Once: "A catholic boy, redeemed through pain, not through joy."
Cravaggio's 'The Conversion of St. Paul' (via Renee Turner).
Jouke celebrates his birthday.
Breton's Second Surrealist Manifesto (1929)
Dirk found the quote on 'firing into the crowd' in Dada and Surrealism: Texts and Extracts, but unfortunately the quote is published out of its context. Fred came up with a link to what might be the complete text of the manifesto, adding a footnote in inimitable Pyenesque:
"... If I were an artist capable of making Gestures, I would use babelfish to translate several Important French Surrealist texts into English. However, since I am not an artist, I will have to settle for congratulating myself on having come up with the idea of doing so. Perhaps one day I will become an artist, at which point I will realize the shallowness and gimmickry of such an endeavor..."
Without further ado, Breton's sentence as found in its natural surroundings:
"It is in fact from the disgusting cauldron of these meaningless mental images that the desire to proceed beyond the insufficient, the absurd, distinction between the beautiful and the ugly, true and false, good and evil, is born and sustained. And, as it is the degree of resistance that this choice idea meets with which determines the more or less certain flight of the mind toward a world at last inhabitable, one can understand why Surrealism was not afraid to make for itself a tenet of total revolt, complete insubordination, of sabotage according to rule, and why it still expects nothing save from violence. The simplest Surrealist act consists of dashing down into the street, pistol in hand, and firing blindly, as fast as you can pull the trigger, into the crowd. Anyone who, at least once in his life, has not dreamed of thus putting an end to the petty system of debasement and cretinization in effect has a well-defined place in that crowd, with his belly at barrel level."
Well, well, well. Surprise, surprise. Note surrealism's dissatisfaction with the 'crowded world' of appearances, its declared 'desire' to navigate a course beyond (or through) the samsaric world of attraction-repulsion, its willingness to adopt a 'simple rule' as its compass...
Nothing doing takes a great deal of practice.
1952: John Cage performs 4' 33" in which the musician sits in complete silence for that length of time.
The Adventure Art page describes the German artist Mario Reis's 'nothing doing' practice:
"Mario Reis also makes "automatic" drawings. He sits in the middle of a landscape, blindfolded, and tries to keep his hands still above a piece of paper. Sometimes for more than two hours. He holds a pencil in each hand. The drawing is made by the involuntary movements of his hands."
And here's a quote from 'nothing doing' on the 17th of February of this year (make sure you scroll down for the sensational 'Buddhist Bondage with Hidden Noise exposed'):
"Since the main cause of bondage in samsara is grasping at a self, the main cause of obtaining the freedom of liberation is the wisdom that realizes the meaning of selflessness."
I ate the ball.
Met with Maurice Nio yesterday to discuss the next phase of the Amsterdam 2.0 project (we are planning to offer contracts for 400 new cities) and talk about a possible 'art project' connecting the memory of Constantijn Huygens' 17th century garden, Hofwijck, to the very chic shopping center that Maurice has designed (at the same location in the Hague).
There are a number of features about Hofwijck which could make this project very interesting... (The world view of Contstantijn, the world view of his son Christiaan, the immortalization of Hofwijck in a poem by Constantijn.)
Listening to Pan American and Pan American: 360 Business / 360 Bypass, a side project of Labradford's Mark Nelson. Very hypnotic. Works equally well in the garden (I culled and repotted plants this afternoon) and in the gym.
F-i-n-a-l-l-y got my copy of Masahiro Mori's The Buddha in the Robot from Amazon.
The Epistemology of Velocity
For those times when the more you learn the worse things become.
Learning to play tennis has made me realise that there are various ways that tennis can be taught, and aware of the fact that I might not be learning (with the lessons that I've been getting) the 'best' possible way. There are so many factors to think about -- the right stance and footwork, the various grips, the correct stroke, the right timing and strategy -- and each of these factors requires simultaneous attention. A rank beginner like myself naturally trusts the wisdom of the first coach and method encountered ("This is how one learns to play tennis."), but as time goes on, and you start looking around a bit, you notice that not everyone agrees on which factors are important (or even desirable) to learn in order to play well. In other words: the more attention you pay the more confused you get.
