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Friday, January 30, 2004
morpheus trying to free jesus christ from the matrix

Understanding how people understand the present from the point of view of what we’ll say about it in the future is something that we do all the time. Lawyers, as I’ve indicated, do this professionally. Sometimes - when you’re negotiating with them, for example - you get the feeling that what they’re really doing is toeing the line that an imaginary future judge would want them to. Presidents brood on their legacy and how they’ll be viewed in ‘history’. And at some level, we all go about our daily lives with some sense of the forward leaning slope of our biography - we don’t just enroll in College to get a good job someday, we unscrew the top of the mayonnaise jar because we anticipate putting the knife into the mayonnaise as part of a proleptic, forward-looking sandwich-making project. But the particular linguistic and interactional way in which people interact with each other in the present with an eye to future descriptions of the event is something that is stirring in the air here in my department. I’m not sure exactly how it’ll shape up - right now we’ve just got one professor and a couple of the more, shall we say, indoctrinated students. It’s something I’m interested in, since I study lawyers and negotiations, where this sort of stuff happens all the time.
media warm & tepid: shanghai knights
Shanghai Knights is the most important movie that Jackie Chan has made in English. I know that sounds weird, but it's true. It's taken him a while -- Shanghai Knights is the tenth or so film Jackie has made primarily for the American market -- but it was, luckily, worth the wait. Its precursor, Shanghai Noon, was a by-the-numbers fish-out-of-water number saved only by Owen Wilson's anachronistic slacker ad-libs. Wilson falls flat in Shanghai Knights, but it just doesn't matter -- Jackie's stunning choreography and a puissant, virtuosic performance by Donny Yen make this film not just a splendid romp, but a key example of what does -- and doesn't -- make Jackie Chan such an important filmmaker.

[:: comment! :]

Thursday, January 29, 2004
three gates

Often, even in the theater, in the sight of all the people, she removed her costume and stood nude in their midst, except for a girdle about the groin: not that she was abashed at revealing that, too, to the audience, but because there was a law against appearing altogether naked on the stage, without at least this much of a fig-leaf. Covered thus with a ribbon, she would sink down to the stage floor and recline on her back. Slaves to whom the duty was entrusted would then scatter grains of barley from above into the calyx[1] of this passion flower, whence geese, trained for the purpose, would next pick the grains one by one with their bills and eat.
medical modesty
In seventeenth-century China, no lady would have endured the indignity of a hospital johnny. It was improper for a physician to see her body, much less conduct a physical exam. So on a house call to a woman of rank, he would pull from his pocket a palm-size diagnostic doll.

[:: comment! :]

Tuesday, January 27, 2004
television marketing (via dev null)

"The idea? The north lost the civil war, the south won - simple. Framed as television programming, with fictional commercials and newscasts alternating with the BBS history programme, CSA sucker-punches its audiences with poisonous hilarity. Take the shot of the first astronaut on the moon, for instance, planting the Confederate flag. Or the story of Abraham Lincoln trying to escape to Canada with the help of Harriet Tubman, founder of the underground railroad. Besides Willmott's brilliant history lessons, his film's pleasures also derive from the spot-on parodies of documentary form and television marketing."

stuart craspedacusta (via waxy links)

"But he'd always thought of himself as political, or potentially so, and he'd been told again and again he had the name for it. Though growing up he'd been called everything from Crab-Dip Custard to Crappy Pad-Thai Custer, his ancestors had actually helped to settle the area. A number of the district's buildings and even a great travertine obelisk bore his family's name, and thus when the GOP was looking for someone to run against Murray Olongapo, the well-liked three-term Democratic incumbent, Sergei Andropov came to Stuart Craspedacusta."

[:: comment! :]

Monday, January 26, 2004
the corporation

"Self-interested, amoral, callous and deceitful, a corporation's operational principles make it anti-social. It breaches social and legal standards to get its way even while it mimics the human qualities of empathy, caring and altruism. It suffers no guilt. Diagnosis: the institutional embodiment of laissez-faire capitalism fully meets the diagnostic criteria of a psychopath."

the workers

"Of course, if things are bad at home, it's sadder to see what happened in New Delhi. 60 Minutes showed that all of the workers who'd been trained to take tech support calls, and paid only a fraction of what Americans made—remember when everyone was up in arms about that, in 2004?—were being replaced, company by company, by tigers. Sure, they protested. But tigers cross picket lines with impunity, and a lot of protesters were badly eaten. After that it was open for business—the replacement of outsourced Bangladeshi health-insurance claims processors with hammerhead sharks was particularly awful, especially when the workers had to train their replacements, with—well, you saw the footage."

