Cartesian Dialogue

I had to write a two-page paper for my ACC Philosophy class, just to show that understood at least one concept. I wrote an imaginary discussion between Descartes and Sir Walter Raleigh, just to have some bizarre fun.

Soon after Sir Walter Raleigh helped introduce the use of smoking tobacco to England after returning from Virginia, he offered a wager to Queen Elizabeth that he could weigh the smoke produced by her pipe during a given time. This dialogue places Raleigh and Descartes in the same place and time, and offers a fanciful inspiration for that famous bet.

Ah, Rene - so good to see you. Have you decided if I exist yet?
Hello, Walter - I'm afraid not. I've only just completed my Second Meditation, so I am far from knowing if anything exists, save myself. Real or not, I'm eager to talk to you, however, and share what I have discovered about true perception.
Perception? I assume you refer to that which we know by the senses, such as the aromatic smell from this fine tobacco I'm smoking. Even the Queen is smoking now!
Let's discuss smoking later, Walter. Actually, I believe the senses have nothing to do with true perception.
How can that be? Explain, Rene.
As I was busy in contemplation, I performed an interesting experiment with a piece of beeswax. It was still sweet with honey and smelling of flowers. I could see its size and color. It made a sound when struck. In short, all of my senses told me plainly this was a piece of wax.
Of course, perception comes from the senses.
Let me finish - I then heated the wax until it melted. Now the smell was gone and the taste indistinct. Obviously the size and shape had changed, as the wax was now liquid. All of my senses then told me the substance was something entirely different from what I before called "wax".
Yes, but we all know that solid wax melts into liquid wax.
But do my senses tell me this? If I had no previous knowledge of wax, and was presented on separate occasions with solid and liquid wax, would I know they are the same thing?
I suppose not.
So the senses did not give me this knowledge. Yet, I understand without a doubt that the solid wax I held previously was indeed now liquid wax. You see, it is the mind that perceives, not the senses. The mind knows clearly and distinctly that both substances are wax - this is a clear and distinct mental perception.
Quite interesting. The mind perceives alone, without aid of the senses, for in this case sensory perception would be incorrect.
I think you're having a clear and distinct perception right now, Walter! I have my manuscript right here, if I may quote: "...what must particularly be observed is that its perception is neither an act of vision, nor of touch, nor of imagination, and has never been such although it may have appeared formerly to be so, but only an intuition of the mind, which may be imperfect and confused as it was formerly, or clear and distinct as it is at present, according as my attention is more or less directed to the elements which are found in it, and of which it is composed."
Well spoken, Rene. Shall we conduct a similar experiment now?
Certainly! I have no doubt you will consider tobacco your subject.
What else? Actually, I think we can recreate your argument easily.
Please continue, Walter.
What do the senses tell us about tobacco? I have some fresh leaves in my pouch right here. Ah, they smell as fresh as Virginia. They are pliable to the touch, have a wonderful ruddy brown color, and ever so quietly crackle as I pinch them near my ear. So initially, this is what the senses call "tobacco".
Yes, but what happens when you smoke it?
Well, let's examine what remains here in the bowl of my pipe. What do the senses tell me now? This substance smells of ash, though a lingering aroma of the tobacco remains. The touch is similar to sand - not at all like the fresh leaves before. The color is black and gray, and this dust makes no sound at all when pinched.
So, considering the senses alone, could these two entirely different substances be perceived as the same?
Not at all. However - let me make sure I get this right, Rene - I do have a clear and distinct mental perception that the tobacco leaves and the ash are in fact the same thing, although my senses tell me otherwise.
Exactly - which demonstrates that the nature of true perception is mental. In your mind, you perceive the truth clearly and distinctly! But there is an interesting addition to your version of the experiment, Walter.
What would that be?
In melting the wax, the senses would show that the solid and liquid wax remained at approximately the same weight. Yet I would say that the ash in your pipe weighs less than the weight of your tobacco leaves.
Wonderful! Yet another way the senses would have us perceive that the leaves and the ash are different substances, when we mentally perceive they are the same.
So, if the weight of the ash is subtracted from the weight of the tobacco before smoking, what remains?
The weight that has been lost in the smoking. But how could that weight have been lost?
What is produced is the burning of the tobacco into ash?
Why, the smoke, of course. Enough to fill a room, usually.
So, perhaps the missing weight could be...
The weight of the smoke!
No need to jump to conclusions, Walter. I'm not sure we can truly make that conclusion - it's quite outside of the argument I'm making...
Yes, but I can make that conclusion!
Would you say you have a clear and distinct mental perception of this assumption?
Who cares? Listen, I was just on my way to enjoy smoking with Queen Elizabeth and her courtiers, and I'm sure they would make the same conclusion. In fact, I'll wager on it!
But Walter, you understand this wasn't really the point of our discussion.
Yes, yes. But our discussion is over - I'm afraid I have to go. Tell me, what will you do next?
I plan to prove the existence of God.
I'd much rather prove that the Queen pays off a lost bet.

