Author: David Christopher Lane Publisher: The Neural Surfer Publication date: 1996
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WHAT THE NEURAL SURFER IS CURRENTLY READING
CONSCIOUSNESS RECONSIDERED by Owen Flanagan (MIT PRESS). This is a wonderful introduction to the philosophy of mind/brain; indeed, it is so good that I will be using it next year in my Introduction to Philosophy classes. Flanagan is exceptionally lucid and his arguments are presented with unmistakable ease and clarity.
REVISION (issues devoted to the work of Ken Wilber). Probably the most disappointing series of essays that I have read, given my anticipation for something meaty and worthwhile. Wilber doesn't so much need to be ripped by fellow transpersonalists (some of whom are his close friends and colleagues), but from hard core materialists who see his spectrum psychology as akin to empirical swiss cheese. Let's get Gould or Dennett or Dawkins or Churchland or Crick or, at least somebody with some skepticism looking at Wilber's texts. As nice a guy as Roger Walsh certainly is, he is just not the guy to be critiquing Wilber. Why? Because he more or less rehashes Wilber, which is quite helpful to know the "positive" aspects to Wilber's thought, but of little value to see through Wilber's hyperbole. Wilber's responses are also lame. Geez, I am surprised they didn't have a "group hug" at the end and beat on little drums and talk about missing Daddy. Naturally, I am exaggerating (my tribute to Ken), but Wilber is too bright to be drowning in this drivel of pats on the back. Rip the guy, but get some meat on those critiques. These essays make me think that talking about angels on a head of pin has more substance.
(The following is written from London, England, where I am stationed for a few months during my sabbatical)
December 6, 1996:
CONVERSATIONS ON MIND, MATTER, MATHEMATICS by Jean-Pierre Changeux and Alain Connes (Princeton University Press, 1995) Brilliant and tremendously interesting dialogue between a mathematician (winner of the Fields Award) and a neurobiologist over such issues as evolution, Platonic Idealism, and quantum theory. Dazzling and pregnant with great ideas.
THE ANTICHRIST by Nietzsche. Uneven work and apparently the second to last work he wrote before he went insane (even though his insanity still had moments of lucidity). I love Nietzsche's critique of the New Testament, however. Very insightful.
November 12, 1996:
NIETZSCHE: a critical life (Such an amazingly well written biography of Nietzsche. I am deliberately taking my time, enjoying each page. Very helpful, insightful, and illuminating. Probably my favorite book of the last three months.)
October 23, 1996:
THE CONFESSIONS by Jean-Jacques Rousseau (Read this sometime back in graduate school, but I m enjoying it much more now. I particularly like Rousseau's pre-Freudian explanations for his later life behaviour. He is more "modern" than one would guess possible for the era.)
GURDJIEFF: a biography by James Moore (Geez, what a frustrating book! I happened to have loved MEETINGS WITH REMARKABLE MEN--even if it was mostly fiction--so I was looking forward to learning more about the "myth" of Gurdjieff. But this book is bogged down by an author more bent on displaying a highly nuanced style than on presenting same straightforward facts. I must confess, however, that there is something attractive about Gurdjieff's rascal method. He reminds me of a poor man's version of Da Free John, except that Gurdjieff actually wroked for much of his life whereas the fat boy has more or less been a loafer.)
JOURNEY TO THE CENTRE OF THE EARTH by Jules Verne (saw the movie when I was young and loved the special effects and the notion of a quest. Just recently read AROUND THE WORLD IN EIGHTY DAYS, and so I have been on a Jules Verne kick. Dig the set-up. Sidebar: still longing to see LOST WORLD by Irwin Allen--that 1960s dino quest thriller which has been almost universally panned by the critics, but which for my tastes is even more "fun" than JOURNEY. Ah well.) October 21, 1996:
A MATHEMATICIAN'S APOLOGY by G.H. Hardy (Cambridge University Press--Canto Imprint).