[:: comment! :]

Saturday, January 24, 2004
universe! (via slashdot)

scale (via kottke - bonus trains :)

[:: comment! :]

Friday, January 23, 2004
cred graph (via cnsl)

blog snaps (via addl)

[:: comment! :]

Wednesday, January 21, 2004
bowing to the mighty ayatollah

There really should be no contest. On one side is history's most important superpower, victorious in war, ruling Iraq with 150,000 troops and funding its reconstruction to the tune of $20 billion this year. On the other side is an aging cleric with no formal authority, no troops, little money, who is unwilling to even speak in public.

bigger than the both of them

Hostility between India and Pakistan has become one of those facts of geopolitical life one simply accepts, like the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.

[:: comment! :]

Tuesday, January 20, 2004
well by matthew mcintosh

A 26-year-old wunderkind delivers a first novel with a lot of genuine wunder. Deserves more praise than can fit here.

the pleasure of my company by steve martin

Such a wonderful little novel - not quite as dark as Shopgirl, but still poignant and occasionally silly.

[:: comment! :]

Sunday, January 18, 2004
elizabeth gilbert on the worst wedding toast ever :D (via metafilter)

My friend Kevin once attended a wedding where he heard the world’s most inappropriate wedding toast. The toast began inauspiciously enough. The best man stood up during the meal, clinked his knife against the crystal, and the other guests all quieted down.
bohemians by george saunders!
In a lovely urban coincidence, the last two houses on our block were both occupied by widows who had lost their husbands in Eastern European pogroms. Dad called them the Bohemians. He called anyone white with an accent a Bohemian. Whenever he saw one of the Bohemians, he greeted her by mispronouncing the Czech word for “door.” Neither Bohemian was Czech, but both were polite, so when Dad said “door” to them they answered cordially, as if he weren’t perennially schlockered.

[:: comment! :]

Saturday, January 17, 2004
chaos linguistics (via orlingrabbe)

The bait is the means to get the fish where you want it, catch the fish and you forget the bait. The snare is the means to get the rabbit where you want it, catch the rabbit and forget the snare. Words are the means to get the idea where you want it, catch on to the idea and you forget about the words. Where shall I find a man who forgets about words, and have a word with him?
conservation of information
What are the implications if the total 'information' in the universe is conserved? Black holes might be 'logic gates' recomputing the 'lost information' from incoming 'signals' from outside their event horizons into outgoing 'signals' representing evaporative or radiative decay 'products' of the reconfiguration process of the black hole quantum logic 'gate'. Apparent local imbalances in the information flow can be corrected by including the effects of the coupling of the vacuum 'reservoir' of information as part of the total information involved in any evolutionary process. In this way perhaps the 'vacuum' computes the future of the observable universe.

[:: comment! :]

Thursday, January 15, 2004
time messages

"The randomness stops you from tracing the time parameter past the present (in anything but an ensemble form in which case you lose most of the interesting facts), and the history is only a history; no reality there. In our model there is only the present moment. My experience of time is very different to my experience of space, and this is what we are attempting to highlight in our model. I don't think that it is necessary to have (3+1) dimensions in order to satisfy the Lorentz transformations etc., I think that ultimately relativity is only about communication, not the fundamental structure of the universe."

quantum computing (via orlingrabbe :)

"The rallying cry of the information physicist is 'no information without physical representation!' Conversely, the fact that information is insensitive to exactly how it is expressed, and can be freely translated from one form to another, makes it an obvious candidate for a fundamentally important role in physics, like energy and momentum and other such abstractions. However, until the second half of this century, the precise mathematical treatment of information, especially information processing, was undiscovered, so the significance of information in physics was only hinted at in concepts such as entropy in thermodynamics. It now appears that information may have a much deeper significance. Historically, much of fundamental physics has been concerned with discovering the fundamental particles of nature and the equations which describe their motions and interactions. It now appears that a different programme may be equally important: to discover the ways that nature allows, and prevents, information to be expressed and manipulated, rather than particles to move. For example, the best way to state exactly what can and cannot travel faster than light is to identify information as the speed-limited entity."

