local language. But of course, Dutch people speak English very well.

This was a very modern museum, and it seemed to be dedicated to the "everything is art" approach. And so for example, there were large groups of children in the museum, and it seemed they were being treated in the anti-disciplinarian "let them find their own way" approach of some modern schools. In a large room, the size of a large gymnasium, a group of children, maybe 10 or 12 years old, were kicking a soccer ball around. I was in a hallway which led into that large room. The ball came down the hallway toward me. I don't know whether the children had seen me standing alone in the hallway and intentionally kicked the ball to me the first time. But after I kicked it back to them the first time, they definitely kicked it back to me on purpose. And so we kicked the ball back and forth for a while, they in the large room and I in the hallway. They seemed to generally approve of my performance. However, I was not certain whether it was obvious that I was American, and whether they were taking into account, when judging the way I ran the ball down and kicked it, that I can from one of the very few places on Earth where most of the people, or at least most of them my age, hardly ever play soccer.

After the children took their ball and moved on, I sat alone on a staircase near the top of a large atrium, and wondered where the word "soccer" came from.

Then suddenly I noticed that I had lost both my shoes and my socks, and it was wintry outside. I had definitely had my shoes and socks just a moment earlier, when I was kicking the soccer ball, and now, suddenly, somehow, they were gone. I felt very embarrassed about this. But at the same time I had a feeling that I was not going to be treated harshly just when I most needed help, because I was in the Netherlands. (I don't know whether this was a realistic estimation of the Netherlands.) In any case, eventually I found a lost and found which had a variety of clothing items in a large cardboard box. A pair of shoes which could have been mine were in the box. I took those shoes and two unmatched socks from the lost and found. The museum guard in charge of the lost of found seemed to notice that I was taking socks which didn't match, and presumably weren't mine, but he seemed less concerned about that than about the fact that a person was here who needed socks. It was twilight, getting dark, and I assumed that the museum was about to close. But then two possibilities occurred to me: one, that maybe the museum didn't close; and two, that even if it was closing, they'd let me stay there. Just because it was clear I needed somewhere to stay.

I didn't talk to anyone all throughout the dream, and yet somehow I was fairly certain about what they were thinking, and what they thought of me. And it seemed that, by and large, they didn't want to go out of their way to make my troubles worse.