What I'm reading; what I've read

My train book this week is Greg Graffin and Steve Olson's Anarchy Evolution, and it's turning out to be a very different beast than I expected. I've been a Bad Religion fan ever since a co-worker told me he thought I'd really dig a band called Christian Death. I mis-remembered his recommendation and picked up a copy of Bad Religion's Suffer instead.  It turned out to be a very fortunate accident. I wasn't used to punk albums being so thought-provoking and catchy. For whatever reason, I never got around to checking out Christian Death.


This book is mostly about Dr. Graffin's explanation of why the modern synthetic model of evolution is inadequate to explain what we see in species today and in the fossil record. Instead, he proposes the idea that the role of genes has become overblown in explaining how traits are inherited and distributed within populations. His writing is clear and his ideas are intriguing enough keep me turning the page.

Turns out he can write, too. Graffin leans heavily on personal experiences in laying out his case. Many of the stories concern his musical career, but it's the personal stories of his home life as a child and of scientific fieldwork that I find the most interesting and sometimes touching. I'm enjoying this book immensely,even if it hasn't turned out to be exactly what I imagined it would be.


I've also recently finished reading a book I can't tell you much about at this time. What I can tell you is that it's good, and even if it never sees the light of (published) day, I expect some parts of it will live on in the future in other works. It's exciting to be in on a project like this, even as an observer. It's exciting to get a little peek behind the curtain of where creative people produce honest-to-goodness creative work. Inspiring, too, which isn't doing my productivity at the office any good, but I'm not at all sure that's a bad thing.

Sometimes, the spirit can be too willing

For someone who has read, and re-read, every issue of Neil Gaiman's "The Sandman," I don't know very much about dreams. I know that I have them, and that I seldom remember them, and with one notable exception, they don't seem to have any literal relationship to anything going on in m life. I guess I know about as much as anyone who dreams.

I did have one awful dream when I was going through my divorce, and by "awful" I obviously mean "wonderful." I dreamed that my soon-to-be-ex-wife had gathered all of my friends and family together and, in front of them all, begged me to take her back. It was an unsually vivid dream and as I was waking, I remember mentally trying to take hold of it and make the dream real. It's the only dream I've ever had that made me cry when I woke up.

I've been dreaming more vividly lately than any other time I can remember in my life. The dreams haven't been so obviously tied to any event in my life as the one during my divorce. They tend to involve friends or family in odd contexts doing even odder things. For example, last night, I dreamed that my best friend was taking his dog to visit all seven continents. He took the dog to the continental (and fictitious) "four corners" where four continents met at a single point. It never felt real, and I can't imagine why I had this dream specifically, but this sort of thing is happening almost every night these days.

My wife mentioned that she understood dreams to be how your mind "unpacks" the days events, like running a defrag on a hard drive. I haven't done enough research on my own (which is kind of embarrassing, really) to know the state of current study on the subject of dreams, but her suggestion made sense to me.

I know I've written more than once about reading "Against The Day," but it's long, it's a slow read, and it's engrossing as anything I've ever picked up, so of course I'm going to be writing about it for a while. It's a strange and challenging book, as one might expect of Pynchon, and I think it's what's causing me to dream so much. The dreams certainly picked up in frequency when I started reading it, and while they're not related to any of the characters, the tone of the dreams, as well as the geography, is in keeping with the novel. 

Now I'm curious: Have any of you ever experienced anything like this? Has a novel ever caused you to dream more often, or more vividly? It seems like the sort of thing that would happen, but like I said, I haven't done my home work so I'm dealing strictly with the anecdotal at this point. While we're at it, are there any particularly good books about dreams that any of you would recommend?


Of course, the only question was "Which Sandman image would I choose?" I'm partial to this version, but off the top of my head, I can't think of a single subpar artist who ever worked on the book.

Of course, the only question was "Which Sandman image would I choose?" I'm partial to this version, but off the top of my head, I can't think of a single subpar artist who ever worked on the book.

As I Get Older, Museums Are Somehow More Exciting

I got to see an impressionists exhibit today and I was as giddy as something that is a cliche for giddiness. I know, I know....the impressionists are the pop music of the fine art world. They're well-known, they're everywhere, and they're accessible as can be. I'm fine with that. Just like I love a good singalong chorus, art which is just obviously beautiful and doesn't require a long explanation as to why it's beautiful is very appealing to me. 

The funny thing, to me, is how exciting today was. I was actually giggling at times at how delightful it all was. I don't remember reacting that way in my twenties. Back then, it was something I had to try to appreciate, like jazz fusion, rather than something I got any real joy out of. I could tell people "I saw a van Gogh," which sounded pretty cool, but I can't say I got a great deal of joy from it. Today, there's was a big ol' Monet in the middle of the exhibit, just as obvious as could be, like "well, you really can't have this kind of exhibit without at least one Monet," and I'll be damned if the thing wasn't absolutely glorious. The thing seemed to give off a light of its own. 

I'm at a loss to explain exactly why seeing these exhibit hit me the way it did. My tastes are certainly no more refined than they were. Maybe it's just a "where I am in my life right now" kind of thing and the lesson is to keep trying things you weren't wild about before because you're not the same person you were twenty years ago. At least, I hope you're not. If you are, you might want to consider changing things up a bit.


Reading the Sherlock Holmes short stories for that last writing prompt I did, the character's view of women was a real distraction. He's rude and condescending to almost everyone, but he seems to think of women as barely human. I don't remember that from my first reading of the books decades ago, but I think it's safe to say they haven't aged well. That made it a good deal easier to take the piss out of Holmes' smug generalizations, so it wasn't a complete loss by any means.


Apropos of nothing, I hope things are going well for Rebecca Black. I was trying to think of something Friday-related for a subject line yesterday when Rebecca Black's Friday popped into my head because I am nothing if not fluent in past their sell-by date cultural references. It's been a good five years since I've thought of that song and I've heard nothing about what came next for her, but I hope it's something good. Fame sometimes happens to people who aren't prepared or equipped to deal with it. The results aren't always pleasant to look at. I'm not going to do any poking around, but I hope Rebecca Black is doing OK.


I got to see the first episode of Comedy Bang Bang with Kid Cudi tonight and I'm pretty sure the show won't miss a beat. That isn't to say I won't miss Reggie Watts, who was very much the heart of the show and one of the most likable comic performers I've ever seen.  Cudi, though, is very canny choice for a replacement. He's got a similar skill set, but a very different tone, and I hope the writers make as good use of his energy as they did of Reggie's laid-back goofiness.


This one wasn't in the exhibit, but I love it's one of my favorites, so I wanted to use it anyway.