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About davidm

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  1. davidm added a topic in Read   

    I wonder if Steven King or his publisher knows that King’s  novel “11-22-63” is online,  in full and for free. I can’t imagine that they would give permission for such a posting, for why would they? Hulu is soon streaming a mini-series based on the novel, and the trailers were captivating. It made me want to read excerpts of the novel, which I’d never read, and I looked for them online. Instead I found the whole damn thing. Perhaps King should travel back in time and prevent his novel from being illicitly posted in the first place. 
    Such time travel is the premise of “11-22-63,” in which a disaffected and recently divorced high school English teacher, Jake Epping, is charged by a friend with the task of traveling back in time to prevent the assassination of John F. Kennedy. The novel is a real page-turner — or page-clicker in this case. Long as it was, I seemed to have clicked through it no time and read it in full. Sorry, Mr. King,  no royalty from me.
    It’s a great yarn, with interlocking subplots and enough twists and turns to make the reader dizzy. Jake’s mission to the past isn’t made any easier when he falls in love with a beautiful librarian after arriving in Texas.
    Can Jake Epping change the past? Can he prevent JFK’s assassination?
    King comes up with what is, so far as a I know, a novel twist on the old time travel theme: the past does not want to be changed, and it fights you every step of the way. 
    Here King is on to something, but he doesn’t take it the necessary step further: It’s not just that the past doesn’t want to be changed — it cannot be changed. It cannot be changed as a matter of logic. Hence Jake’s mission is doomed from the get-go. Nothing in the past can be changed; not even the tiniest detail of it. However, this  inconvenient fact, once recognized and acknowledged, would make for a pretty boring novel, and King is never boring.
    Is travel to the past possible at all? It might be. Nothing in logic forbids such travel, and it may even be physically possible. All that logic forbids is conjointly traveling to the past and also changing it. The very act of traveling to the past does not, as one might suppose, change the past; rather it makes the past be just what it was: a spacetime region with a time traveler from the future in it. The time traveler was always there. His presence did not change anything.
    In King’s novel, the protagonist finds a path to the past. I wonder if King knows that this has scientific warrant? Perhaps he does, but decided that introducing the concept of the Gödelian closed time-like curves would daunt the reader. In any case, I felt his failure to explicate his “rabbit hole” in terms of Gödel’s solutions to general relativity was a missed opportunity, for his “path” idea is just how past-directed time travel work, if possible at all. This is because all of us travel in spacetime jointly, not just space or time singly, and some such paths can indeed lead to past-directed spacetime locations.
    The novel’s flaw, from a philosophical perspective, is that early on King broaches a discussion of the Grandfather’s Paradox but offhandedly dismisses it: “Why would anyone want to do that?” a character asks, referring to the the possibility of someone going back in time and killing his own grandfather. What King fails to notice, though, or (as I think) chooses to ignore for the sake of a good yarn, is that all efforts to alter the past are thoroughly contaminated by the Grandfather’s Paradox, which is just a special case of a general logical principle.
    In the well-known paradox, a man goes back in time to kill his own grandfather before the time traveler’s father is born. If he succeeds, the time traveler will never be born. But if the time traveler is never born, he will never go back in time and kill grandfather. But if grandfather is not killed, the time traveler will be born after all. If he is born, he will go back in time and kill grandfather, and then … the problem is obvious.
    It is thus logically guaranteed that the time traveler will not kill grandfather, no matter how hard he tries.
    But Jake Epping’s going back in time and saving JFK is obviated by the exact same logical structure of the Grandfather’s Paradox. Suppose Jake goes back in time and prevents JFK’s assassination. In that case, in the future, Jake will not go back in time to save Kennedy, because Kennedy was never killed and so Jake has no reason to go back and save him. But if Jake doesn’t go back in time, Kennedy will be killed. If JFK is killed, Jake will go back in time to save him. But if he saves him … etc.  It’s the Grandfather’s Paradox all over again, and it can’t be avoided.
    The larger philosophical point is that time travel to the past is no different from time travel to the future — it’s just more peculiar. Just as we cannot change the past, nor we can change the present or the future. Rather, by our acts, we make the past, present and future be what they were, are, and will be. We never actually change anything.
    When Jake Epping was born (in 1975, in the novel) his future self had already done, what he had done, in 1963. Those things included failing to prevent JFK's assassination, given that when Jake was born, JFK had in fact been killed 12 years earlier. Jake’s mission is logically futile even before he undertakes it. The poor man could have refused his friend’s request on grounds of pure logic and saved himself a lot of time (five years) and trouble (he gets into a lot of it). All he had to do was crack a logic textbook! See how useful philosophy can be, after all?
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  2. davidm added a post in a topic 2016 NFL Super Bowl thread   

    Carolina 36, Denver 17
    With the aid of a service dog, a gimpy and half-blind Peyton Manning manages to throw two TDs, one of which is caught by his dog. But it's not enough to win.
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  3. davidm added a post in a topic Yo! Star Wars!   

