13 August, 2009


Okay, so I want to see District 9 . Knowing Peter Jackson's previous work, I'm very excited for this science fiction allegory, which (as put in the words of the Times review) "In place of the usual mystery — what are they going to do to us? — this movie poses a different kind of hypothetical puzzle. What would we do to them?"

Maybe I'm just a fanboy for viral marketing, but this looks good.

12 August, 2009

So I just finished an interesting biography about John Dee. For those who (understandably) have not heard of Dr. Dee, he was a 16th century philosopher/scientist/sorcerer/astrologer under Elizabeth I. Lately, I've taken a fascination with early modern era science, that is, the beginning of what we consider science. Prior to this, the ideas of "natural philosophy" (as it was called until the 18th century) was largely indistinguishable from magic. Astronomy grew from astrology; chemistry grew from alchemy; this transition I find personally fascinating, and much of the builders of early science had one foot in the rigorous method of experimentation which we recognize today and the other in ancient mysticism which has its roots deep into Antiquity.

The Queen's Conjurer by Benjamin Woolley (2001) is Dee's story, trying to show his roots as both an early scientist and the fount of much modern-day mysticism in the West. It seems to me that John Dee's biggest issue is that he longed to have a full, comprehensive knowledge of Creation, both physical and spiritual (remember, no distinction in the 1500s of natural and supernatural), but never seemed to completely get out of the old ways. This is exemplary of English society of the time, split in a transition from Medieval to Modern, Catholic to Protestant, and even from Old Style calendars to New Style (unlike the Continent, England stuck to the Julian mode). The Jacobean Era beginning in 1604 arouse a different world which would be that of flourishing Galileo, Kepler, and Newton, who while they all had mage-like qualities, were explorers of the new age.

Much like Dee, who seems to see disappointment after disappointment, Woolley doesn't seem to quite get there. I went into this really looking forward to an engaging, mysterious figure who straddled the Old and the New of science and sorcery, but this book is so much more mired in Renaissance politics and the personal failings of Dr. Dee that I felt about halfway through, I was reading more to get the book done. Perhaps it's my interests when reading this sort of history, but the author tends to avoid the science which could have been marvelously interesting.

Dee's life itself is a bit of a disappointment. A true Renaissance man who seemed to be a wonderful polymath, truly devoted to the intoxication of pure knowledge seems like he should have had a much more interesting life. It starts off well, as a young man negotiating his survival in Mary Tutor's court, and early success with Queen Elizabeth. He travels, corresponds with Brahe and others, and begins his journey (I particularly love the story of his ill-fated great library). By middle age, he seems to abandon science for speaking to God's emissaries directly via crystalomancy. For reasons not quite described, he cannot do this himself, so he falls in with a scryer, Edward Kelley, who in my view, appears to be a world class scheister. Kelley sadly seems to control the otherwise brilliant Dr. Dee in the latter half of his life, largely controlling Dee's movements and career decisions, the majority of which appear to be disastrous.

While I certainly understand that writing a biography of a man born nearly 500 years ago, that sources are scantly few and far between, making this sort of work frustratingly difficult (not that I wouldn't be opposed to trying this myself someday), Woolley appears to rely a great deal on his own interpretations and reading between the lines. Don't let this make you think that the work is poorly researched-- indeed, I have a great respect for the book, has an exhaustively wonderful 43 page notes/bibliography section. So much just feels disappointing in that like John Dee himself, The Queen's Conjurer is something that was destined for wonderful things but sadly fell short.

On the other hand, I am now very interested in finding another Dee bio just to have a look at what else it out there.

10 August, 2009

So as usual, I'm finding myself in the middle of reading several books (The Queen's Conjurer, a biography of John Dee; Finding Oz, another bio of L. Frank Baum; The Age of Wonder, about romantic-era science; Gravitation; and several other books which appear to be on hiatus). Anyway, I've nearly (or possibly, entirely) forgotten why I've begun to write this morning. The books are what's on my mind, as I've had a very productive summer (I think I can count ten books read since the end of the school year.

Does anyone have any suggestions? My to-read list has been growing well into the hundreds for nearly ten years now, but I like the progress I'm making.

Speaking of which, I finally got around to reading Chuck Palahniuk's Fight Club. That's still one of the best movies from the late 90's. But it's been on my must-read for a while now, which is likely why I devoured it in about a day; it's just as dark as the film (perhaps moreso), but a wonderful exploration of the detached nihilism of consumer culture. Sadly, having seen the movie years and years before reading the book, there's always that nagging feeling that it has skewed my perspective of the novel. I do have a slight feeling that when future readers want to see the 1990s from an historical perspective, they'll be likely to pick up Palahniuk's work. Not to say that the previous decade was quite as dark as the novel shows this (perhaps it's colored by seeing it through my teenage years), but the triumph of the yuppie and a desire to destroy that is vaguely reminiscent of the twenties.

Isn't it crazy that the "twenties" aren't that far away?

07 August, 2009

So I'm painting the porch these last few days. I have some pictures to post of my progress, but that will come in time. I've also signed into Twitter, simply to read other people's but it's just weird to have an account. In all honest, I would rather post here, as the beynd-140-characters allows me to fully express thoughts, like "I like doughnuts" (13 letters, woo!)... so spaces count as characters.

Anyway, I don't think that I'll be participating in any revolutions anytime soon, so I have little interest for now

05 August, 2009

I am such a geek. Earlier today, I needed tp pick up some supplies for school this year: a 2 inch notebook, some paper, and stickytack (I'm going to have to hang up a lot of posters). Finding myself in Staples, I do what I have done so many times in Augusts dating back to at least junior high-- I look forward to it. I love getting stuff ready for school.... preparing organization, pens, notebooks, and whatever unique items I need for the new school year. I want to go all-out on things I don't need to better organize my life.

This never happens, of course.

But it's probably the single thing I love most of all that draws me to joy in anticipating a new school year: potential. Before you start, or as you start, all things are possible, and so few and yet broken. Details, details....