APRIL 2000


April Fools

We went to the zoo today without eating breakfast. It rained at times and at other times the sun shone. We walked and talked and enjoyed each other's company -- our thoughts moving as fast as the wind, our emotions swirling along at a slower place. When we stopped, we stared down into the water and felt glad.

(Lost and found) in the sea lion pool.


Spending time and paying attention.

Attended this afternoon's Wiretap at V2 (6.03 Time Collisions). Actually, I only attended half of it. The other half of the time I spent talking with Teike Asselbergs (Orgacom) at a nearby restaurant.


Of Note (and Not), Elsewhere

Sadly some of my favorite weblogs have either stopped publishing (Subterranean Notes) or are on hiatus (Geegaw, Bovine Inversus, Metascene). Dirk has stopped to spend more time on his own artwork, Nina is ill (but has handed the reign -- reins? -- of Geegaw over to some of her friends for the interregnum), Damian announced he was quitting and now says that he's preparing something new for us, and Fred, well, who knows why Fred isn't updating?

Meanwhile, over at Sylloge, Stewart declares the closure of the 5K web design contest with 1150 entries, ("10% of which arrived in the last hour before the contest closed"), and visiting L.A., Mitsu (Synthetic Zero), brings up a Japanese concept, 'amae,' and points to a new book on the subject, called 'Cherishment.'

Of Note (and Not), Here

Today, one year ago. Today, two years ago.


Attention shift.


I remember objecting once, years ago, at the year-end critique of one of my sculpture students, to the use of abstract themes like 'light vs. dark' and 'balance' in art education. My point being that the young man in question did not wake up in the morning thinking about such themes, the themes had been assigned by his other professors, they were not real to him, so he shouldn't try to make work about them.

And now here I am, this morning, myself thinking about balance! What it is. Why it is necessary. How I appear to have lost it. And what it requires to maintain it. The issue of balance suddenly has become very important and very real. Paying too much attention to something vertiginous has created an imbalance and caused (disastrous) vertigo.

I remember the question that Manuel de Landa raised in his War in the Age of Intelligent Machines, namely:

"How can a complex machine maintain its identity in the middle of turmoil?"

And his (systems oriented) answer: 'by dissipating heat.'

And I realise that I must do this.


Microdistinctions and major differences.

Jouke recently expressed it on NQPAOFU, and his experience mirrors my own -- at this moment in time I feel I am being better informed by women than by men.

Why is that?

Women need not think in terms of 'evolutionary psychology,' (such as Robert Wright's The Moral Animal), nor talk in terms of 'power struggle' to communicate. Women keep informing when reason stops.

Anno 1958 Maurice Chevalier sang, 'Thank heaven for little girls.' Anno 2000 we think, 'Thank heaven for little girls who become women.'

01.04.00. Zoo magnolias.


Arrived in Groningen last night to conduct another McLuhan seminar today. Talked with L. for a long time on the phone this morning. Looked at Eva Knutz's new work and had dinner with her. Decided to stay another night in Groningen rather than go home as planned.


I am sick of thinking. Teach me.

Went home. Picked up my mail. Began a miserable weekend.

Going Slow

Time luddites? (The Society for the Decceleration of Time.)


Listening to P. J. Harvey sing 'The Garden.'

"Een kat in het nauw maakt rare sprongen."

(A traditional Dutch saying. Translated: 'A cornered cat makes strange jumps.')



Reading Vonnegut's Galápagos last night this sentence on page 49 sprang right off the page directly into my meme machine:

"He was unmarried and had never reproduced, and so was insignificant from an evolutionary point of view."

Vonnegut's perspective on money, markets and human calamity is written from a point a million years in the future -- a future where our brains have become smaller -- and traces the cause of all human woe to our 'big brains' and our big brain's capacity to produce (and respond to) 'opinions.'

Yeah, everything but the brain. Which of us has not felt at times that they would be better off with a good lobotomy?

Some Alamut context: Radical Anxiety Termination (01.08.98).


There was no message. The medium was the message.


SYNCHRONICITY was a term invented by Jung to describe the connecting principle of patterns where cause and effect are not in evidence.

In Galápagos (see yesterday's entry) I notice that Vonnegut uses the the Irish elk as an example of evolutionary dead end...

