Philip K. Dick News Archive #6 (November 2000 - July 2001)

philipKdick.com News Archives



July 17, 2001 - Word of the Day: Exegesis

Dictionary.com's word of the day refers to a concept which Philip K. Dick was intimately familiar.

exegesis \ek-suh-JEE-sis\, noun;
plural exegeses \-seez\:
Exposition; explanation; especially, a critical explanation of a text.

Exegesis comes from Greek, from exegeisthai, "to explain, to interpret," from ex-, "out of" + hegeisthai, "to lead, to guide." Thus an exegesis is, at root, "a leading or guiding out of" a complexity.

"It is a fiercely argued exegesis of Shakespeare's plays in the tradition of Samuel Johnson, Hazlitt and A. C. Bradley, a study that is as passionate as it is erudite."
--Michiko Kakutani, "Vast Shakespearean Drama With All People as Players," New York Times, October 27, 1998

"These are tightly argued, crisp exercises in literary and cultural exegesis which make perfectly clear the brilliant patterns of language and oftentimes strained analogic thinking of the poets."
--Review of Made in America, by Lisa M. Steinman, in the Journal of Modern Literature

"No variety of love is too trivial for exegesis. No aspect of love is so ridiculous that it hasn't been exhaustively reviewed by the great thinkers, the great artists, and the great hosts of daytime talk shows."
--P. J. O'Rourke, Eat the Rich

"Their works are the subject of innumerable analyses, exegeses, seminars, and doctoral theses."
--Alan Sokal and Jean Bricmont, Fashionable Nonsense

July 11, 2001 - Psycho Warfare: The Feds Want to Zap Your Brain From Space

For most people, the mere mention of the Star Wars missile defense system recalls memories of wackos in the Reagan years. If only.

Today, beneath all the scientific and military gobbledygook are programs that will make the H-bomb obsolete, replacing it with "nonlethal" electromagnetic zaps from the ionosphere designed to take out an enemy's entire communication system, change weather patterns by turning sunny skies into torrential downpours, and drive you literally crazy by shooting sounds into your head.

Part of the High-Frequency Active Aural Research Program, or HAARP, this latest theoretical weapon shoots a zapping electromagnetic beam into the ionosphere, where it becomes superheated before being steered back to earth. The Pentagon claims this research will improve our communication system, but the technology could also be aimed at adversaries, domestic or foreign.

July 9, 2001 - New Cautions Over a Plant With a Buzz

This report from the New York Times is very similar to the drug in Philip K. Dick's fictional JJ-180 or the drug that the Martian aboriginal inhales in his novel Martian Time Slip:

"An obscure hallucinogenic herb from Mexico is gaining a toehold in the world of recreational drugs, prompting law enforcement officials to increase their scrutiny of the plant, which is legal, and moving health experts to issue cautions about the drug, whose jarring effects are not fully understood.

The herb, Salvia divinorum, is a type of sage plant that can cause intense hallucinations, out-of-body experiences and, when taken in higher doses, unconsciousness and short-term memory loss. Users have also reported sensations of traveling through time and space, assuming the identities of other people and even merging with inanimate objects. "

May/June, 2001 - Literary Magazine Runs Controversial Cover Story on Philip K. Dick

Phil Dick Entitled "Marxist Literary Critics Are Following Me!", the literary magazine Lingua Franca ran a story about how Philip K. Dick betrayed his academic admirers to the FBI. These claims have raised concerns among PKD fans who allege that they are unfounded. Decide for yourself . . .
"To their considerable anguish, Dick's academic champions have had to contend with the revelation that their hero wrote letters to the Federal Bureau of Investigation denouncing them. In these letters, Dick claimed that Jameson and other literary theorists were agents of a KGB conspiracy to take over American science fiction. When he sent these messages, Dick was not in the best state of mind: He frequently heard voices and saw visions, often bathed in a mysterious pink light. Even so, the news of his surreptitious campaign against his academic admirers has left some of them deeply disturbed. "

July, 2001 - Biotech Advances May Alter Army Soon

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) - Trudging through a thick, muggy jungle, the soldier remains cool, her body temperature precisely controlled by her uniform. Incapable of seeing more than 10 feet ahead, she is guided through an earpiece in her helmet by someone at base camp who can trace her because a biomarker was in a nutrition bar she ate earlier.

Breaking the jungle silence, an alarm in her wristwatch goes off, detecting the presence of a toxic chemical agent. The visor on her helmet drops down, and the uniform that monitors her vital signs administers the drugs necessary to keep her safe and enable her to complete her mission.

It's science fiction so far. But a study performed for the Army says advancements in biotechnology may soon turn such fiction into fact.

July 4, 2001 - Tampa Scans the Faces in Its Crowds for Criminals

This report from the New York Times Technology section ias eerily reminiscient of PKD's Minority Report:

"Camera shy? Then steer clear of Tampa's nightlife district.

