29 April 2006

‘New American Schoolhouse’

"Voices from the New American Schoolhouse explores life outside the usual educational box. Narrated exclusively by students, the film chronicles life and learning at the Fairhaven School in Upper Marlboro, MD which practices an undiluted form of freedom and democracy that turns mainstream education theory on its head. Filmmaker Danny Mydlack enjoyed unrestricted access over a two-year period to produce this candid and unblinking encounter with kid-powered learning."

28 April 2006

A third scientific culture

I admit, I am not a scientist. I am pretty far from adhering to any empirical truth. But that the humanities as a field of study could have avoided the implications of natural sciences and biology for all this time astounds me. By creating systematic ontologies by which to tackle their understanding of the world around them, they so often trap themselves within their own devices — limited by exactly that which they would deny in their pursuit of absolute knowledge. They deny the limitations of their perspective.

This "third culture" concept is great, though. I have not read Elster's book, mentioned below, so I dunno if it's more for novelty's sake, but the fuckers should just come out and call it what it may be, or become — alchemy:
Anthropology, linguistics, and sociology, disciplines that have based their autonomy on the claim that the system of social actions and human cultures is largely independent from their biological foundation, today make way for naturalistic research programs and the methods of the natural sciences. […]

It is remarkable that the discovery of a class of premotor neurons in the brain of macaque monkeys should seem to have important repercussions on our understanding the nature of human sociality. What does, after all, the activation of a cell of the nervous system of a monkey have to do with the intricacies of our social relations?

Beyond the fascinating arguments provoked by this discovery (*), this illustrates the changes that have taken place in the last twenty years in the relationship between the natural sciences and the humanities, that is “the two cultures,” defined by C.P. Snow in his famous 1959 essay. Anthropology, linguistics, and sociology, disciplines that have based their autonomy on the claim that the system of social actions and human cultures is largely independent from their biological foundation, today make way for naturalistic research programs and the methods of the natural sciences.

So, is a third culture possible, as defined by John Brockman, in which the natural sciences take part in making sense of ourselves and our actions? […]

Thus, the third culture can be seen as a multidimensional culture, where explanations originating in different disciplines combine together without cancelling one another. As yet another example, one might think of Jon Elster’s work on emotions in his book The Alchemies of the Mind, in which neurobiology, literature, and rational choice theory come together as vectors of a causative and conceptual explanation of what is involved in feeling emotion.

Is then a third culture possible? There is a strong temptation to see in these smoothly combined approaches a new path to knowledge, a pluralistic culture that weaves together a dense plot of facts and interpretations without the ideological burden of having to reduce the ones to the others or vice versa.

full article via Edge

Total Immersion’s ‘augmented reality’

This is a video from DEMO 2004 showing Total Immersion's D'Fusion technology, which was rumoured to be used in Nintendo's then-unnamed upcoming console, Revolution. (The Revolution has been renamed the Wii as of this week.)

All I can think of is… Vurt, by Jeff Noon. All thanks to Total Immersion and Nintendo!

Thanks to Scott, in Vancouver, for e-mailing me the link.

Even Bob Marley was spun for public consumption

Tim Manners, of Reveries Magazine, has an interesting bit on the grooming of Bob Marley for North American (and eventual world) consumption:
Bob Marley’s transition from “local hero to global legend” was the result of a carefully calibrated marketing effort that cultivated Bob’s reggae roots to grow a rock phenomenon, as relayed in a new book, Before the Legend, by Christopher John Farley, excerpted in The Wall Street Journal (4/27/06). Bob Marley was already 27 by the time he was “discovered” by Chris Blackwell, founder of Island Records, which began as a Jamaican music but quickly transitioned to mainstream rock, where the money was. Chris immediately recognized Bob’s star quality, as well as the charisma of his bandmates, Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer. So he gave the group about $7,000 to make a record. The result was a reggae stunner, but Chris knew that it needed more of a rock sensibility if it were to sell to the masses. So, Chris asked Bob to join him in London to re-mix, overdub and otherwise rockify the tracks.