Superman's voice

Don't worry, there will be plenty of WEBmikey updates soon - I just don't know exactly when. Since this was my first evening free in a while, I had a great hour and a half DDR session (I'm very close to scoring A's on all songs on Trick), and then watched a DVD.

I'm finally getting used to the new voice of Superman on Justice League - I was so accustomed to hearing Tim Daly on the Superman animated series, so it was a little shocking to hear some one "impersonating" Superman. Oh well, he seems to be getting better.

Titus : 3 of 5

I love Shakespeare movies, so I can't believe I managed to miss Titus in the theater. Thank goodness for DVD rental - this was an excellent, if disturbing, movie. The play itself, Titus Andronicus, is a gruesome, bloody play (everyone agrees it's Shakespeare's worst), and this definitely translates to film. Even more disconcerting is the plot itself, which never makes plain the difference between right and wrong - you manage to love and hate everyone at some point. The semi-modern sets and costumes are fantastic, and all of the actors are great (including Anthony Hopkins). If you can take the story, this is well worth watching.


Mouse Under Glass / David Koenig : 2 of 5

I have to say this is my least favorite of the Koenig books, now that I've read all three. Each chapter presents a Disney film - first it includes the original story, which gets a little boring, then it goes over the production details, which is interesting. After that it lists bloopers and plot inconsistencies, but all of these are incredibly dull and silly - we're talking about animated features here! Anyway, it was still an OK read, but I would much rather have had another Mouse Tales!


Everything But The Girl / Idlewild : 4 of 5

Having read so many positive reviews on Amazon, I had to try out the "older" EBTG stuff. They were a completely different band, if you ask me, but wonderful anyway! All of the tracks here are simply beautiful - very mellow and full of emotion with beautiful lyrics. Some of the arrangements seem really dated at first, but they grew on me fast. I think I prefer today's danceable EBTG, but I'm glad to listen to the acoustic side as well. Everyone should hear Apron Strings and The Night I Heard Caruso Sing!

Trigun Vol 4 : 4 of 5

Now that I've rented all the Gasaraki that Netflix has, I'm moving back to Trigun. This volume was really interesting - each episode seemed to focus more and more on just who Vash the Stampede is and what happened in his past. I was really shocked when one of his arms transformed into a gun - it turns out he's got a lot of cyborg parts! Unfortunately, the last episode on the disc is one of those disappointing recap numbers, full of scenes I've already seen on previous shows. Oh well, the other episodes were worth watching, and I've already got Volume 5 ready to watch!


Tron / Original Soundtrack : 3 of 5

After buying the new DVD of Tron, I thought it would be fun to listen to the soundtrack, too - it was re-released along with the movie. It's actually really good - full of fun synthesizers and old analog electronic sounds. There are several cool themes that conjure up images from the movie - I can totally see those Recognizers descending from the sky. The only bummer is the inclusion of the two incredibly lame Journey songs (I'm so glad they only played them during the credits!).


Electric Light Orchestra / Time : 4 of 5

I was an ELO fan in high school - I had this album on vinyl, and probably played it a thousand times. The whole progression of songs tells the story of a time traveler trapped in the future, and how he finally gets home - I though the concept was cool and I loved the songs with all of the funny futuristic references. Listening to this CD today is a blast, mainly because the ELO sound is so distinct and instantly recognizable, and no one would dare attempt anything like it today.


Hedwig and the Angry Inch : 4 of 5

I've always enjoyed Zach Scott productions - they have a way of performing outlandish, over the top stuff. Hedwig was certainly no exception! This was a fantastic play with a creative, funny, and tragic storyline, filled with excellent rock songs performed live - the band was excellent, and Hedwig him/herself had incredible energy. In fact, the songs were really infectuous - I had them playing in my head for days after seeing the show. There were many moments when I didn't know whether to laugh or cry, and that tension is what kept me mesmerised by the show.


Sorry so stale

Wow, WEBmikey has been getting stale - sorry I haven't been keeping up with things lately! I guess the main reason is I came down with the real live flu (I don't think I've ever had the "real thing" before) - thanks to some great drugs I'm just about completely over it now. Anyway, it really slowed me down and I'm still trying to catch up on life.

