Archive for July, 2005

San Jose Grand Prix, Laptop Dead

One last post before I hit the road. We went to the San Jose Grand Prix yesterday. All these futuristic race cars zooming around our normally deserted downtown streets. It was cool.

The cars were fast. Don’t blink or you miss it.

This character made himself a unicycle out of, he claimed, a Maserati tire! He said he could take off fast enough to get smoke from the tire.

A member of the Pig Chef cartel was there.

Vote Republican and this could be you!

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I finished the first draft of Mathematicians in Love and mailed it to my editor. And the next day my laptop died. And I don’t feel like rushing out and buying one with so little time before I leave. I feel weird to be traveling without my laptop, though, I use it as a mental health tool, the journaling. I write my journals and revise them. By revising what I say I thought, I revise what I think, and make myself saner. Well, I’ll have to go back to the written notebook. What a concept. Kind of exciting and frightening to imagine not having a computer with me, it’s been years, like five or ten maybe since I was without one for more than a day. Maybe I can write a science fiction story about that. “Unplugged.”

Break, Godel, Jimbo Aliens, My Course, Books Online

I’m going to be on the road for a few weeks, so won’t be blogging again till end of August, at which time I’ll have a buttload of new images and journal notes to post. Like when I went to Micronesia, not that this outing is likely to be so spectacular.

If you’re new to the blog and need summer reading, you can always enter Micronesia into the blog search bar to find the listings, starting with the Micronesia 1 to Micronesia 20.

Awkward thing about blogs: if you want to read a series of entries in correct time-order, you have to keep using the “Back” link at the page bottoms instead of “Next” and you have to read the page entries from the bottom entry up. Or you can just read backwards. Maybe blogs are helping us develop a looser sense of time.

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I found a nice picture of Albert Einstein with young logic king Kurt Godel on John Brockman’s Edge ezine.

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This week I’ve been working on Mathematicians in Love. As I mentioned earlier, I’m basing some aliens on mosaics I saw in a subway station in NYC.

Here’s two excerpts about these aliens, whom Bela encounters upon his second trip to La Hampa.

***

As I emerged, something bright and fast flew low over my head — a butterfly, a hummingbird? No, it was bigger than that, a meter long. It circled back towards me, a cartoony humanoid form with two bell-bottom legs, a lumpy ovoid bottom, a tapering torso chest with tear-drop arms, and a translucent bulb-head with a pair of antennae. Another alien.

The figure hovered above me, glowing in rich neon colors: seaweed-green legs, carroty-red bottom and arms, cobalt torso, robins-egg-blue head-bulb, and lilac antennae. I saw the alien as a female, like the cone shells. The more I looked at her, the brighter she shone. There was a smell of ozone, as near an electrical generator. I hoped she wasn’t about to sting me.

“So say something,” I said, treading water in the warm, clear sea. “I’m a human named Bela. What are you?”

The alien tweeted a word so fast that I couldn’t make it out.

“Come again?” I said.

“Jimbo,” chirped the little figure. “Jimbo, Jimbo, Jimbo.” She pooted four short-lived cannonballs of light from the funnel-bottoms of her legs, each with an image inside. It was a crystal-ball comic-strip explaining the origin of the Jimbos. Glowing magnetic tornados lifted free from a speckled Sun to float across space. The space-eddies touched down on a nearby planet’s atmosphere — hey, that was Earth. The magnetohydrodynamic swirls came alive with neon colors and took on playful forms: Jimbos. The Jimbos tagged after people like pet balloons, one per person. But I didn’t see the point.

“Jimbo, Jimbo, Jimbo!” said the alien again.

“Fine,” I said. “You can be my Jimbo, if you like.”

Vibrating with enthusiasm, the Jimbo flew right through my head; I grunted in fear, but all I felt was a brief tingle. Perhaps she’d harvested some thought patterns? Fine. I stopped worrying about the Jimbo for now.

***

Sensing my discomfort, the blonde woman kindly interrupted. “I’m Duxie,” she said, holding out her hand. She was so beautiful that it was hard for me to look directly at her. “Pips, other-Bela,” she continued. “I’m from a future Earth, your timeline, year 2204. Three friends and I hypertunneled to La Hampa using our Jimbos. The Jimbos have replaced what you called a Gobubble?” She extended a graceful hand and her Jimbo perched upon it, a two-legged figure with a pleated skirt, a taffy-twisted torso and a ball-head with a short, cylindrical nose.

“They’re symbiotes,” put in Paul. “The real deal. The Jimbos feed on our thought patterns, and in return they act as computers and cell phones. They like to gossip.”

Duxie’s Jimbo gave Paul’s a little kiss — for all the world as if the Jimbos were autonomous thought-balloons.

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One last thing. Keep in mind that this fall I’ll be teaching a philosophy course late Thursday afternoons at SJSU this fall — based on my new book. If you’re interested in the course, you might want to make some plans now. The more the merrier. I do have hopes of putting some of the lectures online as video as well, though I'm not sure yet if that'll work out.

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Oh, one last thing, thanks, dear readers, for all the useful comments about reading books online. We accumulated quite a thread.

Forgot Camera. Ending a Novel.

Oops, I forgot my camera at Terry Bisson's house the other day, Terry being a fellow SF writer. He says he'll send it back.

So I'll be relying on recycled images the next few days. This week I'm hoping to get near the end of my novel. Reaching the end is always bittersweet — I get used to my invented world and hate to leave it; also there's always a feeling that I could have done more with the world than I did. The actuality of a work of art tends not quite to live up to the golden vision of it that one starts with. Oh well, it's another pumpkin on the vine.

I'm referring there to a phrase in Italo Calvino's marvellous If On A Winter's Night A Traveller, where he speaks of “someone who makes books the way a pumpkin vine makes pumpkins…” He also has a character saying, “The novel I would most like to read at this moment…should have as its driving force only the desire to narrate, to pile stories upon stories, without trying to impose a philosophy of life on you, simply allowing you to observe its own growth, like a tree, an entangling, as of branches and leaves…” The desire to narrate, yes. Growing novels like pumpkins, yes. So far, so good. Thank you, Muse.

Imagining an Oppressive Regime's Downfall

I’m writing the last chapter of Mathematicians In Love now; I just wrote a scene were the government starts to fall. Today’s illos are Golden Oldies.

[Picture from the Fall, 2004, Barney's catalog.]

The TV news was wonderful. All the networks were airing special reports on a nation in crisis. At long last the news media had turned on their puppet-masters. Evidently they’d been peering into some Gobubbles to see the real future that the Heritagists had in store.

Over and over the TV showed the video of our President’s helicopter rescuing the terrorist Osama from our troops. Violent street demonstrations against the Heritagists were in progress all across the nation. The White House was under siege, surrounded by a crowd of demonstrators estimated at a hundred thousand, and growing by the minute. Police cars were being overturned and set on fire. The President had scheduled a special address — and here he came.

[Lego sculpture in the Frankfurt airport.]

It was a classic performance. Doakes was like a wounded shark snapping at his own dangling guts. The Gobubbles were Satanist; the Common Grounders were traitors; Van Veeter was a criminal; the demonstrators were terrorists; war was peace; freedom was slavery; ignorance was strength, and more than ever we needed a hundred-percent Heritagist victory in November. Incredibly, the news station we were watching had the nerve to post a hip, mocking caption across the bottom of the screen while Doakes was still ranting.

100% A-Hole?

Paul and I stood up and cheered, with Mabel smiling at us, not quite sure what was going on. And that’s when we heard the knock on the door.

[My oil painting of La Hampa, as imagined before I went there.]


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