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Showing posts from August, 2016

luchot miscellany

A toy model of aesthetics with just two binary variables, 'classiness' and 'busyness'*:

Minimalism: Simple ClassyBaroque: Busy ClassyBrutalism: Simple VulgarRococo: Busy Vulgar
Are these descriptions true? Well, they are incomplete, and are not definitions (i.e. one-to-one mappings), but yes. Are they helpful? As a start, absolutely.

Now, the labels on the left are vague and intuitive family resemblances; it is a fool's game to imagine they could ever be nailed down as monothetic definitions (the philosopher's ideal of neat, necessary and sufficient sets of attributes). We can still model usefully and harmlessly, even if the models can never be complete.**

But the critics and art academics I know spend far more time muddying the water: deconstructing our use of the problematic term "classy"; and who gets to say what 'simplicity' is anyway? They don't seem to want to explain things, even fuzzily.*** Or, maybe they do, but refuse to acce…

LISTEN: 'Dear Resonance' (2005) by Even in Blackouts

(Turn it up will you?)
Histories of figurines so fresh in the mind of
Babes who were never witnesses but must relive the
Consequences in the fiber of their day-to-day.

When I thought of these incidences then,
When I thought of all these happenings then
I was thinking of now;
Gives resonance those hours I spend
Contemplating the effects of resonance.
Dear resonance, is the distance real?

Talk of war and actions that resemble such;
And I dance in this club with the guilt
Of my apathy shaking this indifference.
And then I hear Lennon’s
Imagine and the generations
Round me waltz in mockery and irony.
I want some distance!
It hurts to know history’s closeness can blow
A hole right through your guile
(Without showing its face).

The times may be constantly changing, Bob,
But what does that mean to resonance?
Dear resonance, is the distance real?

A giant mad pop ramble on historical consciousness, free will, and path-dependency. A protest song; but, protesting how confusing and hor…

at least one thing has got to give

One popular way of telling if something belongs to the worst category of things - "structural oppressions" - is the following rule: A thing is x-ist if it disproportionately harms group x. Well enough. However:

"An act is homophobic if it disproportionately harms queer people."Unilateral nuclear disarmament by e.g. the US would transfer huge amounts of power to the Russian and Chinese governments.The Russian and Chinese governments systematically harm queer people (more than the US government does).Therefore unilateral nuclear disarmament is homophobic.

"An institution is racist if it disproportionately harms nonwhite people."The Black Panther Party plausibly killed more black people than white people.Therefore the Black Panther Party may have been racist against black people.

"A process is sexist if it disproportionately harms women."The law of gravity caused the Earth to form.Because the Earth formed, thousands of years of patriarchy happened…

Notable words, he loved language

Dedekind cut (n.)  A partition of a ordered list into two nonempties, such that everything in the first sublist is less than every member of the second sublist, and such that the first contains no greatest element. Used in the rigorous definition of the reals. As "an infinitely thin thing", also used in the following burn from Wilfrid Sellars: The crux of a philosophical argument often appears to be a Dedekind cut between a series of 'as I will show's and a series of 'as I have shown's.
Popperazzi (pej. pl. n.)  Term of contempt for people who use Karl Popper's falsifiability criterion in a simplistic or inaccurate manner.
juke (East Coast US v.)   To massage or dredge or miscode data. (As in "juke the stats": police coding robberies as thefts in The Wire.)   Maybe some connection to the Chicago genre of cheap fast dance music, juke (incomparable adj.)   See also cook the books, creative accounting.
loggia (Italian n.)  A covered terrace, or, a h…

Existential overhead in the adult human

Time in each weekday used on basic upkeep of the organism:

8 hours sleep. (33%)1.5 hours commute (8%).8 hours production (33%)0.5 hour hygiene (2%)0.5 hour shopping (2%)0.5 hour exercise (2%)1.5 hours cooking/eating. (8%)
= Leaving 3.5 hours for actual, discretionary life (15%).*

The above time is not waste, since each of them have their own pleasures, since some fraction of people would perform their jobs even without pay, and since unfocussed background cognition continues throughout them. (Most delightfully in the form of shower thoughts.) But it is still unfree. Ways to get your life back:

