Utopia by Thomas More

As stated before, one of my new year’s goals is to read through a number of books which exist in my library because I really ought to read them at some point. The first book plucked from this collection is Utopia by Sir Thomas More. The text itself is not necessarily the current authoritative one. It was produced in 1964 using the Yale translation by a Jesuit scholar who does let his own beliefs creep into his textual notes.

This entry, however, is not about historiography. I read Utopia with the humanistic desire to be entertained and enlightened. I read the text for the simple sake of reading the text. The fact that I read it at Union Station in Toronto while waiting for transit instead of in the scholarly abode of a library speaks volumes on my desire to engage the text on a scholarly level. Nevertheless, I apparently have some scholastic muscle memory remaining which awakened about two thirds of the way through the book. The following are my thoughts on the book composed in the Dilworthian fashion* of point form bursts that may or may not be connected with one another.

Utopia not so much a critique of European policies and ideas; rather, it is one of the first instances of the “noble savage” in European literature. The land of the Utopians is seperated by the Atlantic Ocean and a massive desert from European civilization. It brings forth More’s point that knowledge, unassisted by European scholastic tradition, can indeed be discovered through the use the natural world and logic. Their “savage” nature is evident, not in their use of warfare since they hire mercenaries, but by their ready acquiescence to European knowledge that is entering their system through visitors.

It is doubtful that the Utopian idea of trade would be able to exist in an actuality because of the rapid devaluation of currency and trade imbalance that exists between them and their neighbours. By overpaying for simple things, simply because they have so much money, they through the economy of their neighbours into flux. Interestingly enough the Utopians, by eschewing proper European notions of commerce, are in fact the ultimate example of a mercantilist economic system. All the monetary resources are being absorbed by the Utopians.

Utopian follow More’s own ideas that women are to be taught but hold no positions of authority or influence.

Living in Utopia is meant to be a compliment, not an insult. More recognizes that the ideas presented in the work will be misunderstood or mocked by mentioning a number of other ideas that follow logic and natural reason in book one. These ideas for the governing of a country would be mocked or construed as hostile by a ruling monarch or his privy council.

Utopia presupposes that humanity is willing to act in accordance to the greater good of the whole over the greater good of the individual. Although the individual is given opportunities to live their own life by giving them certain freedoms, they are still bound by a rigid patriarchal system that controls all aspects of exisistance including the child’s career. In order to change apprenticeships another family must be found that will be wiling to take the child into their family in perpetuity.

The limitedness of possesions is not novel of an idea. In fact, one could make an argument that it coincides quite well with the beliefs in monastic poverty: the group owns the items used by the whole.

*those of you who studied with Dr. Dilworth will know what I’m talking about. His classes are some of those I truly wish I had a chance to repeat now that I’m “all grown up” and can truly appreciate them.

Our position in the multiverse

Reading the Amber series has me thinking about our position in the multiverse.

I do believe that there should be two ‘prime universes’ if only by shear mathematics. If multiverses are based off the idea that a new universe is spawned each time someone decides to pick B over A then there must be a place where everyone picks option A and all universes are essentially branches between it and the universe that picks B at every opportunity. A lot of multiverse fiction is based off of the idea that the two sides are science and magic. Within that group most like to believe that we live exclusively on the science end of the spectrum. My problem is that it removes any sort of mystical possibility on our end. I do believe that we’re on the science side of the coin but I don’t think we’re necessarily the prime universe (even though we are close to it). Why?  Because we can dream of magic. If we were truly the prime science universe we wouldn’t spend so much time talking about sparkling vampires. Deep down a part of us wishes that faerie rings were real. By the same token we have people who can dream about the science side so well that we are now living in the future. I could (if I could afford it) have a small box of plastic and metal that can deliver music to my ears, allow me to talk to people over great distances, and have the entire sum of human knowledge at my fingertips.  We are a world that can dream of both ways, both sides. To me, that precludes our being one of those sides. We need to have some small part of the magic side seeping through our collective unconsciousness in order to dream the way we dream.