I haven't had such an easy, yet profound, reading experience like this for at least five days. But seriously, this a gem of a book. C.P. Snow's foreword is tremendously insightful as well. I couldn't put this down and read it in one sitting.
October 20, 1996:
GOD'S UTILITY FUNCTION by Richard Dawkins
New series of very small books by Phoenix in London (an imprint of Orion) which have excerpted key chapters from classic texts, including the new Science Masters series.
HUMAN ORIGINS by Richard Leakey (exceptional book; one of the clearest presentations I have ever read on human evolution)
TWO CULTURES by C.P. Snow (famous lecture and follow-up to the dilemma posed by the contrast between the humanities and science). Part of the Cambridge Canto Imprint.
October 14th, London, England:
THE SUMMING UP by W. Somerset Maugham.
Since reading THE RAZOR'S EDGE [fun movie, as well: but beware only the black and white late 1940s version is any good. The Bill Murray remake is atrocious!] and THE MOON AND THE SIXPENCE I have been a a fan of Maugham's writings. This book is filled with all sorts of interesting tidbits about Art, Medicine, Politics, Writing, etc. I especially like his views about writing novels and the intertwining of fact/fiction.
October 10, 1996 Reading several core texts of Nietzsche and I have found myself wonderstruck by his power, by his poetic metaphors, and by his honesty. His rip of Christianity and his rip of our moral ideology is for the most part right on the money. I picked up the Cambridge Companion Volume on Nietzsche (they do a nice series on difficult philosophers) and have found it quite helpful. It was just recently published. Outside of my immersion in the world of Nietzsche, I find myself reading the tabloids, Sun, Hello, the London Times (oops...). Amazing how much dirt they can get on Fergie and Di..... More later. August 22 to August 26, 1996: 1. A HISTORY OF READING (Delightful new book on the history of reading from one author's perspective. I don't think books will go away, but will rather achieve a much higher status--kinda of like Classic Coke, if you catch my carbonation.) 2. WIRED MAGAZINE (I am in my magazine mode, since the weather is too nice to get serious. This latest issue with the "annual" wired/tired listing illustrates why WIRED is TIRED. The copy is busy and there are some nuggets to be found, but overall WIRED needs to evolve.) August 11 to August 21, 1996: 1. SURFING MAGAZINE (latest issue with Kelly Slater going backside at G-Land. I find myself thinking that Slater has done more for professional surfing than anybody else, including Shaun Tomson. Yet, I must admit that Slater's interaction with Beschen at the U.S. Open may tarnish his image somewhat. But then again, competition is meant to be tricky and sneaky; it is the nature of the game.) 2. SIX EASY PIECES by Richard Feynman (nice introductory lectures to physics. Also listening to it on tape. I always find Feynman refreshing and his attitude towards science and knowledge is so clean and clear that it is nearly impossible not to see the world in his purview.) 3. VITAL DUST (just picked it up, so commentary will have to wait). 4. Not reading much this past week due too much surfing. Also seen too many bad movies recently. Don't want to comment here on those, since that will be on a new site entitled "The Neural Surfer Goes to the Movies." I liked SMOKE on video, though. --------------- August 3 to August 10, 1996: 1. NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW (especially interested in the review of QUEER SCIENCE authored by Simon LeVay, which I felt was a bit slipshod. I just happen to think LeVay's work is more insightful and more important to our current moral problems than the reviewer suggests.) 