Saturday, January 13, 2007

Thinking of Spinoza...

IMG_0254, originally uploaded by cameronduff.

So after the library Louise took us to a local gallery (the Frye) which has quite a reputation for exhibiting contemporary conceptual artists. And they don't come much more conceptual than the Dutch philosopher Baruch Spinoza. Sadly this "prince of philosophers" as Gilles Deleuze called him, died young during Holland's great "Golden Age". As the arts, philosophy and science were flourishing under the remarkably liberal governace of the de Witt brothers and the House of Orange (google it - it's a great story in its own right!), Spinoza was quietly setting about composing the greatest philosophy of joy and the ethical life that we have in the western tradition. Spinoza's is a philosophy of liberation from life's sorrows and a celebration of the joys of the "examined life" as Aristotle called it. Remarkably, Spinoza wrote his great works in virtual isolation, alone in a quiet flat, under constant threat of persecution from both the Catholic church (he thoroughly rejected the notion of an interventionist god, of our own image and responsive to our prayers) and his own Jewish community. He was excommunicated as a young man from the Jewish faith for criticising the Jewish god, and in fact narrowly escaped with his own life after being stabbed in a particularly heated debate in the synagogue. His greatest work the Ethics was published after his death and only after that bastard Liebniz stole most of his grand ideas.

Anyway, this long peramble is by way of introduction to the above "one minute sculpture" entitled "Thinking of Spinoza". Spinoza whom I've been reading alot of over these last 18 months has become my favourite philosopher. The man laid out a complicated philosophy - an ethics really - of the good life. One grounded in interaction rather that social retreat which is the more common aristotelian approach. Read him, in an age of Dr Phil pop psychology Spinoza stands as a beacon of hope.

So this photo is me "realizing" the aforementioned one minute sculpture whilst thinking of Spinoza. I was thinking life affirming thoughts if that doesn't sound too wanky though I suspect I've long since been convicted of that particular transgression!!

One last plug, the celebrated American neuroscientist Antonio Damasio last year published a fascinating work on Spinoza's philosophy of affect and the feeling brain. Basically, Damasio has long drawn on Spinoza's philosophy in his own scientific research as a means of developing more sophisticated hypotheses to explain the working of the brian. Damasio's research using advanced brian scanning technologies is starting to indicate that Spinoza's understanding of the brain was pretty spot on some four centuries ago! So Descartes be damned! Spinoza was right all along to reject any mind/body dualism. Read Damasio's book too. His theory of the brain "enmeshed" in the feeling body and then responsive to external stimuli in our environment is fascinating and surprisingly easy to read.

So I'm still thinking about Spinoza! It's a lot to weigh up...

Seattle made Us This Happy!!

DSC01622, originally uploaded by cameronduff.

Look at my beautiful wife...a comrade at work has suggested I start another blog called "I Love Andrea". I told her I was already doing that blog.

The View from the Top Platform

DSC01660, originally uploaded by cameronduff.

So this is the view down from the op viewing platform all the way through the interior of the building down to the "living room" atrium. Just a magnificent space!

More of Our Walking Tour

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Pretty serious stuff this architecture...

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Andrea and the Art Project

IMG_0191, originally uploaded by cameronduff.

This is Anj travelling down the freaky, crazy 2001 style escalator as seen through one of the many public art projects in the museum. The City of Seattle has mandated that 1% of the total budget for the library be spent on public art, which doesn't sound like much until you discover how much the library cost! Let's just say Bill Gates (aka the man who made himself into a gold statue) put up some of his own money for this...

The View From the Mid Level Viewing Platform

DSC01645, originally uploaded by cameronduff.

So this explains why we're so enamoured with Seattle's Library!!

The Library Really Is This Good!!

DSC01641, originally uploaded by cameronduff.

They love each other friends, but then we all knew that. For the best damn brother and sister pairing that I ever met!

So We Went to Seattle...

DSC01616, originally uploaded by cameronduff.

Evening Ladies and Gents!

