Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Parallel Worlds, Parallel Lives

I just finished watching the NOVA documentary film “Parallel Worlds, Parallel Lives”, which follows the journey of Mark Oliver Everett (leader of the band Eels), as he tries to unravel the theories and writings of his late father, quantum physicist Hugh Everett III. The film follows Mark as he meets with his father's old colleagues and contemporaries, slowly unraveling the life of one of the greatest scientists of the last century. I have a hard time wrapping my head around quantum physics and parallel universes, but for me the real story is that of a son trying to learn more about his late father. I’ve been listening to Eels music for years, but now the lyrics, many of which reference his father and the suicide of his sister, make more sense to me now. Great film, and highly recommended if you can catch it on your local PBS channel.

View the PBS trailer for "Parallel Worlds, Parallel Lives” below:

Eels- Things The Grandchildren Should Know (Live):

Monday, October 20, 2008

Trying To Slow Down the Clock

This post was inspired by my old friend, the Rambling Canuck. Recently the Canuck wrote about the Clock of the Long Now, on his blog. I had read something about this project in some scientific journal somewhere, but had never really thought much about it, until now. The Clock project was started in the mid-1990’s by a group of people attempting to get the rest of us to consider long-term thinking, beyond the “here and now” that most of us live in today. The clock idea was put into motion by scientist Daniel Hillis, who said, "When I was a child, people used to talk about what would happen by the year 2000. For the next thirty years they kept talking about what would happen by the year 2000, and now no one mentions a future date at all. The future has been shrinking by one year per year for my entire life. I think it is time for us to start a long-term project that gets people thinking past the mental barrier of an ever-shortening future. I would like to propose a large (think Stonehenge) mechanical clock, powered by seasonal temperature changes. It ticks once a year, bongs once a century, and the cuckoo comes out every millennium." How cool is that?

The group at Clock of the Long Now have been building models for the last ten years or so, eventually they plan on erecting a clock high up in the mountains of eastern Nevada. They have even purchased some high-desert land adjoining Great Basin National Park, one of our county’s newest national parks. I love the fact that with everything seemingly going down the shitter these days, there is a group of people looking 10,000 years down the road. I believe we need more people like this, maybe we wouldn’t be in the dire situation we are now as a country if we more folks thought on a grander scale.

I have been trying to slow down my own life the past couple of years, so this talk of 10,000 year clocks came at just the right time for me. Simply put, I want to spend more time with my wife and kids, to play more and work less. I want to spend less money on junk, and see more of my money go to things of quality. I’ve been living on the east coast for almost 10 years now, and like most of you, I can’t believe how fast time has gone. We are seemingly speeding into the future, and I don’t like the direction we are going. It is easy to get caught up in our crazy world, we are constantly spoon fed information and things that we are led to believe we “need”. You can argue that much of this stuff is supposed to make our lives simpler and more efficient, and I will be the first to say that some of it has. Cell phones and digital music are great examples. I cannot imagine life without a cell phone, but is my life better now that anyone can get a hold of me 24/7? Unlike my cell, I could survive without my iPod (it would suck, but I would survive). Sure, it is great having 10,000 songs at my disposal, but I really believe it is just a luxury, nothing more than another toy. The convenience of digital music comes with a downside too. I miss the hours I used to spend in record shops (I love the smell of record shops), browsing the aisles of used cd’s on a rainy day. It was quality time, usually spent with a friend, searching for that one album you’ve been looking for. Now I buy most of my music online, because it is cheaper. That’s the problem, everything is cheaper. We have become a society of plastic, disposable shit. Nothing seems to last more than 5 years. What are we passing on to the next generation? When I look at all the shit I have bought in the last 10 years, the only things I see myself still owning in 10 years are some music, books, and my bicycles.

So what am I doing to slow down my own clock? I’m trying to read more. a little bit every night. I’ve never been a big TV watcher, but even less so these days. Biking to work also helps. I am lucky, my commute is rather short, and most of it is along the ocean. The ocean, much like a giant clock that only ticks once a year, is a constant and continuous thing in my life. Have you ever watched the ocean for any amount of time? It is like staring into a campfire, time just seems to stop. No beginning, middle, or end. Biking is the same thing for me. When I ride my bicycle to work, it adds that little adventure each day that makes my life more interesting and fun. A few weeks ago I got caught in a torrential downpour on the way into work, I’m talking thunder and lighting, I was completely soaked to the bone. At first I tried to steer clear of the quickly expanding puddles, but by the end I was riding right through the middle of them, loving every minute of it. You know what? I will probably look back at that morning as one of my best days of the year. I wouldn’t want to ride in rain like that every morning, but I am so glad I did that day. It was real, and I would have missed it all if I was in the car. It’s the little things I guess that make the difference for me. That, and knowing some smart people are building a really huge freaking clock out in the desert.

Take it slow.