30 October 2006

Oct/Nov 2006 links

'crunchies' = tank-era cannon-fodder (dTongue)
'cue burn' = extra wear where deejays cued songs (dTongue)
'food' = person marked for death by gang (dTongue)
'wall dog' = billboard painter (dTongue)
'woodshedding' = solitary jazz practice (dTongue)
'hamburger bomb' = plastique disguised as burger-patty (dTongue)
'hurry-up syndrome' = haste-made waste (dTongue)
'jizz' = species' visible profile (dTongue)
'trunk-or-treating' = rural halloween tailgate party (dTongue)
Way belated: Month-old GetYrWarOn and Riverbend
Detailed anonymous Google/YouTube gossip (blog via Fim)
Oscars Create New Truman Capote Biopic Category (new Onion)
Fun new toons (NYer)
GIs fire 275k bullets/day in Iraq? (iSteve-stats)
BeerXML (arcane via Fim)
Will Wright profile (NYer via Fim)
'God wink' = cosmic coincidence (dTongue-vshort)
'ground truth' = empirical weather (dTongue)
'red-light fever' = mugging for tv-camera (dTongue)
JamesJoyce search engine (experimental) (GgCoop via jm)
Analogies Bush Has Drawn Between the Iraq War And Assorted Punctuation Marks (dYeti)
Critique of network Nobel coverage (dYeti-friv)
Condi lies about Jordan (aAard)
USA's Arab mouthpiece ranks #56 (aAard-vshort)
More ObL/W convergence (aAard)

29 October 2006

Sociobiological ethics

my favorite paragraph
of EO Wilson's 'Sociobiology'
is where Robert Trivers demonstrates
that any species which can
recognise individuals
should evolve towards
(because selfish individuals
will be held accountable)

because it supplies a cornerstone
for any future
leftwing evolutionary ethics

not me-first libertarianism
but honor-first superchivalry

where (eg) lying to get ahead
is unthinkable

but i've yet to see this clue
fleshed out into
the full, necessary
blakean christianity

in which personal experiment/experience
is the driving force
unconstrained by those damned
social 'braces'

acknowledging we've been bogged down
for some millennia
in inauthenticity
that has been overriding our finetuned
genetic wisdom

encouraging non-conformity
local experimental communities

exploiting the internet
to hand government back
to the people

eliminating corporations'
bogus claim to privacy
so communities can freely
monitor their ethics

one stubborn quandary
that bugs me still
the nanny function

whether the state steps in
when individuals behave dishonorably

or instead insists
the victims learn
to defend themselves...?

The Tree of Life as a spreadsheet

consider a spreadsheet of
just a single cell
of type 'TREE'
whose value
is the particular real Tree
we're all living in/on

now split that cell
across two rows
with the new lower cell
life before humankind

and the new upper cell
human history

(subdivide further
as desired)

or instead
split the Tree
across two columns
with left representing (say)
Earth's western hemisphere
right the east

so when we merge these splits
into a four-cell spreadsheet
humanity's western-hemisphere history
(cell A1)
is empty before c20,000BC

or we can multiply the columns
without limit
effectively zooming in
on narrower and narrower
ranges of places

or, ultimately
assign one (or more) column(s)
to every creature
that's ever lived
with one cell each
of type 'PLACE'
and optional additional
variable cells

but since most lifespans
are one-billionth the height
of the full Tree
this wastes a
of empty cells

so normally we filter out
a few individuals' columns

most often generalising
timeless placeless interactions
between abstract persons
noting only significant
relative changes

28 October 2006

Exercises for prose stylists

(some of these may be too hard
or even impossible)

