Print Story Black Silk and Sundials
Diary
By Kellnerin (Sat Mar 11, 2006 at 02:32:14 PM EST) (all tags)
  • Reunion: Theory of Some Things, At Least
  • Delivery: see title
  • Rediscovery: ditto, see also reminiscence
BONUS: the reason I never post photo diaries (contains photos).


MET UP WITH a couple old high school friends, G and O, for lunch the other day. I've mentioned G now and then in my diaries -- I've kept in touch with him more regularly over the years. I hadn't really talked to O in ages, but when we sat down we went right back into our old routines.

O always liked to explore the theoretical; when we were in high school, he'd constantly propose these bizarrely contrived hypothetical situations and press us to respond or form opinions about them. Sometimes it was interesting, other times, we'd just say, "O, that's stupid," but it wouldn't stop him anyway.

Like this: We sat down, opened menus. "So, when can we stop eating chicken?" O asked. Wha? "Because of the bird flu," he said.

"Well, I think G's already ahead of us," I said. G agreed, because he's a vegetarian.

"Huh." O ordered chicken.

After we'd ordered and the food came we got into a discussion about the Meaning of Life. This sort of thing happens naturally when talking to O. I think it came around like this: G brought up something he had read about this clock that was designed to run for a million years without any maintenance or human intervention, and was going to be buried somewhere for posterity. Something that was supposedly going to give people a sense of the future, because the popular sense of humanity's outlook is so bleak: when people look into the future a hundred, two hundred years from now, whatever they imagine, humanity's not in good shape, and has probably blown itself up many times over.

"So now, when we look into the future," I asked, "whatever else there is on earth, maybe the human race will be wiped out, but somewhere, we'll know, there's this clock that's still telling time?"

"Uh huh."

"That's a fucking Ray Bradbury story."

I proposed that a clock that doesn't need humans didn't seem very hopeful at all, but that I'd be more impressed if a group of people set up an old clock and committed to making sure it was wound each day. Which brought O to wonder aloud what the big deal is with immortality, or even with humanity's existence stretching indefinitely into the future. And whether there is a quantitative difference in meaning between the lasting and the ephemeral, and if so, why.

We meandered around for a while before O declared that meaning is formed by "authentic engagement in relationships." The only problem being we weren't able to measure this, or even put a finger on how to determine the authenticity of said engagements. O hypothesized by drawing a graph on a napkin: two axes, with two lines parallel to the x-axis, about one-third and two-thirds of the way up the y-axis. "I don't know what this one is," he said, pointing to the x-axis. "Maybe time, or progress, or whatever." He labelled the vertical axis Conflict. Between the two horizontal lines, he indicated, is where authentic engagement in relationships occurs. Too little conflict, and it's not meaningful. Too much, and it's too chaotic and destructive.

"I don't think you need that other axis," I told him.

"No, no, I think you do."

G pointed out it was like something they'd talked about in his management class -- he's currently studying library science -- where the book said that a conflict level above 3 in a work environment starts to have a negative impact on office productivity. The only thing is, they don't tell you what constitutes Conflict Level 3. There is apparently no Beaufort scale of interpersonal conflict. "So we figured, if there is so much conflict that you're starting to see bad effects on productivity, you're at three." [Force 3 Conflict: Staplers and other small-to-medium size office supplies are tossed about the room.]

Anyway, I'd have saved the diagram, but later O dripped peanut sauce on it.


MEANWHILE, D HAS BEEN telling me for for a while about the gift he got me for my birthday. See, he ordered it weeks ago and all he would tell me was that it involved black silk. But it kept getting delayed, and he kept giving me updates as to its status, and reassuring me that when it came, it'd be really cool. I have this weird thing about expectations, and not wanting to build them up, so I didn't really want to have the status reports, anyway.

It became sort of a joke. Last weekend ordered himself a new power brick for his laptop, Fiona, which was something he desperately needed, and told me it'd probably arrive on Wednesday. Later that day, he said, "so I think your gift is coming on Wednesday."

"You got me a brick for Fiona?" Nothing says love like power supplies.

Anyway, on Thursday, it finally came, and I found out what the black silk was about.

