There is no patron saint this month.
This is the end of the bicycle path (the only way to get here is either on foot or by bicycle). The beach is straight ahead (on the other side of the dune). No one takes their bicycle beyond this point. You can park your bicycle in the racks provided on your left. There are about a thousand people here already. Enjoy your stay.
Paris 1968: Sous le pavé, la plage.
Recursive Reading in 4 Steps: (1) Put aside 'The Gold Bug Variations' in order to begin 'At Swim-Two-Birds'; (2) Put aside 'At Swim-Two-Birds' to start 'The Crying of Lot 49'; (3) Finish 'The Crying of Lot 49' and return to 'At Swim-Two-Birds'; (4) Finish 'At Swim-Two-Birds' and return to 'The Gold Bug Variations'.
It's a Small World
It's A Small World is located on the left as you walk through Fantasyland from Liberty Square, across from Peter Pan's Flight...
The net result of this morning's cool (literally-we're in the middle of a heat wave) 5 A.M. plea to the Surfer Goddess for information on Disney's 'It's a Small World' attraction is that I'm shocked and flabbergasted at the number of online guides that so many unpaid people have worked so very diligently on--all in the name of Mr. Disney's 'little kingdoms'. (Google lists at least 4947 matches for 'Disneyland' and at least 5379 matches for 'Disney World'.)
There are guides to the toilets (the Happiest Potties on Earth); guides to the radio frequencies and codes that the company uses (Scanning the Land); guides to Imagineer 'easter eggs' or 'Hidden Mickeys' etc. (all external links).
Maybe this is a simple question. But why all these would be Michelin's, Fodor's, Baedeker's and Berlitz's to someone else's 'Coney Island of the Mind'? (Thank you, Mr. Lawrence Ferlinghetti, for the phrase and the following:)
In nature it's called the 'cuckoo principle'* and it reflects (perhaps) the BIGGEST OF ALL QUESTIONS for the artist (and marketeer): How do you foist the nurture of your little kingdom onto someone else?
[*Note on artifaces and arms races: Cuckoos have evolved a parasitic strategy (brood parasitism) of laying their eggs in the nests of other species. Host species have fought back by evolving methods of distinguishing their own eggs (read: their own concerns) from cuckoo eggs. In turn cuckoos have evolved eggs that mimic the eggs (read: mimic the concerns) of their hosts. End of note.]
Think: Thomas Pynchon. Think of all the interpretation, all the papers and books, all the annotations and indices, all the codices and companions, the atlases, directories and what have you that have been constructed and compiled over and above Thomas Pynchon's 5 books. (Google this morning lists at least 3924 matches for 'Thomas Pynchon'.)
Would you not say the man is a genius?
It's a world of laughter, a world of tears,
Help! I'm supposed to be on holiday and still I feel like there is about a million things that I can, want and should do... all at the same time... a textbook ADD nightmare...
Imperfect discipline on my part, I suppose.
Do We Need This?
Today's Secret Word is Syndication (external link).
Swans float deep in Dutch ditches.
This afternoon I went plant hunting at one of the local nurseries and returned with a large decideous azalea. I potted it in 'normal' potting soil but now, looking this page on growing azaleas at the University of Missouri makes me want to dig it up again (external link)...
Outlet and Invitation and Opportunity...
"There will be data. There will be many."
The antithesis of a world made smaller through myriad connections (remember: Everything.com's adage 'profuse linkage is the key') is a world that is rapidly expanding.
In 1923 Charles Fort published a book called 'New Lands' in which he described the phenomenology* of a world--measured not in 'directions' but in 'dimensions':
"Aftermath of war, as in the year 1492: demands for readjustments; crowded and restless populations, revolts against limitations, intolerable restrictions against emigrations. The young man is no longer urged, or is no longer much inclined, to go westward. He will, or must, go somewhere. If directions alone no longer invite him, he may hear invitation in dimensions...
* phenomenology in the sense that Fort gives an exhaustive account of anomalous experience without taking into 'serious' account its psychological origin or its causal explanation.
The last couple of days I've done a lot of work on the Alamut database, played around with the Vox Populi polling service, enrolled as a Amazon associate, started to compile a list of social and ethical 'dilemmas' and read up on analytical drama theory. Links to follow. And I finally joined the neighborhood gym!
King of the Castle
Must add George Orwell's essays to my reading list. This piece (02.04.99) discussing 'undifferentiated brown stuff' keeps popping up in my head and I believe there is a link between his experience 'Shooting an Elephant' (external link) and the Makah whaling story (22.05.99) that needs to be explored.
Absolut Mythos (I)
Their headquarters from 1090 was the Alamut clifftop fortress in the Elburz Mountains, NW Iran... Hassan was a scholar and Alamut, built on a peak of 1,800 m (6,000 ft), held one of the largest libraries of the time... ...Once he had obtained the castle of Alamut ('eagle's nest'), he never left it... In 1256 Alamut was taken by the Mongol invaders, and the library was destroyed....
Source: Ismaili Net (external link).
I like excellent and unusual books from which to learn things. Classics like Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics, Freidman and Felleisen's The Little Schemer and Edward Tufte's graphic trilogy: The Visual Display of Quantative Information, Envisioning Information, and Visual Explanations are all readily available (all Amazon US links).
Other examples of brilliant instruction in book form such as Ralph Abraham's 'Dynamics: The Geometry of Behavior' and George Spencer-Brown's 'The Laws of Form' are much harder to come by.
Intrigued by lemonyellow's reference a few weeks ago to the grammars of Elizabeth Karen Gordon, I ordered The Deluxe Transitive Vampire and The New Well-Tempered Sentence (both Amazon US links) from Amazon UK. They arrived on Thursday and since then have held my rapt attention at meals and before bed.
Point me to educational software that can equal the precision and finesse of Christopher Alexander's A Pattern Language (Amazon link).
