Archive for July, 2020

How rich is a day

Saturday, July 11th, 2020

Today I have been keeping track of every moment. Rather than simply letting the events of the day slip by, I have been savoring each moment, like a sip of fine wine.

It is astonishing how rich is a day, when you pay attention to every moment. So many things happen, and each is significant and beautiful in its own way.

But you only know this if you remember to take the time to drink in each of those moments. Today I drank deeply.

Listening to songs in my head

Friday, July 10th, 2020

I notice that when I am stressed, I start to listening to a song in my head. I do this silently, so nobody knows I am doing it unless they ask.

Usually it is a song from my youth, one I have listened to many time, and know very well. I generally am hearing it the way it was first recorded, with the voice and instrumentation of the original artist.

I wonder whether this is a common thing to do. For me it sure works to help me relax. You might want to try it.

Appliances in a virtual world

Thursday, July 9th, 2020

There are many things in the physical world that are not needed in a shared virtual world. Some examples are washing machines, lawn mowers, dishwashers and automobiles.

These are very familiar objects, which we all grew up with, yet they would serve no actual purpose in a socially shared virtual world.

So should we keep them when we are in such worlds?

I find it to be a fascinating question. In a way, it is a question about the nature of fiction itself.

In a movie, we see a character load a dishwasher, and we know it is fake. Yet the presence of the dishwasher, and witnessing the act of loading it, allows us to lose ourselves in the fantasy of the movie’s fictional universe.

I suspect that something similar will happen as VR worlds become mainstream. Physical devices will be reiterated as literary devices.

But what happens when more and more of our daily lives become virtually experiences while being increasingly automated behind the scenes? Will we still hold on to appliances that have become obsolete?

Will a dishwasher eventually become like the quill pen — something quaintly amusing that we love to see in fiction, but that we no longer expect to see in reality?

Superpowers for a socially distanced world

Wednesday, July 8th, 2020

Much of superhero literature focuses on physical capabilities. Some heroes have superior strength, others can fly, still others can grow, shrink or stretch their body in amazing ways, or turn themselves into fire or water.

But if we are truly going into a world in which social distancing will become the norm, we might see corresponding cultural shifts in literary superpowers. There will be less emphasis on the physical, and more on those superpowers that manifest in the absence of physical presence.

I suspect there will be a greater emphasis on such superpowers as superior intellect, telepathy and pre-cognition. In the absence of physical presence, the potential capabilities of the human brain will become the aspirational focus.

Of course this is only a theory. I can’t tell you for certain whether it will actually happen because I don’t possess the superpower of pre-cognition.

And maybe that’s a good thing.

Scifi that anticipated this

Tuesday, July 7th, 2020

Every science fiction story posits a particular world. That world has very specific properties, which are often different from the properties of our own world.

There might be aliens, spaceships, time travel, shrink rays. There might be lots of things. But they all need to add up to a single coherent alternate reality.

Some of those scifi realities are grounded in the premise that people will physically gather. Others are not.

I’ve been going through different scifi realities to see which ones anticipated the restrictions of our current pandemic.

Star Trek is clearly inconsistent with social distancing. Even on the Holodeck, people spend a lot of time in close proximity to one another, in a fairly small room with no windows.

But Ready Player One is a reality very consistent with our current one. Nobody ever really needs to be in the same physical room. Your location in the social world is independent of your geographic location. That’s true of Snow Crash as well.

I wonder whether we could rank scifi stories along a COVID continuum. Some would be utterly inconsistent with the reality we now face. Others would seem eerily prescient.

Prescience is good in science fiction. Unfortunately, the reality turns out to be not so fun.

If the mask fits, wear it

Monday, July 6th, 2020

I wonder whether, as this pandemic goes on, masks will become a normal part of social attire. Rather than being seen as a harbinger of something bad, they will just be part of going out of the house.

I can think of a rough analogy with shoes. You can’t really leave your house these days with bare feet. Unlike the old days, you would now encounter sidewalks and paved roads, which are very unfriendly to the human foot.

But we don’t think of shoes as something bad. In fact, we have turned them into objects of fashion and desire. Shoes have been integrated into our social and cultural discourse on many levels.

I wonder whether that will happen with masks.

Fifth of July

Sunday, July 5th, 2020

This wasn’t all that great an independence day
It’s not too hard I guess to see just why
But then I do believe that I can safely say
I’m having quite a nice fifth of July

Long distance friendships in a pandemic

Saturday, July 4th, 2020

As this pandemic continues, the concept of long distance friendship is gradually rearranging itself. The usual rhythm of such friendships is that you communicate with each other by phone or on-line until the next time you see each other in person.

But now there is no clearly defined sense of when we will all see each other in person. After all, for the most part there is currently no long distance travel.

So our remote communication with our good friends in other parts of the world has become the entire discourse. Phone calls, emails, Zoom chats, these are no longer the side dish but the main meal itself.

I wonder whether this will in some way alter the nature of long distance friendships. In the long run, will it pull us away from each other, or draw us even closer together?

Remembering Alan Brady

Friday, July 3rd, 2020

Carl Reiner, who passed away a few days ago at 98, was one of the towering comedic talents of our age. I am grateful to him for many original creations, including The 2000 Year Old Man, the best part of Steve Martin’s film career and, of course, Rob Reiner (in collaboration with Estelle Reiner).

But more than anything I appreciate his waking up my consciousness about meta-level art at an early age. Like everyone, I loved The Dick Van Dyke Show.

Everybody loved Rob and Laura Petrie. The nation’s weekly visits to their world was a high water mark for TV comedy that in many ways has never been matched.

I can still recall my gradual awareness of the importance of Alan Brady, the raging narcissistic boss on the show. That character was played by Carl Reiner, the actual creator of the show.

In a sense, he was the real Rob Petrie, since the entire series was based on the real-life experience of Carl Reiner as a comedy writer on Sid Caesar’s Your Show of Shows in the previous decade.

As a child, I was fascinated by this dichotomy. I would wait for the occasional appearances of Alan Brady. Whenever he appeared, part of me wanted to shout at the TV screen “That’s the real guy!”

We are now in an age where meta-level art is simply taken for granted. Everything in pop culture is self-referential, and twists back on itself.

None of this might seem so radical if you came of age in these more self-referential times. But for me, Alan Brady was a revelation.

The size of virtual objects

Thursday, July 2nd, 2020

One of the odd things about computer graphics is that nothing has an absolute scale. You can create objects, animated people, cities, but there is something abstract about your creations.

Yes, you can see them on a computer screen, but everything scales to fit the size of whatever screen you are looking at. Depending on whether you are viewing on a SmartPhone or a 75″ diagonal monitor, the simulated object can vary from very tiny to very large.

About a decade ago I started printing out my computer graphic creations on 3D printers. For the first time, my creations had an absolute size out here in the real world.

It was very gratifying to hold a printed CG object in my hand and feel its weight. I felt connected to my creations in a way I had never before felt connected.

I am experiencing something similar with computer graphics in virtual reality. When I can walk around a virtual object, then that object attains a true relationship to my physical being.

That is so much more satisfying than looking at these objects on a monitor or phone screen. I also find that it provides valuable insights that boost to my creativity.

And that makes me very happy.