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February 20, 1986 - Image 8

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The Michigan Daily, 1986-02-20

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Page 8. - The Michigan Daily - Thursday, February 20, 1986

Books

Images

Surely You're Joking, Mr.
Feynman! - Richard Feyn-
man (Bantam Books)
In 1965, Richard Feynman won the
Nobel Prize in physics. He
established basic theories of quantum
electrodynamics, and also worked on
the Manhattan Project at Los Alamos.
One would assume the autobiography
of such a brilliant man would most
certainly be fascinating. Such an
assumption proves invalid.
Professor Feynman provides
fragmented episodes of his life that he
feels are significant, because they
either illustrate a lesson he learned
about life in general or depict his per=
sonality/character for the reader.
Science is his life, so it follows that
even lessons about human nature can
be learned through scientific obser-
vation. For example, he changes his
attitude about "real men" after a
painter tries to con him into believing
that white and red mixed equals
yellow. He comments :
"I always thought the guy who
worked in the machine shop and could
make things, now he was a real guy!
That was my attitude. To be a prac-
tical man was, to me, always
somehow a positive virtue, and to be
'cultivated' or 'intellectual' was not.
The first was right of course, but the
second was crazy."
Even though he knew as a scientist
that yellow could not result from red
and white, the common painter might
posess knowledge to the contrary. As
a result, regardless of what others
told him, he insisted on proving all
things for himself.
One cannot help being impressed by
the many significant contributions
Feynman has made to science.
However, in relaying what these contr-
ibutions were, he ofter remains
vague, assuming the reader is
already familiar with his works.
Where he should embellish he often
misses the opportunity; for example,
he makes his work at Los Alamos
sound too simplistic and insignificant.
On the other hand, one appreciated
his simplicity when he explains con-
cepts such as beta decay theory, and

separating uranium. They are men- the neck, though there was at least
tioned only to facilitate the movement one time that I got some fun out of it.
of his anecdotes, and recognizing this, Shortly after I won the Prize Gweneth
he spares the reader the technical ex- and I received an invitation from the
planation. Brazilian government to be guests of
Feynman also fails to say enough honor at the Carnival celebration in
about people he knew (e.g. Op- Rio. We gladly accepted and had a
penheimer, Fermi, etc.). Although he great time." His dismissal of the
apparently dealt with them on several significance of the Nobel Prize makes
occasions, he fails to specify what it him appear a bit pompous. One senses
was like and how they ultimately af- he would have preferred a more
fected each other. It would have been tangible prize that he could get "some
interesting to learn his impression of fun out of" like a new car or
such great men at the stage of life something. Go play "Wheel of For-
(when they were developing initial tune," Mr. Feynman.
theories) at which he met them. While Professor Feynman has
When he does provide sentiment, it made some remarkable contributions
is basically one of being carefree or to his field, he has done nothing for the
highly self-motivated. He does not advancement of good literature. He
expound on, the (assumably) unique should have had someone else write
sense of being part of the Manhattan his story for him. Perhaps he would
Project. He limits his sentiment on have come off as witty as he believes
this issue to one paragraph and it is he is and one would find him to be a
not enough. man of greater depth, as he must
Other problems with Feynman's surely be. Mr. Feynman's book title
book are found in his style, which is is certainly appropriate.
brisk with choppy sentences. In fact,
one senses a forced simplicity. He - Gloria Sanak
seems careful to use as many
monosyllabic words as possible. - ----
Throughout the work he also offers bit
advice and counsel (i.e., always ask
"dumb" questions).
The tone of his style is also curious.