This weekend my parents are coming to visit, so I won't have any blogging time then either, since we'll be having too much fun running around together. I've got lots of activities planned, so it will be a full weekend! Oh well, I'll get WEBmikey caught up soon enough.


The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension : 3 of 5

Another movie that I was obsessed with as a kid - I even had a Buckaroo Banzai headband that I liked to wear! This was one crazy movie - the plot is fairly indescribable, filled with dry humor and so-so action. Watching this again was fun, since I barely remembered the story - somehow it was more exciting as a kid. The DVD is very well done - there is lots of bonus material that claims the Banzai Institute is real and treats the whole movie as a documentary - really funny!


Shrek : 3 of 5

Even though I saw Shrek in the theater, I thought I would rent the DVD just to see how the animation looked. Of course, the DVD is great - everything is ultra-crisp and beautiful. I actually enjoyed the movie more, too, though I still think the song choices were bogus. The extra animation on the disc that was supposed to be so spectacular is just another Shrek singing number, which was pretty boring. At least it was good to see the movie again!


Peter Pan Special Edition : 4 of 5

Peter Pan is one of my favorite Disney movies, because I never plan on growing up (and also because Tinker Bell is beautiful!). I already owned Peter Pan on VHS, but I was super excited when I heard about this new DVD version. Well, the movie is fantastic, of course, and looks bright and colorful, but the extra material on the DVD is just so-so. Some of it is really interesting - I especially like seeing some of the live-action reference that was shot - but the rest of it seems a little too thrown together (probably because they wanted to get this DVD out to go with the release of Return to Never Land).


Green Shirt

Liza was fond of wearing my clothes, and one morning put on an old green T-shirt of mine. She wore it all day around campus and slept in it that night, so I couldn't help thinking about that lucky shirt. I wrote this as kind of a joke, but all of my Tulsa friends would absolutely demand this song when we got together for song circles.

I want to hold you like a green shirt
Wrap myself around your arms
I want to rest upon your shoulders
And keep your body warm
I want to hold you
Like a green shirt

I want to hold you in the sunlight
I want to hold you in the dark
Fill my pocket with your secrets
I'll keep them close to your heart
I want to hold you
Like a green shirt

Oh, to know that you are breathing
Oh, to hear your voice so near
Oh, to tremble in your laughter
Oh, to soak up all your tears

I want to hold you while you're sleeping
And in the morning feel your touch
Though I'm worn, I'll say I love you
And try to make you see how much
I want to hold you
Like a green shirt


Monster's Ball : 4 of 5

Normally I would never have seen a movie that looked this depressing, but my pals were going to see it and I wanted to get out, and I'm glad I did. True, the first 30 minutes of the movie is way intense, but after that things let up a little. Tension remains pretty high, though - sexual tension, family tension, racial tension, you name it. The acting is excellent, and the story really kept me engaged - I don't think I looked at my watch once. The ending does a great job of keeping the audience in suspense until the last possible second!

Annie Hall : 4 of 5

My pal Dae sent me this DVD for my birthday, which is great since I'm definitely a Woody Allen fan. I hadn't seen Annie Hall in years, so it was nice to watch it again - I had forgotten how funny it is! I was trying to recover from the flu and feeling a little blue, so this movie was a great pick-me-up - watching Woody's troubles always makes life seem better. I've always liked the ending, because it ends happily without the guy getting the girl - it's nice to see a non-fairly tale ending done so well.


Beach Boys drive

The weather is absolutely spectacular today, which puts me in a fantastic mood! I had to go buy a new Beach Boys CD (yes, there are a still a few I don't have) and drive the "Austin coast" (which means 360 to 2222 to 620, so I could catch a few views of the lake!). It was so relaxing to feel the sun and wind with the music cranked up! By the way, the guy who sold me the CD at Barnes & Noble is a freelance writer who interviewed Brian Wilson when he came to Austin - how amazing! We had a nice little Beach Boys chat while I drank some coffee.

Tomorrow I have a bell choir performance, and I almost missed rehearsal today, since I fell asleep on the couch after having some pals over to watch the Winter Olympics opening ceremonies! Everyone in the choir was happy I made it, even though I was obviously "disheveled".

More Mouse Tales / David Koenig : 4 of 5

I read the original Mouse Tales in a matter of hours, since it was so fascinating and still very positive about Disneyland in general. This second book has a bit of a darker tone, focusing on bad treatment of employees and scandals - it includes a long section about the evolution of the Jungle Cruise spiel, which often resulted in employee/management battles. The chapters are organized into the lands of the park, with lots of good anecdotes like the first book, just not quite as charming. I would still recommend it, though, and I'm ready for another one!