[:: comment! :]

Wednesday, January 14, 2004
virtual machine war

"What sets this face-off apart is that each of these VMs can host other languages as well. Running on top of Parrot, Python code can use Perl libraries and vice versa. Running on top of the CLR, C#, J#, Visual Basic.NET code can perform similar feats of reuse."

parrot virtual machine

"The project actually started as an April Fool's joke in which a hypothetical language named Parrot was announced that would unify Python and Perl. Later, the name was adopted be this project whose intent is to do just that. Several tiny languages are developed along with it which target the parrot virtual machine."

[:: comment! :]

Monday, January 12, 2004
the race-hate capital of europe (via dashes)

a new and legal retail boom (via metafilter)

[:: comment! :]

Sunday, January 11, 2004
literature without texts (celebrants of uncertainty)

quantitative book history (semiotics for begineers)

[:: comment! :]

Friday, January 9, 2004
peter pan

Practically perfect in every way. Not since the neglected A Little Princess have special effects been put to such traditional, enchanting uses, and without pandering to the (presumed) shrinking attention span of the modern child. Jason Isaacs is terrific as Mr. Darling/Captain Hook, Ludivine Sagnier is the liveliest Tink ever (she farts, but in a good way), and the rest is pure magic. If this little gem doesn’t make it at the box office, I might shoot myself.

looney tunes

The New York Times can praise Sean Penn's cartoonish Method acting to the heavens; it takes an actual cartoon to show up all their idiocies. Truly, no one does the push-and-pull of human grief like Daffy Duck, here voiced by Joe Alaskey in a revelatory performance that goes above-and-beyond mere imitation of the great Mel Blanc. Alaskey no doubt remembers what frequent Warner Bros. director and animator Chuck Jones set in stone: “When I wake up in the morning and look in the mirror, there's Daffy.”

[:: comment! :]

Thursday, January 8, 2004
absinth (via waggish)

Almost all free improvising pianists are compared, ultimately and inevitably, to Cecil Taylor, but Tilbury is the exception. His benchmark recordings of contemporary classical music (John Cage, Morton Feldman, Christian Wolff, and Cornelius Cardew) reveal an extraordinary subtlety of touch and an acute ear for pitch, both of which are brought to bear on this quiet, introverted, but intense and intensely moving music.

pollyanna (via popmatters)

With a style that calls to mind Ed Harcourt and Neil Finn, Wes Cunningham has a sweet and soft melodic pop formula that works wonders on "Only You Know." Although the track opens up with a healthy dose of keyboards, the electric guitars and tight pop arrangements start with the chorus. The track also has a lot of similarities to Ben Kweller, ending with a large Beatles circa-Sgt. Pepper's feeling.

[:: comment! :]

Tuesday, January 6, 2004
good news,

happy birthday me! yay me :D
glad fact,
pinchers of loaf! that is all :D

[:: comment! :]

Monday, January 5, 2004
the US electoral system

just as a reference,(1)(2)(3) SDB recently posted a fairly rigorous defence of the electoral college, his misgivings on instant runoff voting, and even a certain tolerance for gerrymandering (as long as it doesn't get "ridiculous" :) all rather convincingly i think!

basically, he's an advocate of winner-take-all two-party centrism, believing it a necessary lesser evil to bureaucratic paralysis (like non-territorial voting :) that would result from always having to accommodate otherwise marginalised radical fringe groups. here's his analyses of this year's presidential election btw.

um, the short version is he thinks between democratic factionalism, an okay economy and a solid base of support for the war, bush is likely to win. he also throws in a little unapologetic jacksonianism, of which he's grateful to the neocons (despite having voted for gore!) and takes aim at "transnational progressivism." altho in regard to the latter, i don't think he provides an entirely consistent nor coherent argument.

like he's said while speculating on a noospheric(4) hive mind: "With speech, the collaborative process of creation of knowledge expanded from the person to the tribe. With writing, it spread to the level of citystates. With printing it encompassed nations and even continents.(5) With computer networking, everyone in the world is involved whether they like it or not.(6) There's nowhere left to hide."

