I sometime think about Jung’s concept of the collective unconscious and float on imaginary thought-forms. At times, there are swells of melancholy, and I wonder if it is possible to drown in a concept.
Where does melancholia come from? And where does it go? If I could stop its delivery or send it to its destination unopened I would be a much happier me. Melancholy is like a virus; an insidious thought-form that invades the mind.
But what are thoughts? Surely they exist: they come and go; yet, when they’ve gone, it’s as if they were never there (a similar thought may arise again, but it will be unique, tempered by a different state of mind). My private thoughts disappear with no-one else knowing of their existence, and no trace of them remains.
I can share my thoughts, but they have no essence; no form, no material substance. We can hold a thought in our mind as a memory, but memories are ephemeral: they fade, or transform.
We can write our thoughts down, preserve them, share them with others, but they are not the original thoughts. When I read, I can understand the gist of another mind’s thoughts, but only through the filter of my mind; and the word-thoughts I have read will grow, transform, and inter-fuse with other thoughts to become something quite different from the original. Language, though useful, is only a tool: words are not thoughts.
Thoughts are transient. They have no essence. They come from nowhere and dissolve into nothingness.
I ride the waves of melancholy, knowing the swells are only temporary manifestations.
When a metal ion is bonded in the center of an organic molecule, it is referred to as a chelate. Chlorophyll, the green pigment in plants, is one of the most important naturally-occurring chelates. The central ion in chlorophyll is magnesium, which is bonded to an organic molecule called a porphyrin, which contains four nitrogen atoms that bond with the central magnesium (to be overtly pedantic, they bond in a square planar arrangement).
[image credit: Learn for knowledge]
Chlorophyll absorbs in the red and blue-violet spectrum and reflects yellow-green, hence its name (from the Greek, chloros, for yellow-green).
Chlorophyll’s most extraordinary feature, of course, is its ability to absorb the energy of our sun and, through the process of photosynthesis, use the sun’s energy to transform carbon dioxide and water into carbohydrates and oxygen. The carbohydrates produced (designated below as the empirical formula (CH2O)) are the energy that fuels biochemical reactions in almost all living organisms on our planet.
CO2 + H2O → (CH2O) + O2
Chlorophyll is the catalyst in the electron transfer, oxidation-reduction reaction between carbon dioxide and water (and isn’t it grand that one of the by-products of photosynthesis is oxygen for us to breathe?).
As with many things regarding life on this planet, designs are repeated: blueprints are used over and over. For example, there are molecules with similar structures to chlorophyll that are essential in other biochemical electron-transfer (oxidation-reduction) reactions.
Heme is a close-cousin to chlorophyll with a similar porphyrin structure, but heme is bright red and has an iron(II) ion in its center. In our red blood cells, heme is bound to proteins and forms hemoglobin; which, in turn, combines with oxygen in our lungs and releases the oxygen into our tissues through the flow of blood.
Vitamin B12 (also called cobalamin), another close-cousin to chlorophyll, has a cobalt ion at the center of the porphyrin structure. B12, like heme, is bright red and is required for cellular metabolism, the formation of DNA, and energy production. B12 is not produced by higher plants, so vegetarians and vegans must ensure they consume other sources or their diet can lead to a B12 deficiency.
It never ceases to amaze me that the underlying patterns of life on this planet are so similar, or that all life on Earth is intrinsically interconnected. It’s the reason I studied bio-sciences at university (though I can’t quite explain my years studying and working with electronics and mechanical systems), and I’ll never forget Cyril, my first-year biology Professor at SFU, who, when I stared at him with the wide-eyed disbelief of thunderstruck knowledge, smiled and said to me: “So; do you believe in God?”
Thank you Cyril (and the many others), for opening my eyes to the light of knowledge.
As much as I attempt to ignore the ignoble methods used to supply meat to my table, I couldn’t help paying attention to the news story about sow gestation cages this morning. (image and information found here)
The majority of breeding sows (estimates of 80% in the USA) are kept in 2 x 7 foot gestation crates, which allow no room for a sow to turn around or move a step forward or backward. Throughout their pregnancy (~ four months), the sows are restrained in the crate, and are then moved to an equally restricted farrowing crate to give birth. A few weeks after birth, the piglets are removed (many of these animals are born with deformities), the sow is re-impregnated, and the cycle is repeated until the sow is deemed too inefficient and she is transferred for slaughter.
Pigs are considered to be more intelligent than dogs. The severe conditions of the gestation crates causes obsessive actions, such as: relentless head bobbing, biting at the bar of the cage, and ‘slam’ chewing (chewing at nothing).