Silk, geddit
More of the above

He got me this (pardon the pathetic photo quality):

The book inside its case
I don`t have something witty to say for all of these
If this tells a story ... I`m not sure get it




Facing page of the previous one
Why yes, I am a book geek

Which was completely not anything like I expected at all, but it is, in fact, amazing.


D AND I WERE SEARCHING in our bedroom for something earlier today, when D pulls out something and asks, "What's this?"

It was a metal ring I hadn't thought about in years, but I recognized it immediately. "It's a sundial. I got it in France." It was supposed to be a gift for G, originally. There used to be a painted sundial out front of my elementary school, out by the basketball hoops and four-square courts. G didn't go to the same school I did, and it hadn't even been there when I was in elementary school, but it was on the way from my house to the T station, so we sometimes walked by it. More often than not, this happened at night, and he'd stop, stand on the sundial in the spot marked for the current month, and read the time as indicated by the shadow he cast by the streetlight. If we were on our way somewhere in particular, he'd note, "Seven o'clock. We're not late."

< ... | BBC White season: 'Rivers of Blood' >
Black Silk and Sundials | 35 comments (35 topical, 0 hidden)
What a great gift. by toxicfur (2.00 / 0) #1 Sat Mar 11, 2006 at 03:06:44 PM EST
Wow. It's beautiful, and well, wow. What language is it in?
--
damn it, lif eis actually really *far4 too good at tghe momnent, shboyukbnt;t whilen. --Dr Thrustgood
Italienisch. by ammoniacal (2.00 / 0) #3 Sat Mar 11, 2006 at 04:23:01 PM EST
Ich glaube.

"To this day that was the most bullshit caesar salad I have every experienced..." - triggerfinger

[ Parent ]
the version I have by Kellnerin (2.00 / 0) #4 Sat Mar 11, 2006 at 05:50:09 PM EST
is translated into French from the Italian, but that's just the introduction by Italo Calvino. The rest of the book is in some weird alien tongue. The danger of this is that I am really tempted to try and figure out what it says. Because seriously -- that page with the eight panels? Wouldn't you want to know what it's about? My other problem though is that I feel like I need to put latex gloves on just to open the thing ... yikes.

--
"Slick Loons Cow Stumbling Readers." —toxicfur
I may be an expensive mushroom. —iGrrrl
[ Parent ]
Don't Translate It by Christopher Robin was Murdered (4.00 / 1) #24 Mon Mar 13, 2006 at 01:08:24 PM EST
Then it just becomes that one book.

What a brilliant gift.

[ Parent ]
you're right by Kellnerin (4.00 / 1) #25 Mon Mar 13, 2006 at 02:53:14 PM EST
Layers notwithstanding, I don't think it's even possible. My flaw (one of them) is wanting to Know (and yes, with a capital K) more than a human being can or probably should. D's role in my life, in part, is to remind me of the importance of Mystery, which I think he just did, again. As he said to me the other day, "stop trying to eff the ineffable."

--
"Slick Loons Cow Stumbling Readers." —toxicfur
I may be an expensive mushroom. —iGrrrl
[ Parent ]
I Once Read That . . . by Christopher Robin was Murdered (4.00 / 1) #27 Mon Mar 13, 2006 at 05:57:03 PM EST
The guy playing guitar in the Teen Titans theme song is Japanese rock icon Guitar Wolf.

Though that has no relevance here.

Thought it does remind me, I once read that the opposite of knowledge was not ignorance, but deceit.

I'm fairly comfortable with not Knowing. It's the latter one the rubs my tenders the wrong way. Recognizing where one should not or cannot know has always struck me as a form of wisdom.


[ Parent ]
I've got nothing to add by Kellnerin (2.00 / 0) #29 Tue Mar 14, 2006 at 08:51:31 AM EST
except that the latter part of this comment is so true that a mere "4" would not be enough.

--
"Slick Loons Cow Stumbling Readers." —toxicfur
I may be an expensive mushroom. —iGrrrl
[ Parent ]
That by ni (4.00 / 1) #2 Sat Mar 11, 2006 at 03:54:08 PM EST
is the most incredible book I have ever seen. I am alarmingly tempted to buy a copy. I should not be trusted with a credit card.


