January 13th, 2010

Sad

More history gone ...

It is uncanny how often I end up speaking about somebody right when they're dying. Over the weekend, we were talking about food, restaurants, etc. and I brought up Jovan Trboyevic, the famed restaurateur who opened Jovan (1967), Le Perroquet (1973), and Les Nomades (1978). Now I see that Jovan died on Sunday, at age 89 (see HERE for details).

Jovan was yet another connection to my Mom who is now gone. Mom had been one of Jovan's supporters and "best customers" (at one point they had done a limited-edition print for Le Perroquet, and Mom was one of 11 people gifted with this, something she cherished over the years). When my Mom opened her own agency (in 1976) we initially had offices next door to Le Perroquet, and eventually moved into the same building so she'd only be a brief elevator ride away (which suddenly had many of our out-of-town clients making a point of coming to do meetings at our offices to end up getting to have lunch at what my Mom jokingly referred to as "our company cafeteria").

I had not realized until reading that Tribune blog piece that Jovan and my Mom were the same age, with him out-living her by six years (yesterday was the sixth anniversary of my Mom's death), but that could help explain why they had such a good rapport.

Needless to say, Jovan was a familiar figure in my early adult life, although I hardly ate as frequently at his places as did my Mom. Even though I was still in college when he opened Le Nomades (as a private club, so he could say "no" to having people he thought were asses darken his doors), I ended up with membership #192 at that esteemed institution.

The memories of Le Perroquet and Les Nomades are treasured, from the tiny little "bites" that showed up with the drinks at Le Perroquet (such as a half-inch cube of alternating meat and cheese slices, the small black olive with cheese piped into it, or a tiny bit of celery topped with a dollop of anchovy butter), the famed Raspberry Souffle, and magnificent Floating Island, to the remarkable Creme Brulee (made in a large pan with a quarter-inch thick layer of melted sugar on top, requiring a hammer to serve) and intense Turkish coffee at Les Nomades.

Needless to say, given my "reduced circumstances" of the past 17 years, I have spent very little time out at the finer restaurants. Les Nomades is still open, the Liccionis having taking it over in '93, and Le Perroquet is "in storage" (according to Michael Foley who had taken over its operation in its latter years), but my memories are of a "golden era" back when Jovan was at the helm of these remarkable institutions. As the Tribune piece pointed out, he changed the map of cuisine, and put Chicago in a "must visit" category with Le Perroquet being one of the world's top restaurants back in the 80's.

Perhaps in the future, passings such as Jovan's will leave less scar tissue behind, but for places such as Le Perroquet and people such as my Mom, they're largely on the wrong side of the digital memory wall, and losing those people who knew these erases irreplaceable data, which is very, very sad.


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Loon

Another near miss ...

I'd ordered Dean Radin's Entangled Minds: Extrasensory Experiences in a Quantum Reality due to its association with Lynne McTaggart's The Intention Experiment. Those of your who read my review of that may recall that I was mainly enthusiastic about the various scientific studies reported there. I had hoped that this book was going to be more of same, and, I suppose, it is, but in a far more muted form.

Frankly, this is less a book about Psi phenomena than it is some apologia "calling out in the wilderness" regarding how Psi has been unfairly stigmatized, mocked, and ignored. The author looks for support in history, noting how many famous people, noted organizations, etc., had held psychic/spiritual phenomenon to be proven fact, and then tip-toes into the experimental area. Unlike McTaggart, who covered really "mind blowing" results in her book, Radin seems to concentrate only on the most iron-clad variable-controlled tests, frequently ones only looking for the most subtle and non-dramatic results, and then putting the aggregated data from large collections of these to the most rigorous statistical analysis. For the average reader, this produces a response of "oh, that's nice", and something of a yawn for those "in the choir" as it were. It's as though Radin wrote the book for skeptics only to have it marketed to the enthusiast audience!

This is not to say that he doesn't eventually dip a toe into what would be "radical" areas, it's just that by the time he's set up the ground work, he's likely lost the core readers. In the latter half of the book he does touch on these:
(in presentiment experiments) what you find is a spectacular body of converging evidence indicating that our understanding of time is seriously incomplete. These studies mean that some aspect of our minds can perceive the future. Not infer the future, or anticipate the future, or figure out the future. But actually perceive it.
... covering the idea that our concept of time, and space/time, is likely in need of further consideration, how various government projects (both in the US and Russia) have had rather dramatic results (now largely available via FOI Act requests), and what might be possible with some more dedicated research ... but it still reads like he's talking about the deli and not the sandwich, focusing on the slicer and not the flavor.

Does this make Entangled Minds a bad book? No ... there is certainly a lot of interesting stuff in here, especially in the minutia of how you do statistical analysis on these sorts of studies, but I guess when I ordered this (and I actually paid Amazon's discounted retail for it!) I was hoping for the "WOW!" factor that is clearly present in the various more challenging studies in the field, and I didn't come away with much of that. Rather than having a book-length tour of the stuff that McTaggert leads off with in her book, this was more like a behind-the-scenes look at how these studies get legitimized.

Again, there is a feel throughout that he's pleading for the skeptics (and the off-hand dismissers) to take a look at the (considerable) evidence for there "being something real" about Psi phenomena, and, perhaps, this is the best use of the book ... as an introduction to the subject to those hard cases who habitually reject all things psychic.

This is, of course, in print, and the new/used guys don't have it at much of a break (Amazon currently has it at 28% off of cover), so if you're interested in picking up copy you might as well go the retail route. It isn't, however, the "wow!" book you might guess it to be from its title. Oh, and, you can do a wicked re-write of Elvis' "Suspicious Minds" riffing off of the title ("... we can talk through the ether, with Entangled Minds; and have prophetic dreams, with Entangled Minds ...") if you're so inclined!


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