Vipassana has its walking meditation (external link). Since I've started running again, I was curious as to whether there is a counterpart practice and a search this morning turned up this Washington Post article on the 1998 Sri Chinmoy 3100 mile race (external link and many typos). These folks run the equivalent of 2 marathons a day for more than 50 consecutive days. Euro note: 3100 miles is just a couple of kilometers short of 5000 km...
Spotting Ed in a health club more than a year ago, Kim asked him whether he was running in the Los Angeles Marathon. He said no. "It's too short," he explained.
"Too short?" she said.
"I run 1,000 mile races," he said.
Rare Information and Charles Fort
Charles Hoy Fort (1874-1932) previously mentioned: 5.08.99.
Before Internet Time -- Vancouver, Canada -- mid 1970's: Imagine yourself in those days and at those latitudes. I was there and I remember how hard it was to find Charles Fort's work and to find others to discuss it with. I considered myself fortunate to even know of the man; I was introduced to his writing through the equally obscure pamphlets of Franklin Rosemont and the Chicago Surrealist Group (who listed Fort as one of the sine qua non American pre-surrealists). I remember it taking me a full year or two of searching before I managed to obtain my own copy of his four books. They were published together in one volume, which I still have (somewhat embarassingly I might add, since I honestly don't remember how I finally obtained it -- it appears to have been liberated from the stacks of the Vancouver Public Library. I'm fairly sure I wasn't the liberator... but if I didn't do it, who did?)
Fort today, resting on my Van Lieshout sculpture.
Later, before (popular) Internet Time, in Holland in the eighties, I learned about the existence of a 'zine' called 'The Fortean Times', which, lacking a subscription, proved difficult to find anywhere on a regular basis. But just the fact that others recognized Fort enough to publish a magazine around his work was very exciting.
Later, at the start of the nineties (Internet Time but Pre-World-Wide-Web Time) I was surprised to discover the usenet group: alt.misc.forteana. So, I remember thinking, this is what the internet can do for marginalia.
Today, in contemporary Internet Time, you gentle reader can order his four books (bundled in one volume) at Amazon or use Deja.com to peruse the archives of alt.misc.forteana. You are a mouse click away from reading the Fortean Times online or viewing the 1080 web pages containing the phrase 'Charles Fort' returned by Google. You can even inspect Charles Fort's grave at Findagrave.com.
Obscurity is no longer an excuse for illiteracy. Times are changing. Be glad.
An Amazon reviewer:
"Fort had the great good fortune to inherit an adequate amount of money to allow him to spend a good portion of his adult life browsing through the stacks at the New York library and collecting the thousands of incidents that comprise the four books in this collection. If there is any unifying thread to this astonishing compilation, it is that Fort despised dogmatism, both religious AND scientific. (The title "LO!" must stand as one the shortest sarcasms ever.) Fort's writing is bound to infuriate the literal-minded: he tosses out one inane theory after another, not as possible "solutions" to the mysteries he lays out but as spurs to the imagination (and as hilarious jibes on the hubris of science).
"The four books ('The Book of the Damned', 'LO!', 'Wild Talents' and 'New Lands') in this omnibus volume have no 'theme' other than the presentation of thousands of records from all over the world about falls of unusual things from the sky, astronomic anomolies, anachronous artifacts, odd animal sightings, and every variety of what we now lump inder the broad category 'paranormal'. If Fort wasn't the first person to write on these subjects, he is easily the most entertaining and certainly more critical than the hucksters cashing in on the popularity of the subject today. But the books are more than a resource volume of odd occurrances: they are refreshing doses of a purely American wit, scepticism on a Universal scale, and some of the most iconoclastic musings committed to print."
August 1999 seems to have a patron saint after all...
Patron Saint of the Month
A Bad Movie
Watched David Fincher's first outing, 'Alien 3' last night. Here's the math: bad story + bad acting = bad film.
A Happy Ending
The display of my powerbook G3 suffers streaking down one side -- and I've been putting up with it for months. Ever since I was told by my dealer that all Dutch powerbook repairs must be done at a center in Ireland, I've been postponing the day that I would pack it up and send it off. I found the idea that I'd be without it for at least a week, possibly longer, intolerable. Imagine then, my great relief today in finding a service center in the neighborhood that took it apart, diagnosed the problem, ordered the parts, then put it back together and sent me home with it telling me that the parts to fix it will arrive day after tomorrow...
CARD SERVICES RULE. Their slogan: 'Lifes a puzzle and we're here to solve it.'
Rotterdam, 4:47 AM CET. It's raining cats and dogs this morning.
Overwhelming and Incomprehensible
Contemplation of the internet is sublime (and masochistic).
For another tangent to Charles Fort's life work ("There will be data. There will be many.") and Sunday's observations concerning information scarcity and abundancy see my Alamut entry, 'Beauty and the Sublime' (19.04.99).
From an excellent short biography at the Charles Fort Institute (external link):
"Fort himself had very few friends. He virtually lived as a hermit, chasing references at the library until it closed and writing up his notes at home, pottering over them into the night. Were it not for Anna's insistence that he accompany her to the movies most evenings and the visits from Thayer and Dreiser, he had no social life.
"His books are full of little asides that shed light on his daily life; for example, in Lo! (Ch.18) he says has cut down on smoking and almost given up drinking his home brewed beer because it went flat so quickly. His concentration was quickly soured by doubt, which was rare but drastic when it occurred, plunging him into a depression. Twice, he burned his collection of tens of thousands of notes because "They were not what I wanted." Undaunted, he would begin his exhaustive reading and note-taking all over again, but in a new direction.
"In 1921, the Forts set sail for London, where he and Anna lived close to the British Museum (at 39A, Marchmont Street). For eight years, he undertook his 'grand tour' of the Museum's holdings several more times, at each pass widening his horizons to new subjects and new correlations. He began to think that space travel was inevitable, sending letters to the New York Times on the subject and even speaking on it at Hyde Park Corner.
"Fort returned to New York in 1929, striking up an acquaintance with Tiffany Thayer, with whom he had corresponded. Thayer, a young and ebullient novelist, often visited the Forts, talking into the night, lubricated by home-brewed beer, surrounded by Fort's collection of mounted specimens of giant spiders and objects said to have fallen from the sky and the great wall of shoe boxes where Fort's notes roosted."