    Scotty and I need to write a sci-fi space opera.
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  4. davidm added a post in a topic FAO Nullifidian   

    Ty, Null. *yo*
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  5. davidm added a post in a topic Philosopher of the Day   

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  6. davidm added a post in a topic ETs found?   

    Yes, in the prequel, or they could be very long-lived and still have a civilization even in the era in which Pantheon is set. If so, the question would be, what dramatic conflict could be set up between these characters and the Gods?
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  7. davidm added a topic in Extend   

    ETs found?
    The Most Mysterious Star in Our Galaxy
    Phil Plait discusses.
    Someone out there may be building Dyson sphere right now, and not too far away, either!
    Whoever they are, we'll have to work them into Pantheon, Heretic.
    ETA, I can't get the first link to work properly; i.e, to look the way the Phil Plait link looks. No idea why. It did have the close url tag when I set it up, but on posting the close tag vanished and this is what's left.  But you can click on the raw link and get the Atlantic article. 
    And again, I really, really wish we could have the "Preview Post" function restored. 
    ETA: Fixed it for you.
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  8. davidm added a post in a topic Interrogating Pantheon   

    As co-author and co-plot developer of Pantheon, here is how I see it.
    Importantly, the Pantheon temple is situated on a post-Apocalyptic earth that has been scoured, not just of humans, but of all life. This setting inverts and subverts the reigning paradigm of secularism, in which God (and all Gods) are dead. Instead the Gods abide and humans are dead. The source of this apocalypse is never indicated, but one is free to infer that it is a dramatized indictment of human stupidity and corruption in slowly destroying the planet through global warming, resource depletion, overpopulation, etc. Or maybe humans perished because they abandoned God worship. So instead of people and no Gods as we have today, in the far future we have Gods with no people -- though the rest of the cosmos remains populated with other, alien mortals, who perceive the Gods and their artifacts of worship through the lens of their own particular perceptual, cognitive and emotional structure.
    For me, a theme is: Did mortals invent the Gods, or did Gods invent the mortals? Or do both invent each other? Or are they independent of each other? The fact that there are no longer any humans extant cannot cause the Gods to disappear, for as mentioned, there are other mortals on other worlds, like the Wheeled Ones. And there is one remaining human mortal: the immortal mortal, Cartaphilus, who as it develops is the Wandering Jew, condemned by Christ to wander the earth "until the last  day," but the last day never comes, for in the far future as now, Jesus obdurately refuses to reappear and instigate the End Times: It is like waiting for Godot.
    These Gods are powerful but not all powerful; they are a throwback to the days before the Abrahamic monotheistic God. And though they cannot die, they can manifestly suffer. There are many Pantheons, but the focus of the story, the Pantheon, is a group of Gods dedicated to subverting God worship: they want to confiscate the artifacts of worship that still litter the cosmos where (non-human) mortals still dwell, to destroy God worship. It is, however, somewhat ambiguous why they are on this mission; less ambiguous is why their founder, Cartaphilus, is on this mission: as it develops in the course of the  narrative, he wants not just to destroy God worship, but destroy all the Gods and everything else, including the Cosmos. He is terrified of his own immortality, by which, like the Gods, he lives forever; but unlike them, he lacks any special powers apart from his considerable cunning and intelligence. He has come, monomaniacally, to plot and strive (in secret) to wipe out everything, himself included, if this is possible. Yet it also develops that he is afraid to die.
    In addition to the Gods there are also the Undergods (3 fates) and utterly inscrutable Overgods, exemplified by a mysterious Golem who yells DADA! at one point to break up everything. Then there is the former Pantheon member Jalamdhara, who schemes in secret to re-introduce sentient life to earth and make himself their sole object of worship;  and Chaos, with his eight-pointed Star, who just wants to fuck everything up for the pure hell of it, somewhat like the Joker in Batman. 
    Add to this brew the impetuous and captivating Kaeli, who is trying to recover her memories of her distant Godhood past, and all the other Pantheon Gods with flaws and neurosis and obsessions of their own -- such as Thumos, strong enough to hold up the whole Cosmos, as he does at one point in the text, but not strong enough to overcome his unease over being esteemed primarily for his muscle and not his mind -- and seeds of drama are introduced, to flower into manic cataclysms. The Gods are condemned not just to live, but to live forever: what could be more existentially boring than that? 
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  9. davidm added a post in a topic Site update problesm   

    Hm, just seeing this now, in chat with Ludovicus. Scott? Any idea on this?
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  10. davidm added a post in a topic What Are Your Top Five Favorite Paintings?   

    Here are some long-standing ideas about the relation of Art (in the broad sense, not just pictorial art) and the world at large:
    Art tracks the contemporary world; comments on it, elucidates it, gives it form and meaning.
    Art anticipates the world to come; i.e., the notion of the artist as a seer.
    Art retroactively reconstructs what has already happened, trying to give form and meaning to the past.
    And as I write down these well-worn tropes, I feel keenly how explanatorily futile all of them are. They are little more than cliches. 
    Moreover, on my notion expressed upthread that art is dead, one might argue similarly for religion, philosophy, and even science. If this is even approximately right, what might it say about our world and where it might be headed?
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  11. davidm added a post in a topic Introduce yourself here...   

