Sunday, August 6 2000
I was even sicker this morning than I had been yesterday. I just wanted to lay around and do nothing. I didn't even have the motivation to get up and go to my computer. I felt better after eating a codeine and drinking some coffee. Codeine and coffee work well together; it's a good combination for someone who is sick with the flu but wants to be able to do something.
But somehow Kim convinced me to go with her on a drive to Venice "to look at the canals." It felt good just sitting in the car with the sun shining on me as we tooled around, over the humpy-bridges that cross the canals of Venice, California. They don't look anything like the canals of Venice, Italy. The houses are too well-kept, surrounded by too many palms, and too much like houses deliberately built around canals; by contrast, the pictures I have of Venice look more like those of a flooded city whose first floor has been grudgingly abandoned to the fish and octopi.
We tried to do the outdoor café thing again, but the cold foggy air blowing off the Pacific was giving me the chills. And besides, the only thing I wanted to put in my stomach was orange juice.
In the evening we rented and watched War of the Roses. The movie gets to the "happily ever after" part within the first 15 minutes and it's all downhill from there. I never really got a sense of how exactly the woman lost her love for the man, but before long it's your typical Hollywood psycho protagonist movie (a la Fatal Attraction, the catch being that there are two psycho protagonists. Renting the movie had been Kim's idea; I guess she was trying to show me that our relationship could have been a hell of a lot worse. We've never thrown dishes at each other and she's never driven her Volvo over my video camera.
Later I watched Dawn of Man on The Learning Channel. I came to the show with high hopes. I love shows about human origins and evolutionary theory. But having watched it, I have to say that this particular show was lame. Never before have I seen so much crappy filler-video in a supposed scientific documentary. First of all, there were the agonizingly slow pans over ancient skulls, often skulls of hominid species that weren't even being discussed. Then there were the stroboscopic shots of an old geezer paleontologist wielding a shattered femur as he psychotically explaining his "killer ape theory." Worst of all were the close-up, out-of focus face-shots of a black man, standing in for lack of a suitable Homo erectus model. There were so many of these close-up black man face shots that when they finally got around to interviewing a native African paleontologist (and fellow Homo sapiens), I thought for a moment he was another just one of their ersatz Homo erectus guys, the kind of pre-hominid possessing such a narrow spinal cord that he couldn't possible control his lungs enough to deliver intelligent speech.
The one intriguing theory I got out of the show concerned the evolution of Australopithecus africanis, the small hominid that rose to a position of some minor prominence on the plains of Africa in the role of opportunistic scavenger. The theory advanced on tonight's show was that these early pre-humans managed to exploit an otherwise untapped niche - the fatty marrow and brains within bones and skulls that were otherwise overlooked by the large carnivores of the plains. By mastering the use of tools, Australopithecus africanis secured an enduring (if sideline) role amongst the scavengers of Africa. And, in this role, a positive feedback loop could develop in which bigger brains led to better tool use which in turn led to more food, better reproduction, and, again, bigger brains. Eventually these lesser hominids were poised to be predators themselves, armed with tools sufficiently dangerous to kill, butcher and defend prey on their own.
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