Analog thoughts for a digital age

Analog Thoughts for a Digital Age

A collection of thoughts thrown against the wall to see what sticks.

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Almost Time for the Annual Shower

The Perseid Meteor Shower, that is. The shower will be at its peak around Wednesday to Thursday night. Early morning hours, probably two-three hours before sunrise, are the best but can be seen anytime. For more details on the Perseids you can check this article about expectations for this year’s shower or Wikipedia for information about the annual display in general.

A Better Man than I Am

In my prior post I mentioned Jim Croce. Jim’s songs were some of the earliest I remember as my own, not just my parents or siblings music. One album released after his death included a musical version of the Rudyard Kipling poem “Gunga Din”. I know most of that poem by heart even today not because I set out to memorize it but because I heard Jim sing the words so many times. When I read the poem today it still corrects some of my mistakes simply because I heard Jim saying what I thought was something else.

Gunga Din

You may talk o’ gin and beer
When you’re quartered safe out ‘ere,
An’ you’re sent to penny-fights an’ Aldershot it;
But when it comes to slaughter
You will do your work on water,
An’ you’ll lick the bloomin’ boots of ‘im that’s got it.

Now in Injia’s sunny clime,
Where I used to spend my time
A-servin’ of ‘Er Majesty the Queen,
Of all them blackfaced crew
The finest man I knew
Was our regimental bhisti, Gunga Din.

He was “Din! Din! Din!
“You limpin’ lump o’ brick-dust, Gunga Din!
“Hi! Slippy hitherao!
“Water, get it! Panee lao
“You squidgy-nosed old idol, Gunga Din.”

The uniform ‘e wore
Was nothin’ much before,
An’ rather less than ‘arf o’ that be’ind,
For a piece o’ twisty rag
An’ a goatskin water-bag
Was all the field-equipment ‘e could find.

When the sweatin’ troop-train lay
In a sidin’ through the day,
Where the ‘eat would make your bloomin’ eyebrows crawl,
We shouted ” Harry By!”
Till our throats were bricky-dry,
Then we wopped ‘im ’cause ‘e couldn’t serve us all.

It was “Din! Din! Din!
“You ‘eathen, where the mischief ‘ave you been?
“You put some juldee in it
“Or I’ll marrow you this minute
“If you don’t fill up my helmet, Gunga Din!”

‘E would dot an’ carry one
Till the longest day was done;
An’ ‘e didn’t seem to know the use o’ fear.
If we charged or broke or cut,
You could bet your bloomin’ nut,
‘E’d be waitin’ fifty paces right flank rear.

With ‘is mussick’ on ‘is back,
‘E would skip with our attack,
An’ watch us till the bugles made “Retire,”
An’ for all ‘is dirty ‘ide
‘E was white, clear white, inside
When ‘e went to tend the wounded under fire!

It was “Din! Din! Din!”
With the bullets kickin’ dust-spots on the green
When the cartridges ran out,
You could hear the front-ranks shout,
“Hi! ammunition-mules an’ Gunga Din!”

I sha’n’t forgit the night
When I dropped be’ind the fight
With a bullet where my belt-plate should ‘a’ been.
I was chokin’ mad with thirst,
An’ the man that spied me first
Was our good old grinnin’, gruntin’ Gunga Din.

‘E lifted up my ‘ead,
An’ he plugged me where I bled,
An’ ‘e guv me ‘arf-a-pint o’ water green.
It was crawlin’ and it stunk,
But of all the drinks I’ve drunk,
I’m gratefullest to one from Gunga Din.

It was “Din! Din! Din!
“‘Ere’s a beggar with a bullet through ‘is spleen”
“‘E’s chawin’ up the ground,
“An’ ‘e’s kickin’ all around:
“For Gawd’s sake git the water, Gunga Din!

‘E carried me away
To where a dooli lay,
An’ a bullet come an’ drilled the beggar clean.
‘E put me safe inside,
An’ just before ‘e died,
“I ‘ope you liked your drink” sez Gunga Din.

So I’ll meet ‘im later on
At the place where ‘e is gone
Where it’s always double drill and no canteen.
‘E’ll be squattin’ on the coals
Givin’ drink to poor damned souls,
An’ I’ll get a swig in hell from Gunga Din!

Yes, Din! Din! Din!
You Lazarushian-leather Gunga Din!
Though I’ve belted you and flayed you,
By the livin’ Gawd that made you,
You’re a better man than I am, Gunga Din!

You can get the meaning of the poem without it but if you’re the type who wants to understand every word, there is a list of unusual words in Kipling’s work here.

Brothers Gibb

I was still relatively young when I discovered the Bee Gees. The song was “Run to Me” and it was before they became the mega-stars that Saturday Night Fever would make them. What can be said for them in that particular time frame was that they were the most literate of disco generation. Their songs were more than five or six words repeated over and over. Admittedly that’s hyperbole but disco was not known for its lyrics and for someone who grew up listening to Jim Croce, James Taylor, and Harry Chapin it just wasn’t my cup of tea.