Think metahistorically, act locally. -- CheeseburgerBrown
it is by Kellnerin (2.00 / 0) #5 Sat Mar 11, 2006 at 05:57:03 PM EST
the coolest book-object I've seen outside a museum. A few years ago I worked on a book that retailed for $150, list price. That was a pretty sweet book, but it doesn't hold a candle.

--
"Slick Loons Cow Stumbling Readers." —toxicfur
I may be an expensive mushroom. —iGrrrl
[ Parent ]
i have a pile of $150 books. by gzt (2.00 / 0) #6 Sat Mar 11, 2006 at 08:17:15 PM EST
i hate academia. i somehow think your $150 book was more fun [though some of mine are very good in their own way].

[ Parent ]
true ... by Kellnerin (2.00 / 0) #10 Sun Mar 12, 2006 at 05:18:08 AM EST
price is no real indicator of quality or even coolness. This one was bound in full cloth with a slipcase, and the interior featured (for printing geeks out there), black-and-white photos printed in quadratone. Most lavish production I'd seen up until that point.

--
"Slick Loons Cow Stumbling Readers." —toxicfur
I may be an expensive mushroom. —iGrrrl
[ Parent ]
You've got to find a way to display it. by calla (2.00 / 0) #7 Sat Mar 11, 2006 at 09:12:00 PM EST
I'd hate for the book to just end up on a shelf.

I've got to find a way to create a book like that and still support my family habit.


you're right ... by Kellnerin (4.00 / 1) #11 Sun Mar 12, 2006 at 05:25:15 AM EST
I'll have to think about that. Although, like the clock that doesn't need humans and that you just know intellectually exists, I think rather than setting up a display and leaving it there, I should make a commitment to take it down from the shelf and open it up, regularly.

I'd love to see the book you'd create if you had all the leisure in the world.

--
"Slick Loons Cow Stumbling Readers." —toxicfur
I may be an expensive mushroom. —iGrrrl

[ Parent ]
For me it's always, out of sight, by calla (2.00 / 0) #13 Sun Mar 12, 2006 at 06:43:59 AM EST
out of mind.

I love hanging stuff - but how would you even display a book like that? Any ideas?

And thanks for your interest.


[ Parent ]
A podium by Forbidden (4.00 / 1) #16 Sun Mar 12, 2006 at 12:12:21 PM EST


You once was.
[ Parent ]
good point by Kellnerin (4.00 / 1) #18 Sun Mar 12, 2006 at 12:38:09 PM EST
Things that are put away somewhere special tend to stay that way. I'd love to show it somewhere in all its glory, but there's a quandary when it comes to displaying books: exposing anything that is pigment-on-paper to light runs counter to its preservation. And with books there's the binding as well, that can be stressed or harmed by being in one position too long. We do have a room lined with bookcases and I'm sure I can find a prominent spot for it on a shelf, in its case. Not sure if that's what I'll end up doing -- within the case it can still become part of the background -- but I think I ought to put it somewhere safe, though not completely out of the way, so that I will think of it, and visit it often.

--
"Slick Loons Cow Stumbling Readers." —toxicfur
I may be an expensive mushroom. —iGrrrl
[ Parent ]
I dreamed this morning, by johnny (4.00 / 2) #8 Sun Mar 12, 2006 at 02:21:32 AM EST
just before our aged dog woke me up at 6:00 with her morning whining, that you and I got married.  Don't worry, nothing too intimate came about as a result, for I was living and working in Scandanavia, and you were in Greece.

I said to Dear Wife, who had also been awakened by our ancient, creaky dog, "I married Kellnerin.  I'm sorry, in my dream I seem to have forgotten all about you."

Dear Wife responded, "Well, there you go."

So now it's an hour and seventeen minutes later, and our ancient whiney dog is asleep in a light sleep on the couch next to me. Once she goes into deep sleep I think I'll go back to bed.

As usual, you have written a brilliant and intriuing diary entry.  That book is wonderful.

Happy Birthday.


She has effectively checked out. She's an un-person of her own making. So it falls to me.--ad hoc (in the hole)

"Intriguing" by johnny (2.00 / 0) #9 Sun Mar 12, 2006 at 02:24:02 AM EST
or however you spell it.

