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Thursday, June 29, 2000
interesting tidbits from a debate going on over mirror neurons at edge.org.

from v.s. ramachandran:

p.s. Everyone has his or her favorite chimp story...here's mine.

Chimps in Madras zoo live in a very large island surrounded by a moat. I was chatting with the keeper on one side of the moat when a chimp ran towards the edge of the island where we were making frantic sounds and gestures. He (or she) then seemed to beckon us to follow him around as he ran towards the other side of the island.

Having got there he reached for a large red stone and, to our amazement, threw it at a vendor standing and grinning on the other side! The chimp seemed very agitated, jumping up and down screaming. Seeing our amazed expression one of the people in the vicinity came and told us what had happened: The vendor had apparently hurled the red stone at the chimp a few minutes earlier to tease him. Infuriated, the chimp had come to "complain" to the Keeper and had done so by beckoning him to his region of the island and throwing the red stone back at the vendor, either as "revenge" or to "tell" the keeper what had happened. Perhaps this episode had made me read more into Povinelli's earlier experiments than I should have! (And perhaps there is a simple, less "anthropomorphic" explanation of the Chimp's behavior). But my personal feeling is that the question of Apes modelling other minds is still open despite Povinelli's retreat

from robert provine:

V. S. Ramachandran makes a strong case for the significance of mirror image neurons and associated imitative acts for understanding higher order behavior and its evolution. But the mechanism of imitation is a happy instance of a scientific problem that can be pursued by almost anyone — no electrophysiology laboratory is required. After spending many years seeking knowledge with a microelectrode, I became interested in simpler systems approaches to complex behavior using observations of normal human subjects. Yawning and laughter were selected for study because they offered the species-typicality and stereotypy important to rigorous neurobehavioral analysis — and of central importance here — both are highly contagious. When we see someone yawn or hear someone laugh, we replicate the observed behavior, producing a chain-reaction of behavior that sweeps through a group. The contagious behavior is involuntary and compelling, involving the most direct communication possible — brain to brain — with our intellect just going along for the ride. We don't consciously decide to imitate the act we observed — it just happens. The virulence of contagious yawning and laughter is a fascinating display of Homo sapiens, the social animal. For neuroscientists, here we have the kind of behavior that is probably triggered by neurological feature detectors that are activated by observed yawns (in the visual domain) and laughter (in the auditory domain). When our yawn or laugh detectors are activated, they drive the neurological pattern generators that produce the acts of yawning or laughter. This a neural mechanism for a kind of "imitative" behavior.

One of the most attractive features of contagious yawning and laughter as a scientific problem is that we can use ourselves as subjects. For example, I have found that the yawning detector is broadly tuned — virtually any stimulus related to yawning will trigger it. Even reading about yawning will trigger yawns, a result that may be confirmed by many readers of this commentary. The contagiousness of laughter has even spawned its own technology, the notroious laugh tracks of television situation comedy.

Wednesday, June 28, 2000
presto and the harry potter connection

It seems that there is a connection for three reasons. First and foremost, of the six kids in the cartoon, Presto has been emphasized on Fox Kids through the episodes that have aired first. The episodes are not in the original order that they appeared in the 1980's. So far the episodes on Fox Kids have been: P-R-E-S-T-O Spells Disaster, The Valley of the Unicorns, The Prison W/o Walls and the soon to be shown The Last Illusion. These episodes all have one thing in common; a storyline heavy with spells and Presto. Also, each cartoon show on Fox Kids gets a little metal circle "logo" with the main character's image framed inside for use on their website and during commercial breaks. For Dungeons and Dragons, that character image is Presto. Finally, several of the commercial breaks that feature clips from the cartoon, (in order to keep the kiddies interested until the show comes back), also focus on Presto.

Tuesday, June 27, 2000

heraclitus, heraclitus, heraclitus (via ptypes :)
another link to the global brain (via ed!)
wealth of choices (from the wsj)
bowling alone (from the jod)

Monday, June 26, 2000
again, i submit that ed finds the best links. case in point: the history of the global brain, a BOOK by howard bloom! also in german!

these chapter synopses of nicholas negroponte's being digital are pretty cool. they're like cliffnotes :) here are his wired articles on the subject.