The sows are treated like piglet-production robots, aligned in rows of metal gestation crates within massive warehouses with no natural lighting. An oppressive heat is produced by the animals, and giant fans are required to dissipate the toxic waste-fumes.
It is more economically efficient to produce pork products using gestation crates, but some grocery chains and restaurants have recently decided — possibly due to public pressure? — to opt away from products produced this way.
It is unfortunate that humans can become inured to the inhumane methods utilized to bring meat to our tables, and it is perhaps too easy to justify methods using economic modalities, but if we cannot afford to produce meat humanely and economically, isn’t it time to look for alternatives?
Posted by db johnston under Book Reviews
| Tags: Andrei Tarkovsky
, Andrei Tarkovsky's film Stalker
, Arkady and Boris Strugatsky
, Red Schuhart
, Boris Strugasky's Afterward
, Olena Bormashenko
, Redrich Schuhart
, Roadside Picnic
, the Strugatsky Brothers
, Ursula K. Le Guin's Foreward
|  Comments
The brothers Strugatsky — Arkady and Boris — introduced the English word stalker to Russia, where it is pronounced stullker. Boris Strugatsky admits (in his Afterward) that the popularity of the word is probably a result of Andrei Tarkovsky’s film Stalker, which was based on Roadside Picnic (the cover image is a still from the movie).
Redrich Schuhart, the protagonist of Roadside Picnic (Pilnik na obochine, 1972), is a stalker, one of the few who defy law and danger and journey into the Zone to collect enigmatic artifacts left by the alien visitors who had landed, and then left without any attempt at communication with humanity.
There is a black-market for alien artifacts; and, of course, the government is attempting to control the situation.
The setting is North America, probably Canada (“…the doomed yet heroic units of the Royal Armoured Corps.” p. 3).
This is a classic science fiction novel (it is short; slightly less than two-hundred pages), and the newly translated edition (by Olena Bormashenko) includes some interesting historical perspective in Ursula K. Le Guin’s Foreward and Boris Strugasky’s Afterward.
The novel ends abruptly, but I think it is apropos, and I highly recommend the book to anyone who enjoys social science fiction that transcends the genre.
When I was young I spent my Saturday mornings in our ‘TV room’, watching cartoons (and this may help to explain how I got to be the way I am…). There wasn’t anything else on TV on Saturday mornings (well, perhaps the other channel, though quite snowy, would be broadcasting stale news); the cartoon characters below are some of the most memorable (and a couple I only recall because of their odd names):
Loopy De Loop
Tennessee Tuxedo & Chumley
Quick Draw McGraw (aka El Kabong), & Snuffles, his dog
Secret Squirrel and Morocco Mole
Ricochet Rabbit & Droop-A-Long Coyote
Super Snooper and Blabber Mouse
Touché Turtle & Dum Dum
The Mighty Heros (Strong Man, Rope Man, Tornado Man & Diaper Man)
“Imagine a search engine that simply removed the top 1 million” …[or one hundred thousand, ten thousand, one-thousand, or one hundred]… “most popular web sites from its index. What would you discover?”
After Sanjay Arora’s wife went to sleep for the night, he decided to challenge himself by attempting to write a program that would omit the top million most popular websites from Google’s list; and, by the wee-hours of the next morning, he had an alpha version of million short running and ready to use. His search engine won’t turn up sites that use SEO (search engine optimization) tactics, or results from Facebook, YouTube, or Wikipedia, but sometimes the results using his search engine turn up interesting sites that would otherwise be hidden in obscurity.
At your discretion, million short omits the top 100, 1,000, 10,000, 100,000, or 1,000,000 most popular sites from a search (million short also tells you which sites were excluded from the results and allows you to include them if you wish). The search engine is useful if you want to discover something different; a viewpoint you hadn’t thought of, or a voice that may be relevant, but usually unheard.
If you want to find something different, try the million short search engine
It was a gorgeous sunrise.
There were no smokers on the patio, so I took my coffee outside.
Two men lounged at the opposite side of the patio.
One of them was a large Asian, probably in his mid-thirties. He wore a light-grey dress-shirt, a thin black tie, black suit, black boots, and mirrored sunglasses. I decided he was Yakuza.
His companion was about my age, maybe a few years younger. Judging by his faint accent, he was originally from Eastern Europe. He was wearing tan jeans, a pale-yellow polo shirt, and slip-on loafers. No socks. His skin had the orange tinge of a tanning booth user. His hair was thinning and he tried to hide the fact; unfortunately, in the breeze, it accentuated the obvious: he assiduously raked the strands back into position with the fingers of his left hand. He was KGB.