2. SURFER MAGAZINE (newest issue with wetsuit buying guide. Hey Lane don't you read books anymore? Yep, but it's surf season and the water is 70 degrees. Not a very good issue, except the coverage on Slater winning again at Reunion and Jeffrey's Bay.) 3. THE PITBULL OF GURUS (incredibly provactive manusscript on Adi Da, the famous pouting guru in Fiji, and the inside dope on the community. Not yet publicly available, but it should be.) 4. WIRED MAGAZINE (yes, I know it's a yuppie journal for techno wannabes, but it is fun at times, especially the interviews. I also think that Negroponte's columns are nice broad touches necessary to contextualize and frame what is happening on the future of the Net and computers.) ---------------------------------- July 23 to August 2, 1996: 1. SKEPTIC MAGAZINE (latest issue on Evolutionary ethics. This magazine is far superior to its sister publication, The Skeptical Inquirer, which tends to bog down in the obvious. I also like the relaxed and open nature of SKEPTIC. It also has a fine eye for long articles dealing with the current debates surrounding evolution, as exemplified by the Dawkins/Gould argument.) 2. SURFING MAGAZINE (latest issue with Ross Williams on the cover going backside at G-Land. Not as good as the other mags, but when the surf is down or up, it still gets you pumped. By the way, the Big Wednesday South Swell from Tahiti was very good, but not comparable in my estimation with the 1975/76 swells, which had cleaner conditions and better shape.) 3. NEW YORKER (Just had to find out what Nixon thought of Clinton. Actually the whole article seems tremendously insightful on Nixon's personality. He was just very very insecure.) 4. THE NEW YORK REVIEW OF BOOKS (Insightful article by Steven Weinberg on the silliness of deconstructionism, relativistic sociology, and other thought forms trying to inappropriately employ physics and the like to buttress their postions. Weinberg is such a clear and clean writer. At the very least, even if one does not like what o he writes, you know exactly where he stands.) 5. YOU WILL NEVER MAKE LOVE IN THIS TOWN AGAIN (or a title quite similar to this. I must confess I didn't have the courage to buy the tome, but read it quickly today at Barnes and Noble. Hey, I didn't know Vanna White was turning numbers with women! After seeing the Heidi Fleiss documentary--which I highly recommend--I am in my Hollywood gossip mode. ---------------- July 14 to July 22, 1996: 1. THE CHURCHlANDS AND THEIR CRITICS, edited by Robert N. McCauley (very informative series of essays on the work of Paul and Patricia Churchland. I am finding Paul to be more "readable" than his counterpart Patricia, though the latter is well versed in neurobiology.) 2. ATOMS IN THE FAMILY: MY LIFE WITH ENRICO FERMI by Laura Fermi (quite enjoyable biography of one of this century's greatest physicists. The first part is more lively than the last, which is a shame because Fermi's contribution to physics was tremendous.) 3. Divan-i Kebir: Meter 1 by RUMI, translated by Nevit O. Ergin (my favorite poet, along with Hafiz, appears in a new translation. Since I don't know Persian I don't want to comment on whether it is a good translation or not. Let it suffice that the Rumi which jumps off these pages is utterly enthralling.) ---------------------- July 5 to July 13, 1996: 1. SURFER'S JOURNAL (latest issue with Tom Curren on the cover; excellent sequence of in-water shots of Curren getting completely buried on the North Shore. This magazine is in a class by itself--much better than Surfing or Surfer.) 2. SURFER MAGAZINE (collector's issue with Kelly Slater going backside; oversized magazine has too many ads, but there's no surf right now and I am land-locked) 3. I AM A MATHEMATICIAN by Norbert Wiener (sequel to his earlier autobiography EX-PRODIGY). Interesting narrative by the founder of cybernetics. 4. CHARLES DARWIN (Voyaging) by E.J. Browne. First volume concentrates on Darwin's early life. Very well researched and intriguing. 5. DARWIN: A Life in Science by Michael White and John Gribbin. Another easy read in their series (EINSTEIN and HAWKINGS were their first two efforts and quite breezy and fun) and very difficult to put down. Nice introduction and light. ------- July 1 to July 4, 1996: 1. THE END OF SCIENCE by John Horgan (could also be titled "Horgan's Revenge" for having to suck up in all those Scientific American profiles.... He now lets the reader on to what he really thinks). Very fun read. 2. KINDS OF MINDS by Daniel C. Dennett (another installment in the science master series published by Basic books). Dennett needs a good editor, but he is still engaging and filled with interesting ideas. ---
E-mail The Neural Surfer directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
I want to go back to the home base now.