Chris started by killing two of the 11 songs, “because to me,” said Chris, “a 10-track album was a pop album. A nine-track album — that’s a rock album.” Who knew? Chris also doubled and tripled the lengths of some of the songs, again “to make it more like rock and less like pop.” As you might imagine, this tended to set Bob on edge. And you might think that Chris’s next move (bringing in white session musicians to bring a rock edge to the instrumentation) might have been the final straw for Bob Marley. But it wasn’t: “Race had divided his family. Race had divided Jamaica. Race had divided music. Race had divided the world.” Bob Marley “wanted to bring it all back together again … As a child, Bob had gotten into scuffles with bullies over his mixed heritage. Now, as a musician, he had turned his background into a marketing edge.” Thing is, the black-white collaboration was kept from fans.

Chris Blackwell wanted “to promote the image of a black group” and kept the names of the white musicians off the credits. He “realized white audiences wanted reggae that had the rough edge of rock. But they didn’t want black music that seemed like it was trying to pass for white.” He also rockified the group’s name from “Bob Marley and the Wailers” to simply “The Wailers” and when it came time for a group photo, threw a couple of black musicians who hadn’t even been on the record into the picture to make it look like more of a group. They did join the group after that, but the image was complete and the record, “Catch a Fire," won rave reviews. Bob Marley went on "to be come an international symbol of revolution and freedom." As Farley notes: "Their music made concessions to the marketplace. But they were so cool, so confident, that their credentials could not be challenged."

via Reveries Magazine

Love special: Six ways to woo your lover

EDIT — Fuck it, I am posting the article in its entirety. I believe they have a tendency to bust links after it moves from their front pages and make them subscription-only.

Just read this short piece on New Scientist, entitled "Love special: Six ways to woo your lover"; with more tips via the link:
We all hunt for the perfect chat-up line, but in reality, our body gives away a great deal before we open our mouth. It is estimated that when you meet a stranger, their impression of you is based 55 per cent on your appearance and body language, 38 per cent on your style of speaking and a mere 7 per cent on what you actually say.

So what can we learn from the experts? There are a number of actions that signal "I like you" to another person. Adopting an open posture (no folded arms), and mirroring another's posture help create a feeling of affinity. Most people are not conscious of being mirrored, but evaluate those who do it more favourably. And it is worth adopting stances that enhance your masculinity or femininity, such as placing hands in pockets with elbows out to enlarge the chest.

You could also indulge in a "gestural dance", synchronising your gestures and body movements with those of the object of your desire, such as taking a sip of your drinks at the same time.

A dramatic setting can kick-start your love life. Meeting a stranger when physiologically aroused increases the chance of having romantic feelings towards them…

It's all because of a strong connection between anxiety, arousal and attraction. In the "shaky bridge study" carried out by psychologists Arthur Aron and Don Dutton in the 1970s, men who met a woman on a high, rickety bridge found the encounter sexier and more romantic than those who met her on a low, stable one. A visit to the funfair works wonders too. Photos of members of the opposite sex were more attractive to people who had just got off a roller coaster, compared with those who were waiting to get on. And couples were more loved-up after watching a suspense-filled thriller than a calmer film. Why? No one is sure, but the adrenaline rush from the danger might be misattributed to the thrill of attraction. But beware: while someone attractive becomes more so in a tense setting, the unattractive appear even less appealing.

An experience that makes you laugh creates feelings of closeness between strangers. A classic example comes from experiments carried out by US psychologists Arthur Aron and Barbara Fraley, in which strangers cooperated on playful activities such as learning dance steps, but with one partner wearing a blindfold and the other holding a drinking straw in their mouth to distort speech. Sounds stupid, but love and laughter really did go together. You can read about it in "The effect of a shared humorous experience on closeness in initial encounters" in the journal Personal Relationships (vol 11, p 61). We suggest that the blindfold/drinking straw approach is best confined to the laboratory.

Psychologists at North Adams State College in Massachusetts have proved what Shakespeare suggested - that music is the food of love. Well, rock music, at least. Women evaluating photos of men rated them more attractive while listening to soft-rock music, compared with avant-garde jazz or no music at all.

Can you short-cut all the hard work of relationship-building by artificial means? People have been trying to crack this one for thousands of years. A nasal spray containing the hormone oxytocin can make people trust you - an important part of any relationship - though there's no evidence yet to suggest it can make someone fall in love. And while we wouldn't suggest you try this at home, studies on prairie voles show that injecting the hormone vasopressin into the brain makes males bond strongly to females. Illegal drugs such as cocaine or amphetamines can simulate the euphoria of falling in love by raising levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine, but dopamine levels can also be increased legally by exercising. Another neurotransmitter, phenylethylamine (PEA), is tagged the "love molecule" because it induces feelings of excitement and apprehension. PEA is found in chocolate and it, too, is linked to the feel-good effects of exercise. Overall, a swift jog could be more conducive to love than anything you might find in a bottle.

