Sunday, May 26, 2013

Inferno by Dan Brown, Entry 4

     I finished reading Inferno this morning. I have to say it was well-written and enjoyable to read. Two big concepts running through the book are 'transhumanism' and the overpopulation, but the main thing I enjoyed about the book was the tour through Florence, Venice and Istanbul. I know, I could get a travel guide, but it was actually more fun to read it with all the storyline and stuff.
     There were things I hadn't known about, like the beaky plague masks doctors wore when they were exposed to the infected. The book also made me aware of an industry that just has to exist in some form: the alibi industry. These are companies that provide you with fake work numbers, fake addresses, passports etc.. for a variety of purposes. Brown claims at the beginning that 'The Consortium', an extreme company of this type, is real -- well, I cannot overmuch believe that, but you never know I guess.
     The bad news is that overpopulation is a problem and humanity will either deal with it in some noncatastrophic way, or nature will take care of it in its usual, catastrophic, way. The book raises the point that no one is actually taking action that will prevent what's to come. We're obviously not going to do anything about climate change, much less take on an issue like overpopulation. So, catastrophe it is, but probably not in my lifetime -- and I don't have kids.
     So, if you're one of those people in the future after I'm dead hip-deep in other people's body parts, I'm really sorry we didn't fix this back in 2013. I don't have to tell YOU that this is going to be a big problem and that we didn't do anything to stop it, but I have the benefit of being dead and stuff. There was a movie made in 1974 called Soylent Green with Charleston Heston -- is it like that? Don't answer. I know, I'm gloating about being dead and all, but I was a real prick when I was alive and maybe my death was long and painful, so you can take solace in that.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Inferno, by Dan Brown, Entry 3


          So far I've enjoyed the novel, though I have a feeling that the plot -- don't worry, I won't guess on this blog, so no need for a spoiler alert, yet -- is going to be a bit disappointing after all. But I want to talk about what seems to be the main connection to Dante...
          The crowded visions of hell, "So many, I had not thought death had undone so many"[both in Dante's Inferno and The Wasteland] is matched by a Malthusian vision of overpopulation and attendant violence etc... The above line is stated by Dante when Virgil shows them the souls of those who have neither done great evil or great good; these are those who have led conformist lives of quiet desperation. There is also a possible reference in this section of the Inferno to Pope Celestine(I think V) who gave up the papacy -- he is referred to as "he who made the great refusal". The notion that hell, and the Earth, is clogged with do-nothings is not a pleasant thought, but then again I'm a do-nothing with occasional gastric trouble, so...
            The question I'm posing to myself now is: "Why was I so enamored of Dante?" I mean, for a good number of years my love of Dante bordered on the obsessional -- it's interesting that in Brown's novel, Botticelli is said to have been so obsessed that he became deranged. One thing that's so fascinating about The Divine Comedy is how complete a view it provides of a world so different from the modern world, and in a single work. And, it being a summation of the medieval world, and written in the vernacular, it prepares the way for the Renaissance.
              Another thing I suspect about it is it provides a vantage point from which modernity, and postmodernity[note, I was impressed that Brown mentions Saul Kripke http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saul_Kripke ], appears very hubristic, capitalism seems evil and technology a distraction from the existential human condition that would cause Pascal to shake his head. There is something alluring about this vantage point, as though one is taking a trip into the darkness on Dante's Geryon, awaiting the punishments of the fraudulent. Mind you, it's a very judgmental position, but that's, you know, what The Inferno is about. It provokes some kind of emotional state I think. It puts my failures in perspective  -- I guess that's pretty good for a 700 year old poem.

Inferno, by Dan Brown, Entry 2

     So, I've read about a third of the book. It is engagingly written and has lots of references to Florentine Palaces, Museums, etc... I think I should look around the internet and see the sights.

Look at the below:

1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boboli_Gardens

2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palazzo_Vecchio

3. https://www.google.com/search?q=battle+of+marciano+painting&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=U1KZUfSHE6T54APlsIDIAw&ved=0CDUQsAQ&biw=1093&bih=498

4. http://en.comune.fi.it/municipality/rooms_pv/hall_500.htm

5. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vasari_Corridor

I don't have any comments yet about these...

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Inferno, by Dan Brown

     OK, so the Consolation of Philosophy thing didn't work. I just couldn't get into it, sorry. Consolation as defined in the time of Boethius doesn't seem to do it for me. I know he was all important, but I just couldn't read a book because I'm supposed to. Maybe someone out there can tell me why I should have liked it.
     Not that I dislike Medieval Philosophy. There are some interesting things there in the foundations of modern thought. You know, the Universals stuff is interesting to think about for awhile. Also, I often feel that underlying modern science are mental reflexes that are Medieval in character: there is a kind of Medieval 'first principle' feel to the Higgs Boson(the particle goo that bequeths mass, think about the beginning of The Paradiso:
"The glory of the One who moves all things
permeates the universe and glows
in one part more and in another less."[Mandelbaum Translation]

) and the Quantum Field of which all matter/energy is an expression -- plus there's all this number theory in Fermionic physics. Don't write me saying it shouldn't be called the 'God Particle' -- I got that, but methinks modern science protests too much -- and String Theory, well... But then, some of this is inevitable because you always have to have axioms of some kind -- unless you're POMO, in which case you're just a damn Sophist.
     But now I'm going to sell out big time and read the latest book by Dan Brown. First things first, I'm actually not a big fan of Dan Brown. I got an abridged audio version of whatever the hell the name of his most famous book is and found it pretty stupid. Also, I thought Angels and Demons was dumb and some of his other works were quite silly.
     But I couldn't resist because this book has to do with Dante. For those of you who don't know, Dante is one of my favorite authors -- perhaps someone can tell me why I love Dante so much but can't even crack open The Consolation of Philosophy?  The only other author who rivals Dante for me is Shakespeare. I know, I'm so original. But, there it is.
    
     So, starting next time, I will read some of Inferno and tell you what I think.,