Back to School
Made (or paid) a working visit to V2 V2 (external link), together with Henk Heethuis (our interim director at Media-GN) this afternoon. Afterwards we had an early dinner at the Hotel New York and started our discussions about a new curriculum for the MFA.
is just a few hours away and it's cloudy here in Rotterdam.
...lying on the street. It contains $1000.00 Do you send it back to him?
Just do it.
Cycles and Change
The solar eclipse has come and gone. Yesterday morning's cloud cover broke and scattered giving the Rotterdam lunch-crowd peek-a-boo views of a sun swathed in 95% moondust. By early afternoon it was all over and by dinner it was forgotten.*
Italian tourists in Rotterdam.
While the heavenly bodies were lining up to occult, the good Nordin Assabi at Card Services was replacing my powerbook's 14 inch screen in a equally quick 45 minute operation. I was one happy customer with a brand new screen (Hfl. 2,260.00 -- replaced under warranty) who left the shop. On my way to the bus stop I came across this group of friendly Italian tourists, who insisted that I stop and share some smoked glass with them.
Tempo Doeloe Today
JK over at NQPAOFU (aprés occultation picnic) mildly complains about the tyranny of calenders, in this time of 'ubiquity and abundancy'. It seems to me that calenders, whether country or city, private or public, social or cosmic, essentially boil down to two things and two things only: attention and learning. There will be movement and there will be memory of that movement...
*Thank goodness for today's papers for the instant replay. I wonder how many kids will clip the today's newspaper photos and tuck them away in shoeboxes? Or ask there parents for copies of the videos?
...is not a good day for friggatriskaidekaphobes. Or a good day for web searches for pages including 'friggatriskaidekaphobe'. Google hits zero for 'friggatriskaidekaphobe' and AltaVista returns only one. Who's going to follow suit today and help me rescue this word (a legitimate F-word) from obscurity by slipping it into their own weblog?
The Sceptical Inquirer Electronic Digest cites some of the reasons for human superstition about the number 13:
"Judas Iscariot was the "thirteenth" apostle, the thirteenth tribe of Israel was the only tribe left without land, and the ill-fated Apollo 13 space mission was launched at 1313 hours (central time), from pad 39 ( the 3rd multiple of 13) and had to be aborted on April 13, 1970. Practitioners of witchcraft will point out that the number thirteen equals the number of days in the year divided by twenty-eight, the number of days in a woman's menstrual cycle."
And then provides counter examples of Friday as a lucky day and 13 as a lucky number with the following admonition:
"...It might be easy to laugh at such superstitious foolishness, but this same kind of magical thinking operates to support beliefs that can be harmful. It is estimated that the thirteenth of the month costs America a billion dollars a year through train and plane reservation cancellation, absenteeism, and reduced commerce. One can see why philosopher Edmund Burke proclaimed superstition the 'religion of feeble minds.'"
Listening to Beth Orton's 'Central Reservation'.
Fear of Searching
Hmm. Following up on yesterdays plea to 'save friggatriskaidekaphobes', Jessamyn kindly pointed out that there is a lot more web attention for plain vanilla triskaidekaphobes (fear of the number 13) than friggatriskaidekaphobes (fear of Friday the 13th) and sent me 33 URLs (alltheweb) to prove it.
Thank you. Is there a term for fear of information? Fear of libraries? What about the new (net) superstititions? Could we coin a term for 'fear of searching'? Something suitably polyglot?
Following up on the Gates wallet dilemma (have YOU voted yet?) Jente Klok writes:
"If I found a wallet with $1000 in it, I'd return it (and leave it up to the owner to thank me one way or the other). Now why does this become different when I realise that I've found Bill Gates' wallet? Somehow I have a feeling that I could get something more out of this without too much cost to poor Bill. Visiting Bill? Nah, I don't even like the guy. But he could introduce me to some interesting options. Or donate some nice equipment to a cause that I like. But then again, I could return a selection of Bill's private stuff, donate the money somewhere, keep the wallet and some other proof that it once had been Bill's, and auction it after Bill dies.
"Hmm. Guess this is what I'd do: keep the wallet for a couple of days (Bill must be able to do without), ask some good friends for suggestions on what to do with it, mull it over..."
I've been doing my research. Dilemmas are fascinating. One of my favorites is variously called 'The Ultimatum Game' or 'Take it or Leave it'. The sociologist Jon Elster explains:
"Two subjects in an experiment are asked to divide ten dollars between themselves, according to the following principles. First, one proposes a division. If the second accepts, they get what the first proposed. If the second subject refuses the proposal, neither gets anything."
Note that this is not a example of 'one agent cutting the cake and the other choosing which piece they want' (I remember hearing that this was the method that the 80's curator duo, Collins and Milazzo, used to divide their art collection after they separated.) but 'one agent cutting the cake and the other deciding whether or not either of them can eat any'.
"The experiment is done under conditions of full anonymity that prevent considerations of reputation-building or shame in face-to-face relations from influencing the subjects. If both subjects were rational and self-interested, and knew each other to be so, the first would propose that he get nine dollars and the second one dollar, a proposal which the second would then proceed to accept on the grounds that something is better than nothing. What one actually observes is a different pattern. Subjects placed in the first position typically offer something like seven dollars for themselves and three for the other. Subjects placed in the second position typically refuse if offered less than three dollars."
Elster's article is here (external link). Elster proposes a triad of motivating factors in determining an agents behavior, besides (self) interest, taking reason (the idea of fairness) and passion into account. Also of interest are his comments on rational future discounting (preference for choices that give a provide a present reward rather than choices that provide a future reward).
Bought a box of peaches downstairs.
Waste and Hedonism
The city of Rotterdam was struck by another edition of the Fast Fwd Dance Parade yesterday. This annual procession of 'floats' filled with dj's and dancing club-goers is in many ways the poor cousin of the city's summer 'carnival'. But what Fast Fwd lacks in visual glamour and glitter it makes up in volume.