Any flirt knows that making eye contact is an emotionally loaded act. Now psychologists have shown just how powerful it can be. When pairs of strangers were asked to gaze into each other's eyes, it was perhaps not surprising that their feelings of closeness and attraction rocketed compared with, say, gazing at each other's hands. More surprising was that a couple in one such experiment ended up getting married. Neuroscientists have shed some light on what's going on: meeting another person's gaze lights up brain regions associated with rewards. The bottom line is that eye contact can work wonders, but make sure you get your technique right: if your gaze isn't reciprocated, you risk coming across as a stalker.

From issue 2549 of New Scientist magazine, 27 April 2006, page 46

via New Scientist

Illustrated Structure of Masonry

click image to enlarge

27 April 2006

Be genderless (and drink Campari)

via Boing Boing à la Miles of Yarn

Further look at the sound of language transcribed visually

Takeluma is a "sound symbolic, phonetic alphabet" by artist Peter Cho, and was his MFA thesis project (PDF) in the UCLA department of Design | Media Arts. vade was kind enough to pass this along to me, in response to some more in-depth conversations we're having about symbols.

To check out more on this sort of stuff, please check out A wee introduction to cymatics — the study of vibration — which doesn't shy away from esoteric concepts. I've recently also come across this interesting design article by Frank Armstrong, entitled "Hearing Type," which is available there on the AIGA site. From a qualitative perspective, Armstrong takes an analogous approach to typography and the four properties of sound or tone: amplitude, duration, pitch, and timbre.

26 April 2006

102 films that form our cultural vernacular

via Kottke.org

Film critic Jim Emerson recently compiled a list of 102 movies that you should see before you can consider yourself movie literate:
…they [are] the movies you just kind of figure everybody ought to have seen in order to have any sort of informed discussion about movies. They're the common cultural currency of our time, the basic cinematic texts that everyone should know, at minimum, to be somewhat "movie-literate."

I have to admit, I've not seen most of these. I guess I have something to do this summer. Like Kottke, I am affixing stars to the ones I've seen. (31 32 of 102. Kottke had 40. Any of you?) Looks like I'm off to the the video store after work!

* 2001: A Space Odyssey
The 400 Blows

Aguirre: The Wrath of God
* Alien
All About Eve
Annie Hall
* Apocalypse Now
* Bambi
The Battleship Potemkin
The Best Years of Our Lives
The Big Red One
The Bicycle Thief
The Big Sleep
* Blade Runner
* Blue Velvet
* Bonnie and Clyde
Bringing Up Baby
* Carrie
* Casablanca
Un chien andalou
Children of Paradise / Les enfants du paradis
Citizen Kane
* A Clockwork Orange
* The Crying Game
The Day the Earth Stood Still
* Days of Heaven
Dirty Harry
The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie
Do the Right Thing
La dolce vita
Double Indemnity
* Dr Strangelove
Duck Soup
* E.T. — The Extra-terrestrial
Easy Rider
* The Empire Strikes Back
* The Exorcist
* Fargo
* Fight Club
* Frankenstein
The General
The Godfather & The Godfather, Pt II
Gone With the Wind
* Goodfellas
The Graduate
* Halloween
A Hard Day's Night
It's a Gift
* It's a Wonderful Life
The Lady Eve
Lawrence of Arabia
* Mad Max 2 / The Road Warrior
* The Maltese Falcon
The Manchurian Candidate
* Metropolis
Modern Times
* Monty Python and the Holy Grail
The Night of the Hunter
* Night of the Living Dead
North by Northwest
On the Waterfront
Once Upon a Time in the West
Out of the Past
Pink Flamingos
* Pulp Fiction
* Rashômon
Rear Window
* Rebel Without a Cause
Red River
The Rules of the Game
* Scarface
The Scarlet Empress
Schindler's List
The Searchers
The Seven Samurai
Singin' in the Rain
Some Like It Hot
A Star Is Born
A Streetcar Named Desire
Sunset Boulevard
* Taxi Driver
The Third Man
Tokyo Story
Touch of Evil
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
Trouble in Paradise
West Side Story
The Wild Bunch
The Wizard of Oz