But I digress a bit. “Run to Me” let me know that there was a history with the Bee Gees going back a ways. What I didn’t realize until today is that history goes back until the early 60′s.

This album is included in Amazon’s monthly $5.00 Albums (MP3 downloads) sale for August. 1963-1966? I have to admit I didn’t recognize any songs on this compilation but it did serve to remind me that my music collection is missing any Bee Gees. I’m not sure I’ll start here but it does cause me to realize that however broad we might think our knowledge is on a topic, we can still be surprised.

Cobb, Wake Up?

Unlike most summer blockbusters Inception has you leaving the theater thinking about more than the special effects. Some of the discussion about the movie has been whether the entire movie is just part of a dream. I’m going to present my opinion on this and attempt to back that opinion up with an analysis of some key points in the movie. To do this I will be discussing major reveals in the movie so if you have not seen Inception, I recommend you stop reading now.

Throughout this post I will refer to what Cobb considers reality as the movie’s tops level. There is debate as to whether that level is reality or not. Let me acknowledge that when it was revealed that Mal (Cobb’s wife) was convinced that the top-level was a dream and that by dying she would wake up in the real world I was intrigued by that possibility. Here, I thought, would be the question for the movie. Was the top-level just Cobb dreaming or was it reality?

Before the movie ended I was convinced it was (I’ll discuss why later). As I have reflected on the movie I’ve become even more convinced this is the case. One reason is that if this had been one of the questions Nolan wanted us to ponder a different ending was in order that would have reminded us of that question. One simple such ending would have Cobb leaving customs and then seeing someone who looked like Mal but then is gone in the crowd. He would then dismiss it as just the last reach of his subconscious for his dead wife. This would have left the audience with three choices. One would be that Cobb was in the real world and was correct about his subconscious. Two would be that he had seen the Mal of his subconscious because he was still in limbo with Saito. Three would be that he had seen the real Mal who has re-entered his dream world to try to wake him up however deep into the dream world he might be.

But we don’t see that. Mal never appears in the movie’s top-level except in memories. But if Mal was correct and they were both dreaming, why hasn’t she re-entered Cobb’s dream to attempt to wake him up. What would shake his confidence that he was in reality more than seeing his dead wife? This argument will not stand on its own but adds weight to what follows.

Let’s look back on how the movie actually ended. The question that Nolan does want us pondering at the end is whether Cobb ever returned to the top-level, not whether or not the top-level is a dream. That question isn’t part of the end because Nolan had already answered it. One way Nolan answered it is the same way he asks the last question in the movie, with the spinning top.

Early in the movie we see Cobb test whether he is back in reality with the top. It is a short scene in which the top falls over and Cobb is relieved. This is not only evidence to Cobb that the top-level is reality but also evidence to the audience that Cobb is in the real world. It is only because we can trust the top that the ending has its punch. The question of whether the top starting to stumble and fall or recovering to spin on indefinitely is important if and only if the top can be trusted?

Two points help support this. The first is that nothing in the top-level is off. Besides the fact that no trains are crashing down the middle of streets and no one is running on walls or pulling rocket launchers out of thin air is key element that the tokens work. Which leads to the second point. What is the purpose of Ariadne painstakingly making the chess piece. It is to reinforce the importance of the tokens as an indicator of reality. Nolan wants us to trust the tokens as a measure of reality and never gives us a reason to doubt them. In fact, they are so trustworthy that Mal hid her token away when she didn’t want to face reality.

But these are all things I’ve realized reflecting back on the movie. As I noted earlier, I was convinced before the end that the top level is reality. The reason for that is the big reveal – the scene where Cobb admits to Ariadne that he knows inception will work because he’s done it before. This scene loses most of its power if Mal did not really kill herself as if she didn’t then Cobb’s demons are only a bit of something he ate before he went to sleep.

No, to preserve the power that the movie has in the lives of the characters, the top level has to be reality. And the only question we are left with is whether Cobb got back to his children or is he stuck in limbo only dreaming that he did?

PS – I presume Nolan could reload and revolutionize Inception and make a sequel in which it all does turn out to be a dream. But just as the sequels negated much of the power of The Matrix, so such a sequel would negate the power of Inception.

Exhortation

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Paul – Colossians 3 (ESV)

Chess Anyone?

Talk about blasts from the past. I’ve had a long (though not glorious) history with chess the game. I really haven’t played much at all for years but I was almost always playing in 70′s and early 80′s. So when there was an attempt to make a musical related to the game, I paid attention. I don’t think it ever had a long run anywhere. I’m not sure if that had more to do with the subject or the quality of the play, but one song from the musical did become a hit – One Night in Bangkok. I’d pretty well forgotten about the song and the musical until this popped up as a you-might-like on YouTube.

Well yes I would like it. I think the song holds up. The video, well, is an early 80′s video and like most of them that I see today, I cringe a little that we devoted time to watching these more than once. Of course, here I am watching it again…..

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