Thursday, May 19, 2005

Fundamental theorem of arithmetic

Finding prime numbers is like factoring infinity.

Humans are a single life form

cams churning
darting metal bearing cascade through the tunnels
a river of metal and heat carry nutrients here and waste there
the asphalt extends its greasy grip

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Organized Living

Man... I ended up wandering into a Southern California big box retail outlet today, but one of the yuppie ones. Organized Living. A rather apt description of the culture it represents. This store was filled with more plastic shit designed to contain and subdivide other shit than you could shake a stick at. It's like meta-materialism. But organized people are better parts of the organization... or the organism, the mechanized parasite that feeds on the children of parking attendants. Have a great day.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

the long walk of death

The entrenchlings of organized academia have denied access to myself for the past two months. In that time I wrote four essays. "What Happened to the 'Marketplace of Ideas'? Social implications on Civil Liberties.", "The Politics of 'beyond being: A Criticism.", "The syntactic correlates of functionalism.", and "The Phenomenological Foundation of Hegemony: Limitations on Identity and Liberation in Marx and Hegel." The day after I turned in the fourth paper I sat down to read a few passages from Bertold Brecht's "Kalendergeschichte." Something unenforced and enjoyable. It had been a long time. Within a page I felt a bit nausieated. Was everything I worked on not only useless but actually restricting my own creative and perceptive potential? Intellectuals often say they are attempting to "figure things out"or "make sense of the world." The evolution of experience towards categorization has been extensively figured into all "fields" of science, psychology, philosophy and literary studies, and the effects perhaps exhaustively documented. Having said that, an answer of "it's better than nothing" seems inadequate and unjustified.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

DARE - way cooler than that grade-school crap.

The Dutch have done it again. They're opening up a new avenue of freedom for the mind, except this time it has nothing to do with psychedelics or paid attention from a woman. The Register reports that Dutch academics have allied together to create a DARE, an initiative to create free access to scholarly publications to all. This doesn't make subscription journal services very happy, of course. But academics know better than to let that sway them, as proven by such other free and successful research archives, like the Semantics Archive, founded by Chris Barker at UCSD. Why restrict knowledge when it is only the rebuttal of former arguments that create improvement?

Hopefully others catch on. As much fun as it is to Google search something, stumble across publication titles and then sign into my VPN account with USC to access the desired repositories, I get the feeling that a freer and more organized knowledge base will be more enjoyable to all involved.

(DAREnet is still mostly Dutch language only, which makes me happy to have learned German. If you're wondering, 'zoekken' will get you to a search page. Many articles are however in English, so three cheers to American linguistic imperialism.)

Friday, May 06, 2005

Microsoft IS a Major Problem.

For a while now, I hadn't thought much of Microsoft or Microsoft users as much more than a minor mistake, a joke that seems almost too absurd to be true. (The recent Microsoft is a Major Problem post just provoked laughter.) Who was I to care? I, in my isolated tower of the superior operating system and peaceful computer use, had no need to think of such bad jokes. And yet at long last, the honeymoon is over. I feel the pain of being part of that elite, and now I want blood.

Whose blood do I want? The developers of the Trees Program, who have given up on any further work on supporting OS X, despite the main developer himself being a Mac user, because they don't have enough funds to do so? No. The people who had convinced me to make the switch in the first place, seducing me with demonstrations of its not only clean but beautiful performance? No. The hegemons at Microsoft themselves for imposing such fascist tyranny in the land of computing? Slightly.

But the real enemies here are the users of Microsoft. I'm sorry, but they deserve all the viruses and worms that have been created. No, they deserve more. In 1995 it was no wonder that Microsoft had curried so much favor, but to keep supporting the hegemon a decade later, when not only Microsoft's flaws are evident but also when far better options exist, is to perpetuate its evil. So, a pox upon your houses, Microsoft users; a pox, and as many viruses and worms possible until you are forced to accept the truth: Microsoft is a major problem, and if you're one of its customers, so are you.