25 April 2006

Ali G interviews Noam Chomsky


via Mind Hacks

Recent contemplations on causality

Sometimes you just need to sit and watch it in action to really appreciate the beauty of certain philosophies. The trick is, knowing what to look for. This video was a joy to find and it compliments some of the ideas going on here, Alchemy & Design, about inhabiting symbols and their power to affect us… and vice versa…

via The Huge Entity à la News.3Yen.com

23 April 2006

“Right In Two”

10,000 Days, the forthcoming album from Tool, is excellent. Definitely going to be one to purchase as soon as it's officially released (2 May, according to Amazon.ca). This may actually be my favourite album by them so far, though Ænima will always have a special place in my heart. I'll let everyone check out the lyrics and music when they purchase the album (or read them on Tool's website, when the album is out), but because I tend to break the rules occasionally in order to help out those not willing to, here is a look at one of the new tracks. Funny, I can't call it "animosity," or "feelings," but it deals with the angels' ________ over humans and free will. Not that many of us develop free will in our lifetimes, but it's a recurrant in certain occult lit. Here it is, "Right In Two":

Angels on the sideline,
Puzzled and amused
Why did Father give these humans free will?
Now they're all confused

Don't these talking monkeys know that
Eden has enough to go around?
Plenty in this holy garden, silly old monkeys
Where there's one you're bound to divide it
Right in two

Angels on the sideline
Baffled and confused
Father blessed them all with reason
And this is what they choose
Monkey killing monkey killing monkey
Over pieces of the ground.

Silly monkeys given thumbs
They forge a blade
And where there's one
They're bound to divide it,
Right in two
Right in two

Monkey killing monkey killing monkey
Over pieces of the ground
Silly monkeys give them thumbs
They make a club
And beat their brother… down
How they survive so misguided is a mystery
Repugnant dismal creature who would squander
The ability to live, to die, and have a conscience
Brothers live inside here

Cut it all right in two (×4)

Fight over the clouds, over wind, over sky
Fight over life, over blood, over prayer, overhead and light
Fight over love, over sun, over another

Angels on the sideline again
Been so long with patience and reason
Angels on the sideline again
Wondering when this tug of war will end

Cut it all right in two (×3)
Right in two

Right in two…

20 April 2006

Going back to school!

In case anyone gets to wondering, I'll be only lightly posting for the next five or so weeks. I am busy with a bunch of work for a resto-bar I am currently designing and some other freelance stuff. I am also enrolled in the "Chaos Magic in Business" course being offered by Robert Anton Wilson's Maybe Logic Academy. I'm very excited, as the class is taught by none other than Peter J. Carroll, one of the founders of the Magical Pact of the Illuminates of Thanateros (IOT) and the man who coined the term "chaos magic." (This is also the order that denied my entrance due to a lack of group work. Darn isolation.)

Carroll's site, Specularium, can be found here. It deals with the concept of "three-dimensional time concealed in the data of fundamental physics." (And no, I don't understand a shred of it.)

19 April 2006

Watching the brain ‘switch off’ self-awareness

via New Scientist
18:00 19 April 2006
NewScientist.com news service
Gaia Vince

Everybody has experienced a sense of “losing oneself” in an activity — being totally absorbed in a task, a movie or sex. Now researchers have caught the brain in the act.

Self-awareness, regarded as a key element of being human, is switched off when the brain needs to concentrate hard on a tricky task, found the neurobiologists from the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel.

The team conducted a series of experiments to pinpoint the brain activity associated with introspection and that linked to sensory function. They found that the brain assumes a robotic functionality when it has to concentrate all its efforts on a difficult, timed task — only becoming "human" again when it has the luxury of time.

Ilan Goldberg and colleagues used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to scan the brains of nine volunteers during the study. Participants were shown picture cards and told to push buttons to indicate whether or not an animal was depicted.

The series was shown slowly the first time, and at three times the rate on the second run through. On its third showing, the volunteers were asked to use the buttons to indicate their emotional response to the pictures. The experiment was then repeated using musical extracts, rather than pictures, and asked to identify whether a trumpet played.

Allocating resources

Goldberg found that when the sensory stimulus was shown slowly, and when a personal emotional response was required, the volunteers showed activity in the superfrontal gyrus — the brain region associated with self-awareness-related function.