Could (some forms of) tennis instruction be like (some forms of) psychotherapy, contributing to their own complexity in order to maintain their own existence?
Standing out amongst the best coaching manuals in print (ie. Vic Braden's Tennis 2000, Al Secunda's Ultimate Tennis, Peter Burwash's Total Tennis) are two resources which advocate a sort of anti-coaching, an awareness that instruction can really get in the way of our bodies playing excellent tennis: Timothy Galleway's The Inner Game of Tennis and Oscar Wegner's 'You Can Play in Tennis in Two Hours' (out of print but available sans illustrations online). My tennis partner and myself have decided it's not too late to unlearn what we've learned. We're going for Wegner's 'two hour' approach.
The Ball Poem
by John Berryman
What is the boy now, who has lost his ball,
"Located on the city's periphery, the balls operate along similar, curiously disciplined lines. The teenagers are divided into two large crowds: Side A and Side B -- depending on which favela -- or slum -- they live, with each side containing gangs from around half-a-dozen different slums. The gap in the centre is called the Corridor of Death and it is here that the ball changes from being just another nightclub into a place of combat.
"'A DJ gets to know his crowd because we play the same balls every weekend so we understand the rhythm of their fighting,' he says. 'I take great pride in controlling my crowd. If I see they want blood, I'll put on a fast funk tune, but if they need cooling down then I'll soothe them with something for the girls.'
"The fights are not free-for-alls. When the music reaches a crescendo the DJ gives a signal to begin. Only then do groups of 10 to 20 funkers cross the gap to drag their enemies -- for some reason known as 'Germans' -- into the Corridor of Death and over into their own side. If one is captured, they are beaten, often unconscious, unless a fellow gang member rescues them. This ritualised form of fighting is known as Mortal Kombat, after the notoriously violent computer game. No one knows who first used this name to describe funkball fighting, but somehow it stuck, not least because it is so apt."
Mike Tyler came to visit. We sat looking out over the water and talked about S. divinorum and Huxley's Doors of Perception, about flotation tanks and Prince tennis rackets, about Venezuela and Vancouver, about mutual causality and film making, about having kids and home schooling, and everything we talked about seemed to reflect our changing attitude towards art and our own practice. We drank Genmaicha and Mariage Frere's Pai Mu Tan Nr. 2307 and I prepared Norman and Valerie's macrobiotic Sunday breakfast dish for our supper.
I shouldn't have been suprised that Mike already knew that Christiaan Huygens (1629-1695) had once speculated about people living on Jupiter and Saturn (even their shipbuilding). Turned out he has a copy of Huygens' book Cosmotheoros (Originally titled: 'Wereld-beschouwer, of Onderzoek over de Hemelsche Aardklooten, en Derzelver Cieraad').
Mike and I share a lot of similar interests and at the same time differ in interesting ways. A perfect combination for learning new things. I learned that I should read Robert Harbison's Eccentric Spaces and listen to Morton Feldman's For Philip Guston and Sofia Gubaidulina's 'Jetzt Immer Schnee' and I am certain to do that.
I bought some deep blue delphiniums for the garden.
And been thinking about those funk balls.
And was reminded of the chill I felt when I heard, eight years ago and from a first hand source, how fundamental religious leaders were showing young boys in Pakistan's remote feudal villages video clips of Madonna and telling the boys what they were seeing was the American devil.
So I wonder, what is it about today's (globally pervasive) media which makes its symbols seem so tame at home and so wild and perverse when seen on vacation?
Art is not really perverse, can really never be perverse. In Rotterdam we don't take Breton's adage about 'shooting into crowds' for real or Mortal Kombat for real. But in Rio kids take Mortal Kombat for real.
Even when modern art is 'performed' for real, even when it's 'extreme' and ends in pain or suffering, it somehow seems to belong to (is tamed by, is legitimated in) its context. This is the crazy thing about (modern) art.
But a funk ball is not art. It is art which has been misappropriated (appropriated outside of its context), a spatial-anachronism.