"'Given a choice between a brain like you and the antlers of an Irish elk,' she told her own central nervous system, 'I'd take the antlers of the Irish elk'"

"These animals used to have antlers the size of ballroom chandeliers. They were fascinating examples, she used to tell her students, of how tolerant nature could be of clearly ridiculous mistakes in evolution. Irish elk survived for two and a half million years, in spite of the fact that their antlers were too unwieldy for fighting or self-defense, and kept them from seeking food in thick forests and heavy brush."

... and simultaneously a casual perusal of the Honeyguide Web Log turns up this document: Huge Antlers Drive Irish Elk to Extinction (National Geographic News).

From the Skeptic's Dictionary: Carl Jung (1875-1961), synchronicity and the collective unconscious.

"His notion of synchronicity is that there is an acausal principle that links events having a similar meaning by their coincidence in time rather than sequentially. He claimed that there is a synchrony between the mind and the phenomenal world of perception."

If synchronocity were 'true' would it qualify as a medium?

An Irish elk rack (Megaloceros).

Extinction Proved

Marginalia: The idea that species (typologies) could become extinct emerged suprisingly late in the history of ideas. This page on the case of the Irish elk (via Honeyguide) suggests that it was Cuvier's work of 1812 documenting the absence of the Irish Elk that 'proved' that extinction actually happens.

The Britannica article on Irish elk proposes that the species may have survived up to 500 B.C.


There are 500-700 entries still to be reviewed, but for those who can't wait until May 1st to see the results, Stewart has posted the work of a few of the 5K finalists. (So far I like the 'War' site -- weighing in at a miniscule 3619 bytes -- the best.)


Brilliant sunshine.

... found myself considering, while running this morning, reciprocal linking as a 'self' organizing principle...

The last two days I've been in Breda doing a workshop with a group of film students at the art school (Academie St. Joost). Beautiful school (housed in an old cloister in a park), clever and interested students (with the world at their feet), AND we got to talk about these fascinating subjects.

(I'm so lucky.)


Synchronicity as Agency

Responding to to my question about whether or not synchronicity would qualify as a medium, Damian (Bovine Inversus) writes:

"I would consider synchronicity to be much more of an agent than a field. As an agent it is essentially neutral (like money, an agent existing in the field of value - a field is static, the agents within a field are based on movement and exchange), clothing itself in various thoughtforms, metaphors, assumptions, etc... often based on our collective predispositions (myth, culture, etc...) and triggered by a shift in the paradigm of an individual or group. New synchronicity agents can be created at will, for example William S. Burroughs created (most likely unwittingly) an agent based around the number 23, Genesis P-Orridge (most likely wittingly) further developed the agent by associating complex ideas with it in the minds of his allies and enemies.

"After having been subjected to a number of tremendously unlikely synchronicities, and after having had consciously experimented with the manipulation of the phenomena surrounding these synchronicities (many of which are emotional in nature), I've become convinced that it is possible to restructure (to whatever degree) reality using synchronicity agents. Works in much the same way as magnetism, astral force, and in fact money, which is a form of energy on the material plane.

"Perhaps it's possible to somehow create an instrument to detect 'units' of synchronicity (after all, we can detect and accumulate 'units' of orgone)."

I do like how Damian manages to switch the ground for a figure, the field for an agent, and, by doing so, confounds our matter-of-fact sense of the field, landscape, matrix, medium, womb, school etc. as a background for other agents.

You see, in the world of messages, 'there is no there, there' -- there are no backgrounds -- just agents. Lots of agents. (Think of backgrounds as) agent memes: classical, business-as-usual, new, experimental, radical, fringe. All competing for space in one's head, all competing for some of one's time. Replicating and mutating therein. Our info life: we glut and then we 'blog. Regurgitated information is agent meme spawn.

So, naturally, the medium of synchronicity "is the message" (McLuhan) and synchronicity is the "difference that makes a difference" (Bateson). The form, not its content, is the agent of change. Synchronicity's 'content,' the elements that make up its pattern, are all 'old media,' the fishes, barrels and smoking guns of our conscious, causal life.

Alamut archive: Memes, Meta-memes and Politics.

About 23

If I'm not mistaken, Ada spoke about the number 23 last night over dinner. (Jules and Ada took me out for dinner last night in Dordrecht.)

Jim Fourier: About 23.