Books ahoy hoy

After a year of next to no blog posts I thought I would return to my most successful blogging tool yet: the booklist. I’m going to record the books I read and write a brief thought as to why I read it. My goal this year is to increase the number of ‘literary’ works I read. I’ve collected a number of items over the years that I should read or should reread as is the case for some of them. The bulk of my time spend obtaining English Literature degrees  is a haze of half remembered items, which truth be told is not surprising since I essentially (re)created myself on an emotional/psychological level. I feel that I’m now in a place to digest what I read and perhaps learn something as a result.

Prince of Chaos  by Roger Zelazny

I spent the better part of the Christmas holidays reading the second part of the the Amber series. I love the concept behind Amber. I’ve always felt that a multiverse is a wonderful thing to play around in if done properly. I am saddened by the fact that Zelazny died before he could finish the overall plot. I wish to know more and am saddened that Lucien’s library is the only place that such an act is possible.

Edgar Choueiri, a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at Princeton University, has developed a way to play true three-dimensional sound recordings over regular loudspeakers, such as those found in televisions and computer laptops.

The technique may one day be used to allow 3D televisions to produce lifelike sound and to help people with certain types of hearing impairments locate noises. Segments of the video above incorporate Choueri’s 3D filter to demonstrate the phenomenon.

Prepare to be amazed by the fact that this works. I have no idea how easy or difficult it would be to implement but I can imagine that it would make for some interesting changes to media as we currently use it. The NFL experience for one would be changed. Imagine being able to hear the quarterback call an audible from his position and at the same time pick out a defensive back or a lineman yelling coverage instructions.

Random Twain

Every now and then Mark Twain delivers a beautiful statement that fits perfectly into life over one hundred year later. In this case, it sums up my professional relationship with the drywallers.

During this big rise these small-fry craft were an intolerable nuisance. We were running chute after chute –a new world to me– and if there was a particularly cramped place in a chute, we would be pretty sure to meet a broadhorn there; and if he failed to be there, we would find him in a still worse locality, the head of the chute, on the shoal water. And then there would be no end of profane cordialities exchanged.
Mark Twain, Life on the Mississippi. Chapter XI.

What I should have said to CityTV about privacy

This morning at break the Google Maps bike was at Yonge Dundas square for a photo op/media session. Afterwords a reporter from CityTV asked my opinion on the bike and whether I found it an invasion of privacy. I forgot my cardinal rule with the press — have something prepared the moment you see a camera on the off chance the blighters ask you something — and glibly spoke about how I liked the idea of being on Google Maps because it would make me popular. The following is a far more rational discussion that is far more suited to a blog than a 30 second or less tv spot.

In this age where every Tom, Dick, and Sally has a gizmo capable of capturing a single moment of time — with or without permission, context or purpose — it is failed assumption that we even have an implicit right to privacy. While most commentators worry about Big Brother invading their life and watching their every move, we should be far more concerned with the fourth cousin once removed snapping a pic on his phone. The perfect example is the “sleeping TTC worker” who has castigated by millions for napping during his shift in a booth. We now know that this gentleman was in said booth because he was trying to work while dealing with a condition that ultimately claimed his life. Instead of driving his bus and putting the lives of hundreds at risk he was a brave man fighting for life and dignity who was working with his employer to find some way he could contiue working. Where is the pilloring of the anonymous person who took his photo? Where is the mob crying out for so-called justice now?

Google maps taking my picture is nothing compared to daily exposure I face simply by living in urban North America. The google bike is noticable. If I want to hide my face I can do so with ease. If anything, the photos they take should be archived for future social historians so they can have a glimpse of what today looked like. 

Am I concerned about a camera invading my privacy? I wouldn’t be conducting an interview if I was. 

Random thoughts from the world of music

Every now and then I like to go to muchmusic.com to watch some of the latest hits, since they don’t show music on tv anymore. Here is my latest batch of thoughts.

