Sunday, August 13, 2006

Tar Heel Tavern #77: the future is now

As I mentioned earlier, the theme of this 77th week of the Tar Heel Tavern is "the future". I like to have a theme when I host the Tavern here. It helps me to frame the pieces that I receive within the context of my blog. I realized as I looked over this weeks' contributions that the future is really about connections between the past, the present, tomorrow, and generations to come. It seems to me we construct narratives, stories, to make sense of those connections.

Here's my constructed narrative, an attempt to connect eleven views of past, present, and future.

Colonel Corn carries a camera, and he knows something about constructing clever narrative. Cuz that's his career. His day night job involves documenting events in the present to show in the near future of nightly news. Here's his description of a night's work to construct a narrative while events unfolded.

Apparently the news narrative in Greensboro is cooked up in Mel's Kitchen. One of Mel's colleagues at the News & Record attempted to eat his way into a motorcycling future in a contest outside Moe's kitchen. Consult the menu at Mel's Kitchen for narrative and contest results.

Meanwhile Mr. Ogre searched for a view into the future. He was astonished to discover his own past, especially when it turned out to be a past view of his future. Or maybe our popular mechanical future. Or a future past. But it's really none of those things. Confused? Mr. Ogre explains...

Billy, the blogging poet, also has a popular mechanical future in mind. As if blogging, writing poems, and flying the streets of Greensboro isn't enough to keep him busy in the present, he announces a new project.  With reader assistance yet another unforgettable flying object soon will hover in range of photo opportunities.

Regular readers of another of the Tavern's blogging poets know that Erin's blog has been time-traveling into the future.  A post from Sept. 16, 2006 floats at the top of Poetic-Acceptance, waiting for the rest of us to arrive.  On that day Erin's effort to raise money to support the American Heart Association's research into congenital heart defects will culminate with the Charlotte-Metro Heart Walk. She's very excited to announce a sponsor for her walking team. Click, and your future could include a portrait by a professional photographer...

Walk? Coturnix zooms! The Tavern's long-time science blogger continues to post at a frenetic pace. This week it seems he's mostly examined history. Apparently his Blog Around the Clock runs backward sometimes. Fortunately our patented future filter can extract a couple of thematic items anyway. Here's a brief item about possible beneficial changes in the practice of science research, and here's one about disruptive changes due to global warming.

From long timer to short timer: A recent arrival to our blogging future, Mr. R. asks some big questions about raising his future children.

The big question I ponder is, "How do we transform our culture into a sustainable one?" Over at the upper right of this page is a tag line, "sustainability is an attitude". It's about how we think, what we value as individuals, what we value as communities, and what we value as a culture.

At Fixin' Healthcare Marcus considers health as a matter of attitude. It's about "change in behavior" and "change in thinking", he writes.

Laurie, at Slowly She Turned, is also interested in attitude, values, and changes in behavior. Her thoughts on civility reflect my experiences and my concerns. And, uncomfortably, I know I haven't always lived up to my own standard. It seems to me that being mindful of our behavior in the present relies heavily upon our ability to predict the consequences of our behavior in the future. Perhaps we live with one foot in the present and one foot in the future, even if we don't always notice that stance.

Justin's stance on the North Carolina Research Campus is enthusiastic and unequivocal. The View From The Cheap Seats looks upon his vision of the future of Kannapolis.

Further west at the home of Scrutiny Hooligans, Screwy Hoolie looks ahead to November. He listened to an Asheville area Congressional candidate speak about the present and the future. His transcript concludes with this conversation with a wise grandmother:

"When's the best time to plant a tree?"

"Grandma, I have no idea."

She said, "It was thirty years ago....When's the second best time to plant a tree?"

"I don't know, Grandma."

She said, "Today."

I like how Grandma thinks. That's a narrative that links the past and the present to the future.


Tar Heel Tavern: coming to a near future near you

The theme of the 77th week of the Tar Heel Tavern is "the future". The theme fits this blog: thinking about sustainable culture involves thinking about the future. But it's difficult to think about the future without also thinking about the present, of course. We try to make sense of the flow of past and present into future by constructing a narrative.

Today I'm assembling a narrative from a double handful of contributed pieces. It's a puzzle, a challenge, a new story to write today because I decided to look for Perseid meteors last night.

First, coffee. Then, narrative. Later, the future.

Watch this space!


Saturday, August 05, 2006

A book meme

Greensmile asked whether the word “meme” comes from “Me me!” Susan Blackmore, who studies memes and writes extensively about them, might agree that it does, in a way.

A meme is an idea that spreads. That's my working definition, a model I find useful. It's an inexact copy of Susan Blackmore's definition. Meme ideas spread by imitation, by exact copying and inexact copying. Memes can be melodies, catch-phrases, stories, clothing fashions, and ways of making pots. Many memes spread unintentionally in the course of casual conversation and story-telling. Bloggers deliberately spread some memes as ways to inspire new posts.

I like this particular blog meme. It offers opportunities to think about books that influence our lives.

1. One book that changed your life?

The Story of B, by Daniel Quinn.

Ishmael would have worked, too, but it was not on the library shelf that day. Both are entry points to a library of astonishing insights into our culture's operation.

2. One book you have read more than once?

The Shockwave Rider, by John Brunner. It was also the book that changed my life the first time, and one of many that created a context to understand and to value the ideas of Daniel Quinn, Peter Senge, and George Lakoff.

3. One book you would want on a desert island?

Some big, thick anthology of relatively recent literature, such as the one I bought for an American Lit class a couple of decades ago.

A number of meme writers already have mentioned practical books about desert island survival. I'll figure out the edible plants by cautious tasting. I'd rather share an indefinite future with e e cummings and Stephen Crane and Mark Twain.

4. One book that made you laugh?

The River Why, by David James Duncan. I'd quote some funny bits, but my copy is loaned out.

5. One book that made you cry?

That I don't remember distinctly. But this might be a good time to mention The Cider House Rules, by John Irving.

6. One book you wish had been written?

Initially I misread that as a book I wish I, personally, had written. And that would be Meet Me in the Moon Room, by Ray Vukcevich. I can't even describe how wonderfully Vukcevich writes, but this guy tries...

As for a book that should have been written by somebody, anybody, how about What If This New Way of Life Doesn't Work Out?, by Jared Diamond's great great 500-generations-ago grandmother.

7. One book you wish had never had been written?

To mention it would be to spread its meme. Why dignify it?

Other meme writers have mentioned books that seem to inspire legions of readers to behave badly. We all know the adage about judging books by their covers. I do find some value in judging books by their readers.

8. One book you are currently reading?

I sometimes borrow a backpack full of books at one time from a nearby university library. The nonfiction ones I graze for good ideas. The fiction I read to be impressed by writing style, such as The Toughest Indian in the World, by Sherman Alexie.

9. One book you have been meaning to read?

Tempered Radicals: How Everyday Leaders Inspire Change at Work, by Debra Meyerson.

10. Now tag five some other people...

Chris H.

John Kessel, science fiction author and SF critic and NC State professor. He's not likely to see this, and his web site isn't really a blog, but memes are often inexact copies...

11. (These go to eleven.) What about Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance?

Indeed. Now we are enlightened.


Want to check out a book before buying? Please support your local library. (And don't forget about inter-library loans.)