Sunday, April 03, 2005

Eppur si muove

One of my favourite songs says:

"they sold you the view from a hill...
They told you that the view from the hill would be further than you'd ever seen before.

but they said that up there you'd find the air would be clearer
promised you more space to move and more room to breath...

You were holding out forever - thought they'd never turn your mind.
Your ideals they were higher than you ever could have climbed.
We thought that they couldn't buy you - the price would be too high
that the riches there on offer they just wouldn't turn your eyes.
But your conscience it was locked up in the prisons of your schemes
your judgement it was blinded by your visions and your dreams
praying and hoping that the view from the hill
is wider than you've ever seen before.

They sold you the view from the hill.
Look it all for a view from the hill
and you find the views no further than you've seen before..."

Loenzo (the main character of Poniatowska's novel) had a kind of "midlife crisis" after returning from Harvard to Mexico. Everything seemed to be well... not up to standard. Research at the observatory was chaotic, people inefficient, etc. His view from Tonantzintla's hill was wider than before, however his new (wider) periferical vision percieved a different country. I guess everyone who lives in a different country for a while gets the same feeling. Despite this feelings, he became a famous astronomer and director of 2 prestigious institutes, etc.

There are some passages that captured my attention:

When Lorenzo interviewed new students, he complained about the young generations. This is nothing new, Socrates also complained about the young greeks... they were a bunch of rebels with no respect for authority and definetively not philosopher's material. A couple of days ago I found an ICSID brochure, which says that new students have lost some rational thinking that was taken for granted in previous generations. Young students find it hard to think about identifying design problems, they try to compensate logical search for solutions with "brainstrorm" creativity. Yes I noticed something like that, but it's not the student's fault, it's because primary and secondary education are not promoting logical thinking. A colleague said that they are used to follow instructions like recipies, and they expect to do design like a recipie: put on one of the six hats, and you will have a good product! well, I've seen those young designers do very nice things when they are shown the right path, it only requires some training and some modesty to accept that thinking is harder then following instructions... there is always the risk of making mistakes, but you have to take that chance if you want to get to the top of the hill. To put it in other words, I always say that young generations have some kind of G5 or Pentium4 @ 3GHz... while we dinosaurs have a 386 chip. Young minds are really powerful. It is the educator's duty to make those brains run with useful software and not just x-box games and junk. Like Jaime Alvarez used to say: "junk comes in, junk comes out" but if you feed their mind with useful stuff, the outcome will be useful designs!

Then, there's a discussion about scientific discoveries. Lorenzo tells a young student that inventions, theories like Einstein's or Galileo's are not "something they smoked". Brilliant inventions come from many previous discoveries and ideas. Genius is when someone can select the right pieces from all the pieces out there... it is not easy to make a relation between those dots on the sky. It is something like when you start to solve a 5,000 pieces or more puzzle. Finding the first pieces that match is not easy... you have to develop a systematic approach like separating pieces by color according to the regions of the puzzle. That is scientific method! Anyway, when you start finding pieces that match, it is easier to match more pieces, and so on. Science is like that. We try to figure out the whole puzzle and the philosophical questions about us and our universe. Already connected pieces of that puzzle are our beliefs, but there are still many dots that we still can't find their place on the puzzle. Good design is also like that. Bruno Munari says that young designers get caught in the wrong impession that their creativity allows them to design from zero, as if they have to re-invent everything, when actually the best inventions (and designs) are only puzzles of existing experiences. Like the fax machine: some one needed to send documents really fast, so the inventor combined a scanner to convert analog images into digital and then...he/she needed a medium to transmit the information, so using telephone lines was a good idea, and by then modems already existed. So, I agree with Lorenzo that good ideas and inventions don't come out of a magic hat, Not even six hats!!!

