- 6 October 1999
- The Arts Industry
- I was talking to a scientist at a party, and before long she asked the inevitable question: "So, what do you do?"
"I'm an artist."
"Do you work in the arts industry, then?" she inquired.
"Absolutely not!" I replied.
"So you don't really work as an artist, then?" she asked.
"I think we need an analogy here," I said. "It's statistically probable that you enjoy sex. I'd guess that it's even more probable that you find the idea of working in the sex industry repugnant. Someone who loves art has about the same relationship with the arts industry as someone who loves sex has with the sex industry."
"As a corollary, would it be fair to add that that's the same arrangement someone who loves science has with the science industry?" she queried.
"I really don't know enough about science to answer that question," I lied.
I never saw her again after that.
- 7 October 1999
- An Academic Exercise
- A friend asked me to talk to a class of her art students about to graduate from university. She wanted me to give them some pointers on how to survive and prosper in the "real" world. I was reluctant to accept her invitation until she added that the university would pay me a hundred dollars an hour for my time.
I'm a slut; I'll talk to almost anyone about almost anything for one hundred dollars an hour.
I told the students what fields and approaches to avoid. I gave examples of monetary strategies that appeared enticing, but really weren't worth bothering with because of all the cutthroat competition. I also told them what areas to pursue in spite of popular opinion that the options I recommended were unfruitful at best.
It was a strange experience giving advice to a couple dozen hatchlings. They all appeared both frightened and fascinated by world beyond academe. They listened to every word I said, trying to catch any secrets I revealed.
They need not have bothered.
I told them nothing but lies. I encouraged them to explore dead end paths; I scared them away from the green pastures. I'm sure some of the students will feel cheated when they discover I'm a liar. The smartest ones, though, will eventually appreciate what I actually taught them. An older person's devious cunning and subterfuge are generally no match for youthful enthusiasm and hard work.
- 8 October 1999
- Strategic Eulogies
- Erik and Cindy just got back from a memorial service for a friend of theirs. By all accounts, Erik gave a glowing and moving eulogy that brought everyone to tears.
I was surprised when Cindy told me that Erik has always tried to develop a reputation as someone who may be expected to deliver flattering funeral speeches. I was even more surprised when Cindy told me he did so for personal gain.
"It works like this," Cindy explained. "Once people know Erik might author their eulogy, they all try to be extraordinarily nice to him. They buy him dinners and presents, introduce him to all their generous and influential friends, that kind of stuff. Everyone falls over themselves to impress him as a lovely human being. One famously stingy old man even mentioned Erik in his will. That's how he got the Rolex."
The world of commerce never ceases to amaze me.
- 9 October 1999
- No Time to Think
- I just read a review of Julian Barbour's book, The End of Time: The Next Revolution in Our Understanding of the Universe. Barbour maintains that time doesn't exist. Everything happens (happened? is happening?) all at once in some sort of abstract construct Barbour calls "Platonia."
I wonder why Barbour bothered to write his book? If he's correct, everyone who will ever know that time doesn't exist is already aware of the fact. By the same token, in Barbour's other static "time capsules," those that don't believe him never will.
The End of Time appears to be one of those books that only someone with a grasp of contemporary physics might be expected to understand. More to the point, the idea is so new, unproven, and controversial that it probably won't achieve wide acceptance before I'm dead.
It's one of those arguments I don't worry about too much. If Barbour's right, then I'm already dead--at the same time that I have yet to be conceived or born in other time capsules--so it really doesn't matter. It's like Arthur James Balfour said, "Nothing matters much, and in the end nothing matters at all." (Of course, he probably never considered that there may not be an end.)
- 10 October 1999
- Johanna Leila Jüngling
- Thomas and Sabine, both of whom are on the positive side of forty, just had their first child. I don't understand why anyone would sign a lifetime contract with someone they've never even met, but sign they did.
They sent me photographs of their wrinkly, little creation. I don't understand that, either. All those larval, post-fetal creatures look the same to me.
I think I should stop thinking about such things. I fear there's quite a lot a non-breeder such as myself will never understand.
Whatever. Good luck, hatched, little embryo! Mit schlag!
- 11 October 1999
- Orbiting Hammers
- I saw an impressive juggler on the street today. She was keeping five hammers in the air at the same time! Even better, she was standing in a circle of a dozen full beer bottles. Very impressive.
Something was missing, though. The juggler didn't have a hat or box on the pavement; there was no obvious way to give her any money.
The thirty or so people watching her clapped when she finally pulled the five orbiting hammers our of the air.
The juggler held up her hands, then waited for everyone stop clapping. Then she spoke.
"I am not here to amuse you. You are here to amuse me. I have no need for your cheap wigs."
It was quite a performance.
- 12 October 1999
- Six Billion Plus
- Today the United Nations announced that the six billionth person on earth was born last night. Six billion people! That's completely ridiculous.
The report cited Bangladesh, the ninth most populous country in the world, as an example. Even though the birth rate there has been halved in the last quarter century, the country's population continues to grow. Somewhere in Bangladesh, a woman is having a baby every fifteen seconds.
Someone needs to have a talk with her.
- 13 October 1999
- Alfred Whitstread's Possible Good Thing
- The author, Alfred Whitstread, has an interesting approach to longevity. According to an article I read in South American Publisher's Daily, he spends an inordinate amount of time writing about everything he experiences.
Here's how it works. When, say, Jonie gives him a beer, he doesn't merely write, "Jonie gave me a beer." Instead, he'll spend an hour writing about Jonie's appearance, her history, her mood, the party they were at, the taste of the beer, the history of the brewery, et cetera.
Thus a thirty-second exchange expands to fill an hour of his life. That's a gain of fifty-nine and a half minutes!
But wait! Didn't he miss out on a lot of new experiences while he was writing about just one of them? That's a loss of fifty-nine and a half minutes!
I have no idea whether or not Alfred Whitstread has stumbled onto a Good Thing.
14 October 1999
- Leslie Graham (snaportrait)
- Leslie is a friend of mine.
- 15 October 1999
- Poor David Hockney
- Some time ago, artist David Hockney sent a number of faxes to his sister Margaret. She glued five of them to her kitchen blind. Later, she sold her house, including the blind. The person who bought the house then sold the blind--including the five Hockney/Hockney faxes--to "art entrepreneur" Peter Nelson for around $18,000 or so.
David Hockney is quite unhappy about the whole exchange.
"The whole point of the faxes I made in 1989 is that they were given away," said the far-from-starving artist. "They cannot be sold--how would I be paid?"
Poor David Hockney. I fear no one ever told him the artist's life is not one of sloth and leisure, even though it is.
Not poor David Hockney!