The Tampa Police Department has placed three dozen security cameras with face-recognition software in a downtown district popular with locals and tourists. Now, everyone who visits the district, Ybor City, for a burger or a beer runs the risk of having his face digitally scanned and the noses, cheeks and chins checked against a mug-shot database of murderers, drug dealers and other criminal suspects with arrest warrants."

June 18, 2001 - Are Religious Experiences Just a Side Effect of Brain Chemistry?

Here's a story reported in the International Herald Tribune that undoubtedly would have interested Philip K. Dick:

Using powerful brain imaging technology, researchers are exploring what mystics call nirvana and what Christians describe as a state of grace. Scientists are asking whether spirituality can be explained in terms of neural networks, neurotransmitters and brain chemistry.

What creates that transcendental feeling of being one with the universe? It could be the decreased activity in the brain's parietal lobe, which helps regulate the sense of self and physical orientation, research suggests.

"The brain is set up in such a way as to have spiritual experiences and religious experiences," said Andrew Newberg, a Philadelphia scientist who wrote the book "Why God Won't Go Away." "Unless there is a fundamental change in the brain, religion and spirituality will be here for a very long time," he said.

  • Read the full story from the International Herald Tribune
  • Order the book "Why God Won't Go Away" from Amazon.com.
  • June 15, 2001 - Square fruit stuns Japanese shoppers

    Now this just isn't natural! As if seedless melons weren't enough. Here's a truly bizarre story that would have made Phil Dick proud.

    From the BBC News:

    "Japan has again shown off one of its greatest innovations - square watermelons. For years consumers struggled to fit the large round fruit in their refrigerators. And then there was the problem of trying to cut the fruit when it kept rolling around.

    But 20 years ago a forward-thinking farmer on Japan's south-western island of Shikoku solved the problem. The farmer, from Zentsuji in Kagawa prefecture, came up with the idea of making a cube-shaped watermelon which could easily be packed and stored. "

    May 1, 2001 - Development of Chat Robots Help Make Fictional Worlds of Philip K. Dick A Reality

    San Francisco, CA - Fifty one years ago the mathematician and Enigma codebreaker Alan Turing proposed his famous "test" for artificial intelligence-whether a machine could imitate a woman in an instant messaging style scenario. Ten years ago the philanthropist Hugh Gene Loebner initiated the first annual real-life version of the Turing Test (www.loebner.net). Last year, A.L.I.C.E. (Artificial Linguistic Internet Computer Entity) won the Loebner Prize. She was ranked "most human computer" by a panel of judges including linguists, philosophers, psychologists and writers. This year several AIML (Artificial Intelligence Markup Language) chat robots are expected to enter the competition, to be held at the London Science Museum on October 13, 2001.

    May, 2001 - Paul Williams' Book Sheds Light on PKD's Contributions to Modern Culture

    Paul Williams' (friend of Phil Dick).most recent book is called 20th Century's Greatest Hits. It's a Top 40 list of great works of art from the last 100 years. In the book, Williams chose Philip K. Dick's Martian Time Slip for inclusion as one of the most significant artistic achievements of the 20th Century. Here's what Paul has to say about PKD's inclusion in the collection: "In addition to his own chapter, Phil gets mentioned at the start of the Winnie the Pooh chapter and at the end of the Matisse chapter. Part of my thesis is that these great works of art are all interconnected..."

    Here's the beginning of the chapter for your enjoyment:

    Chapter #9: Martian Time-Slip (published 1964) by Philip K. Dick

    "In the penultimate chapter of Winnie-the-Pooh, Christopher Robin and Pooh float to the rescue of Piglet in a boat (actually, an upside-down umbrella) called The Brain of Pooh. This is notable because, as I tried to convey in the previous entry, the special magic of the Pooh stories is the opportunity they give us to spend time in the mind of Pooh. Just as the almost-irresistible attraction of Philip K. Dick's science fiction novels is the opportunity they give us to float in (and sometimes be rescued by) the mind of Phil.

    Philip K. Dick was the Dostoyevsky, the great questioner, the doubting prophet, of the mid-20th century. He, perhaps more than any other novelist of his era, anywhere in the world, explored and expressed the great ambiguities of the human situation, the dilemma of the individual human being trying to locate himself vis-à-vis perceived reality, at this rapidly-changing historical moment."

    April 16, 2001 - Michael Marshall Smith Wins PKD Award

    Michael Marshall Smith's novel Only Forward, published by Bantam Spectra, won the Philip K. Dick Award for distinguished science fiction, given to a 2000 book published for the first time in the United States as a paperback original. Smith won a certificate and a check for $1,500. Evolution's Darling by Scott Westerfeld, published by Four Walls Eight Windows, received a special citation honor.

