Thursday, March 05, 2009

Stuff I've Been Digging

1. U2's new record, No Line On The Horizon. Surprisingly, the most popular rock band in the world continues to make really good music. Longtime U2 producers Eno and Lanois share writing credits on the album, and their presence can certainly be felt over the whole thing, which overall feels much more cohesive than their last few efforts. Their signature heart-on-sleeve bombast survives, the band continuing to be self-aware enough to avoid pretension despite high ambition. One of my favorite things about U2 is the fact that they continually push themselves artistically, and this record has a great, adventurous feel to it. It's honest, intimate, and (best of all) fun to listen to.

2. Steven Hawking's A Brief History of Time. I found a used hardcover copy in excellent condition for a dollar at the library, and I couldn't refuse it. I'm in no position to comment on the science, but the entertainment value of the work is very high. Hawking's claim early in the book that it contains only one equation (E = MC^2) isn't exactly true--there are several equations which are merely expressed in english, rather than mathematical notation--but it's no matter, the book is great for a non-scientist such as I, and I think he makes the subject matter as easy to comprehend as any discussion of infinity can be. My only quam so far (I've not finished it yet) is that he insists on saying "million million" instead of "trillion." Was the word just less commonly used when the book was written? I don't know.

3. Star Trek: The Next Generation. I'm kind of a closet Trekkie, which I guess means that I enjoy Star Trek in what I would define as some form of moderation. I certainly don't indulge in the excesses of Trek geekness, such as reading fan fiction, contributing to the expansive Star Trek wiki, or pretending that Star Trek IV was anything other than a festering turd of a film. In any case, I really liked this show growing up (it was one of the few TV shows my family watched). Recently, the wife (who is less ashamed of her affection for Star Trek than I am, claims to like Star Trek IV, and has even read some fan fiction) and I borrowed the first season of TNG from my parents, and have been enjoying it's hilarious late '80s campiness, generally with the exception of the much-hated Wesley Crusher. It's also surprising how little the production value of network television increased between the medium's inception and the advent of DVD. Particularly in the first season, TNG doesn't really look any better (for that matter, it isn't any better written) than its late '60s predecessor. My favorite running joke of the whole thing is that in the world of the show, human society has advanced beyond material want, and yet they haven't figured out that seat belts might be a really good idea.

That's all I've got for now. I would write about something more interesting, if only I could think of it. TTFN! Ta Ta For Now!


John Lynch said...

Re: "one million million"

Dawkins does the same thing in his writing. I suspect the reason has to do with the fact that some people interpret trillion to mean "one thousand thousand million" (short scale, the American way, essentially) and others interpret it to mean "one million million million" (long scale, the European way, essentially). The British used the long scale officially until 1974, at which time they switched to short scale. I'd be willing to bet that British academics, especially those that straddle 1974, write this way to avoid confusing people who may interpret "trillion" differently depending on the scale to which they are accustomed. Anyways, that's my two cents. See The Font of All Knowledge for more details.

As for TNG, having now seen about two and a half episodes (and all from Season One at that), I think it is safe to say:
Sexy Bald Captains: Awesome
Pimply Genius Teenagers With No Freakin' Curfew: Not As Awesome

On behalf of Eric, Donal, and myself, I also hereby award Jean-Luc Picard with the coveted "Gil M. F. Favor Product Of The Enlightenment" award, which is not necessarily given every year. Congratulations, Jean-Luc!

DaWheeze said...

I'm surprised you managed to keep any snide comments about Star Trek: Voyager out of your post. How very restrained of you!

D.Cous. said...


1. Thanks for the explanation. I had (wrongly, apparently) believed that there was only one definition of a trillion.

2. One can hardly think of a more deserving recipient of the Favor award, I'm sure JLP will be pleased. Man, someday I'm going to have this award made. It's going to be a bronze statuette of Gil Favor, in full Trail Boss regalia, posing as Rodin's "Le Penseur," with his hat tipped onto the back of his head.

Wheeze, the title of this post is "Stuff I've Been Digging," which, as you know, excludes Voyager. Sorry.

BS2 said...

Don't worry, Donal. TNG gets MUCH better...but you have to wait for season 3.

I happen to own the entire if you want to borrow it all at once, just say the word.