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Carl Sagan or how I learned to love (or like) the sun

I am not much of a sun-person. Actually, that’s not true anymore. I used to be wary of the sun, mainly because its main purpose seemed to me to send glares into my flat which would then put a glare on my monitor, making it a fucking nuisance to use my computer.

I’ve since learned two things:

  • One: Drapes are a great thing. The can make sure, none of those rays reach your computer screen.
  • Two: The sun is a magnificent thing, mainly because it’s providing us with the light and warmth we need and because it’s a testament to the fact that we are all made of star-stuff

Now, I know how esoteric that sounds, and all I can say is: it’s not esoteric, it’s science. It’s fucking science! Who taught me that? Well, Carl Sagan of course.

I’ve always held an interest in science, albeit in a superficial way, one that doesn’t demand long hours in labs. And, I’d heard about Carl Sagan before, but it was mostly confined to comment sections of Reddit or some other place where people with brains that don’t match their occupation tend to hang out.

Recently, or rather a couple of months back, I ordered Cosmos, the science-series with Carl Sagan, mainly because I’d read so many good things about it. And they were all right. Cosmos is by far the most intelligent, insightful, reflected and interesting show on science I’ve ever had the pleasure to watch. And even though I know that there’s a shitload of people involved in writing a series like that, it is mainly due to Carl Sagan. That man simply knew his stuff but also knew how to convey it.

And just like that, he managed to instill in me an appreciation of the sun like I’d never experienced before. When earlier I was annoyed by too much brightness, today, when I look at the sun, I can’t help but think of how Carl Sagan described where we came from, what we are and where we are (probably) going.

It’s a shame the man died as young as he did, because I think we’d have good use for a Carl Sagan nowadays to remind us of the bigotry and pseudo-science that still dominates public discourse.

Here’s to Carl Sagan and the sun.

Double Trouble

I recently, by sheer accident and luck, stumbled upon Sean Costello, a blues-guitarist/singer-songwriter. His performances are so vibrant and heartfelt, I could weep everytime I see them. Well, not weep. But at least move my foot or tap a finger on my desk. There’s a pretty big archive of his fantastic life-performances on YouTube. For example, here he is performing the Otis Rush classic Double Trouble:

Unfortunately, he died two years ago at the age of 28. After researching him a bit, I found that film-maker Sarah Baker is currently in the pre-production of a documentary about Sean Costello and the life of musicians today (Facebook Page). From the blurb:

For Costello, the blues was indeed a calling, and he played it against considerable odds. Using Costello as a protagonist, BLUES MAN explores the livelihoods of modern musicians. How do they survive? How do they get gigs, tours, and radio airplay? What role did Sean play in the development of his own career?

It sounds like a wildly interesting and ambitious project which can be supported via Kickstarter. Please do pledge some money for the project, because I definitely want to see this film someday.

Until the film is out, here’s more from YouTube:

The Social Network – a film

I finally got around to seeing “The Social Network”, a movie about – but only loosely based on – the actual inception of You know, that website you use to stalk people. I am not much of a movie critic, and even though introductory phrases like these should be enough to refrain from actually reviewing a film, I still feel I should mention a few things I liked and didn’t like about the film.

First of all, David Fincher simply is one of the best directors around. Second, Trent Reznor just knows how to write music. Third, the combination of both can be found throughout the movie, but the most poignant one is the scene of the rowing competition. It was actually the first time I’ve seen a scene shot in tilt-shift in a mainstream film (for the record, I haven’t seen one yet in an indie film either). Anyway, if you still don’t know whether to watch the film, do go and see it, just for that one scene (it’s roughly two minutes, but well worth it).

Now, for the rest. Without a doubt, Sorkin, who wrote the screenplay, did a masterful job. There was nary a boring scene throughout the whole film, and considering that the whole thing is, well, about a website, that is quite a feat. As for stereotypes and clich├ęs: yes, they’re all there. Most women portrayed are either demure, slutty or bossy. With a focus on slutty. I guess this simply comes with letting a middle-aged man write a film about college, young people and power (literary similarities are plentiful, go and have a look at Tom Wolfe and his “Charlotte Simmons”). So no, the film will never win a feminist’s award.

Apart from that, there’s the question of historical accuracy. For someone who has read Marshall Kirkpatrick’s “The Facebook Effect”, it soon becomes clear that a lot has been dramatized for the big screen. Fortunately, I already expected as much. Because, well, if it had been entirely accurate, the film would have been an absolute and utter bore.

Which leads me to my final point: “The Social Network” is in fact quite entertaining. Even though you might be wondering at the end what exactly it was you’d just been sitting through, when you think back, a good time was had.

In the end, it’s a film about a guy who’s shrewd, quite brilliant and mildly autistic, who gets sued by a bunch of people for being just that. Managing to make a feature film out of these elements without boring the shit out of everyone and their grandma simply is something to be admired.

Oh, and as much as it pains me to say so, Justin Timberlake is a solid actor.

Some personal wisdom

Here’s to wisdom. Because, you know, I once heard that these outlets we call blogs were once supposed to give us the freedom to voice whatever wisdom we’d saw fit to impart on the masses. So here I am, again, to impart wisdom.

First of all: if you like smoking, don’t quit it (unless for monetary reasons, that is). I know, it’s an unpopular thing to say, and most general surgeons of the world would want my head for even implying that there’s anything even remotely beneficial about the blue stuff, but well, it’s true. If you like smoking, do it.

Second: eat what you like. If you dig fast food, eat it. If you like steaks charred to the black and blue state, eat those fuckers. If cakes are your poison, by all means, have at them. Top them off with some frosting, chocolate sauce and unicorn tears. It’ll be great!

I could go on, but I guess it’s rather clear what I’m going at. In case it’s not to you, let me spell it out:

Life is not a miracle, it’s a coincidence. The fact that we’re able to bash each others heads in over disputes regarding imaginary beings while at the same time creating pieces of art that manage to rock our world shows what freaks of nature we are.

There is no fate. Every constraint we feel has been put upon us by the respective society we live in. We might be able to escape said constraints, if we so wish, but most of us won’t. Don’t worry about it, though, ’cause at least now you know where you stand.

Respect life, but don’t take it seriously. Simply enjoy yourself and make sure everyone around you does the same. There will be nobody to judge you once it’s all over.

Because you know, in the end, there’s just one thing – the end.

And yes, that’s a pretty bad-ass ending.

Vienna – where grumpy people go to die

And there we are. In one gentle but swift move autumn has swooped in and replaced what we like to call summer. It’s not even September and people are already feeling properly dressed wearing scarfs, coats and whatnot. Well, I don’t mind. You see, I like me a weather which dictates not what I should remove from my body but rather what I should add to my body to keep me from freezing to death. It’s just so much more comfortable.

I think that’s why I like places like Sweden that much. Even in mid-August, there’s nothing wrong with wearing hooded sweaters and long trousers. And hell, the people are friendly too. Returning to Vienna after spending some time in Sweden is like returning to the place where people go after they’ve used up all their compassion, optimism and good humour. The best you can do in Vienna is getting a waiter who realizes how fucked up his performance of being a grumpy old asshole is and has to grin in the course of it.

Anyway, my intention is not to make you feel all gloomy so here’s another breathtaking picture to marvel at. Enjoy.


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