Marburger, Powell, Rushdie, and Butler

A good week for talks, and I’ll finally let myself write about it, as I found the “bug” in my program after one long and frustrating day. A multiplication instead of a division symbol. Doh!

I met the President’s Science Advisor, John Marburger. I gave him a copy of an article on science funding by Terence Kealey, and Marburger asked for my e-mail so he could get back to me. That was surprising. We’ll see. In any case, I e-mailed Kealey, in England, and he was glad to hear it:

Thank you for your kind e mail. It gave me great pleasure to receive it. I didn’t answer earlier because I was away for a couple of days. My suspicion is that President Bush, like the Republicans since Hoover, is into corporate welfare and will see the federal support for science in that light (and of course bioterrorism research has given the federal government funding of science a further boost). But I’m not American and I might be wrong and I might not understand the nuances of American policy shifts. I’m certainly delighted by the thought that John Marburger has actually seen my stuff. That is genuinely exciting – thanks!

So that made my day.

Earlier this week I heard Michael Powell speak. The Cato Institute has said some good things about him (link), and he seems to see the value in letting entrepreneurs be creative and free. Apparently he’s not too hot on censorship issues (he’s not averse to it), but it seems that the FCC did a good job on letting new technology (wireless, DSL, etc) flourish. (link)

George Butler directed Pumping Iron, which followed Arnold Schwarzenegger, Lour Ferrigno, and some amateur body builders on their quest for winning top honors in their respective competitions. Seeing Arnold back then, early-mid ’70s, was interesting, as he appeared to be quite the politician then. However, the new DVD release apparently shows that he made up some things for the camera. Alas, the politician. It was inspiring to hear Butler speak of this, his first film, and his percerverence in raising money. He approached 3000 people for money, and fewer than 1% donated/invested anything. Butler claimed, if I recall correclty, that this movie made Arnold’s career. Maybe I’m forgetting the nuances of what he said, but in any case, it’s amazing how the action of one person can change the course of history, that is, assuming that Arnold’s subsequent films and political career really change the course of history. It’s tough to tell. It reminds me of Boornstein’s Cleopatra’s Nose.

Lastly, Salman Rushdie spoke at CU. It was nice to hear from a man whose world was literature, art with words. Yet, it was a packed house, and I, like many others there, had never read a word of his, and was there only because some bad people wanted him dead twenty years ago. I thought he’d be above this, but he trashed The Da Vinci Code, as if its author Dan Brown had any pretenses of writing literature. Really. Can’t Rushdie appreciate the novel for what it is, not literature, but a screenplay for an action movie turned into a novel? I suppose Rushdie would argue the while the book had some historical context, got people interested in how things came to be, and was a page-turner, it could have had the things it did not have: character development and higher-quality of writing. But please. Rushdie complains about current TV and film (“things used to be better”), and then complains about what people are reading, too. Why not look at the positives of the Da Vinci Code, and positive aspects of current film and TV, e.g., the number of “indie” films being made, the expanded market for them, perhaps through cable stations that cater to niche tastes, as well as HBO’s TV series that can also cater to narrower, more “sophisticated” audiences, unlike broadcast TV. For things to be better, they need not be like the mythical “good old days” (when people yearned for the good older days). Things can be better in new and different ways. And sure also worse. But there’s generally more art these days, some bad, some worse.

OK, that was not the most coherent screed. But I’ll leave it at that.


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