Drawn out of (our normally quiet) studio by the beat, we walked to the Wilhelminaplein, where the organization had assembled the wagons for the start. It was 11 A.M. and already many of the kids looked wasted. Others fortified themselves with pills. The police, sporting white baseball caps specially printed for the occasion, smiled and mingled. Night denizens strutted their stuff. All in all it was a very medieval spectacle. The skies were ominous. There was a wicked wind. Gusts blew the arms of turntables over records.
We waited until the procession left. Following was a small army of street sweepers and cleaners. And I'm again reminded of Robert Smithson's rant to Alison Sky published as an interview, 'Entropy Made Visible' (1973):
"Now, I would like to get into an area of, let's say, the problems of waste. It seems that when one is talking about preserving the environment or conserving energy or recycling one inevitably gets to the question of waste and I would postulate actually that waste and enjoyment are in a sense coupled. There's a certain kind of pleasure principle that comes out of a preoccupation with waste. Like if we want a bigger and better car we are going to have bigger and better waste productions. So there's a kind of equation there between the enjoyment of life and waste. Probably the opposite of waste is luxury. Both waste and luxury tend to be useless. Then there's a kind of middle class notion of luxury which is often called 'quality'..."
There is a lot of litter and littering in Rotterdam. I sometimes wonder whether this is linked to some sort of territorial imperative? A biological response to overcrowding... Like cats marking territory, people needing to leave traces of themselves and their passing on the streets...
Alamut context: 30.05.99
Finally dug up the name of that artist that I've been looking for: Roman Opalka. The man with the number-by-paint paintings. Mr. Opalka started counting in 1965 and hasn't stopped. Committing each number to white paint on canvas. Filling for posterity each successive canvas, leaving no (enemies) gaps or spaces.
The New York Times art critic and obituary writer, Roberta Smith, comments:
"Since 1965, the Polish artist Roman Opalka has been at work on his 1 to Infinity painting, filling canvas after canvas with endless numbers, reciting each number into a tape recorder as it is painted, so that each painting, considered a 'detail ' of a single work, comes complete with a real time cassette of its own making.
"This last aspect of Opalka's undertaking is reminiscent of a proto-Conceptual work by Robert Morris, Box with Sound of Its Own Making of 1961, a small wood cube containing a tape recorder playing a loop of the sawing and hammering involved in the box's construction.
"Contemporary with Opalka's is the work of the German artist Hanne Darboven, who fills page after page with a combination of abstract handwriting and mysterious numerical systems, sometimes derived from the calendar itself.
Conceptualism was variously indulgent, polemical, hilarious, narcissistic, brilliant, but only occasionally moving or wise."
Mr. Opalka's stamina is impressive. We admire the rigor of the rigid, rather austere aesthetic position, unwaveringly upheld through the decades. And, of course (we can be cynical), the artistic reputation accrued by this.
But there are questions: On that fateful day in 1965, did he start with 0 or 1? Why did he start? Why does he still do it? Is it simply a matter of a conceptual principle that got out of hand (conceptual lock-in)? A Pavlovian response to the art world's attention? Or is it a spiritual exercise? (Think: Sri Chinmoy's own 4 million plus drawings and paintings of birds and the Extreme Stamina running which he inspires.) A sort of penance? Or a demonstration that freedom can be found within a strict regime, a strict set of rules?
Maybe we could ask his fellow country-man: Daniel Buren?
2:20 A.M. Bad dreams about death and dying. Woke up. Big thunderstorm outside.
Went to the zoo yesterday. Took some photos of my favorite frog, Pipa pipa. Afterwards walked to the door of 'The Blue Mekong', a highly recommended low brow Thai restaurant, but found it closed for vacation. Ate dinner instead at Dunya, a Turkish place.
Spent time today playing around with More 3.1 (external link) -- an antique outliner for the Mac originally developed by Dave Winer c.s. and recently re-released for free by Symantec. Antique software is the movement of the moment (check out the release of antiques like Acta, Visicalc, Borland's Turbo Pascal and C).
I'm preparing to write a new plan and curriculum for our MFA at Media-GN.
Spent most of the day talking to myself and making notes about the new curriculum.
Later I made a special trip to the Rotterdam Public Library to look for a copy of C. P. Snow's 1959 Rede Lecture 'The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution'. Ha-Ha. Fat chance of finding it there. I should have known better (see: 30.07.99). And it's not online either (at least I can't find it).
Boy, some folks really seem to dislike C. P. Snow (external link):
"Forty years ago, C P Snow, a lugubrious mediocrity who wrote terrible novels and was wrong about everything, gave his Rede Lecture entitled The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution."
Someone said Firefly and we sadly shook our heads.
Afternoon: Visited Dick and Mechtild's apartment on the rainy Java Island (Amsterdam) to dialogue with Dick about the MFA. As the evening wore on (and the rain subsided*) Mechtild cooked dinner and Bert Mulder dropped by.
(Deep Inventory Warning for the Seekers of New News: the info behind the links above is a few years old but still trenchant. Dick's talk 'Designing Experience' dates from 1994 and the second Doors of Perception conference while Bert's talk 'New Media and the Power of Culture' dates from a Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs conference that was held in 1996.)
L to R: Bert Mulder, Mechtild Prins, Dick Rijken.
Blues and Haikus is one of the three CD's included in The Jack Kerouac Collection (amazon US).
Drinking coffee, coffee drunk...
Thinking curriculum, I'm trying to focus in on 3 (or 4) relevant themes and project ideas for the proposed MFA blocks. And I'm open to suggestions. If you could go back to school for 4 X 4 (totally intensive) months what would you want to study? Jouke sent me a mail roughing in 3 topic areas:
 politics (think: net relations and relationships)
Consider the question presented to the user who fires up David Gelernter's Lifestreams demo (external link)
This could be an advertisement for our program. Step right this way if you clicked YES. We want YOU (overwhelmed media professional). Another advertisement: 'If you are not confused you are not paying attention.'