(you score extra points
if you manage things so subtly
that readers don't even notice)

emotional morse

using only 'DUM', 'dee'
and punctuation
(eg dee-DUM DUM-dee-dee, DUM DUM DUM-dee...)
convey the rhythms
of three negative emotional states
three positive states
and three mixed or neutral
(eg negative: criminal executing plan
positive: schoolkids on fieldtrip)

now find words to fit each rhythm
that describe a person or group
in that emotional state
so that the rhythms subtly reinforce
the description

now try using a positive rhythm
while describing a negative state
and vice versa

write a scene that alternates
villain's and victim's
points of view
with appropriate rhythms

translate passages
from your favorite authors
into this emotional morse

emotional color

imagine assigning a color to every word
based on its emotional connotations
(eg 'viper' a poisonous yellowgreen)
and picture the pages of every book
with each word replaced
by a patch of its own color

some authors strive for colorless prose
others for color extremes

some are scrupulous about
subtle color patterns
others unconsciously coarse
or chaotic

try to suggest an emotion
without using obviously-colored words
or even using oppositely-colored words
(cf Lynch's 'Blue Velvet'
drawing menace from Anytown USA
or the opposite
an innocent scene
built despite menacing wordchoices)

experimentally add
appropriate and contrasting rhythms

the 4th dimension

real places have histories that offer
depth of context
which authors may or may not

describe a real or imaginary
town or neighborhood
so that the features mentioned
in sequence
to its broad history
(eg 'Farmers regularly plow up
arrowheads...' for the
precolumbian era)

choose a sequence of living citizens
with one biographical detail each
so that the recent history of the town
is recapitulated
(eg 'Wilbur lost his wife
in the flood of '27')

explain a complex situation
from scratch
by introducing the characters
one by one
and giving a new
piece of the chronology
with each
(lecarre's 'mission song' is exemplary)

set a scene entirely in terms of
the ultimate fates of its
(eg 'this car will have 3 more owners
in the next 12 years
before being recycled')


make a list of good points
and bad points
that are currently stirring debate
in the town

give a god's-eye view
at some particular instant
of some particular day

so that each of these
good or bad points
is subtly illustrated
in the doings
of a scattered set
of citizens

(eg 'Bobby has snuck into
the toxic waste dump
at the edge of town...')

26 October 2006

The physiology of will

perhaps the most sinister trend
in the fiasco of 20thC social science
is the near-total disappearance
of the topic of will

wm james gave it a whole chapter in 1890
but more recently
the predominant characteristic
of college-educated liberals
is the weakness of their wills
as if
the sinister 'They'
can't abide
strongwilled liberals
preferring bloodless eunuchs
like Chomsky or Nader

and marginalising anyone who manifests
a streak of Blake
(or Christ his Tyger)
as emotionally unstable
tying gentilepeople in knots
of guilt over Original Sin

while Their secret societies'
satanic initiations
require ritual shedding of
guilt and conscience

a process mirrored more graciously
but slowly
for the deeply spiritual
as karma-burning

(joyce had miraculously mostly achieved this
by 1904
but silently, cunningly
exiled it into his work

with an occasional attested oral slip
systematically marginalised by Ellmann
as emotional instability)

but how strange
that our nervous systems
so easily hand themselves over
to others' wills

how unfamiliar
the physiology of mind-wrestling [broken link there]
as we strain to resist
Their persuasive evil

what might it look like
in an nmri scan?

the most elegant design
ought to employ
one of the two available brain hemispheres
as acting-agent-of-the-Other

but i think too
the muscles of the will
must be mainly in the face
especially around the eyelids
showing worry and strain

(wilhelm reich taught an exercise
for breaking down
character armor
involving slow alert 360-degree
rolling of the eyes)

25 October 2006

Revaluing US currency

in 1960 france revalued its currency
so that 100 old francs
equalled 1 new 'heavy' franc

(i tried and failed
to find the ?fleming quote
where bond briefly enjoys
being a millionaire
via old francs)

and i'd like to see the usa
revalue 10 for 1

effectively rolling back prices to 1946

so that dollar stores
would again be dime stores

forbes 400 us billionaires
would be reduced to 21

and pennies made of copper
would again be cost-effective

Classifying song-lyrics by content

i think 'no scrubs' by TLC
was where i first noticed
the recent hiphop renaissance
of mostly-female songwriters
using black street speech rhythms
to broach novel themes
(is Beyonce the official
black Joni Mitchell yet?)