My first reaction: funk balls are 'caused' by the global pervasiveness of 'our' media. But this, of course, is ridiculous. Funk balls are like natural weather forms, emergent structures dissipating energy and material, part and parcel of a complete (archaic) ecology. The media symbols it uses are just gloss.
Went to the library to borrow Louwrien Wijers' monograph on Ben d'Armagnac. The online catalog said that the book was in but the library appears to have lost it. When I asked what they planned to do about it, I was just given a lot of shoulder shrugging by way of response. Rotterdam Public Library, you should be ashamed.
In a recent email (Which I haven't replied to yet. Sorry Mark!) Mark Kremer drew my attention to a performance the artist did in New York in 1978:
"It is very touching to read what Ben d'Armagnac wrote and said about his art. There is naivety and a strong longing to get close to his innermost feelings. In a number of works he attempted to get close to a near-death experience, for example his performance at PS 1, in 1978, where a cold water spout was aimed at his heart area for 20 minutes."
Home without a book I was forced to look online for alternatives. There is not much online on D'Armagnac (who died before the web was born) but I was able to find a description of his performance in this transcript of a lecture (The Death of the Artist: Extreme Performances in the Art of the 20th Century) which Antje von Graevenitz gave in Belfast in 1997:
"The hermeneutica of the involvement of the viewer through art starts with Aristotle, of course, with his theory of catharsis, and went on to Edmund Burke's thoughts about the Sublime and Schiller's theory about the "Trauerspiel" up to Gernot Boehme's contemporary lectures about "Involvement" at the Technical Highschool in Darmstadt. But none of them mentioned the involvement of a viewer when the artist really dies within the rules of his art work. Can you describe the involvement, as Marina Abramovic tried to do, when she saw a performance of Ben d'Armagnac in 1978?
"Dressed in black, Ben was laying on the white terrace of the Brooklyn Museum in New York, while a hard jet of water constantly splashed down on his heart. His chest went up and down quickly, while his heavy breathing could be heard from loudspeakers. Sometimes his arms moved a little bit, as Marina wrote later. Suddenly nothing happened anymore, nothing moved, no noise...The witnesses gazed at the rigid corpse -- until Ben jumped up and went away.
"In front of the viewers a drama did take place. The artist had had his purification ritual set into a dualistic black and white and a struggle of warmth against the cold. The performance ended with the hero, who conquered the cold, so it seemed. And one should not tell in this context, perhaps, that Ben d'Armagnac really died some weeks later by drowning in one of Amsterdam's canals, because that was not meant as an art work. When taking in consideration the feelings of the viewers of this water-jet-performance one might quote Friedrich Nietzsche's term of "a sudden moment of emotion", in which notions of space and time for the present and the future vanish and a feeling of horror takes over. According to the philosopher, in this sudden moment you will feel the essence of life as during the feast of Dionysos. But Nietzsche never was a witness of art in which the subject of fiction and that of reality were congruent."
More on D'Armagnac when I find (or the library finds) the monograph.
Lygia Clark. Mask-Abyss. 1968.
Overcast and drizzling.
Read no more today. Instead spent hours online searching for (high-tech) sleeping masks (blackout). My body felt a bit better. I was able to return to my training regime.
The (only) other constructive thing I managed today was provide some feedback to Rogério, Gabrielle and Fred of Mount.nl concerning their proposals for a name change for their office. I even suggested a few myself (which I thought were clever URL's for use in the Dutch domain):
Arrived at the Centrale Discotheek bright and early with a long, long list of CD titles to listen to (by and large glitch and experimental, gathered together from online research and reviews, mostly German or Japanese outings, many published on the Mille Plateaux label) and came away hours later -- quite depressed -- having borrowed nothing.
On the market I did manage to purchase 7 pots of Sempervivum arachnoideum for the garden. (Arachnoideum is the only Sempervivum of which I am truly fond, for its white I think, especially in the winter.)
Back at the studio I ate a big salad and slept until tennis time. On the court I volleyed balls back and forth for two hours. Came home, ate a big bowl of muesli and yoghurt and while it got dark outside read half of The Green Man by Kingsley Amis. This is my first Mr. Amis senior and I must say that its drunken protagonist, Maurice Allington (1969), reminds me a hell-uv-alot of John Self (1984), the drunken protagonist of Money: A Suicide Note, which was my first book by Mr. Amis junior.