Friday, June 23, 2000
hey, i've found the zine scene! -pssst, you can quietly place them into your virtual shopping cart

convergence and synchronicity. parallel worlds are a'mergin. we're combining them :)

here's a poem by chan marshall for all you cat power people out there.

if my purchasing decisions were to define who i was today, i would be:

jeffrey wright was pretty amazing in shaft as peoples hernandez, btw. remember gary oldman in true romance?

Thursday, June 22, 2000
good acid trip by patrick s. farley!

Wednesday, June 21, 2000
E2 voting philosophy (idea)

I masturbate with BOTH HANDS!!!!

Tuesday, June 20, 2000
springy thingie (via carey)



Monday, June 19, 2000
eyeball tells it like it *is*!!

...everyone (on both sides of the piracy/freedom argument) needs to chill take a step back to look at exactly what the record companies are producing and what people are buying/downloading. Fame. Most people (especially teens) have an incredible need to belong to a group, whether it's a gang, slashdot, a newsgroup, golf group, a D&D club, etc.. Music just happens to be the most flexible, effecient, and (relatively) inexpensive way to *passively* belong to a group. All it takes is the proper clothes and a handful of braincells to index a few bands, albums, and members. Instant group access.

Now, the record companies aren't stupid. They know all this since they spend millions and millions on marketing research, cultural analysis, and trend watching. They know very well that most pop culture consumers want to be a part of a group of people that listen to the same music. Ans [sic] *this* is the need they fill as their business obligations to their stockholders.

her website is cool, too :)

Sunday, June 18, 2000
for your edification.

someone (iforgethoo - maybe my friend linda's dad?) was telling me the other day about how we probably evolved next to the water because we're the only primates that know how to swim AND we have a layer of subcutaneous fat, which other primates don't have, but like dolphins and stuff do. anyway, i thought this was a good point (very interesting!) but didn't quite grasp the enormous implications/gravity of the situation/controversy it raises/potential ramifications until i read about the aquatic ape theory on mary chen's super secret diary, "top secret diary of mary chen" in two parts, here and here.

Saturday, June 17, 2000
found a couple medium-length classics!

fyodor dostoevsky's dream of a ridiculous man and aldous huxley's doors of perception.

some ancillary reading on "psychoactive sacraments" (on a tip from steven champeon) and a balanced backgrounder on ecstasy from time (via guardian unlimited).

human traffic, btw, had some really good drug scenes but, uh, that's about it.

bibliomania is a nice resource :)

Friday, June 16, 2000
awesome! erik davis has his very own column on FEED now, "the posthuman condition" :D

The mid-twentieth-century mind was rocked by the knowledge that human beings could actually destroy the planet, but this realization was only a foreshock of our imminent ability to engineer the biosphere, to create transgenic species, to clone ourselves, to alter the human gene line, and even to edge up against the programmed senescence of cells. When the human condition itself is up for grabs, even in theory, then we are no longer exactly human.

promising iteration of jaynes' bicameral mind hypothesis (via guardian unlimited)

"The mother is doing stuff the kids can't quite do by themselves, but the mother isn't thinking 'Oh, the kid can't do it.' Instead, they're playing a game together. And out of that game the kid gets exposed to stuff from which they can learn."

Thursday, June 15, 2000
hey, i've been among the jet set the past few weeks. went to providence, richmond and san francisco. visited friends, work and family, in that order. flew southwest, united (gratis!) and delta (via priceline). felt like a little packet being routed, delayed, delayed and switched here and there for whatever reason. it's the future!

i have to say i like delays, because you're in-between, although being en-route is pretty cool, too.

finished reading microserfs last night/this morning on a delay. (picked it up on a reference from deletia!) like i was telling carey, it was a synergistically absorbing experience - eerie. i thought the ending was too pat, though.

just got a tip from my roommate jack. amc is having a hitchcock fest this weekend (june 16-19). buy some tapes and set your vcr's to record!

btw, jack has this theory that every de palma film has a hitchcock parallel. these are the only ones he could think of, though...

mission impossible : foreign correspondent
snake eyes : rope
body double : vertigo/rear window
dressed to kill : psycho

Thursday, June 8, 2000
tom ewing of new york london paris munich explores deep rifts in our pop-influenced psyches!

