Thursday, December 8, 2016

A New Quatrain

Yesterday I wrote another quatrain for my big Credo poem:

There are limits to our powers.
Anyone can quickly tell
Real plants from plastic flowers.
We don't copy nature well.

I'm still trying to versify the idea that I described in this book review. It will probably take a couple more quatrains to do it. The entire work in progress can be seen here.

A couple of cool quotes about poetry:

"Poetry [is] the best words in the best order." Samuel Taylor Coleridge.
"Writing unrhymed poetry is like playing tennis with the net down." Robert Frost.

To extend this analogy, writing poetry that doesn't make any coherent sense is like ignoring the white lines that mark the borders of the court. The old game where you write a line of poetry, your friend writes the second one, you write the third, etc. is like playing doubles. The opponent is the language, the spectators are the readers.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Non-Review of Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid

I stopped reading this book after finishing the 3rd of its 20 chapters, hence the title of this post.

I first learned about GEB from a Slashdot discussion around 1999. Everyone praised it to the skies, so I added it to my imaginary pile of books to read some day.

The Escher of the title is the guy who drew pictures of this sort:

GEB seems to be mostly about bits of math that confound expectations in a similar way. Things that are true and false at the same time, things that are their own causes and consequences, things that get smaller as they increase, etc.

Now, I think of those pictures as mildly amusing tricks. Hofstadter considers them profound. He claims that mathematical parallels of such trickery can explain consciousness, the thing that separates human intelligence from the artificial sort. My intuition tells me that this is unlikely to be true.

I'd like to learn more math, but only of the sort that's useful in the hard sciences, in understanding the real world. Cute paradoxes for their own sake are boring to me.

I plead guilty to having engaged in some cutesy verbal trickery myself. But I don't think much of it. Hofstadter points out that Bach engaged in a lot of cutesy musical trickery. But that's not what made his music great. It was like Maradona juggling a football with his shoulders for the crowd before matches - a bit of showing off, but not what he was actually about, not why he was important within football.

It's possible that I'm dismissing GEB too easily, but life is short, and there's lots of books I'd like to read that seem more likely to contain interesting to me insights.