I wanna go by Britney Spears  — It looks like she’s trying to corner the Ke$ha market by being the crazy, party girl and wants everyone to look at her body as a sexy let” get it on style of pop magnet.  It’s probably a few years too late but good on her for at least trying to pretend she has a career. Too bad no one told her that when you copy Gaga’s sci-fi approach that Terminator is about as out-of-date as the idea that most men want to sleep with her. 

Speaking of Gaga

The Edge of Glory — insert random summer dance song and channel Bruce Springsteen for a non-politically motivated music break.

So this is Selena Gomez eh? Why is she referencing a character that’s older than she is? Hell I’m the right age and I barely remember who Max Hedrom is.  Next.

Next to You feat. Justin Beiber by Chris Brown — So we’re creating a crazy end of the world senario to showcase a half-assed love song? I don’t get it.

 

I can’t do this anymore. 

 

I’m signing off before my brain asplodes.

Things Said at Work

Coworker: Man, you know what’d be a great invention? An umbrella but without the metal and made with wood so that you could use it for the sun instead of the rain.

Me: That would be a parasol. And it was a great invention, when they made it a few centuries ago.

And then as luck would have it someone walked by with a parasol.

Much laughter was enjoyed by all.

A new me

Twice in the last couple of weeks I’ve met up with people I haven’t seen in a while. The first was one of my best friends-from-grades-5-to -10’s jack and jill. Mike recognized me because of facebook but his mother and brother had no idea. The second was on Friday with one of my good friends from Windsor (hi Elaine) who happened to be in the area. She mentioned that she would probably walk past me on the street without realizing it.

So I glanced at a couple of photos from way back when and started thinking about how much has changed in the last ten to fifteen years.

Size. I went from 130ish lbs at university to my now standard weight of 180 lbs. I can actually lift objects that weigh 50 or more pounds without blinking and move them up flights of stairs. In just the past two years I went from not being able to move a box of firewrap (one of the heaviest objects you find on a commercial job site) more than a few feet to moving them across the room with ease and going back for more. I’m wider now. I don’t look like I could turn sideways and disappear. That’s something I’m rather proud of these days. Judging by people’s reactions to me this seems to be one of the biggest changes.

Facial hair.  I have some and generally keep it there.

Psychology. I’ve put in some massive work on rebuilding myself over the last decade. I’m a much different person than I was even five years ago. I’m stronger mentally. I’m confident in what I can do. I may battle depression but I’m no longer devoured by it.

Clothing. My wife dresses me now. I look better for it. I am no longer allowed to buy clothing on my own and I do believe that this is a good thing.

In all, I’m not sure if past me could pick out present me from a line-up of potential futures. Given who I am now versus who I used to be I’m glad of that fact.

Is the Election Over Yet?

I’ve been reticent to blog about the Canadian federal election because I’m thoroughly bored by the punditry and annoyed that we have to have one in the first place. Despite what the Rt. Hon. Mr. Harper might believe the government can be run by a coalition in a minority situation. Or it can go it alone. Quite frankly I am of the opinion that the Governor-General should take the notice of dissolution, say thanks for your time you be on your way now, and call up the next in line. If they can’t form a government, and they need to declare it, then it goes to the next person and so on and so forth until you begin ambushing regular parliamentarians in the hallway and beg them to try and drum up, say, ten friends who are willing to act as ministers.

Every other country with a multi-party legislative chamber goes through these exercises. Hell, Japan and Israel appear to go through a new government every nine months. It’s all part and parcel of having an elected assembly. What Canadians, and most legislators forget, is that the MPs represent a riding, not a party. As a member of the party you generally agree with the overall policies and tend to vote that way but this should not preclude the possibility of voting against the party line if you think it is in the best interests of the country in general and your riding in particular.

My wish for this election would be that His Excellency would announce that this is the last Federal election for another four to five years. If you don’t like how your party ended up, too bad. If those bullies in the opposition are being mean, too bad. If you don’t want to govern you don’t have to. He’ll just pick someone else. If you don’t like that then you can try and break that government. Will it mean that the markets may be a bit unstable? Sure. But that hasn’t stopped the rest of the freaking world now has it?