The bedside reading list grows and grows. Thanks for this fine and welcome Sunday read. I'm actually in Adams Morgan for work. There is a fine book store there where I came across a new author (for me) named Tom Cox. MacFarlane raves about him. Check him out!
That armadillo will be replaced by a more efficient robot. If they ever make robot cars that can't be befuddled by traffic cones...
I loved Wilson's Odyssey and must get her Iliad translation. McCarter's Ovid is beside me on my chair.
It's fascinating, that the evening star flowers know rain from sprinklers. I wonder if they would like water from a rain barrel...
As a former Washingtonian I absolutely can see the terrier hunters of Adams Morgan and it doesn’t surprise me at all. The most interesting thing about my years in DC was realizing that the city certainly feels buttoned-up when you first arrive but beneath that it’s completely perverse, in a way that is sometimes shocking but just as often delightful. It was a great place for an uptight New Englander to spend his 30s.
I bought the Spring 2023 issue of Mergoat Mag, which you mentioned with praise. It is splendid, and very moving. Next, I am so happy to learn of bookstore Alienated Majesty, even though it is many miles away from me. Thank you!
I’m reading The Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community, by David C. Korten. Published in 2006, therefore behind in tech, social media and rotting politics, but excellent in giving overview of where we’ve been and where we’re going, which explains a lot about our current madness/chaos and yet coming through. Like the rain lilies. Thanks so much.
Christopher, here's the link to jasonlogan.com, which I'm sending because you might enjoy the photographs of his foraging activity:
And here is the link to The Wild Pigment Project site, which has a piece about Heidi Gustafson, who is an ochre tracker, collector, and curator, another specialist who is known worldwide by artists and healers who work with ochre:
no way to rescue the armadillo? so sadly symbolic . grief
Christopher, I hope you saw the movie "The Colour of Ink" at the Austin Film Society Cinema this week. It's about Toronto ink-inventor and maker Jason Logan, who forages wherever he can to find substances whose pigments will make ink for calligraphers and other kinds of artists. He began by wanting to create natural, nontoxic inks for his children to use, and has now traveled the world finding various substances and meeting artists who want his inks because they create such beautiful, rich images. He loves the urban wilds. He's an artist, chemist, lover of nature, and inveterate forager, hiking in places natural and human-created, looking for peeling stucco, rusted machinery, wild grapes, stones and shells, nuts, berries, flowers--whatever he finds that looks interesting--and makes unprecedented inks. One of his greatest admirers is the world-renowned calligrapher Koji Kakinuma, who appears at intervals during the film. One his books is "Make Ink: A Forager's Guide to Natural Ink Making." Here's a quotation that I love from an interview in Fibre Arts Take Two:
“There wasn’t much that I could find about how ink was made,” says Jason, “and the stuff that I did find was very deep, like, mediaeval recipes that I couldn’t even understand what the amounts were. It would be like, ‘a finger full of the juice of the blackest of the berry that comes from the man who comes to the thing’ it’s just kind of like witchcraft and alchemy, which I love, but it was really hard to get to the bottom of how do you actually make ink?”
Anyway, I hope you got to see the film. He is the best of being a historian, an explorer, and an artist.
A thought-provoking piece as usual. I was cheered by the rain lilies and the coyote (and maybe even the idea of alligators) and depressed to learn that Austin is plagued by self-driving cars that likely don’t quite do what they’re supposed to do just as San Francisco is. Fortunately, we don’t have them in Oakland yet.
I wanted to take slight issue with your take on the large language model chatbots. I don’t think it’s reasonable to say that they read. They are programmed with books and they analyze and index word patterns, but they are not reading and absorbing ideas and reactions and those other, sometimes vague, things we get from reading. They aren’t actually intelligent and I don’t think they are going to become the AGI of tech bro dreams, especially since all they can do is imitate patterns.
Ted Chiang compares them to lossy jpgs, and I think that’s the best analysis I’ve seen.
I’m less concerned about the books used to program them (even if some of them are mine) and more about the rollout of half-baked software and potential abuses. But I’m really concerned that by acting as if they are reading and thinking we are giving them agency they don’t have and, more importantly, giving more agency to the corporations that are building them.
Chris, another great piece. Wanted to retweet it but that(of course) no longer seems possible and (of course) I'm not able to do the same on Bluesky yet (where I mostly am these days) unless I'm missing something (which is likely)but really enjoyed this and all these
Okay, now, what happened to the armadillo?! Did you tug on its tail?
Hey wait a second. We have another connection! We heard about that canoe trip in search of alligators! Does your brother-in-law's name start with an M or a J?
Good morning, Chris! It’s always a pleasure to wake up to another edition of your newsletter! ❤️