2007 looks to be a good year for fantasy adaptations, at least of books I’ve read. What I’ve seen of Stardust (Neil Gaiman & Charles Vess) looks great. I’m psyched up for His Dark Materials: The Golden Compass (Phillip Pullman)—and I’ve got to say I’m glad they’re doing each book as its own movie, instead of trying to condense the whole trilogy. And Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (J.K. Rowling, as if you didn’t know) looks promising as well, though most of the Harry Potter films have suffered from condensing too much.

I’m a little more apprehensive about The Dark is Rising (Susan Cooper), mainly because the IMDB page says they plan to start early this year, but the Los Angeles Times has it down for a September release. For the record, I do think this is the one to start with, not Over Sea, Under Stone, because as I recall it has a much greater sense of tension, which will translate better to screen. Plus it provides more of an introduction to the world and the conflict, since Will is dropped right in the middle of it, while I remember the other book being set more solidly in the “real” world. The Drews don’t get involved as deeply until later.

On a related note, I don’t think I’m in the target audience for The Number 23. We saw the trailer for it on Friday when we saw Pan’s Labyrinth (which is quite good, BTW), and I could not stop laughing. Not because of Jim Carrey, but because of the premise. Perhaps it comes from reading the Illuminatus! trilogy. There’s a great sequence in the book where one of the characters is starting to look for certain numbers, including 23, in everything. Of course, since he’s human, he finds them, using ever more convoluted arithmetic to prove that they’re significant. While reading Illuminatus!, I looked up stuff on synchronicity and found the tech term for this tendency to see connections where none exist: apophenia. And here I’m watching this preview, and there’s a sequence in which the lead character starts finding the number 23 in everything, using ever more convoluted arithmetic…. I don’t think I could take the premise seriously enough to get into the movie.

Well, I’ve finished The Illuminatus! Trilogy (the novel, at least — I’m still working on the appendices), and in honor of that dubious accomplishment, I present this photograph of the Laguna Niguel Federal Building:

Pyramid-shaped federal building, Mt. Saddleback in the background.

Snapped last week while trying to locate the movie theater showing Donnie Darko, just down the road from Pepsi and Wolverine.

It really makes me wish we’d had the better camera with us, though. We got a cheap one we could leave it in the car and have it for unexpected finds like this, but the image quality really is pathetic.

I’m about halfway through The Illuminatus! Trilogy, and the most apt description is, if you’ll pardon the language, a mindfuck. Once the writing settles into a coherent structure (or perhaps once the reader is attuned to it), the mind starts noticing connections. Everywhere. It’s as if it was written specifically to induce apophenia.

The most insidious part of the book(s) is the frequent use of historical or other authors’ fictional sources. “Oh, there’s Emperor Norton.” “OK, we’re back to Buckminster Fuller again.” “Hey, that’s right, ‘Tekeli-li!’ does show up in both Lovecraft and Poe.” And this constant mixing of fact with fiction, familiar with strange, and things known to be true with things which seem implausible does make you wonder: how much of this did they make up on their own, and how much did they stitch together out of real events, prior works, and creative synthesis?

After all, if you had never heard of Joshua Norton, and one day heard the story of a man who declared himself Emperor of the United States, Continue reading

As the topic has come up frequently in The Illuminatus! Trilogy (which I am reading right now), I thought I’d post a good quote I read recently about the human tendency to find patterns where none exist.

The only problem is I can’t find the quote. I don’t remember the exact phrasing, I don’t remember for certain who said it — I think it was either Neil Gaiman or Warren Ellis, but it could have been one of them quoting someone else — and I can’t even nail down enough words to get a decent search going.

Anyway, it finished up with something like “If you believe there is a vast alien conspiracy to take over the world through teddy bears, you’ll start seeing evidence of it.”

In my efforts to find the quote, though, I came across some interesting information. It turns out I’ve been misusing the word all along. I generally use it as a synonym for coincidence, or possibly to mean interesting coincidence. But synchronicity actually refers to a theory by Carl Jung that such coincidences actually have meaningful connections.

People do have a tendency to perceive order in chaos. It’s what makes us see horses in clouds, or people in mountainsides, or faces on Mars. It’s why faces on cartoon cars make more sense than faces on walls, and it’s almost certainly a factor in the popularity of numerology. I found the technical terms for this. Apophenia, or Type I error refers to seeing connections where there are none. Pareidolia refers to seeing something vague, but perceiving it as if it were something clear. I also found a very nice collection of pareidolic illusions [link gone].
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