"This is perhaps a study in the affirmation that any assertion of an objective observer is inherently impossible, and yet at the same time there is a deeply imbedded pattern of coherency in all that we regard as random."

About Poisson d'Avril

In his book, Synchronicity: An Acausal Connecting Principle, Jung describes a series of personal coincidents around 'Poisson d'avril' (April Fools).

"On April 1, 1949, I made a note in the morning of an inscription containing a figure that was half man and half fish. There was fish for lunch. Somebody mentioned the custom of making an 'April fish' of someone. In the afternoon, a former patient of mine, whom I had not seen for monthes, showed me some impressive pictures of fish. In the evening, I was shown a piece of embroidery with sea monsters and fish in it. The next morning, I saw a former patient, who was visiting me for the first time in ten years. She had dreamed of a large fish the night before. A few monthes later, when I was using this series for a larger work and had just finished writing it down, I walked over to a spot by the lake in front of the house, where I had already been several times that morning. This time a fisha foot long lay on the sea-wall. Since no one else was present, I have no idea how the fish could have got there."


Torn together: notes for the unlikely community.

Tensegrity, (cell biology) the hypothesis that cells can behave like structures in which shape results from balancing tensile and hydrostatic forces.

source: On-line Medical Dictionary.

Tensegrity, series of twelve movements advanced by author Carlos Castaneda, Ph.D., reportedly born Carlos Cesar Arana Castaneda in 1925, in Peru. Castaneda supposedly learned these movements from his teacher, Juan Matus (Don Juan), a reputed Yaqui sorcerer (brujo). ('Don' is a courtesy title that means 'nobleman' or 'gentleman.') The purported design of Tensegrity is to 'gather energy' and promote well-being. Its theory posits an 'energy body.' (According to Castaneda, his teacher was born in 1891. But the alleged reality of Castaneda's Don Juan is doubtful.)

source: A Dictionary of Alternative-Medicine Methods: T.

Tensegrity, an ordered finite configuration with certain pairs of points, called cables, which are constrained not to get further apart and certain other pairs of points, called struts, which are constrained not to get closer together.

source: Eric Weisstein's World of Mathematics.

Tensegrity, structural integrity created through tension of structural members. This is the opposite of compression structures, which for most of human history have comprised the majority of buildings. (Buckmister Fuller).

source: The International Tesla Society Scientific Dictionary.

Tensegrity and Art

Kenneth Snelson's contact, collaboration and subsequent rift with Buckminster Fuller.

Compression and tension are good, torque is a killer.

Tensegrity as an Organizational Principle

Transcending Duality through Tensional Integrity (Part I, Part II).

"A building, like any other structure (including psycho-social structures) has forces acting on it, or stresses acting within it, which are trying to deform it or cause it to move. These forces pass through the structure, pushing on some elements (hence "compressive" force) and pulling on others (hence "tensile" force). Until the last century, most of the building materials available were effective in resisting compressive forces (e.g. brick, stone), but few durable materials were capable of withstanding even moderate tensile stress (with the limited exception of wood). Consequently buildings and bridges were designed so that large tensile stresses did not occur in them."

Consider the effects of push and pull media (for example television vs. the net) in the formation, development and dynamics of various communities and organizations. 'Push' corresponds to compressive force, the strut, the post, the beam etc. pushing apart two opposed or 'counter' forces. In traditional (hierarchical) structures this compressive force is often asymmetric. 'Pull,' on the other hand, corresponds to the tensile force, the cable holding two or more forces or nodes together, the systemic constraints which stop the nodes from flying further apart, the cohesive element, the bond. For more on this see Part II.

Implementing Principles by Balancing Configurations of Functions.

"When a decision is made to pursue a group of concerns, there is a basic problem of ensuring that they are appropriately interrelated and do not simply constitute a fragmented collection of initiatives. This paper examines a new approach to the systematic recognition of the interrelationships necessary to the emergence of a viable configuration of concerns at a new level of significance."

[Note to myself for the NUON project: I'm still thinking of a 100 year 'calender,' in part self-organized by the (rational) milestones set by the stakeholders, in part structured 'emotionally' and 'synchronistically' -- perhaps based on the principles of tensegrity?]


The A4 Competition

Yesterday afternoon I got a ride with Ineke Schwartz to Larenstein in Velp where we joined the rest of the jury of the Arnhem Architectural Animation Award, a competition organized by the European Master of Landscape Architecture, to judge the entries and choose a winner.

