My Favorite Things

My Favorite Things

“My Favorite Things” seemed like an appropriate title my ramblings. For me, it combines the need to fill my mind and two of my many favorite things, John Coltrane and Christmas.

The song My Favorite Things was first introduced by Mary Martin and Patricia Neway in the original Broadway production and sung by Julie Andrews in the 1965 film.   In the musical, the lyrics to the song are a reference to things Maria loves, such as “Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens”. These are the things she selects to fill her mind with when times are bad.

John Coltrane did an extended, close to fourteen-minute version on his 1961 album taken from the title of the song. It became a jazz classic and a signature for Coltrane in concert. Coltrane’s version differs significantly from the song as originally conceived, using modal patterns and being much darker and more frenzied.

The wintertime imagery of the lyrics has made “My Favorite Things” a popular selection during the Christmas Holiday season.

When I was about 12 years old, I remember laying on the living room floor mesmerized by the colored lights of our tree. It was about 4:30 pm, still light out… but fading fast… a cold, frozen blueish scene of abandoned snowmen… sleds…  a stray mitten or scarf here and there frozen into the played in and spent winter landscape was outside our large picture window. It was a split level ranch so the view from the picture window was looking down on everything… it was magic…. and at 12 years of age, I was beyond questioning Santa’s existence…. the facts were well established by this point… but at that moment I didn’t want to let go of it… the tradition? the belief in Santa Clause?  My childhood? I’m not sure but I’ve been a believer ever sense… it made more sense than believing in Jesus and still does. 

Consider this just a stream of consciousness, interior monologue, intended for no one to read…. just thinking. DRW – February 21st, 2012.

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Christmas

Christmas = Imagination = Magic

I love Christmas. I have so many magical memories of it… mostly as a kid and as a parent. I do have one significant memory in between… I was working at Copper Mountain Ski resort in Colorado. I drove a shuttle bus in the evening and was working Christmas eve… no big deal… Christmas was just another day. I got off work at 11:30 pm and on a whim… I grabbed my cross country skis and decided to do a solo 12 mile loop into the back country. It was a full moon or nearly so and I could see the trail well enough. About two hours into it, I was getting close to the far end of the loop trail… I loved skiing this trail because it was long, strenuous and through all the fir trees and I rarely saw anyone… even mid day on a weekend. I reached the end of the loop about 3:00 am…  it was in a clearing… I stood for a bit in my skis, warm and comfy just looking at the night ski… and then I noticed a glint of light from the snow that shined just a bit more than moonlight reflecting off the snow… it was a small fir tree… with faded christmas ornaments hanging from it. Pretty cool. I’d post a picture but I didn’t take one… didn’t have to. 

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Something about these kids doing a cover of 46 and 2 by Tool moved me. Not sure what… they are obviously talented… particularly the drummer but there is something else. I watch it a lot.

Guillaume Nery base jumping at Dean’s Blue Hole, filmed on breath hold by Julie Gautier. The choreography and filming all done while holding ones breath… Artistic control in extreme elements. 

Chaos Theory. I’ve always felt that shrinks are full of shit.

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Yes, there are common, identifiable patterns and we can list a great number of brilliant scholars who’ve studied, learned and documented some fascinating knowledge about human behavior… Pavlov is my personal favorite… there just so many beautiful analogies that can be made from human male behavior and a big slobbering dog. But for the average Joe… and the average Shrink, it’s simply not realistic that said Shrink can delve into said Joe’s psyche to the extent that it’s going to have any sort of positive effect on said Joe’s behavior. So, other than feeding said Shrink’s ego… not to mention his wallet, the relationship is one of futility. The study of human behavior from a population standpoint… yea, maybe…. but it’s purely academic and way too complex from an individual standpoint to understand. I believe chaos theory explains human behavior.

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Chaos theory:

Physics has had great success at describing certain kinds of behavior: planets in orbit, spacecraft going to the moon, pendulums and springs and rolling balls, that sort of thing. The regular movement of objects. These are described by what are called linear equations, and mathematicians can solve those equations easily. We’ve been doing it for hundreds of years.

But there is another kind of behavior, which physics handles badly. For example, anything to do with turbulence. Water coming out of a spout. Air moving over an airplane wing. Weather. Blood flowing through the heart. Turbulent events are described by nonlinear equations. They’re hard to solve-in fact, they’re usually impossible to solve. So physics has never understood this whole class of events. But a theory, chaos theory, describes this type of behavior.

Chaos theory originally grew out of attempts to make computer models of weather in the 1960s. Weather is a big complicated system, namely the earth’s atmosphere as it interacts with the land and the sun. The behavior of this big complicated system always defied understanding. So naturally we couldn’t predict weather. But what the early researchers learned from computer models was that, even if you could understand it, you still couldn’t predict it. Weather prediction is absolutely impossible. The reason is that the behavior of the system is sensitively dependent on initial conditions.

Use a cannon to fire a shell of a certain weight, at a certain speed, and a certain angle of inclination-and if I then fire a second shell with almost the same weight, speed, and angle-what will happen? The two shells will land at almost the same spot – That’s linear dynamics. But if I have a weather system that I start up with a certain temperature and a certain wind speed and a certain humidity-and if I then repeat it with almost the same temperature, wind, and humidity-the second system will not behave almost the same. It’ll wander off and rapidly will become very different from the first. Thunderstorms instead of sunshine. That’s nonlinear dynamics. They are sensitive to initial conditions: tiny differences become amplified.

Chaos is not just random and unpredictable. We actually find hidden regularities within the complex variety of a system’s behavior. That’s why chaos has now become a very broad theory that’s used to study everything from the stock market, to rioting crowds, to brain waves during epilepsy. Any sort of complex system where there is confusion and unpredictability. We can find an underlying order. An underlying order is essentially characterized by the movement of the system within phase space.

Chaos theory says two things. First, that complex systems like weather have an underlying order. Second, the reverse of that-that simple systems can produce complex behavior.

For example, pool balls. You hit a pool ball, and it starts to carom off the sides of the table. In theory, that’s a fairly simple system, almost a Newtonian system. Since you can know the force imparted to the ball, and the mass of the ball, and you can calculate the angles at which it will strike the walls, you can predict the future behavior of the ball. In theory, you could predict the behavior of the ball far into the future, as it keeps bouncing from side to side. You could predict where it will end up three hours from now, in theory.

But in fact, it turns out you can’t predict more than a few seconds into the future. Because almost immediately very small effects-imperfections in the surface of the ball, tiny indentations in the wood of the table-start to make a difference. And it doesn’t take long before they overpower your careful calculations. So it turns out that this simple system of a pool ball on a table has unpredictable behavior.

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