Kevin J Moriarity
Still the Voice of Doom and Gloom
Wednesday, March 15, 2023
Book Review: Exhalation by Ted Chiang
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is a book of ideas. The stories are philosophical essays tucked into sci-fi wrappers. Most of science fiction is idea-based, but these stories are more so than most. Two stories struck a chord with me, and a third deserves a special mention.
The Great Silence
This story moved me the most. It’s written from the point of view of one of the few remaining parrots in Puerto Rico’s rain forest. According to Wikipedia, as of 2021 it was estimated that only 500 existed after hurricane Maria. I learned about a gray parrot, Alex, who was quite smart and Irene Pepperberg, who trained and studied Alex. The narrator parrot says this:
“Human activity has brought my kind to the brink of extinction, but I don’t blame them for it. They didn’t do it maliciously. They just weren’t paying attention.” (Italics mine.) First, do you think humans would be so forgiving? And second, we do not pay enough attention to a lot of things.
What’s Expected of Us
This story explores the question: What if there were a device that could definitively prove that free will did not exist? What would happen to society? From the story: “Civilization now depends on self-deception. Perhaps it always has.” So true, from our conception of America versus it’s true history to our economic system, self-deception has proved invaluable.
A friend of mine loaned me this book (Al – I will return it next time we have dinner). He told me, before I read any of the stories, that the story Exhalation affected him deeply. I didn’t have that same reaction. This is one of the advantages of a book about ideas though. Next time we meet he’ll explain to me what affected him and I might have an “ah ha” moment. Or, he might.
It does have some interesting concepts such as the idea that obtaining sustenance is better in the company of others. It also explores the concept of entropy, though I think based on my limited knowledge of entropy that the story has the ramifications backwards. The last paragraph does have a line that we should all consider: “Contemplate the marvel that is existence, and rejoice that you are able to do so.”
I really liked the story notes at the end. I always enjoy reading what influenced an author in the creation process. In the notes for Exhalation, he notes a book that got him thinking about entropy and now I have another book on my list to read!
View all my reviews
Monday, February 20, 2023
Saturday, February 18, 2023
Sunday, January 29, 2023
Morton Arboretum Pictures: January 28, 2023
Sunday, January 22, 2023
Sunday, January 1, 2023
Ideas For 2023
Less digital. More analog.
More doing. Less reading.
More vegetables. Less vegging.
More walking and biking. Less driving.
More home-prepared meals. Less fast food.
More rewriting. Less posting sloppy first drafts.
More purging unused belongings. Less purchasing crap.
More local. Less national.
Saturday, December 31, 2022
Odds & Ends: December 31, 2022
Tuesday, December 20, 2022
Change in Perspective
I went from this on Friday
Saturday, November 26, 2022
Odds & Ends: November 26, 2022
Friday, November 25, 2022
Lynne Handy's Facebook Cover Poetic Snippets
Starting in 2018, Lynne Handy asked me to change her Facebook cover image once a month. She wanted to put a different poem, or portion of a poem, on the cover each month. I got the impression she spent a fair amount of time putting this together each year. On November 8, 2022 I received her poems for 2023 (She included one by our poet laureate of the Fox Valley, Frank Rutledge!). Unfortunately, she passed away on November 20, 2022.
I don't feel right logging on to her Facebook page and changing the covers anymore. It just seems wrong, but at the same time, I want to acknowledge her work, the effort she put into choosing which poems to display. Accordingly, I'm going to post the remaining poems here, all at once.
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.”
T.S. Eliot, “Journey of the Magi”
That winter I had nothing to do
but tend the kettle in my shuttered room
on the top floor of a pensione near a cemetery…
“January in Paris,” Aimless Love, Billy Collins (1941- )
And the moral of my code
beauty is twice
and what is good is doubly
when it’s a matter of two
“Ode to My Socks,” Full Woman, Fleshly Apple, Hot Moon, Pablo Neruda (1904-1973)
Touch our bodies, wind.
Our bodies are separate, individual things.
Touch our bodies, wind,
But blow quickly through the red, white, yellow skins
Of our bodies
To the terrible snarl,
Not mine, not yours, not hers,
But all one snarl of souls.
“Wind,” Selected Poems of Langston Hughes, Langston Hughes (1901-1967)
I remember this woman who sat for years
In a wheelchair, looking straight ahead
Out the window at sycamore trees unleafing
And leafing at the far end of the lane.
“Field of Vision,” New Selected Poems 1988-2013, Seamus Heaney (1939-2013)
Now has come the joyous month of May,
So gay, with such sweet delights,
As these orchards, hedges, and these woods,
All decked with leaves and blossoms,
And all things rejoice.