and i've been trying to imagine
what idiosyncratic themes in my own life
might be amenable
to proustian jonimitchelling

and then rereading
this old unpublished page (no real poll)
about how Sims spend their days
made me wonder if a
combinatorial inventory
of potential song-themes
is possible?

eg imagine a wiki
that tries to classify
all existing song-lyrics
this way

(or: what variables
would you have to add to The Sims
so your Sims could re-enact
each category?)

(or: how would
individualise each of these categories?)

indexed maybe by time of day:

evocations of dreams
analysis/criticism of dream themes/content
(joni: why do you dream flat tires?)

waking from a dream
being awoken by: un/familiar noise/person/animal
awakening in un/familiar place
feelings about this/these place/people/things/pets

awakening to worries/no-worries
remembering/adjusting to recent lifechange
(eg partner gone)

prepping for (unpleasant) duties
can't wait for something good coming (west side story)
household chores (mrs bartolozzi)

off to work
transition: home to vehicle to workplace
no vehicle/walking
going-to-work songs
not going to work, looking for job, no job wanted

observations of good/bad things in world, and their causes
interactions with strangers
interactions with vehicles
encounters with friends/enemies/acquaintances
(expressing feelings, un/friendly jiving)

workday songs-- bosses, coworkers, machines, customers, economy
daydreams, goofing off, sabotage, pilfering
breaks and lunch
end of workday, vacation

heading home (transition: workplace to vehicle to home)
stopping off for drink (bar cliches)

reunion with housemates (relationship problems: confront or escape)
no housemates (loneliness, pets)
getting nagged, nagging
being appreciated/respected/recharged or not

challenges of parenting (problem kids, problem parents)
politics (armchair qb, community activism)
family outings: park, movie, restaurant, shopping

dating (anxieties, fiascos, hopes)
drinking and drugs


getting ready for bed

23 October 2006

Issues and opinions on the Tree of Life

pick an opinion
on the yahoo zodiac
and color green
all statements that agree
with that opinion
red those that disagree
yellow if they're mixed

when the opinions vary
along a dimension of liberal/conservative
make the liberal pole green
the conservative red

now consider an individual lifeline
on the Tree of Life
stereotypically green in youth
redder with age

different issues are first addressed
at different ages
(joyce illustrates this in 'portrait')

and in youth
(or youthful maturity)
various different opinions
may be experimentally adopted

extraordinary intelligence
may discover a deeper pattern
that switches conditionally
between green and red

now zoom out to the branch's immediate family
and its community
and track the patterns
of conformity vs rebellion

contrarianism for its own sake

alternation of generations

then zoom out spatially
to see the community's
unity or diversity
vs its neighbors
(wars normally fought across boundaries)

and whether opinions are evenly balanced

and whether the minority is
clustered or dispersed

out to the geographic antipodes
where the given issue may or may not
even be of any interest

and zoom back chronologically
to see how opinions evolved
from ignorance

or whether they've polarised artificially
only in this epoch of inauthenticity

note largescale cycles
between liberal and conservative

opinions that have gone extinct

wars of conquest that convert
opinions en masse

20 October 2006

(Repost) Masks of self on the yahoo zodiac

most concepts
on the yahoo zodiac
suggest a visual image

or at least
a 4D kinesthetic one

and even when the
corresponding to the concept
is physically far away
we can manipulate the image

create plans for it
ponder its structure
and even cultivate
new habits
towards it

but when the reality
behind that concept
re-appears physically before us

it's like an empty mask
being filled by a real face

that may or may not
exactly fulfill
our expectations

our images of
are a specially problematic case

because we hate to
disappoint the expectations
of those we respect

but the face
that re-appears behind these
masks of self

is wholly untouched
by most
mental reprogramming

boomer adults still act out
infantile ego-patterns

therapists rarely
gain any real leverage/purchase
on the roots of clients' neuroses