(And oddly enough, probably due to the scotch, of my father. Allington:
"... I covered some ham and tongue with chutney and hot sauce and washed the mixture down with a powerful tumbler of whisky and water. It did not look very powerful, thanks to my use of one of those light-coloured Scotches so handy for the man who wants a stronger potion than he cares to advertise to his company. The onions and radishes got me through a small hunk of fresh Cheddar; I had made a good meal.")
I finished cooking some channa dal (low on the 'glycemic index') and froze it for later, drank some GHB (first time in a week) and went to bed.
So what's the difference between denial (distraction, avoidance) and play?
Education. Here's another example of an (improbable) subject slowly reconfiguring a dumb object (me) into a drooling, proselytizing, convert. And against this object's will dammit! The subject's name is Amon Tobin. He's from Brazil. And his lesson is called Supermodified. Yes it's music. Listen to it. As a sequence of sounds it simply defies any attempt at rational classification. Sigh. What a long, strange, trip it's been...
Finished reading 'The Green Man' on the couch last night and within two minutes of having closed it had picked up 'Of Human Bondage,' and carried on reading* from where I left off during Wednesday night's blackout. (Plot. After two years studying art in Paris, Philip realises he'll never be more than a second rate painter -- one of his friends actually calls him 'a sedulous ape' -- and returns to England for his aunt's funeral.) Read a few more chapters in bed. (Plot. Philip decides to give up art and study medicine instead. Goes up to London to do this. There he falls head over heels in love with Mildred, an exceedingly common girl who he simultaneously finds exceedingly vulgar in manner and repulsive in aspect.)
"... He could not tell why he loved her. He had read of the idealization that takes place in love, but he saw her exactly as she was. She was not amusing or clever, her mind was common; she had a vulgar shrewdness which revolted him, she had no gentleness or softness..."
"... She was dreadfully anaemic and suffered from the dyspepsia which accompanies that ailing. Philip was repelled by her flat breast and narrow hips, and he hated the vulgar way in which she did her hair. He loathed and despised himself for loving her."
Complicated, isn't it?
*Cf. Recursive reading.
Earlier, a telephone call from R. gave me an opportunity to enthuse about The Green Man's more hallucinatory passages (Marvelous. Did Amis senior ever have a chance to do serious drugs? Or read Castenada?).
In particular I told R. about the scene where Allington gets a little visit from God. And offers him a drink:
"I got out the glasses. 'I suppose I couldn't get into the passage because all molecular motion outside this room has stopped?'
"'Correct. We're not subject to ordinary time in here. Makes us pretty safe from interruption.'
"'And all radiation has likewise ceased, outside?'
"'Of course. You must have noticed the way sound packed up.'
"'Yes I did. But in that case, why hasn't the light packed up too, outside. And in here as well, for that matter? If all wavelengths are affected, I can't see how the sun can get to us, any more than the sound of the tractor can. Everything would be dark.'
"'Excellent Maurice.' The young man laughed in what was clearly meant to be a relaxed, jovial way, but I thought I could hear vexation in it. 'Do you know, you're almost the first non-scientist to spot that one? I'd forgotten that you were such a man of education. Well, I thought things in general would just look better if I arranged them like this.'"
Time, you see, has completely stopped outside of Allington's dining-room. Who hasn't dreamt of being able to pull off a miracle like this? To stop time and (temporarily) step outside its relentless step? To have all the time in the world to -- as R. put it once -- 'rest and assemble'? And 'rested and assembled' to be able to turn time back on and rejoin the participatory action without having missed a single beat?
Come to think of it, this dream is the exact opposite of ceasing to exist (as in dying) where you (the object) stop acting, stop 'being anything,' stop 'being anywhere,' and the rest of the world (the subject) continues on its merry way...
Edouard Manet. The Dead Toreador. ca. 1880. (Cut up.)
