Welcome To Rapture

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I just bought an Xbox 360 Elite with Bioshock.

Holy crap!

...as my wife would say in a French accent.

Express Train

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Moscow Small.jpg

Click on this er, entirely un-thumb-like thumbnail, and the link goes to the large (and more visible) comic image file hosted on flickr. This was started at 10.30 pm last night, when I realized I just HAD TO DRAW SOMETHING for my sanity's sake, because otherwise I'd just worry about work.
So...hello, No. 2 / HB pencil, my old chum. You're going to be supplanting the technical pencils for a while.

Lines and Lines and Lines

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On the train home after work the other evening I wanted to calm my brain down.
Usually, over the riot of sound that is a trip on the subway, I listen to my iPod library on shuffle and read. I'm reading a very visceral, very intense book by Colin Thubron, a writer who rockets up my vague favourite writers chart whenever I read him, and that, combined with a random trip through 5,500 songs ranging from Bach to The Ramones, all after a relentless day's work, seemed too much. So I skimmed through and pulled up a Chillout compilation I think I bought before an all-nighter working on a project at university, pushed the volume up to the top, and closed my eyes.

The third or fourth song that came on (my brain had gotten its breath back by this point) was a track that always makes me think of a steam train starting a journey, surrounded by a bustle of people and traders and animals in a frontier station in something like 18th Century India or South America. It's a pretty blatent association; it alternates between rhythmic strings and flute and a sadly annoying choral arrangement that seems grafted onto the rest of the song like an ear on the back of a mouse.

Anyway. In the mangled 1950s Boy's Own corner of my mind it has the same affect on my sense (...my desire, more accurately) of adventure as photos like this and this and this and even, in a pleasingly mind-expanding way, this.

What is it about travel, and the starting of a journey, that is so exciting? I think there aren't really frontiers any more, no human ones anyway. Any new place you go, along with its wonders and its novelty it will have its modern problems and pollution, poverty, corruption, injustice and inequality of income. You aren't blazing a trail.

We as a global population are no longer trailblazers. We cannot be. And that is because we are a global population now. There is no line between the known lands and the unknown lands - if there is, it is only a personal one. On the other side of your line are people living their lives - maybe differently, but as much a part of this world as you are. If you jaunt off and change the world, you cross no boundaries in doing so; the human world is now as round as the physical one. And so the escapist element of trailblazing - the rejection of all that is familiar and known in the hope of discovery, is really gone.

I'm sitting here wondering what the hell I'm really driving at; any definition of trailblazing has to incorporate a repulsively ignorant colonial attitude; in this mindset of mine I'm laying out, Columbus and Da Gama weren't trailblazers either.

I think because the 'starting a journey' thing is an analogy rather than the be-all and end-all. It's not about travel. It's about life and society, I think. About technology and all of the ways life on earth has changed since human civilization began. That is the trail I'm talking about.The ways in which humanity has changed its own lives.

Supported by medicine, engineering, electronics, sanitation, science, education, politics, music, theater, literature, agriculture, welfare and human rights, there are a lot of people on this planet who have life very good indeed.

And what if the methods we used to create them are ridiculed and denied?
They are at risk, is what.

I've linked to a long article halfway through a long post, so here are just two quotes from the excellent Esquire article:

On the "Intelligent Design" movement:

On August 21, a newspaper account of the "intelligent design" movement contained this remarkable sentence: "They have mounted a politically savvy challenge to evolution as the bedrock of modern biology, propelling a fringe academic movement onto the front pages and putting Darwin's defenders firmly on the defensive."

A "politically savvy challenge to evolution" is as self-evidently ridiculous as an agriculturally savvy challenge to euclidean geometry would be. It makes as much sense as conducting a Gallup poll on gravity or running someone for president on the Alchemy Party ticket. It doesn't matter what percentage of people believe they ought to be able to flap their arms and fly, none of them can. It doesn't matter how many votes your candidate got, he's not going to turn lead into gold. The sentence is so arrantly foolish that the only real news in it is where it appeared.

On the front page.

Of The New York Times.

...and:

Fights over evolution--and its faddish new camouflage, intelligent design, a pseudoscience that posits without proof or method that science is inadequate to explain existence and that supernatural causes must be considered--roil up school districts across the country. The president of the United States announces that he believes ID ought to be taught in the public schools on an equal footing with the theory of evolution. And in Dover, Pennsylvania, during one of these many controversies, a pastor named Ray Mummert delivers the line that both ends our tour (of the "Creation Museum") and, in every real sense, sums it up:

"We've been attacked," he says, "by the intelligent, educated segment of the culture."

Maybe we wont forget how to remove an appendix or build a bridge, but we won't cure cancer or AIDS, we won't get to the bottom of and solve global warming, we won't eradicate poverty, we won't spread the benefits of centuries of inquisitiveness, experimentation and rigorous challenging of evidence. And the greatest benefit, in my opinion, isn't the huge, earth-spanning product of science; it is science and the scientific method itself and everything it could yet do, and that is precisely what we are in danger of losing.

So while electronics and computers develop explosively, medicine rolls forwards, engineering gets more daring, literature grows and cities boom, society and its attitude towards itself changes.

I used to write a lot of airy-fairy hypothetical posts about changing the world with no real practical application. I wouldn't have persevered with this post if I didn't think I'd be able to say something useful at the end of this one.

So we aren't trailblazers, but maybe we can be later, or our children can be. We have to be the consolidators, defending and shoring up what we have now. So the way in which you can do that is simple.

Defend the things and people that brought us the modern world.

If you're talking to someone at a bar or a party and they drift into ID or the ridiculing of science - not just ID (it's had enough airtime as it is), but if they stereotype scientists as out-of-touch nerds, if they opine the space program is a waste of money, if they express doubts about stem cell research...call them on it. Stand up to the defense.

And not just science, either. If they are bigoted or racist or ignorant, don't stand meekly by and let them have their views and let them air them over yours. Argue. Defend yourself. Present what you see as the truth.
We are in danger of losing ground here.

And Be Quick About It.

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Right. I'm busy. Whip-me-up-a-Pyramid-by-next-Friday busy.
But I am enjoying a particular musical artiste a lot at the moment, and for once I can share the music with you without fear of ritual live squirrel ingestion at the hands of the RIAA, because it's in the public domain.

Django Reinhardt's 'Minor Swing' with Stephane Grapelli on violin. (link will take you away, or you could right-click and download it)

Stick with it - I know it sounds a bit empty and sinister to start, but man does it get going. The violin rashering backwards and forwards over the guitar towards the end pulls every minor key blues-trick in the book, and a few that I'm sure musical scientists are still puzzling over.
Have a read of the Wikipedia entry for Django, and I'm sure you will, like me, be listening to this fabulous guitarist thinking..."HOW many fingers?"

A large volume of Mr. Reinhardt's work came my way recently courtesy of Buzz. Thank you sir!

Bom-Bom Bom-Bom Bom-Bom

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Click on this and it will expand to incredible size and you might have to scroll. But it looks better that way.

Also if anyone could let me know how to get paper to appear, well, white...on scanned images, that'd be lovely. I am now fully tricked out with Photoshop, so I'm sure it's possible...I just don't know how.

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