but krishnamurti
an approach via href="http://robotwisdom2.blogspot.com/2005/12/meditation-on-tree-of-life.html">meditation

negatiating with
the face itself

not just the mask

18 October 2006

Adler's Syntopicon on the Tree of Life

the staggering success
of wikipedia
in integrating contributions
from thousands of volunteers

offers an inspiring model
for any number of similar

like a people's OED
(oxford english dictionary)
collecting literary citations from every era
for every word in english (or better
for all languages)

or a people's syntopicon
tracing the greater literary debate
across every era
for every idea
in the full history of ideas

we can picture a star on the Tree of Life
for every published first edition
and for a given OED-word
color only those stars
that use that word

or more usefully
that use it
in a particular sense

and ditto, then
for the history of ideas
coloring each book-star
that discusses a given
more-or-less general

in our ideal
radial ontology
each general idea
would have one star
in an inner orbit
and each more-particular idea
an orbit farther out

eg Adler's 103 Great Ideas
imply 103 inner stars

while his subtopics
add thousands of outer stars

and among the 14 'signs'
of the yahoo zodiac
each of adler's great ideas
may be debated
in several different signs
each from their local perspective

an ideal history
on the Tree of Life
might trace all threads of debate
to a single original

but more realistically
most ideas crystalise slowly
from uncounted vague approaches

(books may
an idea
long before they ever

we might also light stars on the Tree of Life
for every occasion when a branch
either uses an idea
(eg in making a decision)
or ponders an idea

and books could
be ranked
by how often their readers
used or pondered
their ideas

(eg most philosophers' ideas
are never used
and rarely pondered)

15 October 2006

Local 'mini-blogs' for Web2.0 sites

instead of simple
content-rating schemes
that aggregate/average ratings
down to least-common-denominator

i'd like to see web2.0 sites
widely implement local 'mini-blogs'

that reformat just the content
rated highly by those minibloggers
you choose to subscribe to

along with their comments on that content
and, as well
those comments of others
that they think worth blogging/passing-on

so instead of a
degrading popularity contest
you can seek out
local-to-that-site 'pre-surfers'
whose tastes resemble yours
to filter the content

and then pass on
in your own mini-blog
the best of those several
that you subscribe to

so flickr should turn their 'faves'
into feeds/blogs
with bloggable comments too

and slashdot and digg
could solve their
cream-sinks problem
by allowing mini-blogs
that reformat both the best posts
and the best comments
on a single scrolling page

and the poems-of-the-day sites
(or any x-of-the-day)
if they allow mini-blogs
would be effectively allowing
that they might even charge to have

or google groups
could inject new life into netnews
(instead of bleeding it silly)
by encouraging netnews buffs
to 'promote' the best postings

and since these services
are more-or-less generalisable
perhaps a meta-web2.0-service
could supply customised mini-blogging
to sites that prefer not
to wrestle with it themselves...?

13 October 2006

Brainmaps, Ulysses, and the yahoo zodiac

"Kidneys were in his mind..." --James Joyce

ever since Herophilus (300BC)
anatomists have speculated
on the location in the brain
of specific patterns of thought

with nmri scans now able
to objectively pinpoint
increased activity

but i'm skeptical how far we can get
in unifying this nmri data
without first introspecting
a general model of thinking

that such introspection
is the domain of novelists
is illustrated best by Joyce's Ulysses
where every sentence
in Bloom's stream-of-consciousness
represents an explicit joycean hypothesis
about how thoughts evolve

for example
cartoonists regularly parody brainmaps [eg]
by offering diagrams
of how some celebrity
or some class of persons
allocate brain regions
to characteristic topics

so we could tally
what percentage of Bloom's thoughts
concern his past vs his future
his business vs his family
science vs art
Molly vs Martha