The whole trip was a comedy of errors and misadventures from the time we left Rotterdam (in Ineke's very cool Smart) until I joined L. this evening in Amsterdam.

It all started when Ineke and I arrived at the wrong Velp (there are two in Holland, about 150 km. apart.) When we finely got to the right Velp, extremely late, we agreed, as a jury, that the entries were terribly disappointing. After we had made the best of what we thought of as a bad business and wanted to go our hotel and get some sleep we found our cars were locked into the parking lot.

This morning on our way to Arnhem for the symposium (The Narrative Power) we got lost again (or rather we didn't get lost, Maurice Nio got lost and this time we were following his car...) At the symposium we sat on the stage babbling about the 'bad business' without the chairman of the jury, Jaap Drupsteen, who, it later turned out, had also got lost (but coming from a different direction.) And then, to top it all off, there was the public mix up about the envelopes and who had in fact won...

My God.

Dinner and a Movie

At least I arrived on time in Amsterdam to have dinner with L. at the 'Vliegende Schotel' and afterwards we went to 'Being John Malkovich' at 'The Movies.' This was the fourth time that we have seen each other since the 26th of December and despite everything else it was very special and touching. I was so incredibly nervous...


Got home late. Returned today to Velp for Day 2 of The Narrative Power. JK was there today as the moderator.


Charles Dickens:

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way."

23.03.00. Austen Perry's 'Robert's Creek' found object.

Robin Crash

Searching for something appropriate to enclose in an email birthday message to L.'s friend Esther this morning I found these lines in the middle of a poem (The Piper) by W. S. Merwin:

"I was older then
than I hope ever to be again
that summer sweating in the attic
in the foreign country
high above the piper but hearing him
and never moving from my book..."

As I was reading this and was thinking, "Hey this is beautiful," I heard a loud bang at my window and looking up, I caught a glimpse of something falling. A bird -- it looked like a female robin -- was laying on its side, twitching, on the balcony of the house under mine.


It was raining. There were feathers stuck to my window.

I thought the bird (the piper) was as good as dead. I was shocked. I re-read Merwin's poem. I began writing the email describing the whole incident to Esther. I sipped my coffee.

I kept going to the window to look down at the crashed robin. After about a quarter of a hour I was suprised to see that it had rolled over. Half an hour later it was standing up but not moving. Half an hour later I opened the window and it looked up at me. Even later I found it perched on the edge of a flower pot.

It was going to be okay.

" was standing up but not moving."


Sous le Pavé, la Plage

Met L. in the Hague, where we bought a picnic lunch (pumpkin seed rolls, Wensleydale cheese, plum tomatoes, apple tart and water) and then went for a walk through the dunes to the beach (for the 'ions'). It was leisurely and fun (we both seemed to enjoy ourselves.)

16.04.00. Down by the sea shore.

Later I met Rogério Lira for drinks at Café Rotterdam. We talked about relationships, being honest in how we represent our business (online), and the history of swimming pools.

(Reference: Thomas van Leeuwen, The Springboard in the Pond: An Intimate History of the Swimming Pool.)


"A social system is, to a large extent, a system of rights and responsibilities."

At least once a year -- when the topic of hypertext and hypermedia comes up during a workshop -- I get a chance to re-read 'The Open Society and its Media' (Mark S. Miller, E. Dean Tribble, Ravi Pandya and Marc Stiegler; 1992), and each time I find myself re-admiring the vision and ambition of Ted Nelson's Xanadu team. Today, back in Breda for the 3rd day of the 4 day workshop that I'm giving, is no exception; I'm once again enthralled by the prospect of the Literature's fine-grained, bi-directional and extrinsic links; the affordances of transclusion, versioning, and link detectors -- and the potential of media supported permissions and reputation-based filtering (editorship).

A Social System Is...

Rights <--> Responsibilities
Possibilities <--> Obligations
Affordances <--> Constraints

Some questions to myself... Are these dichotomies, rights <--> responsibilities, possibilities <--> obligations, affordances <--> constraints, synonymous with each other? Can a priority be found in the order of the individual terms, i.e. do constraints emerge from affordances or do affordances emerge from constraints?, or do both emerge together? (cf. Virilio: The invention of the airplane is the invention air crash...)