there's a whiff of historical inevitability about this passage with a hint of technological determinism providing an arrow(7) to this march of progress toward.... superhumanintelligence, which to me smells suspiciously like the transnational progressivm project! i guess he thinks it's more just going to happen or somehow spontaneously emerge and takes issue with those who would try to direct or harness it? (like dean :) i dunno, that's beyond my ken to distinguish! much less psychoanalyze the global brain :D
---
(1) here's a tome
(2)
[R]esearch has identified various voting systems world-wide in which, paradoxically, becoming more popular can make a candidate lose, abstaining gives your preferred candidate a better chance, and picking a winner means accepting someone a majority of voters don't want.
(3)
[S]ome academics argue that a phenomenon called the "miracle of aggregation" sweeps in at the end of the day to save democracy. Many voters are ignorant, this line of thinking goes, but the ignorance is distributed randomly across the political spectrum. Therefore -- here's the miracle -- only the votes of the informed end up making a difference.
(4) also see
(5) also see benedict anderson's concept of imagined communities, which sorta laid the groundwork for all this talk now about emergent democracy and some cosmopolitan second superpower, which i might add could just as easily result in fractured identities and vengeful majorities resistant to robust settlements
(6) see also
(7) see also
in defence of global capitalism
the LBO's (left business observer :) doug henwood wrote about globalisation earlier this month in the nation:

"Are globalized economies more unequal than nonglobalized ones? The consulting firm A.T. Kearney has been computing a yearly globalization index for Foreign Policy magazine. If you chart the relation of the index to country rankings for inequality, the results are not what a typical antiglobalization activist would expect.

"The relation is far from perfect, but if anything, more globalized countries are less unequal than less globalized ones. Western European social democracies are more globalized than the United States but less unequal--as is Canada, to a lesser degree. South Korea is much more globalized than Brazil but less unequal; so is Mexico. The point is not that promoting globalization would promote equality, but that the foregrounding of globalization as the cause of inequality isn't a simple case to make. Income distribution depends more on domestic institutions like unions and welfare states than on internationalization."

so not so much a defense of "global capitalism" per se (more so of the emerging brasília consensus :) as the "antiglobo" crowd reason's editors like to deride, i think present a false dichotomy and a little too convenient (and lazy) scapegoat for them to demonise.*

it's kind of a shame because it seems like the issue has never really been globo or antiglobo, but how to do globalisation right or better, and to detract from that distances participants unnecessarily across an ideological divide, when their policy positions and prescriptions may in actuality not be that far off.

e.g. in the norberg interview he advocates "free and open markets and the liberal political, economic, and social institutions that support them," and whereas reason would emphasise the former, i don't think they would disagree with the latter as espoused by such luminaries as hernando de soto or george soros, or anyone really, complete disavowals of externalities, imperfect information and inefficient market outcomes notwithstanding!

what's pretty interesting to me is i guess an almost "fractal" parallel one could draw between successful development on the national level, with similar initiatives on the municipal level:

as richard florida writes in the rise of the creative class, "in 1998, I met Gary Gates, then a doctoral student at Carnegie Mellon. While I had been studying the location choices of high-tech industries and talented people, Gates had been exploring the location patterns of gay people. My list of the country's high-tech hot spots looked an awful lot like his list of the places with highest concentrations of gay people. When we compared these two lists with more statistical rigor, his Gay Index turned out to correlate very strongly to my own measures of high-tech growth. Other measures I came up with, like the Bohemian Index---a measure of artists, writers, and performers---produced similar results."

"Why do some places become destinations for the creative while others don't? Economists speak of the importance of industries having 'low entry barriers,' so that new firms can easily enter and keep the industry vital. Similarly, I think it's important for a place to have low entry barriers for people---that is, to be a place where newcomers are accepted quickly into all sorts of social and economic arrangements. All else being equal, they are likely to attract greater numbers of talented and creative people---the sort of people who power innovation and growth. Places that thrive in today's world tend to be plug-and-play communities where anyone can fit in quickly."

and while i'd hesitate to equate the gay index with the globalisation index in a 1:1 correspondence (globalisation is gay!) they do share an ethic of openess.

more tantalizing and speculative, moreso maybe from someone with deep reservations about "transnational progressivism,"** is globalisation's connection with a so-called noospheric hive mind:

"With speech, the collaborative process of creation of knowledge expanded from the person to the tribe. With writing, it spread to the level of citystates. With printing it encompassed nations and even continents. With computer networking, everyone in the world is involved whether they like it or not. There's nowhere left to hide."

so it seems then there's even a historical inevitability to globalisation, that we're all technological determinists now :D but wait, there's more!***

* um, not that i don't like reason, but at times they can be reflexive, which comes across as hyperbolic (unreasonable!) and therefore unbecoming... and, i just thought, esp if it's just to pander to their target audience! and that's sort of why i prefer the economist :D

** and a newfound interest in anime to boot, altho an abiding interest in animation -- i.e. someone who would fiercely defend individualism (thru unapologetic pedantry, his favoured rhetorical weapon, but not above pulling out the provocative taunt from the arsenal :)

