I learned about several regional cultures this past week.
•Park Slope is full of magicians, as revealed by the Potter-like novels of Lev Grossman, celebrated at Word Books in Greenpoint.
•A Yale professor I talked to, by contrast, finds it hard to believe that magicians are all that useful anywhere – and was surprised to hear that they show up in a philosophically-significant context at Skeptics conferences, helping to illustrate how the human mind deceives itself and falls prey to scams and supernatural/religious claims. They do, and it does.
(The prof also differed with my father’s admittedly quickly-formed opinion on Yale architecture dean Robert A.M. Stern, which was formed several years ago when my father saw the grandiose billboard of Stern on the side of a Stern building on the Upper East Side and immediately pronounced “What an asshole!” Little did my father realize that some scholars take years to reach that conclusion. My whole family is adept at accelerating the academic process by informal means.)
•There are geeks living without purpose in California and tricking out their muscle cars with flamethrowers and other Mad Max-inspired doodads, until a troubled romance with a trashy alcoholic chick makes everything go horribly awry, at least according to the great film Bellflower (now at the Angelika), which I highly recommend.
•I can’t technically recommend the documentary about Brazil Formula 1 racer Senna because it was sold out, but apparently that’s also good and he was much beloved.
•Will the future be one in which the high-tech cars of both California and Latin America share superhighways that traverse decreasingly-relevant national borders, uniting the muscle cars of all nations? I don’t know, but I do know that according to California-dwelling (and somewhat robot-like) political writer Virginia Postrel, an anti-technology terrorist organization in Mexico called Individuals Tending to Savagery has been sending bombs to professors who are involved in nanotech or robotics.
Ironically, you know a country is probably destined, eventually, for U.S.-style techno-postmodernism when it starts producing things like anti-nanotech terror movements instead of just cheap sombreros. For good or ill, Mexicans will end up living like Neal Stephenson characters, just like the rest of us.
In the meantime, the terrorists have apparently been leaving messages that say things like “Curiosity killed the human.” And this is reality, just to be clear, so the game cannot be turned off.
•Meanwhile, in Mongolia, the Easter Bunny is having a rap battle with Genghis Khan (which does not mean I think you should waste time watching every other rap video that comedy group did – indeed, it almost makes me think there might be something to this “too much wealth and technology on our hands” idea after all).