Monthly Archives: April 2006

Ron Mueck

womanI have been awed and delighted by our National Gallery’s acquisition of Ron Mueck’s Head of a Baby. The hyper-real sculpture is so lovingly rendered it achieves what any great art must do: stir the senses.

One of the artist’s primary strategies is to shrink or enlarge the figure, a change in scale that imbues his forms with a psychological dimension they do not ordinarily possess. With the exception of scale, colour, and attention to detail, Untitled (Head of a Baby) mimics a classical bust, sculptures that are essentially portraits of the famous. Although this young human has yet to make its mark on the world, at this monumental scale the baby appears paradoxically to possess the gravitas of a great leader.

By happenstance, I found a site that depicts one of Mueck’s exhibitions (no, I don’t speak Russian), and it confirmed to me how great an observer of human nature he is. In that exhibition, Mueck does not portray the beautiful people, but people like you an me, marked with life and living, in gloriously accurate details (notice the toes of the fat man).

Ironically, Mueck began his sculpting career as a professional model maker for Jim Henson’s Muppets. He’s come a long way, for our general delight.

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Currently Reading…

spin Spin, by Robert Charles Wilson.

For those who read Darwinia, the tone and tenor of Spin are similar: a mix of science and fantastic, with a focus on human nature’s reaction when faced with the inconceivable. Wilson is a master at it.

On a bright summer evening, three children on the cusp of teenhood witness the impossible: in the blink of an eye, all the stars wink out. Although the sun rises the next morning as usual, the next night the stars don’t. Soon, scientists discover that a filtering membrane has been wrapped around the Earth and slowed its spin: for every hour on Earth, a million years flit by in the rest of the universe. Thus, humans face extinction –the death of their own sun– within fifty years. The story is how this knowledge, this revelation, affects the three youngsters. Their lives are painted against the largest background of humanity and its varied reaction to the knowledge that it will die in less than a century. We follow them as they grow up to adulthood and towards a seemingly fateful end.

Wilson’s style is deceptively simple, so that he is able to weave a complex story on several fronts –scientific, fantastic, psychological, emotional– without seeming difficulty. The prose is elegant, incisive, yet never intrudes on the story, surprisingly intimate despite the grandeur of the theme. Because we see the plunge of Earth towards extinction through three people’s eyes, three very different, fallible people, the rest falls into place. The science and fantastic aspects of the story are merely tools to explore who we are, fundamentally, and what Earth means to humanity. This Hugo-nominated novel is well worth the read.

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The Laws of Probability

These were sent to me in French by Maurice, my FIL, so you’ll have to bear the mistakes in the translation. Nevertheless, they are funny –and true– enough to warrant an entry here.

  • The Banana Principle: Every person buying green bananas will eat them before they are ripe. Every person buying ripe bananas will forget them and let them rot
  • The Bedmate Law: The one who snores always falls asleep first.
  • Ruby’s Principle:The probability of meeting someone you know increases when you’re with someone you don’t want to be seen with.
  • Pardo’s First Postulate: The good things in life are either illegal, immoral, or fattening.
  • Murphy’s Constant: Objects get damaged in proportion of their value.
  • Gumperson’s Law: The probability of an event happening is inversely proportional to its desirability.
  • Atwood’s Fourteenth Corollary: A lent book is never lost unless one wants it returned.
  • Boob’s Law: Whatever the object, it will always be found in the last place one looked.
  • Law of Selective Gravity:>: Anywhere aroung the globe, a slice of bread will always fall on the buttered side.
  • Johnson’s First Law: Any mechanical failure will always happen at the worst moment.
  • Fett’s Law: Never attempt to repeat a successful experience.
  • Maryann’s Law: Don’t look, you’ll find.
  • Self Serve’s Law: The last portion of the dish you want will be taken by the person in line just in front of you.
  • Zenone’s Observation: The other line always goes faster.
  • O’Brien’s Variation on Zenone’s Observation: If you switch lines, the one you just left will become the fastest.
  • Flugg’s Rule: The more urgent the reason you are in line for, the slower will the clerk be.
  • Wittens’s Law: Right after you clipped your nails, you realize you need them for something.
  • Walter’s Law: The tendency for cigarette or BBQ smoke to go towards a particular person is proportional to that person’s sensitivity to it.
  • Roger’s Law: Always right after the flight attendant served coffee, the plane enters a zone of turbulence.
  • Davis’s Explanation: Coffee is the principal cause of turbulence.
  • Young’s Fifth Law: To err is human, but to really screw things up, add a computer.
  • Moses’s Law: It’s always when you don’t watch that a goal is scored.
  • Hadley’s Law on the Purchase of Clothes: If you like the clothes, they don’t have the right size. If they have your size, they don’t suit you. If they have your size and they suit you, they’re too expensive. If they have your size, they suit you, and you can afford them, the first time you wear them, you spill something on them.
  • Postulate of Parking:It’s only after you’ve parked your car two kilometers away that four spaces become free right beside the door.
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So far, so good…

The reviews for Meter Made have been coming in, and they’re overwhelmingly positive, and that’s eminently satisfying.

Steve Mazey, of The Eternal Night, says:

This is a faced paced book, full of action, full of intrigue, and full of deception […] Reading books like this is, I find, immensely refreshing […] Jack Meter is brilliantly constructed… more…

Steve Lazarowitz, of Novelspot, says:

Meter Made is enjoyable, funny, entertaining, well written, and eccentric enough to be well worth the read. more…

Caroline Miniscule, of The Thunder Child, says:

Author M. D. Benoit writes with a sure hand, weaving plausible worlds together with ease. Jack Meter is an engaging character, with a sense of humor and a whole lot of problems, and he engages our sympathy from page one. more…

Biff Mitchell, on his blog, says:

This is a fast-paced, hardboiled, non-stop, seat-of-your-pants, action-packed SciFi mystery that asks the question: Where’s the damn brakes? […] The universe of Jack Meter is full of weird creatures, danger at every turn, deadly beautiful women, side-slapping dialogue, and most of all, according to Pico, “action, Action, ACTION!” more…

Meter Made is published by Zumaya Publications.

You can buy Meter Made through amazon.com, amazon.uk, Booksurge Australia, and Booksurge, which has global distribution facilities in the USA, UK, Europe, and Canada.

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Pregnant Robot

NoelleApparently, most training hospitals are moving away from using real patients to practice on. This includes training on how to assist pregnant women give birth. The solution: Noelle, the pregnant robot.

She can be programmed for a variety of complications and for cervix dilation. She can labor for hours and produce a breach baby or unexpectedly give birth in a matter of minutes.

She ultimately delivers a plastic doll that can change colors, from a healthy pink glow to the deadly blue of oxygen deficiency. The baby mannequin is wired to flash vital signs when hooked up to monitors.

The computerized mannequins emit realistic pulse rates and can urinate and breathe.

If she is bleeding, there will be ample blood in evidence everywhere

Interesting that the article uses “she” instead of “it” to describe the robot, although, from what I could read, it cannot talk.

Unfortunately, Noelle works on electricity. When it was used as a training tool in Afghanistan, who “has the world’s second-highest infant mortality rate”, frequent power failures made her minimally useful.

The article is in Technology Review.

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