     IchBinDormin. It's as Heretic   says. But feel free to start some threads and jump start the joint. 
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  12. davidm added a post in a topic What Are Your Top Five Favorite Paintings?   

    I liked your essay, but I would contest parts of it. The fact that the U.S. shifted from a creditor to a debtor nation in 1985 does not, in my view, mean the U.S. stopped being an empire. It really depends on how you define the word "empire." If by "empire" we mean the old colonial model of European powers that physically controlled overseas territory, then certainly all empires collapsed after World War II. If we simply define "empire" as "creditor nation," then, yes, the American empire ended in 1985. But I see no reason to do that. There's nothing wrong with debt per se, provided it can be serviced. It just seems to me that the U.S. borrows to finance its empire. But it's a different kind of empire. I would say that the empire today is the empire of transnational finance -- i.e., globalism. Globalism just is the empire, and the U.S. (along with other nations, certainly) remains at the forefront of this. Greece, for example, is no longer an independent nation, and its democracy is a sick and irrelevant joke. Greece is a colony of the empire of transnational finance, its people locked forever in indentured servitude that is hardly a step ahead of real slavery.
    What has all this to do with art? Good question. When I come up with an answer, I'll let you know. But, seriously, I think there is an answer, or several answers, which touch on the interesting problem: Just what is the relation of art (and here I mean art in the broad sense; not just pictorial art, but literature, music, high art and popular art, etc. etc.) to the "real world"? So I'll try to offer some tentative answers -- opinions, really -- in a later post.
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  13. davidm added a post in a topic What Are Your Top Five Favorite Paintings?   

    Does this mean we are not going to argue and fight?
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  14. davidm added a post in a topic What Are Your Top Five Favorite Paintings?   

    Yes, I will have to finish that, won't I?
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  15. davidm added a post in a topic What Are Your Top Five Favorite Paintings?   

    I like art that is transgressive. Unfortunately, such art may no longer be possible today, since all boundaries have been transgressed! Beyond these transgressed borders lies … nothing. Nothing at all. Like Hamlet's Undiscovered Country, like death itself, it may be that the next country of art is not so much undiscovered as undiscoverable, because, like the afterlife, it fails to exist. 
    An artist like Bouguereau represents the apotheosis of a long line of artistic degeneration: Mighty Rembrandt turns in his grave. Finally, the artist, this Bouguereau,  brings to perfect fruition mindless idealization, empty prettiness, the triumph of surface over substance, of superficiality over depth. But then -- BAM! -- as though wielding Thor's hammer, the Impressionists come along and shatter art into millions of pixels of color, instigating a revolution in color and pictorial conception. A hundred fifty years later, we still have Impressionist painters, but their works are a dime a dozen, and no one cares or should care. Been there, done that. 
    Then Van Gogh comes along and answers the petit bourgeois Bouguereau and his cloying confederates by painting The Potato Eaters. Even his brother hated it! It is ugly. And so Van Gogh introduces ugliness into the art canon, a strand of creation that Picasso will pick up and refine decades later. See his Weeping Woman, for instance. And so much else!
    But Van Gogh then meets the Impressionists and abjures his own creations, contemptuously deeming them "brown-gravy" works, in the same way that in poetry, Van Gogh's contemporary, Rimbaud, abandons his own art and dismisses his work as "dishwater."
    Van Gogh does not abandon art, however, but learning from the Impressionists he transcends them and produces his own magisterial works of color expressiveness that no one had ever seen or even imagined before. After Van Gogh dies, one of his idiot relatives proposes destroying all of the artist's works, so misunderstood were they. Fortunately this doesn't happen. Van Gogh's efforts spawn the Fauves, the Wild Beasts. Then Picasso comes along and (descending from Cézanne) does to form, what the Impressionists and Van Gogh did to color. We get Cubism, and then we get, for the first time in Kandinsky, non-representational art. Art is off to the races. The 20th century represents the great triumph of artistic transgression, the rebuttal to the banalities of Bouguereau and so many other hacks. We get German expressionism, abstract expressionism, minimalism, maximalism, pop art, postmodern art, on and on … and now we are run into the ditch.
    In transgressing no borders, artists like Bouguereau negatively inspired the artists of the future to transgress all borders. However, having transgressed all borders, the artists of the last century and a half have left no borders to transgress! So pictorial art, like literature, is dead; to be sure great works are always turned out, but none of them will have the impact of the works of the past. As Henry Miller remarked about poetry in Time of the Assassins, his famous study of Rimbaud, What is the voice of poetry, above the roar of the atomic bomb? 
    The only future I can see for transgressive art is the merging of Man with Technology; i.e., metaphorically merging Rimbaud with the atom bomb.
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