Alamut context (11.09.98): 'The Literature'

Project Xanadu
Xanadu Open Source (Udanax)
The Foresight Institute's CritSuite

Third Voice
Say No to Third Voice
Who Owns Your Page? from Third Voice: Good or Bad?


One month ago -- in a land far, far away...(18.03.00).


To correspond is to link, to synchronize (or asynchronize). To journal (notes to myself) is to calender, to cycle.

Pure JK:

"It was frustrating. It spoiled my home coming. I can't write my weblog if I'm disconnected. Connectedness is its real urgency, not expression, or reflection. I always read my entries online, upon uploading, when they read differently than seconds before, when I check read them from my hard disk. The magic moment of going public is probably better known to those who go on air with radio or television, or to the performer, when curtains are drawn open and stage lights zip on. Any utterance needs its 'porteuse', and going live momentum."

NQPAOFU on correspondences (17.04 and 18.04).


Woke up at 1:30 A.M. to the light of a full moon and dreams of comparison shopping and consumer reports... Went back to bed at 4:30 A.M.

I'll be in Arnhem (again) today to speak with 4 students who will be graduating this year from the 'art and public space' department (OK5).


Good to see that Nina (Geegaw) and Dirk (Subterranean Notes) are back.

Experience is Rare

(Visting my mother) Alamut, 15 March 2000:

"I've been told that disease is the future state of health. Like so many commonplaces, I suspect this information to be true but I barely have the experience. The information is abundant, but the experience rare. Even when the experience is imminent and available it is easier to avoid it or isolate it in favor of the information. Why? Because the information in this case is less painful."

Shadowing JK's reading of Giorgio Agamben's 'Infancy and History: The Destruction of Experience,' together with last month's revelation that 'information is abundant but experience is rare' (a scarcity to build an economy around?) and my recent discussions with students in Breda and Arnhem, I've been thinking about the many ways in which information acts as an 'experience surrogate.' Trust, to my mind, is the mediator between rare experiences and accepted (abundant) information, a market which contains the information offerings of the experienced and the acceptance of that information by crowds of eager buyers. Experience is wealth. Trust spreads the wealth.

Trust Autonomy

Defending Experience: A Philosophy for the Post-Modern World
(The Genetic Epistemologist Nr. 25)


Stop (Good Friday)

Last December, when we visited Paris, I bought a game by Sid Sackson called Can't Stop. It turned out to be a very good game but the decision to buy it was entirely due to its title, 'Can't Stop,' which perfectly described our Parisian experience. The whole time we were there we couldn't stop walking. The game was to be our souvenir.

There is something strange about walking, about walking and talking and thinking, about momentum and trajectory, about being unable to stop. Walking takes energy but at the same time provides a sort of special energy which makes it difficult to end the walking state and just sit down -- even when you are dead tired. You know you should stop but you can't; you know you will keep walking until something gives way, and you can only hope that something will give way sooner rather than later, that something will crack...

...and you reach the point where you can say, "Enough!"

F. Scott Fitzgerald (via Joke Robaard), The Crack-Up.


Stop II

Given yesterday's entry (and exit), it was a bit unnerving to come across this parable today in the book I was trying to read:

"Wait, wait," a follower once cried after Buddha as he disappeared into the forest.

"I stopped a long time ago," Buddha replied. "When will you stop?"

SUNDAY, 23 APRIL 2000 (Easter)

Stop III

Fin. On Friday evening I had my last dinner with L. After 4 months of obsessive uncertainty and hope, of constant ups and downs, of increasing craziness and growing exhaustion, of pulling each other's strings (countless telephone conversations, 237 emails and seeing each other six times), with a new boyfriend on her horizon but no new start or end in sight for our 'ended' relationship, I realised I had to get off our merry-go-round -- that I needed a chance to establish a new life for myself outside of the awesome "dyadic cyclone" which we seemed to be producing.

What? Where? How? And with whom? Lots of decisions to make -- and not a clue about how to make them. How did I get into this state?