Fausta makes a remarkable stage performance of Galileo's discussion with Cremonini. Galileo wants to show Cremonini the moons of Jupiter through his telescope, but Cremonini refuses to watch because it would compromise his beliefs on the Aristotelean order of the universe: "leave me alone I need peace" "-But what about the truth? I am looking for the truth because I am a scientist and believe that those who accept the truth are closer to God than those who build their human dignity upon nonsense mistakes." The moral is like Descartes said : "do not accept anything as absolute truth" Even Artistotle made mistakes... we cannot be like Cremonini and hold on to our scientific beliefs so strong, that it holds us back. Yes, do not think that we are going to find all answers out of a hat, niether are all the answers already said or absolutely truth. That is the hardest thing, like I said before, to figure out wich dots or pieces to connect or disconnect and arrange in some other way. I'll tell you about my "out of the square" theory later.

Anyway, we all get older... and as time goes by, we hold on to our beliefs stronger then ever, we are not going to be always young Galileos, in fact we all are going to be Cremoninis sooner or later... and young generations are going to lead the way into new frontiers, then they will get older and there will be a younger generation, and so on. Our duty is to pass on our experience, show them our successes but also warn them about our failiures so that they learn from that too. If we treat students like babies, overprotecting them from "strict teachers" and always telling them that their projects are fabulous, when they are not, just so that they don't get upset and fill out a bad survey evaluation about their lecturers.... well, for me that is not protecting them, that is insulting their intelligence. Protecting young Galileos from all Cremoninis they could find is not going to help them develop the confidence to say one day: eppur si mouve.


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Anonymous Hooper said...

Umm... yeah, by the way your mother called and asked me to tell you she's Ok...

No, really....

She called just now to inform me about the CD you sent, I told her I was writing to you and she asked me to tell you she's Ok! (and your father as well, of course).

I need to re-read your piece latter in order to post an opinion, but in the meantime check this out...

...A detective is sent to investigate the murder of a young and beautiful woman in an old forgotten-by-god town, as he interview the town people he finds that the woman no only was beautiful, but everybody have nothing but nice things to say about her, she was an angel on earth... and the detective falls in love with this image of here.

Any way the evidence he finds leads into different directions and suddenly the detective is confronted with the fact that his "angel" is a very different person to each of the witnesses, some times a very constrasting person...

..who was she in reality? can somebody be reconstucted by the mere memory of the people who know her? can you really fall in love with a virtual person?.

This history comes from an old movie called Laura, I don't remember right now the name of the director, but shouldn't be hard to find.

Now how's that for a nice story to rattle around and make a short film about?

...matta ne.

7:45 AM  
Blogger Fernando Vallejo said...

You mean this one :laura

Thanks for the message. You know that moms are always worried.

11:56 AM  
Anonymous Hooper said...

1944, Otto Preminger... Yup! that's the one.

Now I'm not telling you to copy the film, or run to see it whatsoever, but to play with the premiss, nice isn't it?

Now for good ol'fun check out Stepen Chow. His two last movies are readily available on DVD outside of china, and are hilarious, I kinda remember we talk sometime about Shaolin Soccer and today a friend lent me a copy of his lastest film Gong Fu, I've already seen it last year from the web, but this time it was on georgeus DVD quality.

Man, this guy is the chinese Chespirito (not that I like Roberto Bolaños at all, but the modus operandy is uncannily similar, but funny).

Another movie I want to see, even if I know it's gonna be a big fat hollywood turkey is Sin City. Based on a comic by Frank Miller.

...if anything, for the stile.

...Matta ne!

5:07 PM  
Blogger Fernando Vallejo said...

Somehow I knew that it had to be Laura... why not Carmen? Or Suzi?

Well, well. I hope you enjoy my movies... and the 1944 version of LOTR.


1:26 AM  
Anonymous Hooper said...

Did you know that Laura it's supposed to be the most often used female name in plays, novels, poems and popular music?

I wonder if this source took in account the whole world or, once again, assumed that what's true in Gringolandia is true eslsewhere...

...Otherwise, I believe it would be Maria

...Matta ne!

3:22 AM  

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