Ar

He is convinced he is wittier than he
really is. When he believes he has
relayed something very clever or fun-
ny, he uses exclamation marks. Most
of these are unnecessary. A sample of
his humor is found in his trip to a hot
springs bath: "One time I sat down in
a bath where there was a beautiful
girl sitting with a guy who didn't seem
to know her. Right away I began
thinking, 'Gee! How am I gonna get
started talking to this beautiful, naked
babe! "' Such a bawdy anecdote,
which is what it turns out to be, adds
nothing to the autobiography and one
wonders why it was significant
enough to him to include it. The tone
lacks the dignity one associates with a
Nobel Prize winner.
This calls attention to another
point: his reflection on winning the
Nobel Prize. "In a way, the Nobel
Prize has been something of a pain in

(Continued from Page 7)
be thrown by their name, which is
simply an allegory to describe
bringing to life a dead object by
bringing instruments and ideas to life.
In their preference for almost ex-
clusively acoustic instruments (there
is electric bass and some processing)
rather than synthetic instrumen-
tation, they reinforce the music's
essentially human qualities. They can
sway from frenetic claustrophobia to
tranquial release, often in the course
of the same song, the overall mood
being more important than any
specific message. They are difficult to
pin down. There is an evasive nature
to everything that they can do, a
vague fragility.
They emit a soothing sound,
something that gives out warmth. It
makes you feel better. It is very per-
sonal music, but it does reach out and
it has more of a timeless, almost
classical quality due to their
manipulation of structuretand in-
strumentation.
Dead Can Dance is the duo of Bren-
dan Perry and Lisa Gerrard, who per-
form most of the instrumentation and
equally share vocal duties. They are
accompanied by a mini-orchestra
consisting of cello, violin, timpani,
and trombone. The range of styles and
sounds that they achieve successfully
is spellbinding. They harness a bewit-
ching barrage of sounds. On this

v
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record they assert their fragile in-
dividualism even more. And this is
only their second LP.
"De Profundis (Out of the Depths of
Sorrow)" is a Gregorian chant/hymn
with brooding backing voices, assor-
ted gong-like drums sparsely filling
out the depths. Over top is Gerrard's
distinctive voice, singing Latin in a
very operatic style. Her style is
similar to Elisabeth Fraser's of The
Cocteau Twins, only she sings better,
with more confidence and power. Her
voice is simply angelic. This piece is
the type of thing to be heard in a nor-
thern Italy monastery.
"Ascension" leads with minor keys
brass in a beautiful combination. In
the background a slow hum builds and
eventually takes over. More distant
voices weave in and out. Pure
placidity. "Circum Radiant Dawn" is
a short piece, with timpani and piano
intermingling among Lisa's vocal ut-
terings (in Latin I think, she's every
bit as hard as Fraser to figure out).
Tranquility is the leader.
"The Cardinal Sin" finally kicks in
with a more recognizable structure,
with steady, slow drums and a con-

tinual brass part. Brendan sings in his
deep, clear voice, which is
reminiscent of a sedate, close, and
caring Ian Curtis, only with more
range and cleverness.
Perry's lyrics are deep and
brooding, very literate, with many
messages filling up the whole.
"Mesmerism" finally introduces the
yang chin on this record, a dulcimer-
like, 58-string wonder that is either
strummed or hit. This song gives
Gerrard plenty of room to vocalize,
and with the haunting background
tribal drums and environmental hum
it is a dark vision.
"Enigma of the Absolute" is the
best piece of subtle acoustic guitar,
more steady gong-like drums, the
plucked yang chin, and an amazing
string arrangment. Perry's singing is
fluid. The melody swells and is uplif-
ting. Maybe this is an ode to heaven.
.Across the sea lies the fountain of
,renewal/ Where you will see the whole
cause of your loneliness. "Ad-
vent" is the closest thing to a standard
rock arrangement on the LP with

throbbing bass, syncopated drums,
and acoustic guitar. Perry sings
again, and they use the formula to,
perfection with a. beautiful chorus {
augmented by piano.
"Avatar" provides the best use of
the yang chin with a great melody
that is hit out on the strings. Gerrard's
vocalizing is again immaculate and
the bass line carries the melody well,;
too. The controlled drum part is
unusual but works well. "Indoc-
trination (A Design For Living)" is
sort of a theme song, with Perry
singing his view of society
Freedom, so they say/Amounts
to the choices you have made!
Freedom, I must say / Exists
within unconditioned minds. This
piece is slow and the piano dominates
with a hearty arrangement. This is
the culmination of all their moods and
ideals on the LP.
This is the best record of 1985. It has
been produced by the hottest producer
in Britain, John A. Rivers. It is warm,
soothing and beautiful. It will endure r
and it will continue to excite. Shear
brilliance.
- Richard Williams

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