February 07, 2015

Human knowledge is power, Mama. The only limits are in our minds.

Let The Great World Spin
By Colum McCann

Hello hello hello. Not a great reading/blogging start for me this year but that's OK because the new year is exciting and I've been living. And I am ready now to tackle the many many books I want to finish in 2015.

Colum McCann is a poet. His sentences are poetry. I love this read, though it took me a while to embrace it. My friend gave it to me for Secret Santa -- a great gift. I'm about halfway through & savoring his language every moment.

"Some kids were dancing on the corners. Their bodies in flux. Like they had discovered something entirely new about themselves, shaking it through like a sort of faith."
(p. 70)

"Nothing much happening on Park. Everyone gone to their summer homes. Solomon, dead against. City boy. Likes his late hours. Even in summertime. His kiss this morning made me feel good. And his cologne smell. Same as Joshua's. Oh, the day Joshua first shaved! Oh, the day! Covered himself in foam. So very careful with the razor. Made an avenue through the cheek, but nicked himself on the neck. Tore off a tiny piece of his Daddy's Wall Street Journal. Licked it and pasted it to the wound. The business page clotting his blood. Walked around with the paper on his neck for an hour. He had to wet it to get it off. She had stood at the bathroom door, smiling. My big tall boy, shaving. Long ago, long ago. The simple things come back to us. They rest for a moment by our ribcages then suddenly reach in and twist our hearts a notch backward.
No newspapers big enough to paste him back together in Saigon."
(p. 81)

"Perhaps she could hire Gloria. Bring her in. Odd jobs around the house. The bits and pieces. They could sit at the kitchen table together and while away the days, make a secret gin and tonic or two, and let the hours just drift, her and Gloria, at ease, at joy, yes, Gloria, in excelsis deo." 
(p. 82)

"It was easy enough to write a program that would collate the dead, he said, but what he really wanted was to write a program that could make sense of the dying. That was the deep future. One day the computers would bring all the great minds together. Thirty, forty, a hundred years from now. If we don't blow one another asunder first. 
We're at the cusp of human knowledge here, Mama, he said. He wrote about the dream of widely separated facilities sharing special resources. Of messages that were able to go back and forth. Of remote systems that could be manipulated through the telephone lines. Of computers that were capable of repairing their own malfunctions. Of protocols and bulk erasers and teletype printouts and memory and RAM and maxing out the Honeywell and fooling around on the prototype Alto that had been sent across. He described circuit boards like some people described icicles. He said that the Eskimos had sixty-four words for snow but that didn't surprise him; he thought they should have more -- why not? It was about the deepest sort of beauty, the product of the human mind being stamped onto a piece of silicon that you might one day cart around in your briefcase. A poem in a rock. A theorem in a slice of stone. The programmers were the artisans of the future. Human knowledge is power, Mama. The only limits are in our minds. He said there was nothing that a computer couldn't do, even the most complicated problems, find the value of pi, the root of all language, the most distant star. It was crazy how small the world truly was. It was a matter of opening up to it. What you want is your machine to speak back to you, Mama. It almost has to be human. You have to think of it that way. It's like a Walt Whitman poem: you can put in it everything you want."
(p. 89)

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