Archive for December, 2018

Where have you gone Joe DiMaggio?

Sunday, December 16th, 2018

When I was a kid we knew about stars in the world of popular entertainment who had peaked long before we were born. I knew a whole lot about Rudolph Valentino, Rudy Vallee, Mae West, Ida Lupino, Fred Waring, Nelson Eddie and Jeanette MacDonald, Victor Borge, Harold Arlen, Josephine Baker and Mary Pickford, to name just a few.

That hunger to learn about the roots and evolution of popular culture seems to be missing from nearly everyone I speak to who are now in their early to mid twenties. Historical memory has apparently become shorter, and the OGs of our current popular culture trends have mysteriously become invisible.

To take one example, very few people in their twenties that I speak to seem to who know who Lenny Bruce was. A few of them recognize him as a character lurking around the fringes of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, but that’s about it.

This despite that fact that George Carlin, Richard Pryor, Chris Rock, David Chapelle, Amy Schumer, Sarah Silverman and many others are living in the construction of modern comedy that Bruce built. And he built it against enormous societal resistance, at unimaginable cost to himself.

I could give many similar examples. We appear to be living in a time when people are simply not interested in tracing back the historical roots of their own popular culture. I wonder whether this is just a phase we are going through, or whether it indicates a fundamental shift in the nature of popular culture itself.

An early influence

Saturday, December 15th, 2018

When I was ten years old I read a science fiction story that had a profound effect on me. I was discussing this memory today with my brother, who as a child was also deeply into science fiction (we both still are). Back then, our uncle Lou would regularly bring us paperback SciFi anthologies, which we would both eagerly devour.

But this one story, whose title I could not recall, stood out from all the others. I told my brother today that it probably had had more of an effect on my particular approach to research, in my grownup life, than any other single influence.

So this evening I decided to search the Web for this fabled story, choosing my keywords based on memories from long ago. And I found it!

The story’s title might be met with amusement by those of you who know my work. Now I find myself wondering how much the naming choices in my own research were influenced by the title of a story I had last read when I was ten years old.

In case you are curious, here it is.

Uneventful flight haiku

Friday, December 14th, 2018

A journey, a void,
Filled with nothing but silence.
The best kind of flight

This evening I heard a Stradivarius

Thursday, December 13th, 2018

This evening I heard a young man play a Stradivarius. The performance took place perhaps six feet away from where I was sitting. The musician was phenomenally talented, the music transcendent.

Every note was like a perfectly blown glass crystal. I was reminded, during this performance, how lovely and precious life can be.

We often forget, in the turmoil and conflict of everyday life, that we are, after all, beings of magic and stardust. Yet every once in a while you can experience something that reminds you of the sublime nature of your human soul.

This evening I had such experience, and I was reminded of my human connection with the infinite. This evening I heard a Stradivarius.

Good day at work

Wednesday, December 12th, 2018

Sometimes you just have a really good day at work. Today was one of those days for me.

When that happens, when you have one of those days when everything gels, you realize it’s not just you — it’s the entire team you are working with. Somehow everybody has managed to come together, to really understand how to help each other achieve what we are trying to do.

I also realize that this is an incredibly precious thing. It is something rare and wonderful that needs to be guarded and nurtured.

If you ever find yourself in such a situation, I have some simple advice for you: Whatever you do, do not take it for granted.

Writing patents

Tuesday, December 11th, 2018

The last few days I have been writing up a patent. Doing one of these things always seems like it’s going to be a lot of work, but once I am into it, the process is very enjoyable.

Having an idea in your head for a way of doing something is not at all the same as actually needing to describe it. And for a patent, you need to describe your idea in sufficient detail that a reasonably knowledgable person could build it for themselves, going only from your description.

That means you can’t leave things out because they are “obvious”. What is obvious to you is not necessarily obvious to somebody else. People can’t read your mind — they can only read your patent.

In the course of going through such an exercise, you end up understanding your own idea a lot better. But that’s not all.

Diving down into a detailed step by step description forces you to be critical about your idea, to see it the way others would. You need to tear it apart and put it back together again.

In the course of doing that, two good things happen: (1) You end up having a much better version of your idea, and (2) you end up getting new ideas that you otherwise never would have thought of.

I’d call that a pretty good return on investment.

A visitor in town

Monday, December 10th, 2018

I spent this evening with an old friend who used to be a New Yorker, but abandoned us quite a few years ago to pursue a career in California. Tonight the two of us went out to dinner, talked about old times, and wandered through the streets of Greenwich Village.

With every block, memories came flooding back to my friend. She remembered this store, that restaurant, random memories piling one upon another, of the life where her youth was spent.

I, who never left NYC, was taken by her sense of spiritual connection with our wondrous city. “Everyone here,” I think she said at one point, “is inventing themselves.”

I don’t know that anyone has ever said it better.

Returning to NY

Sunday, December 9th, 2018

I love to travel. But I also love returning to New York City, and being reminded all over again that the city I call home is a living, breathing, ever-changing glorious work of art.

view from the West Side


Saturday, December 8th, 2018

A while back I had the pleasure of spending some time with astronauts. When you spend any time talking with astronauts, the ones who have actually spent time up in outer space, you come away with a different view of things.

The astronauts and cosmonauts who have spent time together on the International Space Station see the world differently than the rest of us, quite literally. For one thing, their flight takes them around the Earth once every 92 minutes.

These are all highly trained engineers, with an extremely practical bent. Yet they report that the experience changes them on a deeper level than mere intellect, both politically and spiritually.

When they look down toward the surface, they do not see borders between countries. Rather, they see a beautiful and highly fragile planet, a unified thing of pure beauty.

They come to stop thinking of themselves as “American” or “Russian”, and to begin thinking of themselves as one with all of their fellow human beings. Apparently it is impossible to remain nationalistic or to emphasize tribal differences after you have had such a profound experience.

Maybe a good use for shared VR would be to give an experience like this to other people, starting with the politicians of our respective nations. It’s a long shot, but if it works, we might just end up saving both our planet and ourselves from destruction and tragedy.

Compare and contrast

Friday, December 7th, 2018

Shortly before I left NYC I took a photo of the front entrance to the building where I live. I think it gives a good sense of New York City charm.


This week I stayed at the house of a friend in LA, and took this photo in the back yard of their family home. Even on a rare rainy day in the City of Angels, I think it gives a good sense of Southern California charm:


Both are wonderful, albeit in very different ways. It’s very nice to have the opportunity to compare and contrast. :-)