So I’ve been waiting for some time to tell you about this clever joke by eminent physicist Anthony Zee. Well, I think it is a joke, I’ve not checked with him yet: The final production period for The Dialogues was full of headaches, I must say, but there was one thing that made me laugh out loud, for a long time. I heard that Tony had agreed to write a blurb for the back cover of the book, but I did not see it until I was finally sent a digital copy of the back cover, somewhat after everything had (afaik) gone to print. The blurb was simple, and said:
“This is a fantastic book — entertaining, informative, enjoyable, and thought-provoking.”
I thought this was rather nicely done. Simple, to the point, generous…. but, after a while… strangely familiar. I thought about it for a while, walked over to one of my bookcases, and picked up a book. What book? My 2003 copy of the the first edition of “Quantum Field Theory in a Nutshell”, by A. (for Anthony) Zee. I turned it over. The first blurb on the back says:
“This is a fantastic book — exciting, amusing, unique, and very valuable.”
Now that #thedialoguesbook is out is I get even more people telling me how they can’t draw. I don’t believe them. Just as with science (and other subjects), everybody has a doorway in to a subject. It is just a matter of taking time to finding your individual Door. Individual doors is what makes us all wonderfully different. For me it is mostly geometry that is my Door. It gives a powerful way to see things, but isn’t the only way. Moreover, I have to work hard to not be trapped by it sometimes. But it is how I truly see things most often – through geometry. Wonderful geometry everywhere.
So I don’t know about you, but I’ve been really enjoying the new series of Star Trek. I started watching Star Trek Discovery because I was one of the science advisors they talked with from the early writing stages to finish, building some of the science ideas, concepts, and tone for their reimagining of the Star Trek universe.
Over many months after the initial meeting with all the writers, I would take calls from individual writers and researchers and give them ideas or phrases they could use and so forth. But much of the work was done blind, which is to say I had very little context for most of what they were asking for advice for. I think they do it this way because they wanted to protect a lot of the material from leaking because, well, it’s Star Trek! Yes, you’ll know from my various writings and interviews about science advising that this is not usually my preferred way of working as an advisor, but I was happy to help in this case and make an exception because after all of this is a huge show that has a tradition of inspiring people about science over many generations. so it could be of value, just by virtue of some of the little science ideas that I helped sprinkled in there, however accurately or inaccurately. The bottom line is that Star Trek just isn’t about accuracy, it’s about inspiration and dreams.
All the parts of my interview with Henry Jenkins have been posted now. You can find them here, here, and here. The latest, posted today, talks about a nod to the superhero genre that I playfully do in the book, as well as my slightly unhealthy obsession over architectural details in the making of the book! (But of course, you knew that from reading this blog regularly…!)
So I usually do this joke when I’m in an elevator with someone who Is carrying a gift wrapped item or a bunch of flowers or similar. I do a pretend surprised expression and say “oh is that for me?!”, and receive a variety of responses from the person. Most usually get the joke. This guy, who turned out to be a delivery guy, smiled politely and said “not unless you are Dr. Clifford.” On the back foot, I paused, and then recovered with “er… actually I am!”. I got out my ID and showed it to him. We were both genuinely stunned by how this turned out. Nice little lift after a really unkind day… #hoistedbymyownpetard #theardmore
Just after waking up today I read Henry Jenkins’ introduction to an interview that he did with me, posted on his fascinating blog (Confessions of an ACA-Fan: about culture, media, communication, and more). I was overcome with emotion for a moment there – He is very generous with his remarks about the book! What a great start to the day!
I went a bit crazy on social media earlier today. I posted this picture and:
There’s been a first sighting!! Aaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrgh! It EXISTS! It actually exists! In a bookstore (Cellar Door Books in Riverside)!
(But believe it or not a copy has not got to me yet. Long story.) http://thedialoguesbook.com (Thanks Flip Tanedo and Linda Sherman-Nurick.)
This is also a good way of mentioning that I’ll be doing a signing of the book at Cellar Door Books in Riverside, CA. Next Friday (17th November) at 6:00pm. More details here. That’s why the books are there. And then Linda, the manager, took this snap and sent it to Flip, and then he posted it as part of a comment on a FB post of mine and then I went a bit crazy with delight and relief because all I’d been hearing about was printing delays and moved release dates…
In another universe, this post has me holding the physical book, finally, after 18 years. In this universe however, there have been delays, and I’m holding this card showing the cover instead. But in 11 days let’s see! Pre-orders are enormously helpful. If you’ve already got a copy, thanks. But it’s gift-giving season coming up, so… Or just please share this post to others who might be interested in science and/or graphic books! Thanks. Ordering info, a trailer, and ten sample pages are here: http://thedialoguesbook.com
I’ve been a bit pulled hither and thither this last ten days or so. I was preparing and then giving a couple of talks. One was at (En)Lightning Talks LA, and the other was at PopTech (in Camden, Maine). I was therefore a bit absent from here, the blog, but very present on social media at various points (especially at PopTech) so do check out the various social media options in the sidebar.
In both cases, the talks were about my work on my familiar (to many of you) theme: Working to put science back into the general culture where it belongs. The longer talk (at PopTech in Camden Maine) was 15 minutes long or so, and I gave some introduction and motivation to this mission, and then used two examples. The first was my work on science advising for movies and TV, and I gave examples of what I consider good practice in terms of how Click to continue reading this post →
This is the first in a short series of posts about some favourite podcasts I’ve been listening to over the last year and a half or so.
This episode I’ll mention Comics Alternative, Saturday Review and Desi Geek Girls.
But first, why am I doing this? The final six months of work on the book was a very intense period of effort. That’s actually an understatement. There has been no comparable period of work in my life in terms of the necessary discipline, delicious intensity, steep learning curve, and so much more that is needed to do about 200 pages of the remaining final art needed to complete the (248 page) book. (While still doing my professoring gig and being a new dad.) I absolutely loved it – such challenges are just a delight to me.
I listened to music a lot, and discovered a lot of old parts of my music listening habits, which was fun (I’d have days where I’d listen to (and sing along to) all of Kate Bush’s albums in order, then maybe same for Sting, or Lee Morgan…. or scream along to Jeff Wayne’s awesome “War of the Worlds” Rock musical.) But then I got to a certain point in my workflow where I wanted voices, and I reached for radio, and podcast.
Over on Instagram – follow me there @asymptotia for lots of activity – I showed a couple of montages of sketches I did on the flight out to New Orleans and on the return portion. It is a bit of practice I like to do, which I have not done in a long time. It is part of the practice I did a lot when I was gearing up to do final drawing on the book:
It’s time for a visit to the kitchen. This time the result was a spontaneous coconut tart, made from childhood memories… (and a bit of pastry). Here are two composite photos and their captions (from my instagram account) to tell the story: