NEUROLOGICALLY DIVERGENT – A Dramatic Recitiation

Earlier this month, the Pulitzer prizes were announced. As stated by the Pulizter organization, the music prize is awarded

For distinguished musical composition by an American that has had its first performance or recording in the United States during the year, Fifteen thousand dollars ($15,000).

The music prize was first awarded in 1943 to William Schuman for Secular Cantata No. 2 A Free Song, which had been premiered by the Boston Symphony Orchestra the previous year. The later recipients were, for the most part, well-known composers of contemporary concert music, or what some people term contemporary classical music. The winners were all men until 1983, when Ellen Taffe Zwilich won for Symphony No. I (Three Movements for Orchestra). In 1999, Melinda Wagner won for Concerto for Flute, Strings and Percussion. Since 2000, women have won more frequently, including Jennifer Hidgon (2010), Caroline Shaw (2013), Julia Wolfe (2016), and Du Yun (2017). In terms of genre, the prize had always gone to contemporary concert music, with the exceptions of 1997 when Wynton Marsalis won, and 2007, when Ornette Coleman won.

On April 16, 2018, it was announced that Kendrick Lamar had won the prize for DAMN.,

a virtuosic song collection unified by its vernacular authenticity and rhythmic dynamism that offers affecting vignettes capturing the complexity of modern African-American life.

This was the first time the prize had been awarded to a piece in the genre of Hip-Hop. Depending on whether your definition of popular music includes jazz or not, this was the first award to a piece of pop music. Several people, including straight up Internet trolls and probably some who should better, were upset enough by this award to take to social media to voice their displeasure. The Twitter account @NewMusicDrama collected the worst of these, conducted a poll, and announced the winner:

Seeing the invitation to conduct a dramatic reading, while enjoying a leisurely Saturday afternoon, I leapt at the opportunity. I now present the finished piece, NEUROLIGICALLY DIVERGENT

Site cleanup

As you can see, I’ve done some simplifying, standardizing, and general cleanup. A nice clean look for the fall! Please let me know what you think.

fun with time’s arrow

I had an epiphany this week. I’m sure it’s not an original idea, but it’s the first time it dawned on me. We all have an intuitive grasp that the future can play out in multiple ways. We can imagine that, staring from an arbitrary point in time, say April 25, 12:00 pm ET–let’s call that the origin–time will unfold in a certain way, dependent on an unfathomable number of contingencies. It makes sense that if we return to the origin and run time forward again, time will play out differently, owing to the randomness of the contingencies.

Here’s the epiphany: what if we return to the origin and play time backwards? The intuitive instinct which I suspect most people have is that time would play back the same way always, because, after all, it already happened that way. But in fact, wouldn’t time play out differently every time we start at the origin and go backward from there? Wouldn’t the contingencies and randomness come into play? Wouldn’t there be an infinite number of possible pasts, just as there are an infinite number of futures?

The Coolin

Come with me, under my coat,
And we will drink our fill
Of the milk of the white goat,
Or wine if it be thy will

And we will talk, until
Talk is a trouble, too,
Out on the side of the hill;
And nothing is left to do,

But an eye to look into an eye;
And a hand in a hand to slip;
And a sigh to answer a sigh;
And a lip to find out a lip!

What if the night be black!
Or the air on the mountain chill!
Where the goat lies down in her track,
And all but the fern is still!

Stay with me, under my coat!
And we will drink our fill
Of the milk of the white goat,
Out on the side of the hill!

Race Day!

Someone on the teevee just said that this is the best day in New York, and I agree! The elite women are now off, and it’s an especially exciting women’s field. Jelena Prokopcuka has the chance to become the first woman since the legendary Grete Waitz to win New York three times in a row. Paula Radcliffe, candidate for all-time-greatest woman marathoner and current world record holder, is back after a two-year break from marathoning after giving birth to a daughter. Paula had a stunning victory in New York following her complete meltdown in the 2004 Olympics, the only marathon she has ever lost. Catherine the great is in the field. My own elite woman is going to start in another 15 minutes–next year, I vow, I’m going to join her.

UPDATE: It seems like Paula, just before the start, turned to the other women and said “see ya!” She’s been dominating from the start and after 7 miles has a 47″ lead on Jelena. Only Gete Wami is with her. If this were anyone other than Paula, you might think it was a bad move. But this is Paula. She’s here to run today, and she is going to win.

UPDATE II: The men ran mile 7 in 4:27. I will never, if I gave my life over to training, run anywhere near a single 4:27 mile, let alone run one and go on to finish a marathon. Incredible. Paula’s nod is back. Apparently, Wami is her nemesis and if she can hang on with Paula to the end, she can definitely out-sprint her. This could be a classic in the making. As the women are nearing Manhattan, I’m off to the course.

UPDATE III: Just saw my hero, Paula, live for the first time. Didn’t see her in 2004 because I was running. Wow. Just wow. Paula is in the park now, and Wami is hanging there right with her. Stunning!

UPDATE IV: PAULA WINS!!! A legendary race! Wami pressed and took the lead for a few yards just before Columbus Circle. And Paula just stomped on her. In 20 feet, she retook the lead and Wami acquiesced.

UPDATE V: Just saw N at mile 16, and she looks good. Where is J, her running partner??? Picked up the traditional celebratory champ on the way to Central Park.

FINAL: N finishes her fifth consecutive NYC marathon in 4:27:39. Bravissima!

Speaking of Philip K. Dick

Funny how everything good comes from some place else. One of the best scenes in John Carpenter’s Dark Star involves a conversation with the ship’s dead captain. Beyond being understandably groggy, he’s a bit put out that no one has talked to him for so long. Still, he offers good advice, that is, to teach the bomb phenomenology. I won’t explain. Apparently, Dick’s 1969 novel Ubik also features communication with the dead — with the same kind of crappy service and screw ups as it will have when Time Warner Cable offers it as a  part of its “cradle to the grave” bundle in 2037.

This has been another edition of blogging while delayed at LGA.

Are Dream Jokes Real?

Could be a Philip K. Dick story, but I also think it’s an inherently interesting question. If something happens in a dream that causes you to laugh, is it really funny? What if you can remember the scenario afterwards and your waking self doesn’t find it funny, or coherent? Once or twice when this has happened to me, my laughter wakes me up just enough to remember the dream. In the case that I remember, it wasn’t a funny narrative or wordplay that made me laugh, it was something more like a spatial or conceptual pun. It doesn’t appear to me a subject that many have pondered, however, if you want to understand the state of terror we sometimes experience, you need look no farther than sleep paralysis.

Sometimes I Just Think Funny Things

Free for the taking: “Sushi Generis” (name for a resaturant), “The New Criteronion” (name for a spoof site).

According to NAM, I laugh in my sleep. I would find that a little creepy.

Back to Stem Cells

The confusion around stem cells is due, I think, in large part to a fundamental misunderstanding of the function of DNA. In the popular mind, DNA contains a complete description of a person’s body. From this perspective, the DNA in the 100 or so stem cells in a balstocyst fully describe what the person will eventually become. Now, if this were true, there would be a meaningful sense in which a blastocyst is a “potential” human being. But in fact, this is not how DNA works at all. Rather, DNA functions as a set of instructions and tools for building simple things, like proteins, for example. It’s more like a recipe book than an encyclopedia. When you understand this, it becomes easier to understand how human and other animal development occurs, starting with extremely simple structures, which over time become exponentially more complex. Leading eventually, by the way, to things like minds. This is the sense in which reductionism is unassailable.