but the idea of the yahoo zodiac
is to challenge the AI community
to exercise their novelist's imagination

by mapping out
the sets of concepts required
for any sort of thought

so with Bloom's kidneys
we can imagine mapping
all Bloom's favorite foods
vs an average Dubliner's
or all Bloom's favorite activities

and we might envision
tracing those differences
down Bloom's biographical 'branch'
on the Tree of Life
to their (possibly freudian) origins

and in the same way
draw concept-maps
for each of Bloom's 10,000 explicit thoughts

and from this beginning
eventually gain a purchase
on the unification
of those nmri brainmaps

10 October 2006

Highsmith's 1960 "This Sweet Sickness"

How Kelsey sees himself:

prince charming
falls for annabella at the ball
and secretly builds her
a beautiful new castle
while keeping his identity hidden
under a modest disguise

but when he finally comes
to claim her hand
he finds a hideous troll
has gotten there first
and cast a spell on her

the prince could simply
slay the troll
but if he hasn't first
broken the enchantment
there's a risk she might blame him
for the loss of her hideous beloved

so he maintains the secret castle
as a shrine to her perfection
and tries in letters
to discover a formula of words
that can awaken her from the spell
not omitting
frequent insults about the troll

but the troll sees the insults
and rushes to the old palace
to challenge the prince
but no one knows where he is just then
(worshipping at her shrine)
except a servinggirl, Effie
who'd once secretly followed him there

SPOILERS (highlight with mouse to read)

so Effie tells the troll where to go
and in the ensuing fight
the troll is killed

now the prince dare not
let annabella learn
he's the one who's killed her husband
so he flees the shrine
leaving the dullwitted sheriff
to inform her that
a mysterious stranger did the deed

the prince meanwhile consoles annabella
with growing hopes
and starts building a new shrine/palace

but when he then finds
she's married yet another troll
his mind becomes unhinged
he blames and strangles Effie
and leaps from a tower:

"Thinking no more about it,
he stepped off into that cool space,
that fast descent to her,
with nothing in his mind
but a memory
of a curve of her shoulder, naked,
as he had never seen it."


Highsmith's version
isn't told explicitly as a fairy tale
but rather from the pov
of a charismatic young scientist
in 1950s new england
whose fairytale delusions gradually
spiral out of control

he's Highsmith's least likeable protagonist yet
like in some early Nabokov novella
and there's precious few
nicely observed details, alas
to keep the reader's interest
(though that Nabokovian last sentence
quoted in the spoilers above
almost makes it all worthwhile)

and in retrospect, too
a charming portrait of Annabelle
comes into focus
as a modern girl
who runs from suffocatin' shrines
frankly preferring trolls
but still sufficiently flattered
that she keeps her conquered prince
on a long leash

06 October 2006

"Visit forum for site-feature"

google groups
and gmail
have yet to match
the 20+ year old conventions
of usenet-era email
for interleaving comments
with the '>' quoted text
being commented upon

gmail uses ajax
to hide the quotes
evidently presuming
most quotes are included
only accidentally
and so punishing
sophisticated writers
with unsophisticated readers

but how tortuous it is
to try to send them feedback

so it would be
in a web2.0 way
(or better: web n+1)
if a rightclick on gmail's
'show quoted text' link
offered a popup menu that included
'visit forum for site-feature'
where you could read
others' comments on (eg)
this gmail design-feature
and add critiques of your own

Dynamic radial ontologies on the Tree of Life

by 'ontology' we mean
any network of linked nodes
each node representing a concept
and the links representing
relationships between concepts

we're primarily interested in
universal ontologies
where every possible concept
has at least one node

very few truly universal ontologies
have been attempted
and these are all therefore
arbitrary and idiosyncratic

ontologies are conventionally
visualised as trees
nodes having multiple children
and usually multiple parents as well