Aberrant Behaviour

Feeling miserable. Spent the day watching TV -- for the first time in more than a year. In the main I found the TV to be very poor opium, the best program being a National Geographic documentary on Jane Goodall's work observing chimpanzees in Gombe (Tanzania). I had to conclude that Ms. Goodall made a very romantic and attractive life choice. The program contained two memorable scenes: Goodall's shocked discovery, after decades of research and observation, of an adult female and her daughter who grabbed babies from their mothers and cannibalized them. Goodall described this as 'aberrant behaviour,' and noted that it 'died out' when the adult female passed away. The second scene was of a young male chimp who never allowed himself to be weaned from his elderly mother. When she eventually died, he remained, languishing away in the vicinity of her body, until he also died, 6 weeks later.

The Jane Goodall Institute.

Books by Frans de Waal:

Chimpanzee Politics, Revised Edition: Power and Sex Among Apes
Good Natured: The Origins of Right and Wrong in Humans and Other Animals
Bonobo: The Forgotten Ape


Felt more miserable. Watched more TV.


Burying the entries of the last two days with today's quotes; philosophy may be interesting to read but sure doesn't do any good as a balm...

The Experience of Impossibility

Ray Davis (The Hotsy-Totsy Club entry 2000-04-24):

"But of course a conversation made public and permanent is not quite a conversation any more, except in the sense of 'The Infinite Conversation,' a conversation which leaves politely open the possibility that the person conversed with hasn't heard you or doesn't care to or doesn't even exist yet. (Here's where another meaning of correspondence comes in handy: a coincidence of distant experiences...)"

'Intrigued' by Ray's follow up of JK's (17 and 18 April) and Judith's discussion of journalism vs. correspondence and his reference to Maurice Blanchot's 'The Infinite Conversation,' I found the following quotation from the aforementioned book while shopping for Blanchot online:

"What reigns in the experience of impossibility is not the unique's immobile collecting into itself, but the infinite shifting of dispersal, a non-dialectical movement where contrariety has nothing to do with opposition or reconciliation, and where the other never comes back to the same. Shall we call it becoming, the secret of becoming? A secret apart from every other secret and that gives itself as the diverging of difference."

Asymmetry and Asynchronism

Impossibility as a product of the 'one' being in the wrong place and the wrong time as the 'other' -- more from Maurice Blanchot, The Infinite Conversation:

"The unknown that is at stake in research is neither an object nor a subject. The speech relation in which the unknown articulates itself is a relation of infinity. Hence it follows that the form in which this relation is realized must in one way or another have an index of 'curvature' such that the relation from A to B will never be direct, symmetrical, or reversible, will not form a whole, and will not take place in a same time; they will be, then, neither contemporanous nor commensurable."


Samsara (Conditioned Existence)

Same as it ever was.

Proposition: Our (psychological) age = the ratio of our conditioned experience to our new experience. Time appears to go faster as we get older because the minute we recognize the pattern (cycle of experience) we cease paying attention (awareness) and start rushing forward to the beginning of the next (spin) cycle.

Antidote: 'Conceptualizing' neither forward nor backward. (Planning is for robots.)


In case you missed it, Damian Murphy's 'Upside Down Cow', Bovine Inversus, has returned (with wonderfully entertaining links such as the Harry Stephen Keeler Society).

This is the house that Jack built.


Fix (It Please)

...when a new situation is not a new experience...

Follow up and closure: You could argue that after a certain age we cease having (allowing ourselves) 'new experiences' -- that from a certain moment in our life to the day-of-our-death our perception(s) only allow us to experience more of the same (think: what we expect, what we already know, what we want, what we find conveniently (un)comfortable etc.) This turning point coincides (corresponds) with the end of our childhood (the end of our major period of learning.)

Thus after the learning (in most cases) comes the neurosis (conditioned existence), with its frozen and sad repeat loops of compulsive behavior.


Twice over the last couple of days (to Judith and Rogério to be precise) I responded to email inquiries with sentences such as these:

"The amazing thing is that I don't have a clue what to do now. The last 4 months has literally consumed what was left of my life and my work. I know it sounds melodramatic but it is true. I haven't a clue about how to proceed with my life at this moment."

To which my (math enabled) friend Rogério replied:

"These words made me think of you as a newly-born. These are the words any newly-born would say if they could speak. Just add 5 to the 4."


Do our correspondences keep us from changing?

Ever since I was first asked to think about 'public art,' (that would have been in 1991, for the project in Vaassen), the question of 'identity' has been a big issue in my work. Today I still find myself wondering, What is it? How does it happen? How can it be represented? (and by extension -- and even more existentially -- Who am I?)

