the standard model, the blue window, drama and intrigue – The Killing

The Standard Model of particle physics, a description of how the universe works on subatomic scales is the one that is currently considered to be most accurate. Does knowing this model of what constitutes realty at its most fundamental level make any difference in what you’ll have for lunch today or what plans you’ll make for the weekend. If it affects one’s perception of reality at all it is probably, and somewhat ironically, through the use of one’s imagination. So if there are cracks in the Standard model as shown by examining the data from several years of study that directly relate to why there is a dominance of matter in the universe – you and your cat and your iPad are made of matter – rather than anti-matter in the universe – which is impossible to make you or your cat or your iPad out of. Physics at the theoretical level does not have much to do with how we routinely process the world. What we do not process by way of sights, sounds, taste, touch and emotional feelings is routed through the brain and what has the most impact is speech or it’s surrogate -writing. Looking through the lens of linguistics to discover what’s going on in our heads as we think and speak. A thought experiment from the link:

Joe jumped until the bell rang.
Joe jumped when the bell rang.

All the words are the same in both sentences except one. because of that one word difference, you did not have to bear down and think too much, you formed an almost instantaneous mental picture. In one instance jack was jumping up until a certain point. In the other jack did not jump until a specified instant. Why didn’t you go through the same process when you added 125 to 9, divided by 2 and multiplied by 3. The math problem required some conscious thought processes which most of us – Brilliant Minds the possible exception – to use rules we learned to parse an answer. The understanding of relatively simple language, the kind most of us use most of the time is processed intuitively. What paths are minds are using are automatic. At least that is what Ray Jackendoff thinks in A User’s Guide to Thought and Meaning (Oxford University Press). His observation holds up so much of the time that he – and Wittgenstein and many others who have studied linguistics – that it is probably one essential truth. yet that intuitive interpretation of verbal communication and neural processing also just as obvious does not hold up all the time. Have you ever said something and been misunderstood. Do you hear and understand something, repeat what you understand and your close friend says they did not get that same interpretation at all. You both heard the same thing. What happened.

the blue window


AMC’s The Killing has gone through several levels of understanding, misunderstanding and expectations. I was going to write a defense of this season. Though time being limited, thankfully I ran across this critique which says almost exactly what I was thinking, Shadow of a Doubt: Franz Kafka and TV’s ‘The Killing’

As the second season began, Goodman issued the show a stern warning. “By not revealing who killed Rosie Larsen in season one, this season could implode.” But in this same breath he complained that Veena Sud was compounding the problem by speaking out and directly assuring fans that the Larsen case would be solved by the end of season two. This creates a major suspense problem. “In the first 12 episodes, viewers will never believe a suspect is about to be revealed or that detectives closing in on a suspect in, say, episode seven, has any real relevancy. It certainly doesn’t make that storytelling immediately essential. Secondly, it’s telling viewers that they will be rewarded with a resolved mystery after 26 hours of television. If you see the appeal in any of this, please fire off a flare.”

Well, Tim, consider this my flare.

Think about it. How can we be upset when the truth is withheld just when we most expect it, and when someone promises that it will be delivered, right on time? But we in the audience always want to have it both ways: we want to have our expectations met, and at the same time, confounded. Novelist Elizabeth Bowen observed that “Story involves action[…] towards an end not to be forseen (by the reader) but also towards an end which, having been reached, must be seen to have been from the start inevitable.” Figuring how to get out of this double-bind has been the failing of many a writer. In all mediums, we reserve a large segment of our judgment until we see how well an entertainment ends. A great ending sends reverberations back through everything that transpired to reach it.

In the second season finale on Sunday night, The Killing achieved one of these great endings for the Larsen case. Sud kept her promise and revealed the truth about Rosie’s murder. The conclusion was satisfying, in that it did not satisfy. Rosie’s killing turned out to be caused by two different villains, one somewhat expected and the other utterly unexpected. In the end, these truths bring neither clarity nor comfort. Not to the Larsens or to the detectives. The truth behind Rosie’s killing turn out to be so meaningless and darkly ironic that we almost wish we didn’t know it.

I don’t care whether anyone else likes the show or what the ratings are. yet I am forced to care in a round about way because poor ratings will kill the show. One of the problems seems to be expectations. The people who seem most frustrated are the ones who see it as a mystery show. Period. If one sees it as mostly a drama with a mystery as a pretext to explore personalities, how people show different parts of themselves to different people, how everyone has some secret, some obsession, has some dysfunctional element to their personality. If you see the puzzle of how some people are attached to others, if you’re fascinated by how easily it is for anyone with power(official or personal) – mayors, business owners,  second lieutenants, police supervisors, parents, teens – to be morally and sometimes financially corrupted – and all the little skeletons that creates – than you see the constantly unfolding drama. The payoff, the solving of the mystery than becomes what he should be in the context of the show – a little prize at the bottom of the box. Those that want their crime solved in one or two episodes should be watching the six or so procedural that are on cable everyday. Those that prefer the standard procedural are not stupid or bad. Yet wanting  more of the same from another show is like wanting to get orange juice by squeezing a grapefruit. They have brought expectations to something that was never promised.  For them there is plenty of consolation. For those of us who want something new, complex, quirky, intrigue and not obsessed with instant payoffs, The Killing delivers pretty much as promised.

the black door

Anyone still interested in books – the bound paper kind – might find this interesting, Lions in Winter, Part One

Of the 5 million books held at the New York Public Library’s main building, only about 300,000 were requested last year. That means that the rest of them just sat around, taking up space in one of the most prized neighborhoods on the planet.

[  ]….The collection dates to the 1840s and 1870s, when the Astor Library and the Lenox Library, both privately supported, were founded in Manhattan; their earliest strengths were Americana and religious history. These libraries remained separate until the late 19th century, when former New York Governor Samuel Tilden died and left almost his entire estate “to found a free library and reading room” in New York. Tilden’s trustees developed a plan to use the bequest, plus the books and funds held by the two existing libraries, to persuade the city to construct a central building to house a single centralized research facility, a place on par with the much-envied British Museum.