    The awards were presented at Norwescon 24 in SeaTac, Wash. The award is named for legendary SF author Philip K. Dick and is jointly sponsored by the Philadelphia Science Fiction Society and the Northwest Science Fiction Society.

    April 19, 2001 - Making HAL Your Pal

    Eliezer Yudkowsky has devoted his young life to an undeniably unusual pursuit: planning for what happens when computers become far smarter than us.

    Yudkowsky, a 21-year-old researcher at the Singularity Institute, has spent the last eight months writing an essay that's half precaution, half thought exercise, and entirely in earnest.

    This 750 KB treatise, released Wednesday, is not as much speculative as predictive. If a computer becomes sufficiently smart, the argument goes, and if it gains the ability to harm humans through nanotechnology or some means we don't expect, it may decide it doesn't need us or want us around.

    One solution: Unconditional "friendliness," built into the AI as surely as our genes are coded into us.

    March 27, 2001 - Huge Gaping Holes in the Foundations of Mathematics

    One of the profound questions about mathematics - and in some sense about reality - is whether we discover it or make it up. Do mathematical theorems exist in the ether as eternal truths waiting for us to stumble upon them or do we invent them in our fevered imaginations. Mathematician Gregory Chaitin has done some thinking about this, cleverly standing on the shoulders of giants to give him the panoramic view. He has proven that an infinite number of mathematical facts exist - seemingly resolving the question. But he also proved that these mathematical facts are entirely random, totally unrelated to one other. If mathematicians find any relationships, they do so by luck - "math is true by accident". Now, here's the kicker. Gregory's discovery basically means that any theory of reality - the holy grail of physics, the Theory of Everything - will never be mathematically consistent. These two links tell the story of Gregory's uncomputable number, Omega, how it blows huge holes in the whole of mathematics, and how it places fundamental limits on what can be known about reality. Think about that next time you cross the street.

    Feb 5, 2001 - Face Spying at the Super Bowl

    Those of you who follow the evolution of privacy policy in our society will be interested in this LA Times story. Apparently, the crowd at this year's Super Bowl was scanned with automated face recognition technology. As people entered the turnstiles, cameras digitally photographed them and the photos were compared against a database of known felons and terrorists in real time. The article quotes law enforcement sources as saying that the camera identified 19 people with criminal histories, "none of them of a 'significant' nature".

    January 24, 2001 - Two New Books About Philip K. Dick Available

    What If Our World Is Their Heaven : The Final Conversations With Phillip K. Dick - Gwen Lee and Elaine Sauter's interviews with PKD just months before his death. Here's the description from Amazon.com:

    "In November of 1981, four months before the author's death, journalist Gwen Lee recorded the first of several in-depth discussions with Philip K. Dick. The subjects touched upon included the specifics of his writing process, his enthusiastic response to the scenes and trailers he'd seen of Blade Runner (he never lived to see the finished film), and accounts of his religious experiences. But the greatest amount of time was devoted to discussions of his next novel, Owl in Daylight, a book he would never get the chance to write. A tale steeped in mysticism, biotechnology, and the relationship between music and language, it was to be his masterpiece. These extraordinary interviews are filled with the wit and aplomb characteristic of Dick's writing, helping make What If Our World Is Their Heaven? not only an engaging read, but a unique and compelling historical document. It will be a must read for anyone interested in the field of science fiction."
    PKD Pocketessential Cover
    Click to view full-size image
    Philip K. Dick Pocketessentials by Andrew Butler. What’s in it? As well as an introductory essay, each of Dick’s novels is reviewed and analysed. And for those who want more, then is a listing of the many other books and articles which have grappled with this genius.

    January 2001 - - Philip K. Dick Award Nominees Announced

    The judges of the 2000 Philip K. Dick Award and the Philadelphia SF Society announced the six works that make up the final ballot for the award, which will be presented April 13 at Norwescon 24 in Seattle. The Philip K. Dick Award honors a distinguished science fiction book published for the first time in the United States as a paperback original.

    The award is sponsored by the Philadelphia Science Fiction Society, and the award ceremony is sponsored by the NorthWest Science Fiction Society. The complete list of nominees follows:

    • Call from a Distant Shore by Stephen L. Burns
    • Midnight Robber by Nalo Hopkinson
    • Only Forward by Michael Marshall Smith
    • Broken Time by Maggy Thomas
    • Evolution's Darling by Scott Westerfeld
    • The Bridge by Janine Ellen Young
    Visit the Philadelphia Science Fiction Society web site.
    Visit the Norwescon 24 web site.
    December 27, 2000 - The Persistence of George W. Bush, Jr.

    Is this man a simulacra? Find out more from this incredible deduction about the President-Elect. From the Washington Post:

    "First, don't panic. There is probably a good explanation for the mystery of the photographs, something that does not threaten the enslavement and/or extermination of mankind.

    There has to be a benign explanation. I just haven't found it yet."