Observing bacterial communities the biologists Lynn Margulis and Richard Guerrero once wisely wrote about human beings:

"Identity is not an object; it is a process with adresses for all the different directions and dimensions in which it moves, and so it cannot so easily be fixed with a single number."

If there is a lesson to be learned from their work, it would be, 'Don't pay too much attention to identity objects.' In other words: drop the object.

This is good advice for when our correspondences threaten to extend out into deep space and deep time (when, for example, as Ray Davis writes, our correspondee hasn't even been born yet.) Technologies (such as writing) can help us here by separating meaningful (society building) attributes and credentials from the process of change. I am thinking specifically here of (crypto-anarchical) Chaumian credentials, credentials without an identity, such as the pseudonymous 'isAPerson?' credential (identifying an individual vs. a collective or a machine) or the (yet to be implemented) isStillAlive? credential.

Tim May, Crypto Anarchy and Virtual Communities.

Two papers by David Chaum (wade through them and be amazed at the liberating possibilities described therein...):

Achieving Electronic Privacy (Scientific American, August 1992.)

Security Without Identification: Card Computers to Make Big Brother Obsolete. ( 1987. Based on a paper published in Communications of the ACM, Vol. 28, 1985.)

A set of canonical Christian identity questions (from the story of Jonah and the whale as related in Melville's chapter 'The Sermon'):

"The sailors mark him; more and more certain grow their suspicions of him, and at last, fully to test the truth, by referring the whole matter to high Heaven, they fall to casting lots, to see for whose cause this great tempest was upon them. The lot is Jonah's; that discovered, then how furiously they mob hime with their questions.

"What is thine occupation? Whence comest thou? What is thine country? What is thine tribe?"

And a very excellent (and mind-fucking) Buddhist identity question:

"Who were you and what did you look like before your parents were born?"


Longing comes in big waves.

Planning is for Robots

The cat is out of the bag... but where will it go now?

"One scientist, Sherry Turkle, found that whereas many adults nowadays see themselves as 'intelligent animals,' computer-literate children see themselves as 'emotional machines'..."

The sentence reproduced above, found on this page, caught my attention while doing a web search for Masahiro Mori's 'The Buddha in the Robot.' (Which suprisingly snagged only 14 Fast Search hits including this one of my own. I found Mori's book a year ago -- in Dutch -- in one of Amsterdam's second hand bookstores and immediately gave it to Jente. Today I ordered it for myself, together with Lewis Hyde's 'The Gift: Imagination and the Erotic Life of Property' from Amazon.)

Given the work being done in affective computing and affective ergonomics (see Rosalind Picard, Rob Slade's review of Picard's book, Furbies, and some experiments being done with Lego Mindstorms) I suspect that the distinction that (our) computer-literate children are currently making will have to be modified soon. (The Dutch have a good word for this... 'inhaalmanoeuvre.')

From Rob Slade's review of Picard's book:

"While isolated visionaries have idly speculated about emotion in computers, the vast majority of the computer using, and non computer using, populace sees technology as cold, mathematical, and ultimately objective (if occasionally in error). The fact that this assessment is an emotional one gets conveniently forgotten."

Rosalind Picard, Does HAL Cry Digital Tears? Emotion and Computers.

The Affective Computing Page and an excellent page of Affective Computing Readings at the Media Lab.

Note to myself while resting here: I still hope to read Daniel Goleman's Emotional Intelligence one day (I bought it once for L...) and find a copy of John Lilly's 'Programming and Metaprogramming in the Human Biocomputer,' (owned and lost as a teenager and now long out of print.)

An online Emotional IQ Test (70 questions, 35-40 minutes. Alamut friends are invited to complete the test and send me their result.)

An example of Laban dance notation.

Corresponding to the aforementioned 'inhaalmanoeuvre' is this (alarmist and emotional) quote from the Ray Kurzweil's The Age of Spiritual Machines which was sent to me by Daan Nolen, one of my students in Groningen:

"Before the next century is over, human beings will no longer be the intelligent or capable type of entity on the planet, Actually, let me take that back. The truth of that last statement depends on how we define human."


8:23 A.M. It's the Queen's birthday. I'm listening to Beck sing it's 'Nobody's Fault But My Own,' and fortifying myself with lots of hot coffee and milk.