But when the card flipping and musical sequences were rapid, there was no activity in the superfrontal gyrus, despite activity in the sensory cortex and related structures.

“The regions of the brain involved in introspection and sensory perception are completely segregated, although well connected,” says Goldberg, “and when the brain needs to divert all its resources to carry out a difficult task, the self-related cortex is inhibited.”

The brain’s ability to “switch off” the self may have evolved as a protective mechanism, he suggests. “If there is a sudden danger, such as the appearance of a snake, it is not helpful to stand around wondering how one feels about the situation,” Goldberg points out.

It is possible that research into how the brain switches self-awareness on and off will help neurologists gain a deeper understanding of autism, schizophrenia and other mental disorders where this functionality may be impaired.

Journal reference: Neuron (vol 50, p 329)

16 April 2006

“A Theory of Power,” free download!

—Noam Chomsky

"Very impressive"
—Daniel Quinn

"Very rich, stimulating and ambitious… I salute your important work."
—John Zerzan

Those little quotes are awesome; such a great form of propaganda. Regardless, check out Jeff Vail's blog. There is a link to the free PDF download of his book, A Theory of Power. I've been checking out Vail's blog for some time now, and as of late with my own interest in the whole concept of power, I'm going to be delving into more of his writing. Time permetting.


Go read! And if you dig the blog, spend the $10 to purchase the hardcopy edition of the book. Seriously, spread the love.

15 April 2006

Absolute power…

This past week I had a conversation with an acquaintance of mine in Vancouver. We were discussing magic, and his contempt for power. Now, "power" is going to be difficult to define, both its semantics and subjective take on the word (would that be semiotics?). He assured me that absolute power did, in fact, corrupt absolutely. This stirred some thoughts in me…

Whenever someone uses that retort, I squirm in my chair. It's never sat well with me. It implied a lack of power. That the corruptible had achieved such power, in my eyes, implied that if they were not worthy of such power to begin with, then I and everyone else that allow them to hold such power were, in fact, worthy of being enslaved by this person.

In short, I have the power not to succumb.

"Occult power lies in removing the capacity for others to be able to grasp the labels and concepts surrounding you." (From a previous post.)

And I just read this, by William Drenttel, on Design Observer:

Francis Bacon once said that knowledge and human power are synonymous, and it is in this spirit that true power is perhaps ideally achieved: it is power informed by learning, collaborating and considering how the ultimate quality of our lives is made, whether in reference to our health or our schools; our environment or our foreign policy; our aspirations in science or in space; or our humanitarian achievements, as people, in war and in peace.

Is it fair for me to argue that even life itself is a prison, as purported by numerous philosophical doctrines and spiritual analogies such as Gnosticism? If so, then even clinging to the worth of one's life in the face of enslavement is an un-educated and worthless endeavour. This is living solely for living's sake.

And that's not living.

Living requires strife, sacrifice, and the willingness to change, metamorphoses. A power is exacted when a consensus is reached. Consensus poses an interesting dilemma. As William Whyte wrote in his classic The Organizational Man, "It is the price of progress that there never can be complete consensus. All creative advances are essentially a departure from agreed-upon ways of looking at things, and to overemphasize the agreed-upon is to further legitimize the hostility to that creativity upon which we all ultimately depend."

This is also the thesis behind The Lucifer Principle, by Howard Bloom, in which he contends that "evil" is a by-product of nature's strategies for creation and is woven into our most basic biological fabric. This argument echoes a very old one. St Paul proposed it when he put forth the doctrine of original sin. Thomas Hobbes resurrected it when he called the lot of man brutish and nasty. Anthropologist Raymond Dart brought it to the fore again when he interpreted fossil remains in Africa as evidence that man is a killer ape. Old as it is, the concept has often had revolutionary implications. Why? Because it has been the thread on which men like Hobbes and St Paul have hung dramatic new visions of the world.

And as I wrote elsewhere and Kylark was nice enough to emphasize: Power is how one utilises their roster of wisdoms (knowledge + experience = wisdom) to maintain their order and interpretation of reality held over any others.