She has effectively checked out. She's an un-person of her own making. So it falls to me.--ad hoc (in the hole)
[ Parent ]
tele-weddings by Kellnerin (4.00 / 1) #12 Sun Mar 12, 2006 at 05:31:45 AM EST
It's the next logical step, I guess. I've always wanted to go to Greece. That said, I think "Well, there you go" is the most perfect response Dear Wife could have had to the revelation. She's a keeper, as you already know.

I'll just get to Greece on my own dime. Easy come, easy go.

Thanks for the thoughts, both conscious and sub-.

--
"Slick Loons Cow Stumbling Readers." —toxicfur
I may be an expensive mushroom. —iGrrrl

[ Parent ]
The Clock of the Long Now by blixco (4.00 / 2) #14 Sun Mar 12, 2006 at 07:32:08 AM EST
required acolytes to manage the information of the clock.  These acolytes would be volunteers.  They would explain the events upciming: a chime at every century, a series of chimes at the milleniums, a whole cavalcade of stuff at 10,000 years....

The language of the clock itself is an experiment much like the signs being used to warn future generations about underground nuclear waste sites: how do you tell someone don't dig here! in whatever language evolves into being 10,000 years from now?
---------------------------------
Taken out of context I must seem so strange - Ani DiFranco

Hopefully by Forbidden (4.00 / 1) #17 Sun Mar 12, 2006 at 12:14:33 PM EST
The people 10,000 years from now will be intelligent enough to check for radiation before digging.

Then again, they will also be able to communicate completely with thier minds and travel to distant galaxies via dreams, though more clearly than we do now.


You once was.
[ Parent ]
Well, by blixco (2.00 / 0) #21 Mon Mar 13, 2006 at 05:11:32 AM EST
the idea, I guess, is that human-type things in the year 12,0000AD may be a new species, something that is born from the extinction of humans.  How do you convey "don't go near Yucca Mountain!" without saying it?

Studies like this are hugely interesting to me, but they all seem to have an artist's viewpoint, which the government never swallows whole.
---------------------------------
Taken out of context I must seem so strange - Ani DiFranco

[ Parent ]
talking to the future by Kellnerin (4.00 / 1) #19 Sun Mar 12, 2006 at 01:45:39 PM EST
It's fascinating to think about, but what would the people of the future want to hear from us? I imagine they'd be grateful to know "DIG HERE AND DIE" but do they want us to tell them, "at the chime, it will have been N revolutions of the earth since some point in the past"? Will it be beautiful and heartbreaking or mind-numbingly obvious?

There's something weird about trying to culture-proof a clock. In doing that, are we stripping away the things that might be interesting to a future historian looking at the way we conceptualized time? Or maybe, we think we're boiling it down to something very basic, but there's still a fundamental assumption we can't let go of (like at which point in the cycle does it go bing), and that one thing will be fascinating to the future. Or aliens, or whoever.

I don't know ... on the one hand it's a cool endeavor, but on the other hand I wonder if it isn't a lot of effort to convey something transparently to an audience that will already know it anyway. Maybe the rotation of the earth is something simple and magical enough to share, but part of me wants instead for us to keep alive some obscure way of telling time, some esoteric secret that needs to be passed down and maintained. Something human, I guess.

--
"Slick Loons Cow Stumbling Readers." —toxicfur
I may be an expensive mushroom. —iGrrrl

[ Parent ]
The real intent by blixco (4.00 / 1) #20 Mon Mar 13, 2006 at 04:40:48 AM EST
behind it, as I read it, is this: right now, time moves too fast.  That is to say, right now we think only of the next year, or day, or second and not the next thousand years, the next ten thousand.  The clock of the long now is intended to lengthen our idea of now, expand our horizon of time to include far-flung times when the universe will be much hotter.  Or colder.  The thinking is, this will create in those aware of the clock a sense of long-term responsibility.

Underlying that is a sort of Feynman-ian desire to delay the singulrity using only the thinking of the collective; if enough people can be convinced into anticipatory thinking about a future event, then the threshold of time vs reality extends back to a more natural limit.  We wouldn't be bound by the workday, or the picosecond.