Both ads reflect states of mind (and world) that are the result of content abundancy. You gotta agree that content abundancy is one of the biggest challenges of the media rich world. (For more on this see: Bert Mulder's address cited yesterday.)
I sometimes fear the effect Amnesty International has on my neighbors.
Trivia: Does a list of every book that Art Garfunkel has read (external link) over the last 30 years interest you? At 795 books and counting (as of June 1999) the man seems not only a voracious reader but widely read. According to this list over the last two years Art has absorbed (amongst others) Allan Bloom, Machiavelli, Alexis De Tocqueville, Locke, Dickens, Edward W. Said, Borges, Robert Graves and Robert Wright. But where are his reviews, notes and cross references? (external link courtesy the Drudge Retort)
My Gregory Bateson Tribute Ad
Thinking patterns and metapattens, recognizing relationships, deep structure, the expression of basic forces (MFA curriculum topic 2). A try out:
Bhutan is a small Himalayan Kingdom of about 600,000 people following a Buddhist tradition similar to that previously found in (Chinese occupied) Tibet. From what I understand, television sets are not permited in Bhutan. There is a law requiring traditional dress be worn while visiting Buddhist religious buildings, monasteries, government offices and schools and while attending official functions and public ceremonies. Similarly, all buildings must be built and decorated following the traditional designs.
"One of the most misunderstood policies of the Bhutanese government is driglam namzha, literally translated as "traditional values and etiquette", which has been emphasised since the country's Sixth Plan to "promote national integration and the Bhutanese identity." While the concept of driglam anmzha itself reflects the deep roots of the Bhutanese culture and identity that evolved since the 17th century, the dissidents have described it as a new discriminatory policy to provoke the Lhotshampa population. In the context of today's problem, the loose interpretation of driglam namzha focuses on the dress code and language rule."
The Right to Refuse Service
The U.S. Department of State describes the situation in its 1998 Human Rights Report for Bhutan:
The rapid growth of the ethnic Nepalese segment of the population led some in the Buddhist majority to fear for the survival of their culture. Government efforts to tighten citizenship requirements and to control illegal immigration resulted in political protests and led to ethnic conflict and repression of ethnic Nepalese in southern districts during the late 1980's and early 1990's. Tens of thousands of ethnic Nepalese left Bhutan in 1991-92, many forcibly expelled. Approximately 91,000 ethnic Nepalese remain in refugee camps in Nepal and upwards of 15,000 reside outside the camps in the Indian states of Assam and West Bengal. The Government maintains that some of those in the camps were never citizens of Bhutan, and therefore have no right to return.
A Complex Question Made Very Simple
Do you think that the King of Bhutan has the right to ban television?
And up and down the Entropy Slope we stagger.
Jouke considers on NQPAOFU (18.08.99 external link) the designation MFA:
"MFA. Master of Fine Arts. Fine. Fine like in 'disinterested'; MDA, fine with me. For an artist to be a fine artist (s)he should operate from a distinct, distanced and disinterested position. Whatever holds this position for him or her can be negotiated and has been part of artistic production since dada or thereabout...
"...It is not 'autonomy', like a granted privilege, it is not safe grounds--it is fine competence, an introduction to the world, a wild talent and a wild card, a tag, a signature, it is original artistic license, it is where tricksters belong and how they operate in style. F for period."
To which I replied to him by email (not really picking up the distinction between 'disinterested' and 'autonomous'):
Thanks for your thoughts about the MFA. But I think we should D for Discuss this D for Disinterested stuff; I worry about artists who embrace too much D for Detached turning D for Dumb, and subsequently, D for Destitute...)
And within an hour I'm browsing the following paragraph in Daniel Pinchbeck's Deeply Disenchanted essay about the current Venice Biennale (from Feed, external link):
"One artist at the Biennale hired an Indian fakir, an ascetic, to perform every day. In a small room at the end of the vast Arsenale complex, the fakir was buried under sand for several hours at a time. Peering in from outside, all you could see was the fakir's two brown hands, held above the sand, pressed together in a gesture of prayer. Maurizio Cattelan, the "bad boy" artist who imported the fakir, has a knack for shock effects. Part of his shtick is that he gets other people to do his work for him. It was interesting to see all the visitors staring into the little chamber at the trembling brown hands and laughing at Cattelan's cleverness. Meanwhile, the handsome artist stretched out in the yard outside, chatting with women."
Synonyms for Clever
By way of elucidating the above discussion the English philogist Mr. George Crabb distinguishes between the terms CLEVER, SKILFULL, EXPERT, DEXTEROUS, ADROIT as follows:
"CLEVERNESS is mental power employed in the ordinary concerns of life: a person is clever in business. SKILL is both a mental and corporeal power, exerted in mechanical operations and practical sciences: a physician, a lawyer, or an artist is skilful: one may have a skill in divination or in painting. EXPERTNESS and DEXTERITY require more corporeal than mental power exerted in minor arts and amusements: one is expert at throwing the quoit: dexterous in the management of horses. ADROITNESS is altogether a corporeal talent, employed only as occasion may require: one is adroit at eluding the blows aimed by an adversary.
"CLEVERNESS is rather a natural gift; SKILL is cleverness improved by practice and extended knowledge; EXPERTNESS is the effect of long practice; DEXTERITY arises from habit combined with agility; ADROITNESS is a species of dexterity arising from a natural agility.
"A person is CLEVER at drawing who shows a taste for it, and executes it well without much instruction: he is SKILFULL in drawing if he understands it both in theory and in practice; he is EXPERT in the use of the bow if he can use it with expedition and effect; he is DEXTEROUS at any game when he goes through the manoeuvres with celerity and an unerring hand; he is ADROIT if, by a quick movement of his body, he effects the object he has in view."
