Friday 13th November 2009

discretion

i beg you to follow me again down the rabbit-hole of my thoughtcrime. in this episode, i argue that at some point far in our future, original creative endeavor will have been exhausted simply because it's all been done.

to illustrate what i mean, take a piano. any piano. then pick a key on that piano and hit it with some amount of force, and hold the note for an arbitrary amount of time. there, you've composed a bit of music. a very simplistic bit of music, but it'll serve.

now repeat the experiment above, but this time adding another tone—either in parallel or in series—again arbitrarily. the complexity of our musical composition has increased by some factor due to the larger number of options (number of piano keys, plus the volume and duration of the incremental tone) we have added with the additional strike.

continue in this manner, evaluating with each additional strike of the keys whether the piece (a) continues to build toward, or (b) has achieved a "sufficiently artistic" (definition t.b.d.) end. if neither, alter something about what you've done or add a new note. if (a), repeat. if (b), halt. see? it's an algorithm.

you must agree with me that there is some theoretical maximum human endurance for absorption—four hours? ish?—of a single musical work, no matter its beauty, and given the limits of the number of keys available on a standard piano (most have just the eighty-eight), of human fingers both in quantity (most have just the ten) and in key-striking speed measured in notes per second (fifty at a sprint? shot in the dark). also, we must assume that to human ears there is neither an uncountably infinite spectrum of volumes (you can't tell the difference between 76.393 dB and 76.394 dB no matter who you are, you pretentious audiophile) nor an uncountably infinite spectrum of tone durations (ibid., 38.08 ms and 38.09 ms).

if you grant me my assumptions, it follows that the theoretical number of works of music that can be composed is countable, which is to say, given a sufficiently long amount of time and a sufficiently large amount of humans willing to slog through them, we'll write them all. sooner or later, any interesting tune you can hum will have already been composed, and you'll be in violation of someone's copyright.


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Thursday 11th June 2009

what i learned in that place where i went

we say things like it's a small world without feeling their full meaning.

the world is small only in comparison with such things as the rest of the galaxy, which is itself only small in comparison with such things as the local supercluster. we're to the point in our development as a thinking species where we can observe objects that emitted some bits of light near the beginning of the universe, and the light is only now reaching us. and light is fast, dig? if my calculations are correct it takes light approximately one year to go one light-year; do you know how long it would take you, even taking the entire journey at the fastest speed any human has ever gone? beyond the scope of supercluster one could take two, maybe three meaningful (however gargantuan) steps up, and half a dozen or more on the way down. we live near the bottom, and on the scale to which we are accustomed, the world is pointedly—almost arrogantly—large.

thank you for following so far; it's important you understand where i'm coming from if you're to understand where i'm going. it's a matter of using the appropriate scale. though it's not saying much, the difference between (1) the immensity and permanence of the rock we're all floating on and (2) my own unimportance and brevity is more than the meat between my ears can process. and yet it is precisely this difference that made each bite of greek food, each sight of stacked ancient marble, each step taken on age-worn stone, each smile on the face of the girl i love—all so small when taken individually—so large when viewed through the lens of what i'm used to.

this is what i learned: we're each so small, and each so temporary, but because of this each moment and every inch we have just becomes that much more meaningful. where we are, everything matters except you. you are exactly as self-important as you think you are; it is just your scale that is wrong.

i'm sorry, what was your question? … 'how was greece?'

pretty frakking swell.


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Saturday 30th May 2009

okay, not a greece post

i justify this entry by saying i discovered this while on the nine-hour leg between seattle and heathrow, courtesy of british airways' in-flight entertainment.

the empyrean, by john frusciante. if you can afford it, buy it; if not, beg/borrow/steal it.

this album is style with substance, effing sublime, and—as he claims—is best served loudly in a dark room.


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Thursday 28th May 2009

blog bless the greeks

let this serve as an opening bookend to what will inevitably be several posts about the effing greece trip.

it is time for an unordered noun list.