Weather and mood

My energy level and mood is very attached to sunlight and blue skies. We had two days of total overcast and drizzle with no sun at all, and by the end of the second day I was a total blob - I didn't want to do anything and I felt incredibly lazy. Today the sky was back - I was thrilled to see the open sky and put down the sun visor in my car! Ah, sunshine.

Both of my bands are auditioning new players. It's kind of fun to see the styles of other people playing songs that I've played for months. I'm pretty sure that both bands will be up and running soon - I'm definitely ready to gig again. It's a great rush to play a show, plus it keeps my calendar full!

I just have to say that the writers on Smallville are doing a great job! Granted, they've had to mess with the Superman story to provide enough plots for the series, but their use of clever foreshadowing is really cool.

Sinking at Disneyland

My friend Tina and I went on a business trip to California. We arrived a day early so we could spend an entire 12 hours at Disneyland! Around midmorning we decided to ride the Davy Crockett's Explorer Canoes in Frontierland. These are long canoes where each passenger is given a paddle, but we were convinced they were on a track and paddling made no difference (boy, were we wrong). The employee at the front of the canoe somehow got distracted and allowed the front of the canoe to go under a waterfall - the canoe filled with water in seconds and started sinking! Everyone had to get out of the canoe in 5 foot deep muddy water and climb onto Tom Sawyer Island, then we walked backstage where they gave us dry clothes, free meal tickets, and VIP passes to go to the front of the line on rides! At the end of the day, our clothes were washed and dry, and we got to spend the whole day telling our story to people. It was the most fun I ever had sinking!
The actual ride at Disneyland, and probably the same waterfall that caused all the fun!


The Emperor's New Groove : 4 of 5

At last, a really funny recent Disney feature! This movie has fantastic animation, combining both beautiful backgrounds and stylistic characters with appearances that totally fit their personalities. The story revolves around a jerk emperor (David Spade) who is turned into a llama in a botched poisoning scheme, and the quest to get him back to the palace. Traveling with Pacha (John Goodman), he learns to be a nice guy, of course. The jokes are really funny and the action is fast - this movie flies by. I really don't have anything negative to say except it's over too fast! Nice to see a super fun Disney movie that does everything right!


Cool SurfCams

This weekend I spent some time looking at SurfCams, live internet video of beaches. I like to visit California and see the beach at least once a year (if not more), so when I've been away for a while it feels good to at least see the beach online, knowing that it's there right now, waiting for me. I enjoy looking at Huntington Beach especially, since I was there during my last visit.

Here's a weird habit I've started - I like to watch TV with the sound down and just listen to random MP3s! Now that I have 95% of my CD collection on my iBook, I love to just randomize through songs I haven't heard in a long time. But I guess I still need visual stimulation, too, so I watch something like the Travel Channel with no sound. Yep, pretty strange.


Batman: The Dark Knight Returns / Frank Miller : 5 of 5

This graphic novel was a birthday gift from my pal Shelly, who knew that I was a big Batman fan, but somehow missed out on reading this landmark series. The Dark Knight series truly gave us the dark, serious Batman that we love today - even the fantastic animated series traces it's style to here. The story is fantastic - Bruce Wayne is getting old, but still must carry out his work as Batman, and the plot explores his troubled psyche quite well. Yes, we have a girl Robin and some Joker battles, and even a major Superman fight (you'll have to read it to find out why), but the real star is the characterization! All of us live double lives, right?


Gasaraki Vol 3 : 2 of 5

At last, we're getting a few questions answered, which of course only leads to more questions! Not only do we discover that Yushiro is apparently a clone (since he finds his own cryogenic body in an ancient storehouse), but we see him activate the monstrous Kai, a huge beast/machine like a TA, but far more mystical! (I know, if you're watching or planning on watching this series, you may hate that I'm revealing details.) Once again, the action is great and the story is mysterious - my only complaint is that I think they are switching artists on the human characters, because they keep alternating in style. Oh well, volume four is on the way!

Mac OS X: The Missing Manual / David Pogue : 4 of 5

Soon after I got my iBook and started using Mac OS X, I decided I should read up a little to find out all of the cool features that were waiting to be discovered (I knew previous versions of Mac OS inside and out in my younger days, but OS X is new and exciting). The reviews seem to think this is the best book, and I would say they are right! Even though it only covers OS X 10.1 (I'm currently using 10.1.4), the differences are very slight. Each chapter contains a wealth of information about the OS - both on the surface and underneath. Now I know lots of cool tricks that make my iBook experience even more fun.