* In 1991, Mr. Fred Wagemans, then director of Amsterdam's Fodor Museum, asked me to write an essay about the future of the museum. Instead of an essay I ended up writing an allegorical hodge podge that featured a character called Sir Salar Jang, Maharaja of Hyderbad. Sir Salar was a human magpie, undertaking yearly P & 0 trips from his home in India to London in order to purchase objects that fit within his mysterious collection categories. The title of that text was 'New Collector'.
In 1996 Jouke and I were in a show with Maurizio Cattelan in the Magasin in Grenoble (external link). That was the show where at the last minute the fire marshall forbid our use of straw on the ground so that we had to surround the giraffes in our installation: 'Temporary Autonomous Zoo I: Movable Observation - High View Point' with a couple hundred kilos of dried dogfood instead. The dog food was of different colors and arranged in a camouflage pattern like a sand painting. At the time I was pleased with our very clever solution to the problem.
Another word for cleverness is talent. To run the sort of MFA that we have in mind we need participants already blessed with (and themselves recognizing) a 'wild talent'. Participants with 'wild talent' that are desirous of developing 'wild skilfulness' or 'wild experise'...
Mr. Lewis Hyde has produced an intriguing tale of the 'trickster' in modern and popular culture. Trickster attributes include: 'voracious appetite, ingenious theft, deceit, opportunism, and shamelessness'. See his Trickster Makes the World: Mischief, Myth and Art (amazon US).
Yesterday I ate a ball of ice cream which left me rapturous. The flavor: coconut. It came from a Rotterdam gelateria called Capri and arrived, quite innocently, in my plastic cup as the third scoop of three. My God. It was CHEWY. Amazing!
The season has started to change. With the rain of the last days our short summer is (thankfully) over. The apples are coming. And a visit to the cheese store, a talk with the proprietress, the purchase of a (rather inferior) Le Mont Joux, whets our anticipation of this fall's Vacherin Mont d'Or (external link).
I've started to read a first edition copy of S. I. Hayakawa's 'Language in Action' (1941) a primer on language philosophy and General Semantics. The book feels good (typesetting, cloth covers, paper, binding and smell: I grew up with books that were richly redolent of steamer trunks that they travelled in.) and the writing is simplicity itself. Here's Hayakawa on the fundamentals of communication:
"Indeed, most of the time when we are listening to the noises people make or looking at the black marks on paper that stand for such noises, we are drawing upon the experiences of the nervous systems of others in order to make up what our own nervous systems have missed. Now obviously the more an individual can make use of the nervous systems of others to supplement his own, the easier for him to survive. And, of course, the more individuals there are in a group accustomed to co-operating by making helpful noises at each other, the better it is for all--within the limits, naturally, of the group's talent for organization. Birds and animals congregate with their own kind and make noises when they find food or become alarmed. In fact, gregariousness as an aid to self-defense and survival is forced upon animals as well as men by the necessity of uniting nervous systems even more than the necessity of uniting physical strength. Societies, both animal and human, might almost be regarded as huge co-operative nervous systems."
Rus in Urbe
Mind you, too much 'nervous system' is not good for you. The classical antidote for unchecked sociability, gregariousness and conviviality is to run in the opposite direction screaming until a spot is found for physical reclusiveness and seclusion. Witness the hermits who are satisfied with the 'nervous systems' they have at hand and show no desire to leave their hermitages:
Hasan-i Sabbah refuses to leave Mont d'Alamut.
More: Peter France's Hermits: The Insights of Solitude (amazon US)
I'm doing everything in my power to put off writing the new CV that I promised to hand over to Maurice Nio this evening. Why, I wonder, do I hate doing this sort of thing?
Currently four out of five voters feel that the King of Bhutan does not have the right to outlaw television (receivers) within the kingdom. If you haven't voted in this poll yet please consider this country's (spiritual and cultural) dilemma and vote. Thank you.
* The term neo-calvinism was explained once to me by Mr. Tim May (infamous author of The Crypto Anarchist Manifesto) as the:
"view that one is morally obligated not to interfere with the moral choices of others, that to interfere with their choice between "sin and salvation" interferes in an important way with their moral dilemma."
Considering what the term 'algorithmic expressiveness' means.
Our Prosthetic Future
Ronald van Tienhoven just called. His mother, who's in her eighties and has had eye trouble throughout her life, has just had an operation and lenses implanted. Ronald reports that she now sees like "a young girl". My offhand comment about our 'prosthetic future' elicited Ronald's (deep inventory) pointer to E. A. Poe's The Man That Was Used Up (external link) and the story of Brevet Brigadier General John A. B. C. Smith.
Ronald is a prodigious source of 'deep inventory', always able to produce highly relevant historical and geographical facts to enliven and enrich our discussions. For example, when I mentioned my belief that 'life long learning' is too often interpreted as 'life long retraining' (at least in Holland) and my desire to develop a post graduate program that would allow professionals (like ourselves) to continue 'learning' while maintaining their practice (or "helping the strong get stronger"), Ronald cited the example of Erik Satie, "who went back to school to study counterpoint at 40."
"...Satie started playing the piano at age 7. At 17 he spent a year at the Paris Conservatory. At age 40, already an accomplished musician, he entered the Schola Cantorum. Here he studied counterpoint and orchestration with Albert Roussel and Vincent D'Indy. After three years he received a Diploma marked "tres bien..." (very good)."
"...Satie took himself back to school in 1905, determined to learn, or relearn, his art more successfully..."
Don't you just love it?
To be honest we've never liked the term 'weblog' (or its abbreviated form 'blog' -- sorry Peter -- external link). Logging is an activity that evokes both the 'captain's log' and the 'clear cut' (28.06.99), but just doesn't seem to 'cover the bill' (or dek de lading as they say in Dutch), for what we, and the others that we admire, are currently doing. The captain's log is too formal, the clear cut lacks nuance. We need a better descriptor. A term that evokes narrative: the telling quotidian details and the sublime drama of this practice of ours. A term to mirror the confusion, the context, and the creative potential of our access to all this information. What say you folks for 'web opera'?
