I’ve been re-reading favorite mysteries this past week. Favorites that, for some reason, in spite of having read them once (or more), I still cannot remember “who dun-it”. The joy of reading mysteries for me lies in how I can so easily suspend my reality and slip into another world. One that is predictable; where the Good Guys always win and Justice is served.
The bookshelves in my grandparents’ flat were lined with Sherlock Holmes, Dorothy Sayers, Agatha Christie, along with other hardbacks. As a child, I would find myself curled up in a wingback chair or on the huge, Royal Blue sofa, helping Dr. Watson, or joining Lord Peter Whimsy in Cambridge, or with Poirot on the Orient Express.
What Are You Reading?
Current favorite authors to be re-reading include Louise Penny (Three Pines/Armand Gamache), Julie Hyzy (White House Chef), Michael Connolly (The Lincoln Lawyer), Craig Johnson (Longmire), Anne Hillerman (Leaphorn, Chee, Manulito), Stephen White (Dr. Alan Gregory).
In a world full of unanswered questions and oddities, the mystery genre offers me amusing distractions from the daily deluge of murder and mayhem served up by the media. The well-written ones offer insight into the human condition, psychology, culture, race, social movements, history, and science.
Can’t Stand the Suspense
I prefer to re-read my favorites slowly and in short(er) segments. Sometimes this is because I want to linger over the descriptions and pay attention to the construction of the story. Sometimes it is because I fall asleep.
Sometimes I search for the clues that are cleverly planted in plain view, but prove central to solving the mystery. Frequently I will skip to the end and see the solution so that I am not suffering from suspense too long.
As a kid, I loved watching Perry Mason on TV. The current offering on HBO is NOTHING like that weekly series, but oh, my goodness is it deliciously satisfying to watch! Set in the years between World War I and the end of the Depression, this production offers a great storyline, a dissolute Mason, a lesbian Della Street, and a Black Paul Drake.
Production quality is beyond exquisite, the acting is superb, and the music is particularly moody. Terrance Blanchard wrote the theme and plays his haunting horn in every episode. Period music is re-created and is as much a character in the series as any of the leads. Find a way to watch!
Back in the real world, I’ve been playing with ChatGBT. I find I have very firm opinions about something I know very little about, and that motivated me to dive in. Being Old School, I first did my “research” and read about its development. I then found articles, both for and against the technology, as well as prognostications about how it will either save the world or cause its complete collapse.
A similar thread has appeared with almost every major technological development, going back to Prometheus, when he introduced fire. That got me to re-read the myth of Prometheus! And therein I found some tidbits worth sharing!
A brief synopsis: Prometheus was the son of a Titan. He was the first animator, having created humans out of clay. He is also credited with/accused of giving fire to humans, which resulted in civilization. Sharing fire with humans pissed off the other Gods, so they punished Prometheus by chaining him to a rock and having an eagle eat his liver every night. Here’s the kicker, they also made his liver regenerate so the eagle would always have fresh paté! (That’s my interpretation; scholars may disagree).
ChatGBT is the “New Prometheus”
I can see how people rightly are concerned about the potential for AI to change the world. When Prometheus dropped fire on us, we had no idea it would eventually produce weapons of war as well as continue as a source of survival. It is this “both/and” nature that seems to come with all “gifts”, technologic or otherwise.
AI also has this “both/and potential”. When left in the hands of noble, ethical, moral, and kind beings, it has the potential to free people from drudgery, prompt creativity, and provide humorous and joyful distractions. When manipulated by evil, morally corrupt, vile monsters, it will wreak havoc on all mankind!
A View from My Front Porch
A more pedestrian view might find it, as I have so far, an interesting toy that has some fascinating aspects to it, but is limited by my ability to apply it and make use of its potential. This is similar to my use of fire. I can make a campfire and I can use a stove. More than that, I have little skill with what fire can do. I am, however, aware of the damage it can cause and have a healthy respect for it.
I am concerned that AI will be misused. To include Pandora in our thread today, I don’t see a way forward to put things back in the box. So, I will do my best to familiarize myself with what AI can do and remain aware of the damage it can cause and have a healthy respect for it.
Noted in Passing
This is the last day of April. It was a month that seemed to see the passing of an awful lot of my favorite beings on this planet. Harry Belafonte (96), Len Goodman (78), Dame Edna Everage (aka Barry Humphries) (89), Ahmad Jamal (92), Al Jaffee (102), Rep. Pat Schroder (82), Topol (87), Wayne Shorter (89), Raquel Welch (82), Bert Bacharach (94), Cindy Williams (75), Bobby Hull (84), David Crosby (81), and many others who were not celebrities, but who starred in their own life story and meant much to those who loved them.
That so many of these folks lived well into their 80’s and 90’s is testament to not just longevity, but underscores the indisputable fact that we continue to be productive and useful well beyond that arbitrarily chosen “retirement age” of 65. The world was made ever so much better with these folks in it. May their memory be a blessing for all of us left behind.
Some Final Musings
I realize that aging is a process of winnowing. I am going through things and giving some away and just tossing others. I hope some future archeologist or anthropologist comes upon the detritus of my life, and is excited in uncovering a mystery. I hope they will follow the clues and reconstruct just what happened at this juncture in time.
I wish I could turn to the end of book now and learn the solution to the mystery that is my life. If only to lower my levels of anxiety and reassure myself that good will triumph. Since I can’t do that in “reality”, maybe I will try it out using Chat GBT – maybe I will be able to pitch a series for HBO or Hulu!