I suppose it's a matter of personal conscience - by consuming something, are you supporting it? Wholeheartedly? (Even if you don't actually pay for it?). And a wider question: at what point should we start policing our responses? If I "like" something but know I, politically, 'shouldn't' like it, should I be examing my tastes or my politics? Can I separate the two? I think from a personal standpoint I feel I can: but from a societal standpoint I have a lot more doubts. I want a world in which homophobia doesn't exist but Eminem does - how does that work? (Quite easily, actually: I also want a world in which people don't kill each other but Goodfellas exists.) Adding to the confusion, when I encounter Em's lyrics as text I'm repulsed, but the same lyrics as sound might amuse me: does the line I'm prepared to draw somehow lie in between?

Wednesday, June 7, 2000

jon katz essay on gaming (from slashdot)
civilization and its dis-contents (via i forget)
process and emergence in the economy (via i forget)
the known, unknown and unknowable (via synthetic zero)
elaine pagels' gnostic gospels summary (from sunshine for women)

Thursday, June 1, 2000

The container ship was too large a vessel to bob and sway in the swells of the North Pacific. At 20 kilotons the Bosco did not have much to fear in its long trans-oceanic journeying. Fully loaded with shoes, cars, televisions, and toys from the Orient it would be another week before the Bosco reached the ports of Vancouver. From there it would head south to San Francisco dropping off and picking up cargo along the way and then it would turn westward again into the setting sun. For two decades the Bosco had trod this route, dropping off and picking up, always moving, carrying, and bringing for the little people who had created her. Tonight, however, they allowed her to rest for awhile at an imaginary place and an imaginary time, they were going to have a party. It was a birthday of sorts. The little people wanted to watch the birth of a millennium.

The captain of the ship had ordered the Bosco to a full stop in the afternoon. When the anchor had dropped he announced to the crew and the passengers they had brought along that they had arrived at the end of the world. It was a pretentious thing to say, the blue ocean lay all around them as far as the eye could see.

The captain secretly resented this fact. As a child he had dreamed of finding the edge of the world and going beyond it to discover the great mysteries of life, but as a captain the ocean had continually thwarted him. Here and now, however, he could feel the barrier coming upon him and a thrill raced up and down his spine.

The mess hall was richly decorated in accessories they had picked up in Kobe. Gold and silver strands of foil hung from the ceiling and iridescent streamers arced across the room. Guests in airy evening gowns and black ties mingled with the shorts and sandaled crew along a spread of sushi and caviar and banks of televisions displaying other parties in time zones across the world. Champagne and laughter flowed freely while bright island music gave the revelers excuse to converse loudly.

The cameraman registered all of this and funneled the celebration into his palmcorder with occasional commentary from the smiling host the network had provided. The moment was upon them but he didn’t feel a part of it, he was just along for the ride, behind the camera, spectating. Wonderment of a clock striking midnight eluded his sensibilities. You’re all making this up, he thought, everything is made up. The cameraman was immune to spectacle, but the clock kept on ticking and the planet steadily came into alignment.

The satellite told them they were in the right place, along 180° longitude of the IDL, and the clock in Greenwich, accurate to a trillionth of a second, told them it was the right time. So the little people cheered, cheered for everything they had made up, and the crescent moon sunk low, the heavens turned around the north star, and the waves lapped slowly against the ship. Out went the old and in came the new.

*inspired by grendel, john gardner, although the matt wagner comic is awesome as well (i'd highly recommend devils & deaths by darko macan -r.i.p.- and edvin biukovic)

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