Operas are interesting, lots of room for conceptual thinking and design lie within their stately form. And they are reasonably dead as media (which, like dead languages affords us exquisite possibilites for expressing change). As for the links, they come with today's territory. Come to think of it, we might even skip the word 'web'.
So what are we left with? Privately, we say 'attention bastions and mines' not weblogs. Publicly, we say opera.
I've been tooling around editing and uploading for the better part of the day (you know: seriously avoiding serious work). JK over at NQPAOFU (external link) has noticed all the hammering and sawing and says that he misses the term 'smart soap'. All right, bij deze is het terug. Smart soap. What now, a cleaner portal?It's incredible how long you can tinker with words! I've edited and published and re-edited and published the first two paragraphs of 'Weblog Meta' over and over today until (I felt) I had them reasonably right. Last change: 22:10 CET.
I Feel The Earth Move
Two HOT notices: (1) Project Xanadu (external link), the hypertext system that wanted to change the world, has gone open source! And (2) the Xanadu project team is suggesting that their Udanax (Xanadu) Gold codebase, developed in Smalltalk, be ported to Squeak (external link), the programming language that may still change the world.
Who knows what the effect of this will be? Close your eyes, cross your fingers, make a note in your calender, and we'll 'retrospect' back here a year from now (that is: 25.08.00), and together, my friend, you and I will see.
Drank coffee and discussed the MFA curriculum with Joke Robaard yesterday afternoon. Four hours in the Bijenkorf, talking about teaching... During a pause she showed me a copy of the overview prepared by one (1) Charles J. Stivale of the 8 hour film made by (2) Pierre-André Boutang of (3) Claire Parnet's interviews with (4) Gilles Deleuze entitled 'L'Abecedaire de Gilles Deleuze' (got all that?)
In the section 'P as in Professor' (external link) Deleuze also talks about teaching (he did so for 40 years), describing the rigor of his preparations in order to achieve his moments of classroom inspiration and the necessity of teaching students the benefit of solitude. He also answers questions about his own education. It is amusing to hear him describe the defense of his doctoral dissertation at the Sorbonne in the beginning of 1969 (one of the first scheduled after the uprising of May '68, with the committee members watching the door, nervous about the roving gangs still wandering the halls of the Sorbonne).
Mr. Stivale's overview (external link) is remarkable in itself. Sort of a primer to Ms. Parnet's and Mr. Boutang's primer. I'm reminded of Manuel De Landa's method for reading books: De Landa once told me that for every 10 pages of text he produces 1 page of notes (10:1 compression), and then from those notes he produces another set (further reduced at say a 5:1 ratio), and finally from this second set he attempts to encapsulate the essence of the book in a single page.
Speaking of primers of primers here's one for the lexicon (courtesy Words of Art (external link) and JK's attention):
Heresy of Paraphrase
The notion that anything--an artwork, text, utterance, etc.--means what it means only in its original form, so that any abbreviation, paraphrase, translation, or other form of representation introduces distortions, simplifications, and misunderstandings. When Cleanth Brooks used the phrase in The Well Wrought Urn, he had no idea that the notion would be turned on its head as part of postmodern orthodoxy in the form of mediation. Brooks intended to give priority to the literary work itself, but it is now understood that any act--even reading--is a type of mediation, so there is no real "work" without some sort of paraphrase. This realization gives rise to the death of the author, on the one hand, and to reader-response criticism on the other.
I know, I know, this page is getting very large. Starting next month I hope to have a solution to this...
Good Hermits, Bad Hermits
After I published my note 'Rus in Urbe' last Sunday, with a short list of hermits that refused to leave their hermitages, JK mailed to say that I'd forgotten 'Ted Kaczynski'. For the record: I DIDN'T (see the photo of his hermitage, 08.02.99, and some snippets of his manifesto 12.02.99) but I decided neither to include him nor Osama bin Laden (the modern 'Old Man of the Mountain') in the list, to avoid what I thought might be unnecessary provocation and the further propagation of their memes. I don't like what these people do.
and Cabin Boys...
That (righteously) said, it came to my attention yesterday (via Robot Wisdom) that Mr. Kaczynski has recently published an allegory entitled Ship of Fools (external link). It's worth reading, if only for his play on 'cabin boy'. So here we go: I DO subscribe to Kaczynski's point that oversocialization and 'too much voice' inevitably leads to 'not seeing the forest for the trees' (sorry for the mixed metaphors). But I DO NOT agree that technology is taking us towards disaster. I, after all, am a technogogue.
Concerning oversocialization: the British psychologist Celia Green in her (sadly out of print book) 'The Human Evasion' (1969) provides a wonderfully sarcastic definition of oversocialized 'sanity':
"A sane person believes firmly in the uselessness of thinking about what he does not understand, and is pathologically interested in other people."
And an example of how the oversocialized tend to perceive 'reality':
"Particular attention should be drawn to the phrase 'running away from reality' in which 'reality' is almost always synonymous with 'human beings and their affairs'. For example: 'It isn't right to spend so much time with those stuffy old astronomy books. It's running away from reality. You ought to be getting out and meeting people.' (An interest in any aspect of reality requiring concentrated attention in solitude is considered a particularly dangerous symptom.) This usage leads to the interesting result that if anyone does not take an interest in reality he is almost certain to be told that he is running away from it."
And for good measure, here's some more Hayakawa (see Sunday's note: Co-operation) on how we learn 'words' through society's 'context':
"We learn the meanings of practically all our words (which are, it will be remembered, merely complicated noises), not from dictionaries, not from definitions, but from hearing these noises as they accompany actual situations in life and learning to associate certain noises with certain situations. Even as dogs learn to recognize 'words,' as for example by hearing 'biscuit' at the same time as an actual biscuit is held before their noses, so do we all learn to interpret language by being aware of the happenings that accompany the noises people make at us--by being aware, in short, of contexts.
For more Alamut context see: Solitude as Strategy, [the last note for 21.02.99 (scroll down)].
Today's secret word is journalism.
