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Gödel, Escher, Bach, blogged
January 20, 2010 9:57 AM   Subscribe

Gödel, Escher, Bach, Tumblr Gödel, Escher, Bach, Tumblr is an online book group. We're reading one chapter a week of Douglas Hofstadter’s 1979 masterpiece book about artificial intelligence, mathematics, consciousness, puzzles, music, and language. They've been reading since the start of the month, so start in the archive. [Previously, More Previously, Event more previously, Previously in the future]
posted by Deathalicious (33 comments total) 35 users marked this as a favorite

 
Are there any highlights?
posted by Mr. Six at 10:01 AM on January 20, 2010


Reading GEB on a beach is perhaps the worst thing you could do when sitting on a confluence of earth, water, and sky.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:04 AM on January 20, 2010


Reading GEB on a beach is perhaps the worst thing you could do when sitting on a confluence of earth, water, and sky.

Anti-intellectualism.

This looks pretty great. The problem is, I don't have time to re-read it so any participation would have be from memory.
posted by DU at 10:18 AM on January 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


Are there any highlights?

A Historical Bedtime Story is pretty neat.

Part of what makes the whole thing cool is when people incorporate their own ideas and stories into the mix, along with the odd cartoon or graphic.
posted by Deathalicious at 10:19 AM on January 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Anti-intellectualism.

That's a lame "burn" there. More like anti masturbation. I like GEB and have a copy under the shelf in my coffee table but if I'm going to sit on a beach it's better to just experience the life in front of me rather than trying to generate abstract loops on top of themselves while navel gazing.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:22 AM on January 20, 2010


It's been a while since I read it. It's probably in storage. But thanks for the reminder.
posted by Splunge at 10:25 AM on January 20, 2010


Reading GEB on a beach is perhaps the worst thing you could do when sitting on a confluence of earth, water, and sky.

Really, the worst thing you could do? Even if we limit the activity to reading only, the possibilities for horrible choices other than GEB are endless.
posted by Deathalicious at 10:26 AM on January 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Sigh. Sarcastic hyperbole.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:27 AM on January 20, 2010


How is the nature of reality and logic any less the "life in front of you" or more masturbatory or navel-gazing than sand and sun? If you don't want to discuss GEB FIAMO.
posted by DU at 10:27 AM on January 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Reading GEB on a beach is perhaps the worst thing you could do when sitting on a confluence of earth, water, and sky.

This is not true. The worst thing you can do at the beach is commit the holocaust.
posted by mr_roboto at 10:33 AM on January 20, 2010 [19 favorites]


If you don't want to discuss GEB FIAMO.

Burhanistan is discussing the link. It's right there on the first page after you scroll down a bit. Last time I checked it's completely appropriate to discuss the links presented in a post, even if other people in the thread are too pedantic and humorless to engage in the same sanctioned activity.
posted by OmieWise at 10:34 AM on January 20, 2010


Reading GEB on a beach is perhaps the worst thing you could do when sitting on a confluence of earth, water, and sky.

*Kicks sand in face.*

Yeah, little man, you gonna get all first-order logic on me now? Ow, you're bludgeoning me with a tome.
posted by kid ichorous at 10:34 AM on January 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


An eternal golden beach.

GEB and the beach both give me a headache.
posted by Babblesort at 10:39 AM on January 20, 2010


I would read that book on the beach. No doubt. Until I fell asleep, which wouldn't take long at all.
posted by Roger Dodger at 10:43 AM on January 20, 2010


Reading a MetaFilter thread debating whether reading GEB on a beach is the worst thing you could do on a beach is the worst thing you could do.
posted by naju at 10:43 AM on January 20, 2010 [10 favorites]


I'm reading Metafilter on the beach!

Not really
posted by echo target at 10:49 AM on January 20, 2010


Reading GEB on a beach is perhaps the worst thing you could do when sitting on a confluence of earth, water, and sky.

I can think of and have done worse. On this list includes the following:

Skateboarding the state beach parking lot on a windy day with an 8 foot dual line stunt kite.

Skimboarding. In massive shorebreak. At night. (w

Having sex on any sandy beach more than once if you aren't a teenager and thoroughly sick of the car.

Dropping your wiener in the sand, whether it's in a bun or not.

Throwing propane canisters in the fire.

Body surfing hurricane swells.

Trying to bicycle the water's edge like you see "those guys" do on beach cruisers. "Those guys" apparently either rent their bikes or buy a new one every few days and throw it away when done.

Filling your shorts with sand, sand fleas and sand crabs.

Trying to eat sand crabs.

Eating mussels during a red tide.

Intentionally fishing for sand sharks and stingrays.

And finally for the sake of brevity, but not the lack of good bad ideas of worst things to do on the beach:

Eating a heroically stupid dose of mushrooms or acid and then reading GEB while sitting inside the tideline wondering deeply if the sand and water actually are a Turing machine full of cellular automata. You'll never actually count those grains of sand, much less figure out if they transposed themselves in computationally correct ways.


Simply reading GEB on the beach isn't such a bad idea. There's a lot of nice white, pink and brown noise in the background to listen to. Sand is nice to lay on, especially on a nice thick beach towel, and the sand can be pushed into a nice lounger. There's plenty of light for most of the day. And when you get overstimulated or confused by the book it's often rather pleasant to just idly focus on the micro-scale worlds in grains of sand, letting the background turn that pleasant fuzzy blue-white-gold color the beach tends to turn while you ponder things.