Re: Amon Tobin. Permutation, his previous CD, is also completely f**ked up and hot. Different (more jazzy, drill 'n bass, Brazilian influences?) than Supermodified. I think it goes well with the sultry weather we're having. (And I wonder whether Rio's -- mortal kombat -- DJ's ever spin Tobin's music at their funk balls?)
Re: Clever names for the Dutch domain. While I've been gazing at this weekend's gorgeous moo.nl/ight (JK providing maa.nl/icht in honor of the full moon) and reflecting on the moon's manner of e.nl/ightenment, the very bright Nina has produced what must be the coolest URL by far: no.nl/inear.
Why? Because they seem to be a key to this month's imagery. And because I think we could be more aware how the (bodily) significance of standing up and lying down permeates our language and our thought. The metaphors listed below are copied from Metaphors we Live By by George Lakoff (linguist, author of Women, Fire and Dangerous Things: What Categories Reveal About the Mind) and Mark Johnson (philosopher, author of The Body in the Mind: The Bodily Basis of Meaning, Imagination and Reason).
Sipping green tea, inhaling asafoetida and listening to the calm mellifluous tones of Morton Feldman's Crippled Symmetry.
Languaging and Stress
Visited Jules and Ada for a few hours this afternoon. The conversation was stimulating on a number of fronts. When I brought up Wren-Lewis's theory -- that the post NDE experience or 'living-in-the-momentness' might be due to the cessation of our survival-mechanism's 'hyperactivity' -- Jules offered an interesting thought, namely that the 'before and after' breech might be language related. That is, not what language is used, or what 'languaging' is done, but how 'self' itself relates to language/languaging.
From that point the subject of consciousness and free-will and the work of Benjamin Libet came up. Are we our own masters or not? Could the experience of ND corroborate the notion that there is no 'voluntary behavior'?
"the brain evidently 'decides' to initiate or, at least, prepare to initiate the act at a time before there is any reportable subjective awareness that such a decision has taken place. It is concluded that cerebral initiation even of a spontaneous voluntary act ... can and usually does begin unconsciously."
[B. Libet et al., 'Time of Conscious Intention to Act in Relation to Onset of Cerebral Activity', Brain 106 (1983).]
For a philosophical perspective on Libet's tests see Lars Hertzberg, The Grammars of Will.
"An Indian is the servo-mechanism of his canoe, as the cowboy of his horse or the executive of his clock."
[Marshall McLuhan, 'Understanding Media,' 1964.]
"All great truths begin as blasphemies,"George Bernhard Shaw.
The situationists saw boredom as a social pathology; they looked for its negation among sociopaths.
"The world was a structure of alienations and ideologies, of hierarchies and bureaucracies, each of which they saw as a version of the other; thus they celebrated a madman's slashing of a famous painting as a symbolic revolt against a bureaucratically administered alienation in which the ideology of the masterpiece reduced whoever looked at it to nothing. In the same way, they understood the responsible parade monitor who tried to keep people in check during a march against the Vietnam War as a bureaucratic ideologue enforcing a split between desire and comportment -- and as much the enemy of General William Westmoreland, or for that matter Ho Chi Minh. Both the painting and the war were hit shows; whether a visit to the museum or a march in the street, both turned the spending of free time into the consumption of repression. The masterpiece convinced you that truth and beauty were someone else's gift from God, the protest in favor of the struggle of the Vietnamese that revolution was a fact of someone else's life. Neither could ever be yours, and so you left each show diminished, with less than you had brought to it."
Greil Marcus, Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the Twentieth Century (on Punk, the Heretical and Situationism - pg. 52).
"The effect of electric technology had at first been anxiety. Now it appears to create boredom. We have been through the three stages of alarm, resistance, and exhaustion that occur in every disease or stress of life, whether individual or collective."
Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man.
Alamut.com: 'Leveraging All Distractions.'
Coincidence. Just as I was thinking of the phrase, 'Gone fishing' and its cultural significance, I received a mail from Jouke to let me know that he and Gilberthe had 'gone fishing' until the 25th.