“The Joyous Month of May,” The Writings of Christine de Pizan, Christine de Pizan (1364-c 1430)
The sun should be a couple of million miles
Closer today. It wouldn’t hurt anything
And anyway, this cold rainy June is hard
On me and the nesting birds…
“Solstice Litany,” Dead Man’s Float, Jim Harrison (1937-2016)
But when the thistle blooms and on the tree
The loud cicada sits and pours his song
Shrill and continuous, beneath his wings,
Exhausting summertime has come…
“Works and Days,” Hesiod and Theognis, Hesiod (ca 750 BCE – Unknown)
I am a honey locust tree
with summer green intentions,
to be a Mourning Dove
“Two Places at Once,” Clothed in August Skin, Frank Rutledge (1962-2019)
Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run…
“To Autumn,” The Odes of John Keats, John Keats (1795-1821)
…Autumn and winter are in the dreams…the farmer goes
with his thrift,
The droves and crops increase...the barns are well-filled.
When icicles hang by the wall,
And Dick the shepherd blows his nail,
And Tom bears logs into the hall,
And milk comes frozen home in pail…
The stars, the heavens, and the elements
contested, using all their arts and care,
to make that living light where Nature and
the sun are mirrored, nothing matches it.
“Sonnet 154,” The Poetry of Petrarch, Francesco Petrarca (1304-1374)
Sunday, November 20, 2022
Story Written, Edited and Posted for Contest
We submitted our story. We wrote a few, picked two that seemed worthy of editing and selected what we thought was the strongest and posted it in time. We won’t find out until January if we make it to the next round. There were 5,439 writers registered. The organizers set up 125 groups of 44 (though one group must contain 43 since it’s an odd number of writers) and they will select the top 10 out of each group to participate in the next round. If we’re lucky we get to do it all over again in January. There is a third round, in March. I can’t post the story we submitted until the contest is over.
I was involved with fewerthan500.com for a while. It seemed to me that writing a story that would make an impact in 500 words was really difficult. Now that I’ve tried to do the same thing in 250 words, 500 words feels like writing a novel! I think it’s good to try to write short; I’ve always thought most writers write too long. I’m glad I participated, whatever we find out in January.
Thank you for your kind words and support. I appreciate it.
Friday, November 18, 2022
Ready For Battle
Sunday, November 13, 2022
Odds & Ends: November 13, 2022
It is a cloudy, cold day here in Batavia. The Depot Pond is looking pretty bleak. It’s November and it is supposed to look like this.
I am so torn about social media. I permanently deleted my Twitter account a few weeks ago. I don’t miss it at all. I never did get much out of it. Now it looks like Musk is going to drive it into the ground faster than most thought.
I am still on Facebook and I’m torn. I like seeing what friends post. I like the groups I am part of. Occasionally some random post will show up that is politically ugly, but that should slow down dramatically now that the midterm elections are over.
But I cannot shake the feeling that social media is bad for both me individually and for society in general. It can be a huge time-waster. I catch myself scrolling for far too long, usually as I procrastinate about something.
I know I’m the product, not the consumer. Facebook has programmed the platform to hold our attention for as long as possible. They do this to give the ads as much exposure as possible. I watched 60 Minutes last week (11/6/2022) and one of the segments was an interview with Tristan Harris (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tristan_Harris) . He’s a former Google employee. He told 60 Minutes that Facebook (all social media) intentionally promotes angry, mean and divisive posts because they tend to go viral much faster and garner more likes and shares than nice posts. Our anger means more money for Facebook.
Do I want to be part of that? Does my use of Facebook mean that I’m part of the problem? Am I at least condoning it by remaining on that platform?
I know that when I leave it’s not going to matter. No individual is going to make Facebook change its ways. But if enough of us leave, maybe they will take notice.
Isn’t Blogger also social media? It is not. There are a couple of reasons. First, there is no advertising. I could add advertising to my blog, but why do that? Even if my writing were compelling enough to attract lots of views, I don’t want to use my readers the same way Facebook and Twitter do. Secondly, and perhaps more important, there is no black-box algorithm putting my drivel in front of you. You have to go to my site on purpose. There are no psychology PHDs working on my behalf to get you to read these posts. There is no manipulation going on here. Either I write something that entertains or informs to get readers or no one shows up here to read.
I’ve deactivated my account many times over the past few years, but the next time I’m deleting my account – not to return. If you want to stay in touch, I’ll be posting stuff here occasionally or you can contact me at kevinm56 at gmail dot com.