  • greek food!
  • greek food. i mean, seriously
  • ouzo?!
  • inbred kittehs
  • long hikes and almost-sunburns
  • siestas
  • ingenious monks
  • culture, and history and stuff
  • a healthy dose of perspective

ahem. w.r.t. this last. the world is enormous, beautiful, and full of everything. i just can't even begin to explain the immensity of what i feel. it's like this: take the biggest deepest breath you can, force the air in till your lungs hurt from it, and then in your utter engorgement imagine how much air there is left in the sky. the most you can contain is nearly enough to rupture you, and yet is absolutely nothing.

more soon.


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Thursday 14th May 2009

the pros and cons of everything

as usual i'll tell you what i'm talking about.

i have this thing—this … this condition, if you will—one of the symptoms of which is that i am not a big-picture person. i understand things by breaking them down into bits as small as possible, and comparing these smashed-up tiny bits against what i already know. it's quite an involved process and i'll spare you the details, mostly because i don't know them. save us both some time and just label me a deductive reasoner; it's a shortcut but it'll do for our purposes.

i'm getting to the point. the above-referenced album by my uncle roger is what they call a 'concept album,' and follows a meandering—and at times, apparently aimless—path, by assumption: it models the dreams of a married middle-aged man, in real time.

under this assumption, it's no surprise that the entire album is disjointed, incomprehensible, and apparently aimless. but only when you consider the parts, independently of the whole. seriously: read the lyrics for the entire album, and you'll see what i mean. but the whole! ah, the whole. as the last track clicked into place for the first time, i was actually close to crying. actually misty-eyed. for the first time, i saw the world as the other half saw it. and yes, i'm talking about you, you bizarre opaque inductive types.

i'm still getting to the point. as opposite as my brain and this album apparently are, i love it, and cannot get enough of it. everything i am, it is not, and vice versa. maybe this is a case of opposites attract? i can't figure it out.

the point is this: i have no bloody idea what the point is; i just want you to listen to the album, and maybe you'll understand me one quantum more.


p.s. the first ninety seconds of track two. i implore you, go forth, trusting me, into the musical bliss that awaits you.


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Saturday 7th February 2009

[sic]

weird weirdness can always be found within the urban dictionary.

'to knowledge your knowledge, you will deal equally with everything within your cipher, which gives birth to wisdom that is showing and proving. everything is everything, which equals one. equality gives birth to wisdom, and mathematics do not lie.'


i cannot tell if the above was a submission that went through a translation bot first, or if someone, somewhere, sought to convey meaning with precisely this string of words. i've been thinking about this lately—the relationship between words and meaning—for various reasons. one such reason is my wife, who is now engaged in a fight to the death with a master's rhetoric program; you would not believe the depth and reach of some of the books in her pile right now, and on the most abstruse topics. another such reason is this collection of goods, any one of which takes frakking forever to compose, takes away the easy option of just saying what i mean, and makes me think directly about what it is i mean to say.

is it even possible for a human to think, without thinking in words? ideas are, as i construct them, really effing abstract; however, for the idea to be useful i need to understand it myself, and/or convey it meaningfully to someone else—requiring words, which are if not totally concrete, then at least far less abstract than the original idea. is it like converting from analog to digital, where no matter what, you lose something in the conversion? or maybe the recipient of the converted idea has a corresponding upscaler built in, so that they may fully reconstruct the original? do our brains contain codecs for meaning?

i understand this is all very aimless and lah-dee-dah and will sound horribly pretentious at your end, and that's not my intent. honestly i sat down tonight and was just going to post that urban dictionary link and have a little chuckle. i have no idea where all this came from. but now the idea is in words, and i have conveyed it, dig?

'language is the liquid / that we're all dissolved in / great for solving problems / after it creates the problem'
(modest mouse)


p.s. 'mathematics do [sic] not lie.' (you had me at mathematics.)


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Tuesday 25th November 2008

today i learned the same secret applied independently to two people living on opposite sides of the world.

THE WORLD IS CRAZY and made just a bit smaller by this little knot that ties us all together; this profoundly satisfies me.


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