   +   1 hour saved on sleep from oral melatonin.   +   1 hour off commute by taking public transport (for reading)      (Or + 1.5 hours off commute by working from home)      (Or + 0.5 hour from cycling your commute)   +   0.5 hour saved on lunch from having soylent instead.   +   0.4 hour off shopping from home delivery   +   0.2 hours by taking caffeine & theanine in pills instead of boil…

interview on veganism

(c) Lucian Tidorescu (2013)

I don't give money to industries that harm nonhuman animals; the biggest part of that is not eating meat, eggs, dairy, etc. But I haven't written much about it; I dislike signalling virtue in that way and I'm suspicious of the cognitive effects of identity labels. But I dislike the irrational, anti-modern, hipster kinds of vegan more: I think they severely limit the potential audience for animal rights. So I had better pipe up with my supposedly more rational, bioprogressive / ecomodernist form of it. (Someone else will have to handle the task of making it not seem weird.) Handily, I was recently interviewed on the topic:

Can you tell me in your own words, what your definition of veganism is? What are your reasons for being vegan?

Veganism is usually 'abstention from consuming animal products'. My sort is less straightforward: it follows from a more general view of what is ethical: 'don't cause harm to anything which can probabl…

What Matters Most is How Well You Walk Through the Fire (1999) by Charles Bukowski

all theories
like cliches
shot to hell,
all these small faces
looking up
beautiful and believing;
I wish to weep
but sorrow is
I wish to believe but belief is a
we have narrowed it down to
the butcherknife and the
wish us

If you can't sleep and it's 2am and tomorrow's going to be a pain in the arse and you're alone in the house, well, there is no better book. Unbeatable at what it does, which is to slide through the mind with zero cognitive friction, depositing the emotional silt and cheap, warm style of a previously insane and helpfully hopeless man in you – whatever you want that for. More than any other poet, he just literally talks to you. You can roll your eyes at his gaucheness and despise his chauvinism and feel nothing all you like: that's fine. It doesn't matter. It's not the point.

So it's barely art, but he knows it. Pity any academic working on CB: these poems don't invite analysis; they are worn…

Highlighted passages from Pomerantsev's Nothing is True

'Everything is PR' has become the favorite phrase of the new Russia; my Moscow peers are filled with a sense that they are both cynical and enlightened. When I ask them about Soviet-era dissidents, like my parents, who fought against communism, they dismiss them as naïve dreamers and my own Western attachment to such vague notions as ‘human rights’ and ‘freedom’ as a blunder.

Just as Cherkesov [head of the Russian DEA] was investigating Patrushev [head of the new KGB], so Patrushev supported those who were fighting Cherkesov. So when the FSB heard about Yana's story, they made sure the police didn't close down the demonstrations [for Yana's freedom], that the right newspapers and TV channels covered the protests. This was one of the reasons ‘liberal’ papers and TV channels existed, to give one power broker a weapon to hit another power broker with.

...the new Kremlin won’t make the same mistake the old Soviet Union did: it will never let TV become dull. The task is t…

magic words

What is a magic word? Could it be: A word which is not just a symbol: a word with causal power without mediation through a mind or body.

Such spells exist. Just say "noise" to yourself, and lo it appears. Shout "Police!" long enough and you will indeed summon the demon you name. "Confusion!", in company, likewise but quicker. "Speech-act". "Disquotation" après-moi. "Entropy!" arguably.

(This is all quite aside from computer code, those living causal words that are eating more and more of the economy and of theintellect, and so of the world.)

More notable words, ain't like you can stop me

poz (Troll v.). 1) To intentionally infect with venereal disease, especially HIV. Mercy. 2) By analogy, to stealthily corrupt a culture. I don't think either has ever been deployed by a decent human being.
mortmain (French n.). 'Deadhand'. Common law term for the legally binding decisions of dead people. See also the awesome-sounding area of public policy, dead hand control. Like forex control, pest control.
truscum (SJ n. and adj.). Person who holds, along with most of the medical establishment, that gender dysphoria is a necessary condition for someone to be transgender. This gets attacked in the strongest terms for gatekeeping and questioning the lived experience* of nonbinary people who want to call themselves trans. It is all very sad that it is impossible to talk clearly about it. See also "tucute" for the equally unhelpful mirror insult.* Had to force myself not to use scare quotes there. A dreadful pious phrase; what other kind of experience is there?