Returned to Groningen yesterday for the first time in 6 weeks. Presented ideas for the restructuring (think: re-mastering...) of the MFA. Also discussed plans for the visit of a very, very, important V.I.P. this fall.
The Ranting Reflex
I did a lot of ranting yesterday. Funny thing though, I didn't do it with everyone. Just some people. With others I was quite calm.
Rants are like fits. Afterwards I feel terribly embarrassed, stupid and very tired. After a day like yesterday I imagine what it would be like to take a vow of silence, to not speak for a year.
Film image. David Fincher's 'Se7en': The policeman Somerset is in the killer's rooms. Discovering a library of journals. Picking one up and opening a page at random. Reading the miniscule, careful handwriting. Reading how the killer describes a man on the subway. The man moves close. The man makes small talk. The killer opens his mouth and vomits all over the man...
Self Conscious Journalism
Let's change the topic.
In relation to our recent discussion of the phenomenon of (web) logging and its definition and aspects and its merits and pitfalls.
The weblog offers potential for self consciousness.
Warhol in From A to B & Back Again (1975) (amazon US) describes getting married to his first tape recorder (which he calls his 'wife') in 1964:
"The acquisition of my tape recorder really finished whatever emotional life I might have had, but I was glad to see it go. Nothing ever was a problem again, because a problem just meant a good tape, and when a problem transforms itself into a good tape it's not a problem any more. An interesting problem was an interesting tape. Everyone knew that and performed for the tape. You couldn't tell which problems were real and which were exaggerated for the tape. Better yet, the people tellling you the problems couldn't decide any more if they were really having problems or if they were just performing."
Record and play. Write and read. Since the advent of the camcorder I've fantasized about the possibility of a completely recorded life. What would it be like to have a visual and aural record of every minute of every day from birth to death? A recording of oneself from someone else's point of view: parents, siblings, friends, and stranger's? A recording from one's own perspective: through one's own eyes and ears?
It's happening. Who has not heard of or known people who have recorded hundreds of hours of tape of their kids growing up? And we can be sure that some of those kids have grabbed the camera and continued to record their adolescence and teenhood from their own POV. Why not? Tape is cheap. The question remains who is going to have the time to play back and watch all those hours, all those memories of things past? The subject? The subject's ancestors? Some larger or more specialist market? In 1964 Warhol and company made their tapes to listen to them themselves. Their recordings were their problem solvers, their mirrors, consulted over and over, endlessly. Mirror, mirror on the wall. Write once, read many.
"Factoid's purpose in life is to accumulate information that is broadcast from other Factoids, and upload it to the user's home base. The sort of information envisioned are tiny facts, such as one might see on a sign, in an advertisement, on a business card, or on the display of an instrument like a thermometer or GPS receiver. These facts are small, say 200 bytes.
"While gathering up data, a Factoid is also on the lookout for an Internet connected Factoid server. When it finds one (that is, when you walk near one), it uploads the facts to the user's home base in a reliable and secure fashion, and deletes them from its own memory.
"Once uploaded, these facts are kept forever. There simply is no need to delete things that are only 200 bytes in size. If you gathered 1,000 facts per day for a year, that only comes to 73MB per year, and is highly compressible. Thus, they can be saved forever and constitute a sort of history of the user's life."
Facts, data, sensory impressions, experiences, stimuli, responses. Recording has become automated. Data is processed and abstracted and ordered into lists. The titles of everything you have ever read. The names of every person you have ever met. Every meal that you have ever had. Every URL of every page that you have ever visited etc. Lists are sorted and ground and polished until new patterns emerge. New mirrors. The cheapest way to sort, search, understand and propagate ideas is by address.
The Inman Diary
Did you know that Arthur Crew Inman started a diary on December 27, 1918 with the words: "Am I very much interested in Ghenghis Khan?" and ended 45 years, 155 volumes and 17 million words later on December 5, 1963 with the words: "This is horrible beyond the credible, twelve divisions of migraines..." and then proceeded to shoot himself with a Colt pistol?
Daniel Aaron spent seven years reading and editing Iman's diaries. His abridgement was published by Harvard University Press in 1985 as the Inman Diary: A Public and Private Confession. In 1996 an abridgement of his abridgement was published entitled: From a Darkened Room: The Inman Diary (both amazon US).
The Decline and Fall
It's certainly a grand experiment all this weblogging -- all this history being recorded and played back. Who knows what effect it will have on our personal and collective future?
Famous quote: in 1781 the Duke of Gloucester, upon receiving the second voluminous volume of Gibbon's 'History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire' turned to the author and said:
'Always, scribble, scribble, scribble! Eh, Mr. Gibbon?'
Either God or the Devil is in these details.
Purchased two more books yesterday. Both used. At the Book Exchange in Amsterdam (probably the best book store for english literature in Holland!) I picked up a copy of William Gaddis's Carpenter's Gothic (amazon US) and later, back in Rotterdam, a copy of Arthur Koestler's 'The Case of the Midwife Toad' (at the library, see: 30.07.99).
I've ordered a copy of the 'Inman Diary: A Public and Private Confession' (discussed yesterday) from Powells. Also ordered George Kubler's 'The Shape of Time: Remarks on the History of Things' (discussed 27.07.99).
Food as Information
Ate deliciously at the 'Illegal Fish Restaurant' next to the Hotel New York this evening. A temporary and autonomous place (if the weather is good it might be open) doing the Rotterdam waterfront proud. Very chic. No reservations (no phone).
This afternoon--while waiting at the bus stop--we watched a lone cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo) diving for fish in the Maas. It was a beautiful thing to watch.
Did you know that Chinese and Japanese fisherman have been fishing with cormorants for over a thousand years? I believe (but can not yet demonstrate*; patience, patience) that a mysterious pattern connects the thousand-year-old cormorant fisherman and his avian search engines with today's All the Web, All the Time (external link) information surfer.
Delight, then sorrow,
Matsuo Basho (1644-1694)
*I'll guarantee you though, that the words: 'virtual reality' are not in the answer: Ojika Laboratory's The Virtual Cormorant Fishing System (external link).
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