Thus, if we are knowingly befallen to the power of someone or something else, it is our fault and there is a way out. Too many of us quit because it hurts too much, I suppose. Which reminds me of another quote to end this off with. William James wrote in Varieties of Religious Experience:

Recent psychology … speaks of the threshold of man’s consciousness in general to indicate the amount of noise, pressure, or other outer stimulus which it takes to arouse his attention at all. One with a high threshold will doze through an amount of racket by which one with a low threshold would be immediately waked. … And so we might speak of a ‘pain threshold,’ a ‘fear threshold,’ a ‘misery threshold,’ and find it quickly overpassed by the consciousness of some individuals, but lying too high in others to be often reached by their consciousness. The sanguine and healthy minded habitually live on the sunny side of their misery line; the depressed and melancholy live beyond it, in darkness and apprehension.

Does it not appear as if one who lived habitually on one side of the pain threshold might need a different sort of religion from one who habitually lived on the other?

So as I explore more of myself, I come to see it reflected in my perceptions of the world around me. As above, so below. As a seed, if my power grows, in whatever areas it might be — graphic design, my own ability to organize my life, womanizing, pushing tough love on my friends, encouraging in others, working on bettering my relationship with my mother — every experience I conquer is a demon quelled. I can now apply the abstractions of those experiences to further launch the new knowledge I acquire from around me, and thus grow in power.

In this, there is a system by which one can accrue enough experience to build up their personal character. Like a game, abstractions can be mastered which allow not lead to the growth necessary to tackle new challanges… the prior experiences garnered actually allow you to take notice and see the new worlds awaiting your attention. Like levels in this game, the higher realms are not readily available to the limited perceptions of players not willing to level-up.

And from up here, I see a lot of NPCs that believe otherwise.

13 April 2006

Minister stops book talk by Environment Canada scientist

via CBC Arts:
Environment Minister Rona Ambrose has stopped an Environment Canada scientist from speaking publicly about his own novel.

Mark Tushingham has written a science fiction novel called Hotter than Hell.

It is set in the not-too-distant future when global warming has made many parts of the world too hot to live in and has prompted a war between Canada and the U.S. over water resources.

Tushingham was scheduled to speak in Ottawa about his book and the science underpinning it. But an order from Ambrose's office stopped him.

"He got a directive from the department, cautioning him not to come to this meeting today," said his publisher Elizabeth Margaris of DreamCatcher Publishers in New Brunswick. Margaris had driven from New Brunswick to attend the speech.

"So I guess we're being stifled. This is incredible, I've never heard of such a thing," she told CBC Radio.

A spokesperson for Ambrose said the speech was billed as coming from an Environment Canada scientist and even though his book is a work of fiction, he would appear to be speaking in an official capacity.

Tushingham was ordered to cancel the speech because he didn't follow the proper process, the spokesperson said. He also has cancelled some TV and radio interviews about the book.

Stephen Harper says he was not aware of the details, but his government was elected on a platform that included developing a new plan to deal with climate change.

"And I not only hope, but expect, that all elements of the bureaucracy will be working with us to achieve our objectives," he said.

Harper has been criticized for the tight control he wants to exercise on what Cabinet ministers and civil servants say in public. He also opposes the Kyoto protocol, which could help slow global warming.

via DreamCatcher Publishing Inc:
Hotter Than Hell
by Mark Tushingham

"Mark Tushingham's dark novel of climate change is set in a not-too-distant future world of global warming, where straight up American soldier Major-General Walter J. Eastland is assigned to one of the states worst hit, California.

When desperation for fresh water finally becomes so critical that anarchy erupts throughout the major cities of America, Eastland is mysteriously assigned to scout Canada. The country has long resisted opening its taps of fresh water to its neighbor and ally to the south. Eastland finds both friends and adversaries in Canada. As well, he finds the world's largest supply of fresh water.

Canada's resource causes a crisis in the American-Canadian relationship until the countries are at war. Eastland thinks of himself as civilized and humane but he soon finds that violence can brutalize even the best of us until we find ourselves behaving as brutes. And then neither patriotism, nor all the economic power of the world's superpower, nor all its advanced military technology seems able to save it from itself. for the more brutish we become, the simpler our needs for short-term gains. Tushingham has forecast a disturbing possiblity of climate change which may already be upon us."