So we went to Seattle with Damian and Louise last weekend, and in keeping with my budding reputation as a keen travel diarist here, friends, is my account of that fair city. Fair it is too, despite the Vancouver style wind and rain! Seattle is an awesome city with loads of energy and plenty of spunk. Then again you'd expect nothing less from a city that has produced Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain, my favourite Mark Arm of Mudhoney infamy (there's a story wrapped up in this relating to my first adolescent rock and roll experience travelling down to Brisbane to see Mudhoney at the Livid Festival in 1990 but I won't bore you now with the details!). Now the city is also responsible for Microsoft (hmmm!), Google (yeah!!) and Starbucks (hiss!) so let's just say that for a city the size of Vancouver or Brisbane, Seattle must be doing something right.

Well in addition to music and globe devouring info tech companies, Seattle also boasts soem remarkable architecture. With Damian as an able and loquacious guide, we toured that newish Seattle public library (that's me on the steps of the middle conference level) as well as the Hendrix Museum (aka the Experience Music Project). The library was truly fascinating...interesting the US/Canada border we were asked by the US Customs agent why we were travelling to the US; Anj and I explained that we were going to visit the public library and he said "hmm, you must really like books eh?". Yes comrades, we really like books and with over 1.2 million of them in the most exquisite of environs the Seattle public in where it's at. We also told the customs officer that we were going to visit the Jimi Hendrix museum - "right on brother" he exclaimed - so I think we recovered sufficient street cred for him to let us through the border! Brief recap! We were a) communists for being so enamoured with Seattle's library (after all, what good can come of books in the land of the free!) yet b) fellow travellers for being down with the greatest guitarist of all time so a mixed bunch at best I guess.

Anyway, we love the United States! The couple of times we've visited now we've come home dreaming of ways to move there...hey it's all sultry RnB divas, doughnuts and street hustle. Bring it on comrades!

Oh yes and we also had the most AMAZING vegetarian meal there in many, many moons. The Tea Pot cafe if you're interested, was absolutely mind blowing, mouth watering, amazing! I've got two words for you! Drunken Tofu!! Yes it exists and yes we ate it. Twas delicious too though rather less intoxicating than I was hoping but hey! You can't have everything. Well we all stuffed ourselves like good Americans are wont to do nonetheless, you know when in Rome and all. After that we went for a drink in a refurbished funeral palour. I'd make a stupid gag here about it being a bit of a downer but I bet you saw that coming.

So in summary for those looking to find a point (good luck!); we had a great time, saw some great architecture, ate like kings, played guitar in the music project, watched a video on the history of hip hop, saw some great art, thought about Spinoza (art on demand or the one minute sculpture - see photo above) and generally had some wild old good times.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY MUM!! Love you, I'm gonna call real soon.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Rudd Cartoon

Rudd Cartoon, originally uploaded by cameronduff.

Finally my two great loves together...time for the old fella to walk methinks! If it's good enough for Gilchrist!

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Ahh New Year's...Back to Work you slack-jawed Whiner!!

Painful as it is to recount friends, the great xmas/new year's fiesta leaves more than a little to be desired in this neck of the woods. As merry Australians continue to crack cold ones and toast their good fortune to be so hail fellow well born as to reside in such a temperate paradise, we here north of the equator must busy ourselves with the back to work blues. Hard as it is to believe I presented to work at 8:15am on Tuesday January the 2nd thereby breaking every rule of common sense and good manners. Two things bear noting: a) I was actually resonably bright eyed and lacking all symptoms of hangover or ill temper and b) I was not actually the first in the office having been beaten to that grim distinction by the good doctor S.P.J Holliday (you'll note the irony as I complain about the lack of days of recreation with a fellow named Holliday - sadly the humour was lost on this most fastidious of men!!).

So yes, I think I may have set a record of a sort given that this was the earliest I have ever been back at work after the new year. With some luck this dubious record will now stand until England next wins the ashes sometime after the next ice age (which come to think of it may not be too far away if Mr Gore is to be believed). Sadly, these Canadians care not for such reckless sentimentality and the rest of the staff are setting a frightful pace. Not for the Canuck this life of the gentle re-entry into the working grind with 10am starts, two hour lunchs and 4 o'clock knock off - no sir, back to work!!

I hope the rest of you can spare me a fond thought as you contemplate another beer or the weary walk back to the fridge for last night's left overs...happy new year!