While there are many varieties of fishing experience (bar fishing, float fishing, spinning, fly fishing, trolling...), each calling for greater or lesser amounts of activity and attention, I suspect that there is more difference in the culture of 'who is' fishing than its methods. Fishing in Holland means something quite different from fishing in North America (or fishing in England or France). In North America fishing has something Thoreauesque about it, it represents an escape from modernity's worries, a return to the idyll. Gentlemen fish. Businessmen fish. In Holland, where the whole country is cultivated and there is no 'real' nature to escape to, fishing (especially in the canals) is a completely different game, played by completely different people.
Guy Claxton writes in Hare Brain, Tortoise Mind: How Intelligence Increases When You Think Less:
"When you are spending hours gazing at the red or yellow dot in the water in front of you, all the normal little nagging impulses that are competing for your attention gradually dissolve away, and you are left with the whole field of your awareness resting lightly but very attentively on the float, and on the invisible, autonomous world of water things suspended below it, and moving -- perhaps -- towards the surface, and towards your lure. Your imagination and your perception are both working on and in the water world. Thus fishing is an exercise which cultivates the kind of relaxed-yet-attentive, perceptive-yet-imaginative mode of mind that fosters intuition; and at the same time it offers a metaphor for the way in which such a mental attitude mediates between consciousness and the undermind."
Started and finished Andrew Vachss' Blue Belle, my first 'hard boiled' detective novel (although I think the word 'cartoon' would be a more accurate description than 'novel'). At one point I considered compiling a list of the last sentences of every chapter, but I've decided it's not worth the trouble. Suffice it to say that there is certain 'rhythm' to the writing whereby each chapter ends on a similar note. Imagine hearing an advertising jingle repeated 177 times and you get the idea.
Listening to The For Carnation.
Novels set in North Africa. 'Of Human Bondage' has been pushed (temporarily!) aside and I've picked up Patricia Highsmith's The Tremor of Forgery. Her story is set in Tunisia at the end of the 60's. Stranded westerners 'doing nothing' against a background of creeping attrition: petty thefts, guttural voices, broken cats tails, the stealing of a dog. Books with a North African setting are most definitely a genre in themselves. Highsmith reminds me that I should look again at the books of Paul Bowles. And the two books that I read in my formative years that I now helplessly mix up: The Immoralist by André Gide and The Stranger by Albert Camus (For an interesting note on Camus' work see Alamut, 14.09.99, I Never Knew This: Camus and coffee. Teaching, murder and suicide.
Today's (most interesting) word was 'crise.'
Today's secret word was nano-corporations.
Today's coolest portal was India 123 (useful if you ever need to research sub-continent settings).
And in Rotterdam South, my old black, white and fluorescent-yellow BUY ART NOT COCAINE t-shirt got quite a few thumbs ups and grins during a shopping foray.
Yulong Marlon. Born in Groningen. Son to Jente Klok and Earl Blijd.
Finished Patricia Highsmith's 'The Tremor of Forgery' (while waiting for the news).
The Difference That Makes A Difference
...was for the late Gregory Bateson the definition of information. The difference that makes a difference for me today was starting to play tennis for points -- and oh-my-god what a difference adding that little bit of information makes! Unbelievable! It was as though my partner and I played an entirely different game with each other. What had before been relaxed and fluid became tense and erratic. Difference. Points. And suddenly everything you know falls apart...
It is nice to know that the world still contains the potential for wonder. A friend called me to describe his first Salvia divinorum experience:-- the dose: 0.25 grams of the 5x extract fired up and inhaled in one breath. The experience: extremely rapid disassocation (0 to 100 in a couple of seconds) followed by 'the illusion' that the subject was again in his early teens, sitting on a mattress in his parent's basement, playing a game and talking with his first girlfriend -- the subject's father and 'another person' hovering somewhere nearby.
What shocked my friend, a veteran of many strong substance experiences, was the 'psychotic quality' of the illusion. Throughout the session he remained sitting with his eyes open. And he remained conversing with his 'spotter.' But the conversation he had was taking place 30 years ago -- his spotter's words were the words of a girl living not now but then.
He said, "Imagine what would happen if you got stuck there!"
Duration of the entire session: 5 to 10 minutes. And my friend reports that once is enough. He says he does not care to do it again.
30.07.00: my first Salvia divinorum experience.
