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Tuesday, Apr 15, 2008






John A. Wheeler passed this week. If you haven’t heard of him, he’s the physicist who coined the word “black hole”, along with “worm hole”. Rumored to have invented the liver loaf on whole wheat, topped with quantum foam. Actually, that part I made up (although he is associated with the foam part).


Part of this peripatetic life we live is trying to keep up with the passings. Our lives are so full of the lives of so many others. They come and go each day—to our great good fortune, filling our lives, making us wholer-than-before; unfortunately, many of them never return, leaving voids which, though not quite black holes, can still suck some of the life from us.


Because our world is so vast and because there are so many passings, trying to make note of which passing is noteworthy—and why—can be a full time activity. I don’t know if you have the time, but I generally don’t. Fueling my ever-accreting sense of insensitivity and sensory overload. Thus (I guess) in the case of Wheeler, I will invest a few seconds—registered in these sentences. I can begin (and nearly end) with the obit, as physics is not my field. According to the text, Wheeler was among the major players of his age. Tabbed as physics’ “most imaginative adman. He was also science’s Zelig, seeming to be present at every important event or discovery.” Consorting, did he, with Niels Bohr, Robert Oppenheimer, Edward Teller, and Albert Einstein.


Pretty heady stuff (pun intended?) if you think about it.


 



 


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Saturday, Jun 30, 2007




The hard part about life is extracting enough novelty from it to keep it interesting, but not so much as to make it intolerably, unbearably, unmanageably, unliveable.



Which is why we have heuristics. Or other simplifying devices like codifications and formulas, recipes and examples, parables and analogies, metaphors and portents.


(Oh, and travel blogs and people like me!)


You know: intellectual tools that help present life as it is: unique,  yet, at the same time, compact and fathomable; and not so overwhelming as to tap us over like so many ten pins standing helpless, in muted anticipation, in some inert line we have been fitting into.


Which (believe it or not) is one reason that I’m about to talk about Iraq, but only as a prelude to talking about my guitar-playing son. And it is also why, along the way, I’ll probably take a detour through Oedipus Rex. Maybe as a means of verifying that this is a travelblog – which is another way of observing that just about everything we think or do has detours and rivulets and tributaries and ultimately feeds into and contributes to the execution of the great journey of life.


 


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Thursday, May 31, 2007




I know that this is a column about travel, but you know from being such faithful readers that voyages of the body, the soul, the mind . . . they all qualify. Still, even by that liberal definitional standard, this entry will be a stretch, since this entry is about journeys of a moral kind. It is a topic that came up recently over here in Japan (where my peripatetic feet generally roost) and I hope you agree it’s worth consideration, at least for a paragraph or three.







If you haven’t heard, a “baby drop box” was put into operation May 10 by a Roman Catholic hospital in Kumamoto. It was designed for unwanted infants however it made the front page of newspapers when a father dropped off a preschool-aged child on the service’s first day.


This abandonment aside, Kumamoto’s so-called “konotori no yurikago” (stork cradle) plan has generated both praise and criticism. Is this an example of social engineering noble and visionary, or of a society dissipated and retrograde? Is this a human community committed to the principle of “no child left behind” or, rather, of any child potentially tossed by the wayside?


 


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Sunday, May 27, 2007

I once had a girl, or should I say . . .”


No, that’s John’s line. Me, being different, mine better start cleaner. Clearer. Something more kosher, like thus:


I once had an acquaintance who wrote songs for a living. Apparently she had a knack for it since she managed to cut 5 records (remember those vinyl things?) and 3 CDs over the past couple decades. Because I had a past life in music (well, after a fashion) sometimes we sat around and kicked song titles or themes about. Just for the jest of it.


”Hey, how about a song about a couple meeting for a date, only they screw up their coordinates and board trains going in opposite directions, and end up in different cities? Call it something like ‘wrong-headed rendezvous’.”

“That’s horrible.”

“You can do better, then go ahead.”

“Well sure. How about the ballad of a guy and girl who fall for each other after he almost drowns and she has to perform mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Call it ‘breath-taking love’.”

“You really think that’ll sell? Well, no wonder you’re holding chalk in a classroom.”


 


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Sunday, Mar 11, 2007


This is something that many travelers have to contend with. How about you?


You return to a city where you’ve stayed before and where do you choose to hole up? A place that you have lodged and dined before? Or somewhere else different? Sure, I know that should depend on the quality of times past. And some other factors such as money in your pockets or proximity to those things you have planned this go-round. But, all things being equal – say it was a fine stay before and the place is close to where you will now be gigging – then what? You up for a new experience? Or would you prefer to fall back on what is known, what is safe? What will cause points of least resistance. After all, now you know the route to and from the station, you know the layout of the streets, the location of the convenience stores and the neighborhood noodle shops. You know which dog’s bark to avoid at just which house along the way.


In short, you have sunk time and resources sufficient to now produce economies of scale. Are you now up for capitalizing on the benefits?


 


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