Now, the offshoot of this is that you end up with a monolith, a temple to the one thing that mankind has invented (outside of language) that has fundamentally changed both man and the planet.  So the monument that they propose is a clock that satisfies artistic and scientific intent, one that forces the people who see it to contemplate not the future, but the future of the future, the long timeline that we've lost by accelerating so far so fast.

The one problem I see with it is: time exists now and it is told to us every second by the devices around us, that maybe we don't need another clock.

That maybe what we need is another time.  Another thing to replace that synthetic rhythm, something more in tune with the way the earth and those of us on it work and live.

Because with the clock of the long now, we're extending our timeline, enforcing that artificial reality onto the future, onto a geologic timeline that used to move tectonically.  A human-ish being 10,000 years into the future may uncover this as Pandora, and we'll slide down the same funnel we're edging into now.  The first clocks were invented by priests to control labor.  The last of our breath as a species should not be counted by such a thing.

By the way: the long now foundation has a decent page covering some of this.
---------------------------------
Taken out of context I must seem so strange - Ani DiFranco

[ Parent ]
the motivating impulse by Kellnerin (4.00 / 1) #22 Mon Mar 13, 2006 at 09:15:11 AM EST
I get it, to a degree, and there's something to it. I mean, look at us now: demonstrations of human achievement measured down to the hundredth of a second to determine who gets the token of shiny metal and in what color. Things we imagine to be of immense importance. Meanwhile: humanity's progress stymied, nearly, by Y2K. And hypothetically, by Y2038. By -- eventually -- Y10K. But who cares? Time stretching off into the distance becomes smaller and insignificant.

On the other hand (the millenium hand or the eon hand), this particular project could be several kinds of useless. I mean, right, it's another clock. Time passes, continually, regardless of the ticks, regardless of whether we count. But we do. I mean, these guys, they rushed to finish a prototype just in time to tick over to January 1, 2000 -- this is the first step toward the revolution? What's the meaning of that instant in the lifetime of our planet, unless you're counting every slice of passing time leading up to it, and even then it'd have slid by just like any other except that we have ten digits and evolved a counting system that makes that number look pretty. We marked that moment by counting each second along the way. I'm not sure, but I think someone out there with a real and truly long view is laughing.

But we do need to count, if we're going to plan, if we're going to live, if we're going to make any sense of all this vastness of time coming down the chute at us. And that's what this clock is about: the ability to count on for longer than we've ever counted before. That's a noble goal, on some level, but the machine can only do so much. Without some human continuity, day by day, watching moment piled on every moment adding up to all those millenia, there's no meaning. And given all that, the way I see it, you ought to be aware of, to honor the steps along the way as much as the big milestones. We're already doing that, in our frenetic, perhaps misguided way.

I don't think you need to fear that the idea of the clock will be some kind of future poison. Come the apocalypse, if our idea of time has been erased from the board, if somewhere along the way we stop keeping count, our successors will have reinvented it long before they ever stumble onto our machine. They may have different names for it, they may have rest the counter back to one, but they'll be counting. They won't need us to tell them how.

The Long Now, though? It's a great name, but Now is what happens when, for a span, you forget about the counting. The clock's got nothing to do with it. They've posed an interesting question, but I don't think they've answered anything.

By the way, you might remember a while ago I was complaining about watches. I finally found one, plain without markings, the way I like it. It came with a sticker on the back, like they have on Brita pitchers to remind you to change the filter, telling me to "Change Battery 2010" with an arrow pointing at a number from one to twelve around a circle. Just now, as I was typing this comment, the sticker came off, and now I have no idea what month it was pointing to, nor will it stay if I try to re-affix it. It strikes me as funny because it's both long- and short-sighted: planning out my battery replacements four years into the future (as if that's something you have to anticipate -- maybe in 2010 it will be), but in a medium that's obviously not going to last that long. Someone else wanted to make sure I never lose count of the time, but they didn't plan as well.

--
"Slick Loons Cow Stumbling Readers." —toxicfur
I may be an expensive mushroom. —iGrrrl

[ Parent ]
oh! and by Kellnerin (2.00 / 0) #23 Mon Mar 13, 2006 at 10:54:36 AM EST
how could I forget to mention, the oracular Google ad sidebar came up with "Down Came the Rain" and nothing else. It is, in fact, drizzly with a chance of thunderstorms today.