It's certainly a better thing to do than many common beach activities like intentionally tanning one's hide into leather or drinking cheap beer from cans.
posted by loquacious at 10:54 AM on January 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


Can we, as a society, all just agree that Burhanistan made a douche-y comment and move on?
posted by empath at 11:02 AM on January 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Reading GEB on a beach is perhaps the worst thing you could do when sitting on a confluence of earth, water, and sky.

Well, it's certainly less germane to the setting than, say, Knuth's Surreal Numbers, which fits just about perfectly.
posted by weston at 11:03 AM on January 20, 2010


On further reflection, I'd like to fix my previous comment to make it more loopy.

Reading a MetaFilter thread debating whether reading GEB on a beach is the worst thing you could do on a beach is the worst thing you could do on a beach.
posted by naju at 11:09 AM on January 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all of the contents of GEB.
posted by fraxil at 11:33 AM on January 20, 2010


My favorite review of GEB was by Sir Mix-a-lot:

"A lot in the middle and not much Bach."
posted by Eideteker at 11:38 AM on January 20, 2010 [6 favorites]


The beach isn't a problem. Just make sure that when you get home you jump into the shower and sing very loudly:

Gödel, Escher, Bah-ach
Gödel, Escher, Bah-ach
Gödel, Escher, Bah-ach
As needed
posted by Dumsnill at 11:42 AM on January 20, 2010


Welcome back!
posted by fcummins at 12:08 PM on January 20, 2010


I have read GEB on a beach.

It wasn't all that bad.
posted by jenkinsEar at 1:11 PM on January 20, 2010


I first read Gödel, Escher, Bach when I was about 13 or 14 years old, but the non-fiction chapters couldn't hold my interest, so I just read all the dialogues. I came back to it several times over the next few years, each time finding something I'd overlooked before, even if it was just a silly pun. (It took me about five readings to realize that the coppers' names are Silva and Gould!) The book had an enormous effect on me, kick-starting my interest in formal logic (I'm now working on my dissertation in that field), and introducing me to the literary trick of subtly (and not so subtly) matching form to content.

I've gone on to read many of his other works, and while I've found something to fascinate me in all of them, none hold a candle to GEB. Sure there's nostalgia there, but I also think that there's a bit too much of himself in many of his later works. This is not always a bad thing, but when he's writing about topics as deep and fundamental as consciousness or the true nature of language, tying those concepts to his personal life tends to give the impression that he thinks his personal life is just as deep and important. (Of course personal experiences in general are just as important, but the impression that comes across is a bit more arrogant than is probably warranted.) I also get the feeling that Hofstadter got a bit frustrated with people missing the central theme of GEB and started making his theses significantly more prominent, losing some of the subtlety that I so enjoyed. But of course, I'm comparing his more recent books to one of my favorite books of all time, so they start off at a significant disadvantage.

I've been at the same university as Hofstadter for 4 and half years now studying in a field vaguely related to his, and I only met him (at a seminar given by one of his students) for the first time a couple months ago. It was a small seminar (the talk was fascinating in its own right), so the question session in the end turned into a brief discussion session with everyone throwing ideas back and forth. It's amazing to me that I can be self-confident enough to effortlessly converse with someone who had such an impact on my childhood (including wildly speculating about what his subconscious mind might've been doing while he was taking a shower and thinking about triangles*) and yet still be too tongue-tied to introduce myself afterward.

On the other hand, I have frequently been too tongue-tied to ask store clerks for help simply because I hadn't been able to mentally sketch out all the possible directions that the interaction would go ahead of time. So I guess I shouldn't really be that surprised at all.

*And for the record, it was the student who brought up the shower anecdote. I've been told that he can come across as somewhat arrogant, but he almost seemed embarrassed about the amount attention being spent on speculating about his particular brain that day.
posted by ErWenn at 1:16 PM on January 20, 2010 [7 favorites]


If you could read a book anywhere, where would be the best place to read it? Obviously, on a beach. Beaches are wonderful.

But if you were on a beach, should you read? No.

So you should never read.
posted by painquale at 1:47 PM on January 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


"Never smoke while you pray, but always pray while you smoke", an ex-Jesuit priest once told me.
posted by mdoar at 2:01 PM on January 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


Isn't someone going to make a cute little Green Eggs and Ham parody about reading GEB on the beach? Here, I'll start:

No, DU, I will not read GEB in the sand
I will not read it on any land
I will not read it
posted by spicynuts at 2:02 PM on January 20, 2010


...or drinking cheap beer from cans.

You had me hooked until this part. Then the line snapped and I was a glint of silver heading out to sea.
posted by Splunge at 2:14 PM on January 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


Listen, guys. Metatalk is over there *points*.

This thread is for talk, and for metametatalk.
posted by sebastienbailard at 2:18 PM on January 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Oh come on Metafilter, here's a perfect opportunity to be meta meta and all you can talk about is beaches (well, except for naju)? or at least we could talk some more about GEB itself? I started it, got about a third of the way through and never finished it, not because I didn't like it and not because it was that hard, but it's still much more that your typical "beach read." I do have the feeling though that I'm missing something important.
posted by blue shadows at 6:10 PM on January 20, 2010


I just want to chime in and say that GEB is ftw
posted by FusiveResonance at 5:57 PM on January 22, 2010


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