(Roget's Thesaurus and its ilk
mostly limit parents to one)

but trees have sides/edges
and middles
and visualising
coloring any set of nodes
(eg, all the concepts
pondered by Fred on Friday)
requires unnecessarily/meaninglessly
distributing these visualised colors
nearer or farther
from edges or middle

so we'll replace the conventional trees
with radial ontologies
branches spreading outward
360 degrees from a center
and colored sets of nodes
consequently become
uniformly random

even the most ambitious
universal ontologiy
is necessarily skewed
toward a more-or-less narrow
of time and space

but we can turn these limits
into a virtue
by elongating the circle
into a vertical cylinder
time advancing upwards

and even embed the cylinder
along a human's wandering branch
on the Tree of Life

now a colorised set of nodes
can belong to an individual
at a definite place and time

and their lifechanges
(eg what Frida is pondering
at every moment)
becomes a flickering of colored threads

05 October 2006

Contagion and cure on the (ascii) Tree of Life

x = red, o = green


o o
o o
o o
o o
x o
x o
x o
x o


x x
x x
x x
x x
x o
x o
x o
x o


x o
x o
x o
x o


xo xo
xo xo
xo xo
xo xo
xx oo
xx oo
xx oo
xx oo
Bloom Stephen

Finnegans Wake

x o
x o
o x
o x
o x
o x
x o
x o

Tradecraft and faith in leCarre and Highsmith

le carre's new 'mission song'
is getting mostly positive reviews
praising its unprecedented good humor
but they neglect what seems to me
its happiest virtue:
tradecraft is back

for the first time since Smiley
JlC offers his special delight
of showing how things must work
behind the veil of official secrets

this time from the novel perspective
of the spies' own house translator

in my 11-dimensional
rating system for thrillers
tradecraft is collaped into infotainment

authors using their novels to make
unfamiliar domains
painlessly familiar
with Patk O'Brian the acknowledged titleholder

a related dimension
is 'texture'
which can be as mundane
as scents and sounds 'painted on'
to enhance realism

(Graham Greene famously
traced his characters' routes
in person
noting plausible details)

because it's a peculiarity
of human memory
that we can easily recognise
and appreciate
that a detail is appropriate

but only the rarest novelists' minds
can summon such credible details
(rather than obvious cliches)
on command

the 'nicely observed detail'
for an experienced reader of fiction
brightens the page

and even one such
detail per page
is an occasion for gratitude

so Patricia Highsmith's
1965 'The Story-teller'
is cause for celebration

profligately piling on
almost one detail per sentence
(did they come so easy for her?
or did she work that much harder?)
maintaining our fascination
thru an unhurried exposition of the plot

but the astonishing eventual payoff
is a profound parable
on The Artist's Faith

for the story recounts the
Job-like trials
of a writer of thrillers
who researches a plot
by walking thru the motions
of having murdered his wife

and then of course she's disappeared
and his playacting
increasingly incriminates him

but at any moment
he could defuse those growing suspicions
simply by explaining the truth
while he chooses instead
to live out the full drama
as if he were guilty

keeping true to his muse
and tracking events and reactions
as the whole world seems
to be rising up against him
real relationships destroyed
his future imperilled

so that the reader screams
'make this stop!
just tell them!'

and i'm reminded
of one of Joyce's paradoxical claims
that he had greater
than any modern man

which the catholics
(against all evidence)
have used to argue
that he was always secretly catholic

and he contrasted faith with doubt
declaring the world to be
suspended in doubt

every choice an existential crisis
leading the world either
towards heaven or hell

and i think Joyce's Faith
(as the world screamed
'make finnegans wake stop!')
was simply that life
can become more heavenly

that Earth wasn't created
as an inevitable human hell
where an artist could only shrug
like vonnegut's cynical
'hi ho'

so it alarms me to see
lately across the blogosphere
a growing association between progressive politics
and the universal religion-bashing
of Dawkins&co

because real faith
is infinitely better than cynicism