11 April 2006

R. Scott Bakker’s definition of sorcery

sorcery— The practice of making the world conform to language, as opposed to philosophy, the practice of making language conform to the world. Despite the tremendous amount of apparently unresolvable controversy surrounding sorcery, there are several salient features that seem universal to its practice. First, practitioners must be able to apprehend the "onta," which is to say, they must possess the innate ability to see, as Protathis puts it, "Creation as created." Second, sorcery also seems to involve a universal commitment to what Gotagga calls "semantic hygiene." Sorcery requires precise meanings. This is why incantations are always spoken in a non-native tongue: to prevent the semantic transformation of crucial terms due to the vagaries of daily usage. This also explains the extraordinary "double-think" structure of sorcery, the fact that all incantations require the sorcerer to say and think two separate things simultaneously. The spoken segment of an incantation (what is often called the "utteral string") must have its meaning "fixed" or focused with a silent segment (what is often called the "inutteral string") that is simultaneously thought. Apparently the thought incantation sharpens the meaning of the spoken incantation the way the words of one man may be used to clarify the words of another. (This gives rise to the famous "semantic regress problem": how can the inutteral string, which admits different interpretations, serve to fix the proper interpretation of the utteral string?) Though there are as many metaphysical interpretations of this structure as there are sorcerous Schools, the result in each case is the same: the world, which is otherwise utterly indifferent to the words of Men, listens, and sorcerous transformations of reality result.

10 April 2006

Albino moose near Drayton Valley, Alberta

Of course, this has nothing to do with design or the occult. Well, unless you're a shaman, maybe…

This is intended more for the Canadian readers to check out, and I've found more images here. Canadians know just how freaking huge moose are: Huge. Huge. Huge. (I know it's relative. Piss off.)

I do not know who took the photos originally, so if anyone does, please let me know. Thanks to Sheri for forwarding them to me.

06 April 2006

1,500-year-old pyramid discovered beneath Mexico City

Archeologists have discovered a huge 1,500-year-old pre-Hispanic pyramid in a working class district of Mexico City after digging into a hill used every year to depict the crucifixion of Christ.

The unnamed pyramid has the same sized base as the giant Pyramid of the Moon at the famous archeological site of Teotihuacan, an hour's drive northeast of the capital, which is known as the "City of the Gods" and is Mexico's biggest ancient city.

…continued via Yahoo!

05 April 2006

Chaos = Order: WUSTL physicists make baffling discovery

Reposted in its entirety, via Washington University in St. Louis:

Pandemonium on demand

By Douglas M. Main

April 3, 2006 -- "Da police are not here to create disorder; dere here to preserve disorder." — Richard J. Daley, Chicago mayor, explaining to the media the role of the police during the riotous 1968 Democratic National Convention.

Police keep order. That's why, for example, they issue tickets for "disturbing the peace." Thus the only logical conclusion to Mayor Daley's famous quote above — other than dismissing it as the result of a tangled tongue — is sometimes disorder spawns order.

Sounds impossible, right?


According to a computational study conducted by a group of physicists at Washington University in St. Louis, one may create order by introducing disorder.

While working on their model — a network of interconnected pendulums, or "oscillators" — the researchers noticed that when driven by ordered forces the various pendulums behaved chaotically and swung out of sync like a group of intoxicated synchronized swimmers. This was unexpected — shouldn't synchronized forces yield synchronized pendulums?

But then came the real surprise: When they introduced disorder — forces were applied at random to each oscillator — the system became ordered and synchronized.

"The thing that is counterintuitive is that when you introduce disorder into the system — when the [forces on the pendulums] act at random — the chaos that was present before disappears and there is order," said Sebastian F. Brandt, Washington University physics graduate student in Arts & Science and lead author of the study which appeared in the January 2006 edition of Physical Review Letters.

Insights into other realms

The physicists' research is not only hard to grasp for non-physicists, but puzzling for physicists, too. As supervisor Ralf Wessel, Ph.D., Washington University associate professor of physics in Arts & Sciences said, "Every physicist who hears this is surprised."

Research on the role of disorder in complex systems is quite new and not well understood. Wessel hopes that one day its theoretical understanding will be better than it is today.

Nevertheless, the researchers believe the model could provide insights outside the realm of theoretical physics.

Neurons, for example, have been modeled as interconnected, or "coupled," oscillators because of the way they interact with one another. In the model, coupled oscillators can be imagined as being tethered to their nearest neighbor, thus influencing their movement. Neurons, on the other hand, may display repetitive electrical activity that can be influenced by the activity of neighboring neurons.

