Showing posts from September, 2009

Limits, the Penultimate, Thesholds. Love Part 2.

The Last Drink?
A mediocre love is worth more than a great friendship because love is rich in signs and is fed by silent interpretation...a mediocre or stupid person, once we love that person, is richer in signs than the most profound intelligence. Gilles Deleuze, Proust and Signs
Writing about love last time reminded me of something Deleuze and Guattari wrote a few years back, which had a profound effect on me. If you have no idea who Deleuze and Guattarri are, Google will reliably tell you. Deleuze in particular has written some of the most important books in the past 100 years, in my view. He died tragically by falling from a window, which the coroner called suicide but which friends such as Michel Serres claimed was more likely a result of him losing his breath and stumbling (he had a respiratory condition).
One of Deleuze and Guatarri's insights was into the nature of limits, and how important they are to the way we value things. We use limits in every part of our lives, usuall…


Artwork from the trobairitz, or female troubadours
Love is strange. Nobody's quite sure what it is, and if you read dictionary definitions for example they tend to describe love as some form of much stronger affection i.e. it's not defined in itself but in terms of something else, normally affection.
In the medieval era, the nobility developed a conception and practice of love sometimes called 'courtly love', although it was rarely called that in its day and what it exactly was is still debated. Many modern ideas and images surrounding romance and love stem from this time. It was not usually a love between man and wife but rather between noble men and women. It was secret, and not sexual, with the aim being to achieve a new type of relationship that sat somewhere between erotic desire and transcendent experience.
It seems a strange set of ideas and practices to the modern world, where love and erotic desire for example are usually felt to be two sides of the same coin, u…

Zen and the Art of Archery

I remember spending a lot of time in my 20s reading D.T. Suzuki's wonderful books about Zen. At that age a lot of young educated people dabble in stuff like that, they're brain dead from 12-15 years of formal education and are looking for some ray of enlightenment that transcends the textbooks' worth of facts they've just had crammed in their heads, and would show the world of work as some great delusional thing which they're right to be scared of.
But Suzuki's books stand the test of time, as does Zen. Zen and other Eastern philosophies, approaches and techniques have always suffered in the West by their adoption by misfits and the margins of society, who see in them some mystical pathway out of what they see as their sordid capitalist lives. But if you can get away from all the incense-burning hippies and study it dispassionately and objectively, the wisdom of a lot of it is seriously profound. And entirely practical and able to be adopted without changing out…

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Counterpoint (P.S.). Queen.

Freddie Mercury. The man that Rolling Stone called a 'fascist'. You can see that evil fascist grin. Alternatively you can do as I do and wipe your arse with Rolling Stone.
If you want a brilliant example of counterpoint in pop music, look no further than Queen's Killer Queen (below). I keep coming back to them because the genius of what they did is still passing a lot of people by. It's still being 'unpacked'.

First and foremost Queen were smart. Smarter than any other band. Not because they had degrees, but because they were one of the few bands who understood that intelligence and Barnum and Bailey style entertainment are not separate. Other bands are either 'serious' (and sing about 'issues', with more or less wit and art), while others are all about pure entertainment. Queen shat all over that distinction.
Critics hated them, and many still do. They trod all over the sacred, pure boundaries of rock and jazz and blues and folk and vaudeville, …


A canon, in Bach's own hand.
Not to be confused with the ABC radio show of the same name.
For years listening to music, my first love and probably what I'm best at, something has always gone straight to the core of my being. A particular type of music, or technique, although that's an ugly word for this. And it's taken me a long time to find the word for this specific deep existential jucies flowing thing.
It's counterpoint. Also sometimes called contrapuntal music. Any dicitionary definition will do, this one from fits the bill:
The technique of combining two or more melodic lines in such a way that they establish a harmonic relationship while retaining their linear individuality.
[Before going on, it's interesting that the ABC radio show of the same name was created to 'counter' the perception that the ABC is a hotbed of socialist propaganda. So they botched that as a program title, because it doesn't mean that at all.]
Counterpoint done w…

Wallkin' the Talk

Brushing aside capitalist temptation.
One of the interesting things about language is that it's a bit of a seductive trap. The same could be said for art. You can build whole worlds in language or in art, and they can be so powerful that you can easily forget that they're not fully real.
If you want your writing or your art to change the world, which has been a sort of touchstone in various periods of history, including our own, the thing to realise is that art and words do create a world, but more like a blueprint for people to follow. They create an entire world for people to inhabit in their imagination, which then gradually unfolds and becomes reality in some way.
Traditional critical and political art often has this backwards, thinking that art and words can intervene directly in current events. That sort of thing is nearly always embarrassing, especially when viewed in hindsight, like soviet realism. Art and words work slowly, they build up a world over time, they do the &…

Theores of 3d Part, um, Something

The theory of 3D vision I've been working on is as good as done, but will be too long for here. Might upload it somewhere if anybody can be bothered reading, once it's done.
The really interesting thing to come out of it is that I'm now sure that the assumption that we all see in 3D in everyday life is actually wrong. So here we are assuming that 3D in pictures and movies is actually just a reproduction of everyday vision, when in fact our everyday vision is nothing of the sort, a lot of the time.
Once I realised that, it became possible to see even 2D things in '3D', including bog standard TV.
Anyway, will get it uploaded somewhere soon, if anybody's interested.


Isaac Newton's actual apple tree, the tree under which he was sitting when an apple fell on his head. (Actually that never happened, he was inside watching through a window.)
Did anybody else learn the story at school about Newton sitting under his apple tree in the garden, and an apple falling on his head, prompting a eureka moment about gravity? As is often the case, it turns out this is a bit of an embellishment of what went on, but he did observe apples falling from his tree and derive ideas about gravity from it.
Once you do even just a bit more physics, which most people don't now, you suddenly realise how profoundly misleading that story is as a teaching tool. It has led generations of students to think of gravity as some sort of force that makes things fall down, towards the Earth. "What goes up must come down", "Newton would think he had made a mistake, to see those young men and the chances they take", etc. This isn't what Newton was saying at …

What a Fetching Suit.

It can be quite a revelation to see the human body stripped of skin. Extra points for anybody who can name all of those numbered muscles.
Biology was always the 'girls' science' at school. Girls did it, it was the 'softer' science, while real men did physics and chemistry, and once upon a time even geology at the senior levels. (Well I'm told that happened, I'm yet to meet anybody who actually did geology at that level, which is a pity and probably why creationism makes inroads.) I did quite a bit of biology, but it wasn't until recently that I happened to be looking at some anatomical texts - not a euphemism for girlie mags - and was immediately struck by the muscle system. See the picture above.
When you learn about how muscles work at school, it's very often through the eyes of the physicist, with levers and fulcrums and mechanical advantage. So the muscles are usually looked at in pairs, with one stretching and one compressing, as if muscles liter…