From the Microsoft Virtual PC site: "Windows running on a virtual machine is less susceptible to viruses than Windows running on a PC. It is unlikely that a virus will affect the Mac OS or Mac files..."

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

The free culture of the electronica movement.

I have never really been a fan of electronic music. Growing up in Southern California, my taste in music was taught to be loyal to ska, punk and the emerging indie scene. Anything else was not only dismissed, but held in contempt for being of a lesser genre, one far less sophisticated than the one that I held my loyalty to. I never thought much of rap, avoided it, and all I'd ever heard was the emerging pop bling bling crap on the radio. To me, it seemed that the genre must have gotten its name from dropping the c in front of it. But worse than rap was electronica, techno, trance, dance music; whatever name it had, no difference--it all sounded the same to me. And it had no words. Surely this is not music, I thought.

I'm not sure exactly when my mind changed from rigid to fluidly embracing, but I am glad for it. In some ways I became less critical, and in others more so. I am more open to trying anything once, and more selective of what I will listen to twice. Gone now is my blind loyalty to the Southern California scene (which is a misnomer anyhow as the gangsta rap scene is also a big player in the area, but not where I grew up, in the culturally exclusive suburban sprawl), and in it an appreciation for electronic music. Not just electronic music and certainly not all. A lot of electronic music is really bad and does indeed sound the same, but so does a lot of indie music.

Good electronica, however, reaches a level of stimulation that the muted pop hooks of the SoCal punk/ska/indie seems unfit for. There are interesting things to be heard in those genres, but for different reasons. Electronica (from now on let's assume I mean the less repetitive mindless bass beats, the 'good' kind) functions much like a game. The artist starts from one set of beats and rhythms and slowly layers them, modifying each so slightly, and you as the listener try to focus on each layer, each individual placement (of both note and tempo) of every beat. And yet the artist distracts you with a pop hook so that while you get carried away on that, you often miss the subtle change in the bass/drum beat, and with that the entire song changes, and once you realize what has happened, it becomes very noticeable just how much has changed. That's why electronica does not usually depend on vocals because it does not need to, much in the same way that jazz and classical music do not. (I would say that for a lot of punk/ska/indie this is different, vocals have become a vital instrument to those genres; what percussion is to electronica, vocals have become to punk/ska/indie.)

Part of the success of electronica, I think, has been its ability to support itself, its artists, and its listeners without needing the music industry. This and jazz are the closest thing we come to freedom in music because they are not reliant on the industry that in many ways is just a virus. It took rock first, now bastardizing the genre for the sake of pop, movie soundtracks, commercials. The music industry controls both production and distribution (a practice that should alert suspicion). But electronica has been mostly untouched by that. Artists don't seek major distribution in 30-second commercial ads, and therefore the genre is not expected to conform to making music more friendly for such a medium (with some exceptions of course--remember that horrid cover of the already despicable Bryan Adams song, something about heaven or other...yeah). They make money off of fans who appreciate their work, their innovation. The most popular electronica artists are certainly not nearly as wealthy as the most popular of pop (say...Aphex Twin vs. Jessica Simpson even). So why do they do it? I can only guess at the motivation. But I think electronica serves as a beautiful model for what all of music can be (and was before the commoditization of audio culture). Look at this wonderful underground culture! They make, share and mix recordings, and the original artists don't seem to mind at all. In fact, this practice is common amongst the artists as well. And it's promoted experimentation and innovation; who cares if you can't sell it to a record label to play it on the radio when your core audience doesn't listen to the radio?

I won't try to argue any supremacy of one genre to another, but for now let me, a former hater of all but my small microcosm of Southern California rock, attest for the good in good electronic music (and rap, the off-air kind). And let that serve as a testament to the promise of a free culture, one not owned by fat men who have lost the joy for life and humanity to be able to appreciate the beauty when the artist has pushed him/herself beyond anything known, when the artist has the courage to explore that dark part of the forest and invites you to follow along.