I don’t know how you’re spending your airplane time lately — maybe you’ve arranged your life in some eminently sane manner that doesn’t require periodic four-hour stints spent breathing other peoples’ fecal particles and noroviruses in a 25-year-old metal tube indifferently steered by a recent graduate of low-cost simulator training — but I’m spending mine reading Godel, Escher Bach for the fourth and, I hope, final time. It’s not an entirely voluntary re-perusal. My son is crawling through The Turing Omnibus and “GEB” is the logical next step after that. He will want to discuss it. I will need to be prepared.
Much of this book concerns the mechanism by which we might construct “consciousness loops”, at least in a mathematical sense. As they currently exist, computers are awfully powerful but they have no ability to “step outside” their processing loop and examine themselves. We can nest levels within levels, and indeed that’s our current moronic H1-B-centric computing paradigm of Docker-inside-Kubernetes-inside-VMWare and so on, but none of these levels have the ability to “think” about themselves. That’s the beginning of consciousness. A computer (or a dog, or a monkey) can run a program and exhibit all sorts of fascinating behaviors, but at no point can it stop and ask itself “Why am I doing this?” To our knowledge, human beings are the only devices in the universe with the ability to consider themselves in the abstract. Dolphins, maybe. I wouldn’t bet on that.
It’s a neat trick, but only if we use it. Any time you find yourself explaining your past actions to an employer, spouse, or officer of the law with “I don’t know why I did that,” what you really mean is that you didn’t take a moment to be conscious, to examine your behaviors and motivations from a distance. In those unexamined moments, you were no better than a chimpanzee and considerably worse than, say, an array of Core i7 processors operating in parallel. It is never wasted time to pause what you are doing and use that uniquely human faculty of consciousness to evaluate your actions from a third-party perspective.
Perhaps that explains why I found myself wheedling a “FastPass+” for Space Mountain out of a bored foreign national with a journeyman’s command of the King’s English on Martin Luther King Day — or perhaps it does not. As you’ll see, however, applying a bit of human consciousness to Disneyworld raises more questions than it answers.
Note: Yet another interesting article by Tony LaHood. Republished with his approval! Enjoy. -TK
Malcolm Bricklin and John DeLorean are well known to this audience, but do the names James and Edward Gaylord ring a bell? Probably not. Even so, the brothers Gaylord built one of the more interesting cars of its time. Or more specifically, three of them.
The story starts with the brothers themselves, who had the good sense to be born into money. Their father was the inventor of the bobby pin, which made him an extremely wealthy man. His son Edward eventually stepped in to run their Chicago-based family business, known as Gayla, quite successfully. Both he and his brother, James, who operated out of Scottsdale, Arizona, had been lifelong car fanatics, having grown up with Packards, Pierce-Arrows, Stutzes and Duesenbergs gracing the family driveway.
There are times when I think that a music-business story is “too good to fact-check,” and this is one of them. Young counter-tenor Jakub Józef Orliński agreed to substitute for an ensemble that could not appear for what Orliński believed would be the radio-only live broadcast of an outdoor afternoon concert in the south of France. The New Yorker picks up the story (after mentioning that Orliński was, on the day of the concert, nursing a mild hangover):
Orliński put on baggy shorts and beat-up sneakers, and rolled up the sleeves of a crumpled tattersall shirt: this was radio, after all, and it was ninety degrees outside. Only when he and his pianist, Alphonse Cémin, who was in shorts and flip-flops, arrived at the recording venue—a courtyard with a small audience—did they learn that the performance was also to be streamed on Facebook Live. It was too late for Orliński to change clothes, and so he sang just as he was—unshaved, and dressed as if ready for a day of sleeping it off under the Provençal plane trees.
This is obviously a superb job of singing; the YouTube view count of 4.7 million views is something I find very heartening. That’s in part because counter-tenors are in a way like harpsichords. In both cases, at times there seems to be a parity between the numbers of people who can enjoy the sound, and those who feel compelled to flee from it. And in that regard, I would have preferred a Baroque continuo rather than a Steinway grand (Vivaldi’s opera dates from 1724), but the piano accompaniment is very sensitive. And one must keep in mind that Orliński was substituting on less than 24 hours’ notice. (I do crack up every time I see the “page turner” reach up and touch the iPad.) Also, for an outdoor concert, what a lovely recording job! More, after the jump.
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Sorry it’s been slow here at Riverside Green; I’ve had to visit the western time zones two separate and distinct times in the past ten days. One of those times gave me the chance to see the White Sands National Monument and to take a quick walk through the dunes. A bit of advice, should you ever try the same trip: don’t wear horsehide Crockett&Jones Pembrokes to do so. It’s no trouble to walk across the dunes on slick-soled shoes; it is tremendous trouble to come down off a twenty-foot dune to the parking lot while wearing them.
Enough about that; it takes a particular idiot to insist on wearing “grownup” shoes in an era where the billionaires wear polyester athleisure and $99 Allbirds. Instead, I want to talk about what I saw as I walked across these utterly pristine dunes, rendered free of footsteps and impressed with a waveform pattern thanks to the consistent action of the New Mexico wind: strings of little black rocks, encrusted with white sand and deposited seemingly at random both high and low on the sand structures.
“Is that some sort of… obsidian or quartz?” I wondered, looking closer. No, it wasn’t obsidian, and it wasn’t quartz. It was dogshit.
Note: Another post by my buddy Tony LaHood. Republished with his permission. -TK
Detroit. Kenosha. South Bend. Van Nuys? Maybe the latter doesn’t seem like a car-making town, but it was. For a brief two years, Van Nuys, CA, was home to the Davis, a three-wheeled automobile-cum-sofa.