I'm for an art that looks forwards rather than backwards.
I'm for an art that is different than yours.
"The nature of this society (The Club of Queer Trades), such as we afterwards discovered it to be, is soon and simply told. It is an eccentric and Bohemian Club, of which the absolute condition of membership lies in this, that the candidate must have invented the method by which he earns a living. It must be an entirely new trade. The exact definition of this requirement is given in two principle rules. First, it must not be a mere application or variation of an existing trade... Secondly, the trade must be a genuine commercial source of income, the support of its inventor."
G. K. Chesterton, The Club of Queer Trades. 1905.
Love and Fishing
I am what I catch.
Ewan McNeil writes:
"Jess and I were on the Capilano River the other day. It was blistering hot, and two guys were catching big salmon with incredible regularity. Two minutes from Park Royal. It was an odd experience for me. People do actually go fishing. You don't have to buy fish. One can catch them. It made me feel like a kid. A real city kid. Having our feet in the icy water added nicely to the experience.
"On the subject of keeping score while playing tennis. This is an inevitable progression that I never liked very much. But somehow I don't think your skill level increases as quickly if you just stroke the ball back and forth. You gotta love a game that has 'love' in its vocabulary. I am reminded of Jessie's fencing lessons. Isn't the essence of the sport to kill your opponent? Seeing Jess and her partner weakly tap away at each other with absolutely no aggression makes me chuckle.
"What strange animals we are."
And Phil Gyford writes to say that the notes on fishing and 'no voluntary behavior' reminded him of Susan Blackmore's book, The Meme Machine. This is true. Blackmore cites both Claxton and Libet's tests in her discussion of consciousness and our 'experience of self.' (See the chapters 'The ultimate memeplex' and 'Out of the meme race.')
..."In most people the selfplex is constantly being reinforced. Everything that happens is referred to the self, sensations are referred to the observing self, shifts of attention are attributed to the self, decisions are described as being made by the self, and so on. All this reconfirms and sustains the selfplex, and the result is a quality of consciousness dominated by the sense of 'I' in the middle -- me in charge, me responsible, me suffering. The effect of one-pointed concentration is to stop the processes that feed the selfplex. Learning to pay attention to everything equally stops self-related memes from grabbing the attention; learning to be fully in the present moment stops speculation about the past and future of the mythical 'I'. These are tricks that help a human person (body, brain and memes) to drop the false ideas of the selfplex. The quality of consciousness then changes to become open, and spacious, and free of self. The effect is like waking up from a state of confusion -- or waking from the meme dream."
Phil Gyford's Futurelog.
"[Csikszentmihalyi]... describes the artist not as originator but as the medium through which artworks evolve."
Jeez. I just noticed that Fred Pyen (Metascene) was robbed and beaten at gun point the other day. (August 20, 2000 entry.)
Infernal Little Beasts
I really admire Ortega Y Gasset's essays. I've just finished reading 'The Self and the Other' (Parisian Review, July-August 1952) and I must say I love both his imagery and the mannered style with which he eloquently sets out his points. His writing is beautiful. But where there is sympathy there is also dissonance. While at times his views seem to connect very well to the memetic theory of mind and consciousness that will arrive 30+ years later; at other moments, at least in my eyes, his views seem to miss the mark completely. As an experiment I would like to quote (and annotate) bits of 'The Self and the Other' over the next couple of days. I hope you will be amused by the effort.
"Nowhere do we better observe that the possibility of meditation is in truth the essential attribute of man than at the zoo, before the cages of our cousins the monkeys. The bird and crustacean are forms of life too remote from our own for us to see, comparing them with ourselves, anything but gross, abstract differences, vague by their very extremity. But the ape is so like ourselves that it invites us to pursue the comparison, to discover more concrete and fertile differences."
[Compare Gregory Bateson's story of pulling a cooked crab out a paper bag at the California School of Fine Arts during the 1950's and asking the 'young beatniks,' "I want you to produce arguments which will convince me this object is the remains of a living thing," or his celebrated (and related) question, "What pattern connects the crab to the lobster and the orchid to the primrose and all four of them to me? And me to you? And all six of us to the amoeba in one direction and to the back-ward schizophrenic in another?"]
