My wife and I went to reunion with all our children and grandchildren at a rented house in Corolla on the Outer Banks of North Carolina for a week, and then we we two went alone to New York city for a week. So I’ll be posting some photos of all that.
[Tail of a Lego-built dragon in New York Lego store.]
Before I get going on the trip pix, I want to mention that on the plane, on our way home, I watched the movie Chappie, which I didn’t manage to see when it came out earlier this year. For some reason the reviews were fairly lukewarm, but I thought it was great.
Chappie is a real cyberpunk robot—he’s got graffiti on his body, he wears chains, he bops when he walks, he curses, he robs an armored car, he beats a militaristic paramilitary guy to death, and he saves the life of his maker. How? He saves his maker’s life by uploading the man’s consciousness into a robot body.
Just like my robot character Ralph Numbers did for his maker Cobb Anderson in my 1980 novel Software.
I know I’ve said this before, but the uploading-human-mind-to-robot-body is something that I frikkin’ invented—in Software, and I elaborated it in all four of my Ware novels, which you can still buy in paperback or ebook (and you can also read it for free in a CC edition.)
I don’t know why I never seem to get much credit for inventing this move, which has been in, like, two hundred movies by now. It’s not like it was an obvious idea when I wrote about it, anymore than a time machine was an obvious idea when H.G.Wells wrote The Time Machine. It took me nearly a year to really figure out the idea, simple as it now seems. I was studying the philosophy of computation at the University of Heidelberg, reading and pondering the essays of Alan Turing and Kurt Gödel. It’s some serious shit. But I chose to present it in cyberpunk format. So no po-faced serious analytic type high literary mandarins are ever gonna take my work seriously. At least not till I die. Or maybe not even then—posthumous recognition is a classic writer’s pipedream, and WTF diff would it make anyway. Rant, rant, rant, rave, rave, rave. Am I eighty years old yet? Move over, Harlan.
The Outer Banks is a long thin island, or group of islands, running long the coast of North Carolina. Back around 1975, Sylvia and I used to drive down there from Geneseo, NY, where I had my first teaching job. Us and the three kids. The Outer Banks were sparsely built then, and we stayed a couple of times in 1940s vintage motel, plywood shacks with linoleum floor, right on the all-but-empty beach, the Lamplighter Inn. Paradise. Those wheat-like plants atop the sunset dune in this photo are called sea oats.
Dig this treasure hunter, just a guy on the beach, not somebody I know. Our son Rudy was very keen to get one of these devices when he was about ten. Mostly he found cans.
Kites are still big here. Lovely to see them at sunset, and sometimes with a crescent moon.
Anyway, the OBX (as they now term the Outer Banks) are fully built-up now, the coast lined with developments of McMansion style beach cottages. We were there as a party of 14, and we got a three story house with a pool and an elevator and a movie room, and the rent was about fifty times as high as that of the long-gone Lamplighter.
But it was great to be with the children and grandchildren, and the ocean was very swimmable—not too cold, and the waves not too big—and there were some good shells.
As the jesting fates would have it, there was a huge OBX shark scare in progress when we arrived. Initially we were nervous, but when I didn’t get bitten in the first ten minutes, I pretty much stopped worrying. The human mind’s risk assessment. Anyway the closest shark attacks had been about a hundred miles away, down in Ocracoke. We were all the way up north in Corolla.
The crabs didn’t eat us…we ate the crabs. A bushel of crabs. What a concept. What if someone snuck in while you were sleeping, and poured this many live crabs onto you in bed? There’s a Grimm Brothers fairy tale along these lines, about a boy who couldn’t feel fear, and he learns when someone dumps a bunch of fish on him in bed like that.
One of the fun attractions on the way down was the home of the monster truck known as Grave Digger. Lots of earlier versions of Grave Digger on display here in Grave Digger Garage. In yo’ face, mofo! My grandchildren are endlessly fascinated by YouTube videos of Grave Digger in action, accompanied by the Grave Digger theme song, George Thorogood and the Destroyers playing “Bad to the Bone.”
Plus the original ur-Grave-Digger prototype vehicle, an awesome sight, like seeing the first fish with legs. Or like seeing the Wright Brothers’ original plane. One reason I’m so interested in these vehicles is that my characters in my novel-in-progress Million Mile Road Trip are driving a station wagon that’s been tweaked into something like a monster truck.
At the beach we saw a lot of awesome clouds. Imagine if there were only a few places on Earth where you can see clouds. How you’d value them. And yet we tend to ignore them, take them for granted, or even gripe about them.
We saw a thunderstorm or two as well. I loved this bright white puff beneath a vast dark anvil. So invigorating to see rain, if you’re a Californian.
Speaking of rain, I cranked my awesome Fujifilm X100T digital camera down to 1/2000 sec exposure time, turned on the flash, and got some shots of raindrops in a storm outside our 10th floor room in Manhattan the next week. That’s not rain on the window pane, you understand, that’s raindrops falling in midair, frozen (more or less) in flight by the magic of postmodern photography.
Here’s another shot of the raindrops, I took this picture about ten times in a row, trying to get it right. Surprise: raindrops do not look like cartoon teardrops. They’re wobbly globs, although, yes, it seems the larger ones are indeed fatter on one side.
After I finished shooting the raindrops in New York, I took a shot of the building facing us across 41st Street, and later, when I examined the photo, I had this Antonioni Blow-Up type discovery that a man in an office across the street was staring at me, probably wondering what I was doing taking flash pictures out my window.
My camera has a fixed wide-angle lens, and really high resolution, and I was able to zoom in on previously unnoticed details in a lot of my Ney York shots. Like here I’m in the lobby of the Chrysler Building, taking a picture of a weird pseudo-digital Deco clock labeled “TIME” in case you don’t know what a digital clock is (and who did, back in the 1930s). And a guard is looking out at me from a door in the wall, smiling, like the friendly bird inside the cuckoo clock, and I didn’t even know he was there.
Another cropped-down zoom photo from NY: a chic woman among the marching ants in a crosswalk at 41st and Madison, which is where our hotel was.
Such awesome people-watching in the big city. We saw this woman at the new Whitney Museum, down on the old meat-packing district. Awesome building, same old collection, but with more of it on display than before.
I’ve never been sure if I liked Willem de Kooning, but I saw a kind of landscape by him called Door to the River, and it really knocked me out. There’s something about it, maybe hard to see in a reproduction or a tiny computer screen image, it’s like the painting captures the glancing quality of light, the way that when you look at something you see patches of brightness and glare even before you overlay your notion of what it “is.” And the title “Door to the River” is kind of uplifting, I mean that’s what we’re always looking for, right, a magic DOOR to the river of LIFE. And, while we’re at it, a frikkin plot for our novels.
As chance would have it, right while I was standing there admiring this painting, my very favorite of that day’s visit to the Whitney, a woman my age walks over to me and says, “Looking at this painting, I’ve finally decided for once and for all that de Kooning was a fake.” I tried to disabuse her of her errorneous opinion, with little effect. Oh well!
Yet another street-photograph of a New Yorker. Note the big fan. It was about 95, incredibly humid, with the sun like a sledgehammer. You had to walk on the shady side of the street.
The beach on OBX was really hot, too, but there you had the option of jumping into the water. And then a half hour in the waves I’d even be cold.
That’s it for today. Naptime. I’ll post more photos of New York later this week.