Friday, March 28, 2014

An Unfilmed Classic

Dune is one of the best books I've ever read. I haven't read any of the sequels, but the original is a fascinating story with immense personal and political insights. Like most books I really enjoy, I've steered clear of any video adaptations - I saw and was sorely disappointed in David Lynch's 1984 take (the only one of his movies I didn't like). But it's fascinating to see the plans and storyboards for Alejandro Jodorowsky's aborted 1975 film. I mean, just look at this design team:
A then-obscure H.R. Giger designed the creepier Harkonnen settings. Dan O’Bannon, known at the time for his work with John Carpenter on the sci-fi film Dark Star, was brought on as the special effects wiz. ... British artist Chris Foss designed the space craft. And Jean Giraud, aka French comic book artist Moebius, brought Jodorowsky’s dreams to life in some 3,000 storyboard drawings that perfectly capture a character or scene with a few quick pencil marks on the page.
Really worth the click through. I agree with the author as he notes "I wonder how all of Jodo’s wild images would have been captured by circa 1975 technology. Probably poorly. In a way, I’m glad the film was never made." I've always thought noble failures are more interesting than masterpieces. This film may be another for the list.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Gonna Have to Face It...

The Dish recently posted some thoughts on being addicted to running. I think that anyone that runs even moderately seriously has either felt this way or can easily see it happening. James McWilliams tells us that
An estimated three percent of the general population suffers from exercise dependency. The more endurance-oriented the sport—ultra-marathoning, Iron Man competitions—the better the chances there are for some sort of addiction to set in. Exercise addiction overlaps with other disorders—most notably eating disorders, but also drug and alcohol abuse—about 25 percent of the time. ...
He details the varying stages of the addition and concludes:
It’s hard to see how—given the tendency of the high to diminish for the exercise freak—the temptation to add one more mile could be resisted, especially when acute negative consequences do not result. It’s hard to imagine ever effectively treating this “disorder.”
While I find this interesting, I have a hard time seeing running or endurance exercise as an addition on par with a chemical addition. Despite what he says, its seems to me that there's a world of difference between not wanting to stop something and being unable to stop something (e.g., as in the case of a meth addict). Glibly, I note that our bodies also have a built-in way of treating this type of disorder: it's called injury. I know more that one person who has over-trained or over-raced themselves into an injury that could have been easily avoided if only they had rested now and again.

Regardless, I think any person who doesn't recognize that any endurance athlete gets off of endorphins is fooling themselves. I've always looked at it as similar to people that get hooked on spicy food. McWilliams describes it this way:
My own experience of needing increasingly more miles to feed the seductive opiate rush of a workout speaks to the insidious impact of this possible chemical rationing. The body and mind recall all too vividly what it’s like to exist (blissfully, mind you) in post-exercise equilibrium and will do what it must do to rediscover that balance. 
Andrew astutely brings in Stanton Peele, who points out that
“People can become addicted to anything, whether drugs, alcohol, food, shopping, gambling, love, or sex, if it is the focus of an encapsulating experience that alleviates bad feelings and buttresses their self-esteem”
Which seems to me to get more to the point. I feel that "addictions" of these kinds aren't so much a change  in body chemistry leading to loss of decision-making ability as they are a positive feedback loop gone awry. The trick to to realize that and put it in perspective. Easier said than done, but to my mind a better way of treating the condition than like you would a normal addiction.

Interestingly enough, McWilliams concludes his article by flipping the whole premise on its head:
Contemplating the mysterious nature of this pleasure, something occurred to me that led to rethinking the whole idea of exercise addiction: Those we classify as exercise addicts might be a rare sort who are honoring what their bodies are designed to do and, historically, have done.
What if the real addicts are those who seek to be sedentary—which could be just as unnatural as seeking to be drunk or high—while the crazed athletes are the ones who are seeking the deeper wisdom and capacity of the human body?
Now that's a theory I can get behind!

Cross Posted on Reading, Running and Red Sox

Monday, March 17, 2014

Our Acknowledgement

"You and me are molded by things
Well beyond our acknowledgment"

- Stereolab, from anonymous collective off of their great 1996 LP Emperor Tomato Ketchup

Thursday, March 13, 2014

The Mysterious

"The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed."

- Albert Einstein

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Random Tab Dump

Have always liked Giovanni Piranesi's (1720–1778) architectural drawings (see some here). Thought of it because the Dish quoted Frances Stonor Saunders, who "suggests that urban wrecks offer a shortcut to self-transcendence, “a steroidal sublime that enables us to enlarge the past since we cannot enlarge the present.”"

400 year old "cubist" art from Giovanni Battista Bracelli. Insane drawings for the time. I'm amazed he wasn't burned at the stake!

The rebooted Cosmos debuted last Sunday. I'm always up for a good space documentary, and this didn't disappoint. Neil deGrasse Tyson - the scientist with the Barry White voice - was excellent as always, and the sfx were impressive. Nice to see a show that's honest about our space in the universe in prime time competing with modern distractions (reality TV!). Just about the only thing I didn't really get was the "Spaceship of the Imagination" but I can deal with it. Looking forward to next week. Until then, here's an interview with Tyson about the series.

Developments in nanotechnology are making the idea of space elevators less far fetched everyday.

What is string theory? Take it away Brian Greene: "It's an attempt to unify all matter and all forces into one mathematical tapestry."

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

First Line of Stephen King's "11/22/63"

"I have never been what you'd call a crying man."

- Stephen King, the first lines of 11/22/63.

I'm back at the SK well again, and 300 pages into this 880 page behemoth there's no signs of the exhaustion that beset Doctor Sleep after an excellent start. It's very entertaining so far, and has already unexpectedly crossed paths with the history of one of his earlier - and best - books. More as I get farther along but 11/22/63 is an excellent read so far.