Thursday, November 1, 2012

NaBloPoMo: day one

Welcome to my first NaBloPoMo post! I have lots of stuff to write about, admittedly much of it  saved up from the past couple of days, but I don't think that's cheating.

Yesterday was our Bill Bryson/Black Keys double-header. I had a very busy day at work, so was happy to leave the office behind for the stately surrounds of the Melbourne Town Hall, the venue for Bill Bryson's 16th Kenneth Myer Lecture.

In his lecture, An Even Shorter History of Nearly Everything, Bill shared with the large audience six astounding facts about the universe and humankind. My memory is bad (it's the brain trouble*) and I didn't want to miss anything by taking notes, so I can't tell you precisely what the six facts were...but in a nutshell, Bill's point was that the universe is infinite and amazing, our planet is pretty awesome and the fact that we exist as a species and as individuals is miraculous. Our brains, which are far more remarkable than the sum of their unremarkable parts (water, fat and proteins) are also miraculous, though not always reliable (more brain trouble).

I occasionally think about why we are here - Why are there people? - but not in great depth. It's just too big and abstract for my brain to comprehend. (But then I still marvel at the fax machine...)  Bill spoke about these big, abstract concepts in lay terms, with his trademark gentle humour and wonderment. When you really think about this stuff, it's mindblowing. I just kept thinking, "Wow. Yeah, that is pretty astounding." 

I've never seen Bill Bryson speak before.  He was exactly as I would have expected - gracious, self-deprecating, engaging and amusing. I find it quite inspiring that at the age of 60 he still retains such a sense of wonder about the world universe. Not that 60 is old, of course, but it is well beyond the age at which many people lose that sense of wonder. I hope that when I'm 60 - when I'm 80 - I can still contemplate the world around me - the big stuff and the small stuff - and think, "Wow. That's pretty astounding."

* Yes, quite amusing, given the lecture was presented by the Florey Institute of Neurosciences and Mental Health, a bunch of boffins trying to understand and cure brain troubles. It is one of the world's leading brain research bodies, in fact. 

For anyone who is interested, the Florey Institute will be producing a podcast of Bill's lecture.  I'll be keeping an eye (and ear) out for it, so will alert you when it's available. 

I should also commend the Florey Institute for its civic-mindedness in giving Melburnians the pleasure of listening to Bill Bryson speak for free. I suppose spreading the wonder about science and raising the organisation's profile in the community is in its own interests, but still. They could have charged a small fee, but chose not to.  

We had a quick bite to eat in the city before walking to the Sidney Myer Music Bowl for The Black Keys concert. We arrived about an hour before the show started, and sat on the grass near the top of the hill to wait. I really like going to the Bowl. Sitting out in the open air with the city lights for a backdrop is a nice change from the usual sweaty music venues we go to.

As with Jack White, I felt overwhelmed for a moment the band came on. Oh my God! We're finally here! And they're here - right there in front of us!  They didn't play the song I really wanted to hear (an oldie - Stack Shot Billy), but it was still a great show. Two people with a guitar and drum kit really can make a helluva lot of noise. In fact, the two of them alone were louder than when the rest of their band was onstage with them. 

Their recent hit Lonely Boy, from their latest album, was obviously one of the most popular songs of the night. I like it, but it isn't one of my favourites (I like their old stuff better than their new stuff). I did really enjoy it last night though,, I guess because it was gruntier. That's a pretty ace guitar riff. 

We walked home after the show - even after eight years, I still love that I can just walk home after seeing a show in or near the city.  For most of the time I've been writing this post, I've been able to hear The Black Key playing their second show at the Bowl. The wind is obviously blowing our way.  


I got two deliveries at work yesterday. That's the second time in a row that I've had two separate online purchases arrive on the same day. One is a necklace, and the other is a book about octopuses. Have I mentioned my recent octopus obsession? (OK, obsession might be overstating it, but I enjoy alliteration). 

I can't remember what sparked my interest in cephalopods (squid and octopuses), but I recently spent an evening reading about them online - they are such amazing creatures. In the grip of this wonderment, I purchased a book about octopuses. It's called Octopus: The Ocean's Intelligent Invertebrate. It has a little spiel on the front from Jean-Michel Cousteau. 
The octopus - strange, mysterious, perfectly camouflaged, able to change texture, colour, and shape, bendable, sneaky and intelligent. I heartily recommend this book.
Mysterious! Bendy! Sneaky! How can you not be fascinated by octopuses? ('Octopuses', 'octopi' and 'octopodes' are all acceptable plurals of octopus, but I like 'octopuses' the best and will never tire of saying it. I also enjoy saying 'squid'.)

Anyway, I have a whole post about the marvel of octopuses yet to come. I know you will be on the edge of your seats for that one. Trust me, there is much glee to be had in the octopus's garden. 


Margaret said...

Hi Jayne, there was a show on tv called Natures Giants and one of the subjects was a squid, which was very fascinating, dissecting a huge animal and talking about many aspects of how it lives.
Maybe you could find it on the past programme internet site, not sure what channel it was.

Jayne said...

Hi Margaret. I think I know the show you mean. It's on SBS on Saturday nights. I don't think I saw the giant squid episode though. I do remember seeing the one about camels. They are bizarre creatures too.

I'll investigate and see what I can find.

missjane said...

I missed Bill Bryson in person (stuck at work, but a friend who worked in the city went instead) but got home in time for the live stream - I think my favourite comment was when he said he was glad he'd lived long enough to see a sunny Melbourne day!

I have a friend who is a little obsessed with cephalopods... among other things, he has a rather cute knitted one.