*** well, there's an aside on the impossibility of digital "intelligence," the argument being:

"Digital simulations of analog systems always include small initial errors, and as digital calculations iterate ever more deeply, that error grows until the error swamps the signal, at which point the digital simulation will have no greater than a random chance of being the same as the analog system it is trying to simulate."

hence, his assertion that "Networking of computers won't do it [achieve superhuman intelligence], but networking of humans might." and while i find his suppositions on the nature and origins of hive minds rather conservative and frankly unoriginal, even his conceptual leaps to their possible characterization (hello? hyperion?), it's this bit i find fascinating.

i've kind of wondered about how information is "lost." like for iterative chaotic systems, i think the reason they're chaotic isn't necessarily because they're "sensitive to initial conditions," but more fundamentally because when they run (on a computer:) the nth digit eventually gets rounded -- and then you get the perturbations. it's because of approximations that you get novelty! like maybe since it takes an infinite amount of time to run something exactly, it's only at the planck scale that you have perfect information, sort of like information black holes. and since they're inaccessible we have what seems to be a probabilistic universe, because of rounding errors :D voila!

but even if the universe and life and intelligence is analog and resistant to digital approximation and we're stuck with chaitin's random truths from the consequences of algorithmic information theory, we can still asymptotically approach omega! (and blur the lines :)

"According to Leibniz, the integers are human, the discrete is at the level of Man. But the continuum transcends Man and brings us closer to God. Indeed, Ω is transcendent, and may be regarded as the concentrated essence of mathematical creativity. In a note on the Kabbalah, which regards Man as perfectable and evolving towards God, Leibniz [33, pp. 112-115] observes that with time we shall know all interesting theorems with proofs of up to any given fixed size, and this can be used to measure human progress.

"If the axioms and rules of inference are fixed, then this kind of progress can be achieved mechanically by brute force, which is not very interesting. The interesting case is allowing new axioms and concepts. So I would propose instead that human progress---purely intellectual, not moral progress---be measured by the number of bits of Ω that we have been able to determine up to any given time."

[:: comment! :]

Saturday, January 3, 2004
briane greene: the time we thought we knew (via metafilter)

"Today's scientists seeking to combine quantum mechanics with Einstein's theory of gravity (the general theory of relativity) are convinced that we are on the verge of another major upheaval, one that will pinpoint the more elemental concepts from which time and space emerge. Many believe this will involve a radically new formulation of natural law in which scientists will be compelled to trade the space-time matrix within which they have worked for centuries for a more basic 'realm' that is itself devoid of time and space."

sheldrake's reformulation of a traditional theory of vision (via metafilter)

"I've just been interviewing astronomers about dark matter and dark energy in the universe. These two things make up something like 96% of the universe. The part of the universe we can see or in some way observe is only about 4%. That leaves a lot of universe that needs to be rethought. And some people speculate that dark energy may be leaking in from a whole other universe; an even bigger change of frame, if that turns out to be the case."

[:: comment! :]

Friday, January 2, 2004
internet justice/kicks (via SE)

hey, this is pretty insane. don't really know how to describe it except as a young adult version of an internet sting. like it reads like the sick kick(s) of some self-righteous/congratulatory *prick(s)* exploiting a series of compromising moments made in confidence (meant to embarrass) for fun and the chance to feel smugly superior -- safely ensconced in the knowledge of their moral rectitude. kinda repulsive and yet strangely fascinating, as um, repulsion tends to be... attractive, like a freakshow!

the "epilogue" was a nice touch, sorta as if mork the informant after catching ghyslain on tape drags him in front of a mock tribunal where a bunch of disembodied orsons can pass judgment, throw peanuts at him and enjoy a little power trip, all while marveling at their own inventiveness and another's ugliness and depravity. can't wait 'til episode III :D

the flowboard (via SE)

"Surf without waves, Ride without snow. Flowlab set out to create an experience that replicates snowboarding or waveriding on the street. Our quest. . . . what goes in between the board and the road? Years of experimentation in The Lab have resulted in The Deep Carve System. We discovered the geometry that allows a device with no moving parts to recreate the flow of both snowboarding and surfing- Pure geometry that lets you carve to 45 degree angles with no resistance and smooth, fluid transitions edge to edge. Whether you're riding downhill or just cruising around, the patented 14 wheeled Deep Carve System (DCS) allows you to carve with the rhythm and flow of snowboarding and surfing Flowlab- Manufacturing The Flow."

[:: comment! :]

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