The Davis story starts with a man named Frank Kurtis, an erstwhile racing car designer and builder of “The Californian”, a three-wheeled roadster commissioned by Southern California racer and banking heir Joel Thorne. It was this car that inspired former Indiana used-car salesman Glen Gordon Davis to create a namesake convertible that would incorporate many features of The Californian.
One of the things that has gotten me excited the past few years is how many of the current diecast model companies have been releasing makes and models I never, ever expected to be produced in scale. Cars from the ’70s and ’80s that weren’t Camaros, Mustangs and Corvettes. Cars I remember from my childhood and various and sundry ’80s TV shows watched in my formative years.
Case in point. Greenlight has recently released the Colonnade Pontiac LeMans wagon in several different versions. They’ve even released a wagon version of Buford T. Justice’s Montague County, TX LeMans. Yes, really, I saw one at Hobby Lobby last week.
When I die, it might be said of me that I was a bad uncle.
Not a creepy uncle, or a dangerous one, mind you. Just one who is occasionally derelict in his duty towards his niece. I like to make plans for my son and Bark’s son — plans for indoor karting, NERF(tm) guns, trips to South Carolina. Whenever I do this, Bark reminds me that he has two children. “You always forget about your niece,” he chides.
He’s wrong. I’m not forgetting about her; I simply think that she doesn’t need my help or involvement in any significant amount. She’s a talented young woman with a long list of accomplishments, outstanding bone structure, and a family history of staying thin. This is THE_CURRENT_YEAR and the deck is stacked in her favor.
I’m not so sure the same is true for our sons. Over the past decade I’ve gotten the impression that young American men are increasingly under fire, so to speak — that’s a metaphor, although it’s literally true for many of our least fortunate young men who see the armed forces as a way to escape what increasingly looks like a planned economic hollowing-out of our rural counties. The above chart, which has been circulating a bit on Twitter with no substantive refutation of its statistics, only serves to reinforce my concern. (You can see the original, and click through for references, here.)
This is what I want you to do.
0. Read the chart quickly;
1. Then consider your most immediate reaction to it.
Is that reaction some mixture of shame and annoyance? Do you feel a small (or significant) measure of contempt for the type of person who would even bother to create such a thing? When you hear the phrase “a war on boys”, is your first response to express your disappointment with, or contempt for, the sort of person who uses that phrase? If you’re like most of our male readers, I bet you have at least some of these reactions.
Would you like to know why? And would you like to know why it’s critical that you change your response?
Note: Another motorcycle history by my friend, Lee Wilcox, of Texas. Republished here with his permission. Enjoy. -TK
Why is the Harley Davidson Sprint such a contradiction? In the hands of a slug like me they become a heavy, somewhat awkward, vibrating, slow, and uncomfortable machine. In the hands of some of the guys that grabbed U.S. and World titles, the bike was a champion. You know how some machines just make the rider better? Well, this was not one of them. But it said Harley Davidson on it, and they did sponsor racers. You get the picture. How Harley Davidson (and I) came about to have this little Italian one-lunger is a bit of a longer story.
Aermacchi is shortened from Aeronautico Macchi. For you folks that don’t speak Italian I am told that means Macchi’s Aeronautical company. They made airplanes. Still do. Their first planes were in 1917 and they were flying boats. As I recall (no I’m not that old, but I can read) they were on our side in that war and came out fairly prosperous.
Between the wars they continued to grow and then in a fit they picked the wrong side in the second war. While it paid off in the short term, in the long term it proved very detrimental.
Actually all of Europe was in the same boat no matter which side you had been on if you were a civilian trying to feed yourself. At any rate, Aermacchi and everyone else knew that fuel was precious and that motorcycles would sell. They found an engineer named Lino Tonti who had been at Benelli and worked on aircraft engines during the war. Tonti designed and built a 50cc bike that set the land speed record for it’s size. While it’s not their first bike this is a good example of Italian bikes in 1950.
As the kids say nowadays, I’m “still processing” the responses to last week’s distracted-driving column. A surprising number of the commenters appear to have an opinion which roughly boils down to: There’s no statistical support for the idea that texting-and-driving is as bad as drunk driving — in fact, it appears to be nightmarishly more dangerous to do the latter than the former — but in my Secret King feelingsverse I still think that texting is just totally the worst thing ever and I won’t hear any argument to the contrary. It doesn’t matter that my statistics are coming straight from the NHTSA, which is currently trying to use “distracted driving” as something between a cause celebre and a reason to implement a draconian new raft of privacy-destroying regulations. And it doesn’t matter that those statistics show distracted driving to be more of a nuisance than a deadly epidemic. These commenters just know that cellphones are turning the American highway into a bloodbath, and they won’t accept any opinion to the contrary.
In other words, just like the narrator of Miike Snow’s “Cult Logic” — they believe it, even if it is not true.
For the past three years some of my fellow Jews have been telling me that I’m not a very good Jew because I happened to vote for the presidential candidate of a major American political party. Putting aside the possible naivete in my beliefs that we live in a good country filled with mostly decent people, regardless of their political ideologies, and that it’s virtually impossible for a truly monstrous person to get through the years-long vetting process of getting nominated, let alone elected, I’m a bit perplexed. The last time I looked, not one of the 613 commandments (yeah, there are way more than the big ten) that God gave the Jews in the Torah obligates me to vote for a particular person or party.
Even more perplexing is the fact that the Jews telling me that I’m not a good Jew hold mutually contradicting beliefs about Jewish identity and for the most part are nearly complete ignoramuses about Judaism, Jewish culture and Jewish history.
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