Monday, March 26

By Force of Personality

Rob Bray's recent blogpost By What Authority is a quite persuasive argument against the Intelligent Design movement. The essential thrust is that biblical literalism is at the root of ID, and biblical literalism is hard to take seriously in light of the demonstrated functionality of atomic bombs.

In addition to being -- in my mind -- persuasive, it also avoids the trap of talking past its opponents; unlike Dawkins or Dennet or any of the other "bright" crowd (goodness gracious how I detest that term). It argues from similarity, rather than from difference.

Wednesday, March 14

the Horror

Things the web thinks have horror in them:

o blimps
o culture
o Frankenstein (1970)
o Party Beach (1964)
o Iraq, in poetry
o The Heights
o European Colonization
o the Werewolf
o Battery Hens
o Coke
o Software Patents
o Disney's Old Yeller
o going bald

I dunno, they all seem pretty...banal to me. Except possibly Iraq and European colonization.

Ideas and ideas and ideas

I have idea paralysis.

I have been reading a lot of random stuff lately, and listening to music I haven't listened to in a year or so, and it's giving me all sorts of quarter-formed ideas about random things like:

o Why Ole Bald Angus' "jokes are not good for laffs" is wrong

o How I could possibly extend the ideas in Blindsight

o The Pharaoh's challenge to me re: story-writing

o The visual image of unfurling batwings

I don't know what to do with them.

No Good Metaphor

The Web thinks there are no good metaphors for:

o too-hard poetry
o compassion in solitude
o a "space" that we cooperatively occupy mentally
o neutrality in prison
o hunting and serving
o the idea behind Einstein's most famous equation
o "this degree of absolute wrongness"
o the release of Ann Coulter's new book

I'd add "generating software" to that list. I can't think of any way to describe what it is that I do for a living to relatives that doesn't involve blank stares of....

dammit, I just thought of one. Magic.

As per Stross in the introduction to Atrocity Archives, imagine a learned cabal whose entrance requirements are long and careful study, that invents multiple new languages and thoughts to express its primary motives, that causes the world to change by the correct and highly ritualized codification of thought, that warps its members' perceptions and actions, that's impenetrable to outsiders
(though they may benefit from the cabal's work), that can create or destroy person-years of economic effort just by uttering incantations. Now dress them in jeans and scruffy T-shirts with SIGGRAPH '88 logos, and call them "IT".

Thursday, March 8

A pied kiwi: wikipedia randomness, lunacy edition

This XKCD comic neatly summarizes the problem with Wikipedia. I fall prey to this almost every day. But instead of letting these hundreds of hours of go to waste, I will use "A Pied Kiwi" to inform you of the most fascinating, serendipitous tidbits that I discover.

Today, in the entry for lunatic:
The word is borrowed from Latin"lunaticus", which gains its stem from "luna" for moon, which denotes the traditional link made in folklore between madness and the phases of the moon. This probably refers to the symptoms of cyclic mood disorders such as bipolar disorder or cyclothymia , the symptoms of which may also go through phases. As yet there is little evidence for any causal link between phases of the moon and the progression of mood disorder symptoms.
You probably knew that already. But then,
In a 1999 Journal of Affective Disorders article, a hypothesis was suggested indicating that the phase of the moon may in the past have had an effect on bipolar patients by providing light during nights which would otherwise have been dark, and affecting susceptible patients through the well-known route of sleep deprivation. With the introduction of electric light, this effect would have gone away, as light would be available every night, explaining the negative results of modern studies. They suggest ways in which this hypothesis might be tested.
Yes! Test that hypothesis! Bring back lunacy!

Friday, March 2

But it's Art! Experimental Art! DO NOT CRITICISE THE ART (please)

The Pharaoh and I were talking recently about the art collective musical ensemble band named Of Montreal (wikipedia link; stupidiculous vanity site) a few days ago. He thinks they have good hooks in thought-provoking, progressive pieces. I think they have decent hooks that they ruin with a lack of songwriting skill (learn what meter means, fuckers). In other words, he likes them and I don't.

It seems to me that the notion of experimentality, of avant-gardishness, is just a defense mechanism against criticism. "It's not bad, it's ART." OK, I suppose you could be challenging the definition of "art" or "song" or "quality", but the road down which those challenges lie - i.e. postmodern relativism -- leads almost exclusively up its own asshole. The perfect expression of any craft -- whether it's musicianship, carpentry, painting, game design, whatever -- comes from creativity within the bounds of the form. Difference without alienation; creativity without abandonment of form; novelty with familiarity. On that front, Of Montreal's experiment fails; their music doesn't sound good.

Some rules you can bend, others you can't. Mastery of a form is knowing which is which.