Though it's a bit of a stretch, admits Babette K. Dellen, Ph.D, the study may help to solve previously unexplained observations. Dellen first studied the model system in a neurological context. She set the project aside and then Brandt joined the research group and became intrigued with the concept of disorder-induced synchronization and delved more deeply. Finally, the three put the paper together.

Dellen explains that neurons can exhibit synchronous activity in response to a stimulus. To this point, she said, nobody has come up with an adequate explanation. And Wessel said, "Maybe the details of the neurons are completely irrelevant. Maybe it is only a property of oscillators."

Oscillators like a child on a swing

A vital similarity between the model system and neurons is that they are both "nonlinear" — meaning that there is not a linear, or straight-ahead, correlation between the applied force and displacement. In other words, the oscillators in the model may be likened to a child on a swing. Within a small range, the child will move in constant proportion to how hard you push them — if you push twice as hard, they will go twice as far. But nearly all complex systems in nature, like the physicists' model, are nonlinear. Once the child gets to a certain height, pushing twice as hard will not make the child go twice as far.

Neurons are composed of many elements and are typically nonlinear.

"When you hear your favorite music twice as loud you don't double the pleasure," mused Brandt, explaining how one aspect of the brain — hearing — is nonlinear.

While other research has shown that disorder can create order, these studies often involved manipulating parameters within the systems such as changing pendulum length. The researchers say that their work is novel because it involves changing externally applied forces. Thus, they believe, their findings might have potential in the real world, where it would be more difficult to change parameters within the system — neurons, for example — but relatively simple to apply an external forcing.

"This is of course basic research," said Brandt. "But what you can learn from this is that complex systems... sometimes behave in a very unexpected way, completely opposite to your intuition or expectation. It will be interesting to see if the mechanism that we have found can actually be put to some use."

02 April 2006

Secrets of the Matrix, by David Icke

Secrets of the Matrix I
2 hr 11 min 57 sec

Secrets of the Matrix II
2 hr 32 min 8 sec

Secrets of the Matrix III
2 hr 7 min 13 sec


Laugh to change context (or “Laugh to banish”)

Okay, as annoying as I find this, it's equally as interesting. In January, my roommate, Carmen, and her mother, Danielle, ended up watching High Tension. My friend and I watched it some time prior, and we found it lived up to its name. We turned the lights out, ate pizza, and watched a scary-ass movie while it began to storm outside.

However, Carmen and Danielle, throughout the film, would continuously make jokes, spoof the film, and overall just ruin the effect which my friend and I were so eager to enjoy — hence renting it in the first place. We wanted to be frightened, to be transported to that place where we could flinch and gasp.

Carmen and Danielle ruined that effect by making their own context in which they could safely enjoy the film. In doing so, they ruined its intended effect and, ultimately, rendered the film moot.

Just this weekend, a bunch of us watched King Kong. As we'd not seen it yet, the scene with the giant insects on Skull Island obviously set us off gasping and grossing and just generally being icked right out. And again, as soon as something uncomfortable takes place, again started the sarcasm and the jokes. To make light of the poor bloke on-screen being digested alive by slug-things à la Half-Life 2, was to render the scene's power over them powerless.

If they'd remained hush and watched through, the cinematic experience gains hold and you are partially conceiving of the atrocities on-screen in a relative manner. Enough to make you squirm, at least.

This also reminds me of then I attended a screening of The Blair Witch Project years ago, and the fucking kids down in front would maintain their ruccous during the 'frightening' parts of the film. It ruined the overall effect for me, for everyone else, and kept them safe from being drawn into the film and its affects. The overall design and concept of the film would have been a wonderfully frightening time, had the dozen or so teenage twats down in front kept their mouths shut and comments to themselves.

Which in effect brings us to the concept of laughter as banishment. If I try to evoke some sort of monster… please, no laughing.

01 April 2006

Entheogen: Awakening the God Within

"Trailer of the new experimental controversial documentary on the evolution of consciousness, flow, and the collective ... all » mind. Psychedelics have been around for millenea, and unfortunately have been feared and deamonized in the West. This film explores the second wave of interest in psychedelics as the dawn of the new millenium arises. From the ancient mystery cults to 5 day trance parties in Brazilian jungle and Burning man the neo archaic revival is picking up a new momentum. psychedelic, lsd, peyote, ayahuasca, Alex Grey, MAPS, Halpern, Doblin, DMT, mushroom, divination, gaia."