They were having an interesting conversation; but, as they were at the other side of the patio, my eavesdropping was hindered. They were talking about music styles — jazz, classical, and rock — and how that related to the concept of positively charged ’holes’ , instead of electrons, as a definition of current flow. Then they started discussing the ramifications of a deterministic universe.
Just when the discussion was getting heated, a Harley cruised into the parking lot. The biker was a massive man with tattooed biceps the size of my thighs. His Harley burbled and farted with an impulsive array of base-blasts. Not only couldn’t I hear the conversation over the bike’s blatting, but it was as if the Harley’s entrance was a signal to Yakuza and KGB; they got up, shook hands, and left in opposite directions. It all seemed so spontaneous. Or was it choreographed?
The biker stopped close to where I was sitting; my inner-organs resonated to the rhythm of the engine’s exhaust. I felt an odd anxiety, a compulsion to get up and walk away, but I was enjoying the warmth of the sunshine and forced myself to remain in the seat. Soon, however, the fumes from the Harley made me nauseous, so I stood up and started to walk home.
Within half a block I remembered that I’d wanted to buy something from the store beside the coffee shop. I stopped and turned around, but I couldn’t force myself to retrace my steps.
I walked to the park and sat on a bench. There was a young man sitting on the grass, picking at the nylon strings of his guitar. The breeze blew faint notes to me and I recognized the song; a Pat Metheny melody that often recurs in his music.
I walked over and dropped a toonie into the guitarist’s hat; a pale-grey fedora, which sat upside down beside him. There were a few other coins inside, and an old, wrinkled five dollar bill.
“Thanks, man,” the guitarist said, and continued to play. It was then that I realized he wasn’t playing Metheny; it was a Beatles tune (more precisely, I suppose, a Lennon/McCartney composition): perhaps he’d changed songs while I’d walked over.
I nodded to the guitarist and moved over to sit on a smooth boulder by the water. I could still hear snippets of the guitar, and I could also hear the pleasant, muted music of children playing on the other side of the field. The children’s squeals and laughter ebbed and flowed with the rising and falling of the wind through the leaves of the trees.
The breeze caressed me with the pungence of Scotch broom (Cytisus scoparius); obnoxious to many, but an aroma I love.
The anxiety that had followed me from the coffee shop dissolved.
Mother o’ Mine
If I were hanged on the highest hill,
Mother o’ mine, O mother o’ mine!
I know whose love would follow me still,
Mother o’ mine, O mother o’ mine!
If I were drowned in the deepest sea,
Mother o’ mine, O mother o’ mine!
I know whose tears would come down to me,
Mother o’ mine, O mother o’ mine!
If I were damned of body and soul,
I know whose prayers would make me whole,
Mother o’ mine, O mother o’ mine!
You, yourself, as much as anybody else in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.
I was looking forward to this book, but was ultimately disappointed; for me, it didn’t live up to the standards of The Remains of the Day or Never Let Me Go.
The protagonist, Christopher Banks, is reminiscent of Stevens, the butler in Remains of the Day, but — even though Ishiguro uses similar narrative techniques — I had difficulty detecting Bank’s humanistic qualities: he was too analytical.
His childhood was spent in Shanghai and his parents were both kidnapped, leaving him as an orphan. Banks was relocated in London and was raised by his aunt. He was an awkward child — though he is gifted at fooling himself — but, as an adult in pre-WWII London, he becomes a celebrated detective (at least by his accounts: how he solves his cases is never revealed). As the novel unfolds, it becomes more and more apparent that his childhood memories are unreliable and he retains an illogical, childish scenario regarding his parents: he is sure that they are still being held captive somewhere in Shanghai. Banks’ motivation comes from a need to fit in and be respected: he longs to experience the approval he was never able to receive from his parents.
There is certainly some captivating writing, and there were sections that were inspired; but, as a whole, I felt that it was the weakest of the Ishiguro novels that I’ve read.
I felt strangely disconnected from the main character. Christopher Banks was separated from his parents, separated from the other characters in the novel, and separated from me, the reader.
I agree with Michiko Kakutani’s analysis of the novel, and her thoughts were summarized well (albeit somewhat harshly) in the final sentence of her review: “…the reader is left with the impression that instead of envisioning — and rendering — a cohesive new novel, Mr. Ishiguro simply ran the notion of a detective story through the word processing program of his earlier novels, then patched together the output into the ragged, if occasionally brilliant, story we hold in our hands.”
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