--
"Slick Loons Cow Stumbling Readers." —toxicfur
I may be an expensive mushroom. —iGrrrl
[ Parent ]
Oh, and by blixco (4.00 / 1) #15 Sun Mar 12, 2006 at 07:33:05 AM EST
that book? Goddamn.  Very cool.
---------------------------------
Taken out of context I must seem so strange - Ani DiFranco
a subject by iGrrrl (4.00 / 1) #26 Mon Mar 13, 2006 at 05:20:56 PM EST
[Force 3 Conflict: Staplers and other small-to-medium size office supplies are tossed about the room.]

BWAAAAAaaaaahh!

Thanks.  I needed that.

And book?  That man loves you.

Oh, and, I miss you.

Back to work now.
"I honestly pity the stupid motherfucker who tries to talk down to iGrrrl" - mrgoat

I am only too glad by Kellnerin (2.00 / 0) #28 Tue Mar 14, 2006 at 08:50:19 AM EST
to provide a brief flash of hilarity in the dreary world of $evil_project.

And yeah, I'm lucky. I know it.

Miss you, too. Don't let your brain ooze too much. Lemme know if you could use another pair of eyes near the finish line. All I can offer is that they'd be connected to a relatively un-fried brain.

--
"Slick Loons Cow Stumbling Readers." —toxicfur
I may be an expensive mushroom. —iGrrrl

[ Parent ]
will do by iGrrrl (4.00 / 1) #30 Tue Mar 14, 2006 at 10:55:45 AM EST
Lemme know if you could use another pair of eyes near the finish line. All I can offer is that they'd be connected to a relatively un-fried brain.

Will do.  I started an email to two of the principles with some thing to the effect of, "Because I now resemble a crispy piece of toast..."
"I honestly pity the stupid motherfucker who tries to talk down to iGrrrl" - mrgoat

[ Parent ]
Hrm by Fionn (2.00 / 0) #31 Wed Mar 15, 2006 at 11:59:30 PM EST

When I read about that clock running for 1 million years, it just struck me as a very depressing thought. For some reason, it seemed such a finite and meaningless amount of time.

The picture book looks absolutely gorgeous and most be among the top 10 best gifts ever. :)


well, by Kellnerin (2.00 / 0) #32 Thu Mar 16, 2006 at 02:13:01 AM EST
it's not that it's supposed to run for a certain amount of time and then stop. It's just intended to run for at least that long, and I think it's 10,000 years, not a million, if it's the clock blixco is talking about in his comment -- whether that makes a difference or not. So, not finite (at least not by design), but meaningless ... it could still be.

And the book is very, very cool. Come visit and see ;)

--
"Slick Loons Cow Stumbling Readers." —toxicfur
I may be an expensive mushroom. —iGrrrl

[ Parent ]
Heh by Fionn (2.00 / 0) #33 Thu Mar 16, 2006 at 10:24:15 PM EST

Visiting sounds even more cool then the book. ;)

It'd be cool to just be able to drop by for a weekend every now and then, but that would really only constitute getting in to the plane, getting out of the plane, sleeping, getting in to the plane, getting out of the plane...

I'm sure there'd be a saying hi inthere as well too, tho. :)


[ Parent ]
questions by LilFlightTest (2.00 / 0) #34 Sat Mar 25, 2006 at 04:56:58 PM EST
where did that book come from, and how much was it?

i suggest you contact your local framing place, and get some UV blocking glass for a display case.
Send me to Austria!

I dunno by Kellnerin (2.00 / 0) #35 Sun Mar 26, 2006 at 09:36:18 AM EST
He got it from a rare book dealer who, he suspects, may have had to work with another dealer to get it, or so he said. No idea of the cost.

Anti-UV does slow fading (though it doesn't stop it entirely), but I don't think a display case is the way to go. Besides not having anywhere suitable in my house to set it up to good effect, I just don't think books are meant to live under glass.

--
"Slick Loons Cow Stumbling Readers." —toxicfur
I may be an expensive mushroom. —iGrrrl

[ Parent ]
Black Silk and Sundials | 35 comments (35 topical, 0 hidden)