"If we are able to remain still for a time in passive contemplation of the simian scene, one of its characteristics will presently, and as if spontaneously, become dominant and strike us like a flash of lightning. And this is that the infernal little beasts are constantly on the alert, perpetually uneasy, looking and listening for all the signals that reach them from their surroundings, intent upon their environment as if they feared some constant peril in it, to which they must automatically respond by flight or bite, the mechanical discharge of a muscular reflex. The creature, in short, lives in perpetual fear of the world, and at the same time in a perptetual hunger for the things that are and appear in the world, in an ungovernable hunger which also discharges itself without any possible restraint or inhibition, just as fear does.
[From his remarks regarding the 'simian scene' I strongly suspect that the zoos Ortega Y Gasset visited possessed neither Gorillas (Gorilla gorilla) nor Orang-utans (Pongo pygmaeus), two species of ape which appear to be very meditative in our eyes. Undoubtedly he means the primates at the other end of the size spectrum, such as Pygmy Marmosets (Cebuella pygmaea), the world's smallest monkey (with an average size of 3.6 inches). Very small monkeys tend to live in the manner he describes.]
"In either case it is the objects and events in its surroundings which govern the animal's life, which pull it and push it about like a marionette. It does not rule its own life, it does not live from itself, but is always alert to what is going on outside it to what is other than itself. Our spanish word 'otro' (other) is nothing but the Latin 'alter.' To say, then, that the animal lives not from itself but from what is other than itself, pushed and pulled and tyrannized over by that other, is equivalent to saying that the animal always lives in estrangement, is beside itself, that its life is essentially 'alteractión' (other-ation, otherness, a state of tumult)."
[Scale and behavior rule of thumb: the bigger they are, the more calm they are. (Think of the difference between a St. Bernard and a Chihuahua.) While size obviously is important in determining the pecking order within a social group (William Burroughs called this 'the smallest monkey effect' -- when a big monkey attacks a smaller monkey, the smaller monkey doesn't strike back, but finds yet a smaller monkey to attack...), meditatively speaking, size seems to make a difference irrespective of the pecking order or the degree of external 'threat.']
The essay 'The Self and the Other' is found in José Ortega Y Gasset, The Dehumanization of Art and Other Writings on Art and Culture. (Out of print.)
Gregory Bateson, Mind and Nature. (Also out of print. I've linked to the book's Amazon page because it contains a review by Mitsu of Synthetic Zero. Used copies of Mind and Nature can sometimes be got through Advanced Book Exchange.)
Very small photograph of a baby gorilla (October 2, 1999).
(What? An Austrian entrepreneur? Oh say, can you hear all the tooth gnashing?)
See too: Ubermorgen.net.
(Ha. Ha. Ha. I wish someone would make a movie of this story...)
Economies Have No Morals
Here's yesterday's entry spelled out a bit more clearly (because some of you asked).
Political parties pay big bucks for our votes (buy our votes) not directly but through the collective agency of the advertising and media worlds. That is, they pay the agents that work in those worlds to help them compose and launch compelling messages to us, competing for our attention.
We (potential voters) pay money and attention to watch all the 'paid political announcements' that fill our information landscape. Even if we 'switch channels' to avoid these messages, we have to pay (expend) energy to do so.
There is no moral to this process, to this
At the end of the day, the only thing that we can do is refuse to go to the ballot box. Thus conserving (saving) a little bit of our time and energy for things we believe are more important.
Okay. Now here's where a new agent (a foreign entrepreneur) enters the system, turns the tables around and offers us the possibilty of selling our attention (vote) to the political party that pays the most. Collapsing the whole economy by completely bypassing the 'middleman.' And putting a buck in our pocket for a change.
No wonder some people are screaming.
Had a very nice dinner in Zilt.
Talk About Patterns
Today's the anniversary of one of my favorite Alamut entries of the last two and a half years: Cormmorant Fishing (29.08.99).
Marina + Ulay. Rest Energy. 1980.
Schizophrenia Mea Culpa
Recipe for a Great Experience
Recipe for a Bad Thought
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