The Spiritual Cyborg

Follow up to yesterday's remarks on affective robots and humans (from Erik Davis's Techngnosis):

"If human history is the story of a creature who molts from ape to angel--or, as Nietzsche claimed, from beast to Superman--then somewhere along the way it seems that we must become machines."

Two and a half months ago I published a memorandum on Alamut over my situation, the effect I hoped it would eventually have on my work, and my interest in developing projects which would reconcile transhumanism with Buddhism. To this end I find Erik Davis's book a big help in clarifying the field, especially when I find in it references like this:

'Joanna R. Macy, Mutual Causality in Buddhism and General Systems Theory: The Dharma of Natural Systems.'

Here's what Davis has to say about Macy:

"... both cybernetics and early Buddhist philosophy can be said to characterize the world as a nonlinear dance of mutally adjusting feedback loops. Macy points out that early Buddhists described the self as a product of twelve constantly interacting subcomponents, including sensation, desire, physical contact, and mental grasping. As in a cybernetic circuit, there is no single control center or stable point of agency; instead, the self emerges from a dynamic and interdependent ecology of mind and being."

It goes without saying that I would love to build a model of this (with twelve subcomponents!) in Lego Mindstorms.

Latter Nam June Paik. Techno-Buddha. 1994.

Orvydas Garden

Here's what they did in Salantai (Lithuania):

"Described by many as an intense and unforgettable experience - one best suited for dim and misty days - the Orvydas family homestead is not to be missed. Where crops and flowers would be more apropos, here uniquely carved gravestones tilt and lie among rockets, tanks and crosses. The majority of the gravestones are the work of the current guardian's father, Kazys Orvydas, who as a passionate and talented stonemason was called upon to provide many monuments for the Salantai village churchyard. But in the 1960s, Khrushchev ordered the destruction of all 'anti-Communist memorabilia', including many cemeteries. The stones found refuge in the Orvydas garden and the villagers took solace in their preservation there. Even Soviet blockades and trenches blocking the garden in the 1980s could not keep visitors out. Today an eclectic mixture of memorials and icons have joined the original stones, and the juxtapositions are almost as unsettling as the items themselves. The garden is always open to considerate wanderers."

I heard about the Orvydas Garden last night at an opening. Don't remember anyone mentioning it when we were there in 1995, which is a terrible pity, for it sounds like an amazing place (to have visited.) Also heard last night that the Contemporary Art Center in Vilnius has recently launched its own web site. Looks like many of our old friends are still there -- and that the center's own garden, where once we played with a lion cub still awaits our proposal for re-invention.


This has been one hell of a month. This morning I've tried to complete, for the record, some of April's missing days (for which I have notes) but that hasn't been very successful. Even after shrouding this month's personal events in my usual circumspect way (ie. not relating anything personal at all), I find it hard to read back my entries without remembering the events that occurred behind them. This weblog is both public and private. Privately it is filled with oblique markers and messages -- to myself. Publicly, suffice it to say that April was very emotional and that the events, as they unfolded, were very extreme in their degree of (emotional) up-ness and down-ness.

Poisson d'Avril and multiples of 7: there has to be some humor in it somewhere...

Did add: 14.04 and 15.04.

(De) Constructing the Self

Queen's Day fun.

Spent yesterday afternoon flipping through a pile of books in order to compare how various authors describe the Buddhist conception of self or ego -- which, by the way, is understood not as something fixed but rather as a shifting flux of emotional states and psycho-babble-rubbish-thought constructed (in Buddhist psychology) by what is known as the 5 skandhas or 'heaps.' Conclusion? The late Chögyam Trungpa provides a very evocative description of the problem.

Later, for a change of pace, I picked up Minsky's 'Society of Mind' and read:

"... But the relation between wanting and liking is not simple at all, because our preferences are the end products of so many negotiations among our agencies. To accomplish any substantial goal, we must renounce the other possibilities and engage machinery to keep ourselves from succumbing to nostalgia or remorse. Then we use words like 'liking' to express the operation of the mechanisms that hold us to our choice. Liking's job is shutting off alternatives; we ought to understand its role since, unconstrained, it narrows down our universe. This leads to liking's artificial clarity: it does not reflect what liking is but only shows what liking does."

Marvin Minsky. The Society of Mind. Essay 9.1: Wanting and Liking (Summaries.)

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