    January 1, 2001 - Upcoming PKD Documentary Gets Three and a Half Star Review from Film Threat

    " . . .as fascinating and unnerving as any of Dick's fiction . . . The animated segments, as well as a pulsating sci-fi soundtrack, evoke a tone of paranoia that seems to mirror Dick's worldview. "Gospel" is clearly a labor of love, designed to appeal to fans and novices alike. "

    January 4, 2001 - NASA'S CASSINI LISTENS TO EERIE NEW SOUNDS OF SPACE NEAR JUPITER

    One audio clip produced from radio waves that NASA's Cassini spacecraft detected near Jupiter was described last week by the Los Angeles Times as sounding "like a troop of howler monkeys battling underwater." A new audio clip is available online today from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory:

             http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/cassini/acoustic/

    Cassini's radio and plasma wave science instrument detected the waves at low radio frequencies, which University of Iowa scientists have converted to sound waves to make the patterns audible. The waves from which the new audio clip was developed were in the thin solar wind of charged particles that fills the space between the Sun and its planets. Cassini detected the waves Jan. 1 at a distance of 10 million kilometers (6.2 million miles) from Jupiter.

    December 16, 2000 - GANYMEDE TAKEOVER: Solar System's Largest Moon Likely Has A Hidden Ocean

    No giant worms yet but this was recently reported by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory:

    Add Jupiter's moon Ganymede, which is bigger than two of the solar system's nine planets, to the growing list of worlds with evidence of liquid water under the surface.

    A thick layer of melted, salty water somewhere beneath Ganymede's icy crust would be the best way to explain some of the magnetic readings taken by NASA's Galileo spacecraft during close approaches to Ganymede in May 2000 and earlier, according to one new report.

    December 1, 2000 - PKD Gospel Premiere Dates Announced

    The Gospel According to Philip K. Dick documentary will be shown in the following theaters. See you at the movies!

    • New York City: Cinema Village on February 16, 2001.
    • Cleveland: Cleveland Cinematheque on February 24, 2001.
        Visit the PKD Gospel web page.
    December 1, 2000 - Two Philip K. Dick Soundtracks Available at MP3.com

    Although he wasn't a musician he loved music and Phil Dick's fiction inspired artists of all medium. These two soundtracks available for listening and purchase at MP3.com are testament to the artistic merits of PKD's science fiction.

    NewPKD Gospel Soundtrack Available

    The soundtrack to the upcoming documentary The Gospel According to Philip K. Dick by Kevin Keller is a great addition to any PKD Collection. It features 10 original instrumental tracks. Listen to tracks or buy the CD for $9.99 from MP3.com. Click here for music
    Flow My Tears The Policeman Soundtrack by Mark Harp

    This is the soundtrack for Desire Production's 1995 performances of Linda Hartanian's adaptation of the novel by Philip K. Dick, presented at Baltimore's Theater Project. Click here to listen to tracks at MP3.com.

    November 20, 2000 - Elvis Simulacra Brings King Back to Life

    Here's a true story foreseen by Philip K. Dick in his 1972 novel We Can Build You. In the story, a team of inventors create an android replica of Abraham Lincoln who acts and thinks independently, complete with stubborn personality.

    Animatronic Elvis Shakes His BootyStockbridge, VT - Engineers at Advanced Animations have designed and built an animatronic Elvis for Madame Tussaud's wax museum in Las Vegas. Powering his 32 individual rhythmic moves is a bevy of pneumatic and hydraulic technologies. Elvis just wouldn't be Elvis without the trademark sneer and pelvic swivel, and engineers strived to make every move as realistic as possible. It's very different from designing cartoon characters, says Bob Crean, vice president of operations. "Cartoons aren't lifelike, nor would anyone want them to be. With a figure as high-profile as Elvis, we couldn't take any chances."

    November, 2000 - Twelve Monkeys hit again: Disease Data Stolen in Lab Break-In

    Life is information . . .

    NEW DELHI--The hard drives of nine computers, containing epidemiological data gathered from around India, have been stolen from the Indian Council of Medical Research. The missing data, stored on personal computers in the council's Epidemiological and Communicable Diseases unit, include published and unpublished information collected by 16 regional centers on the incidence of AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis, and other killers. Health officials say they have no idea who stole the drives, or for what purpose.

    (as reported by Science Online magazine)

    November, 2000 - Science Fiction legend Philip K. Dick comes to life in The Gospel According to Philip K. Dick from First Run Features in early Spring 2001

    Film-makers Mark Steensland and Andy Massagli in conjuction with philipKdick.com are pleased to announce that First Run Features will bring this PKD documentary to audiences starting with a spring 2001 theatrical release. The video and DVD will be available through the distributor's web site.

    Fans are encouraged to sign up on the Gospel According to PKD Mailing List for a special offer when the video and DVD are available.

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