What are the odds to sharing a dream? Or dreaming about something which is about to happen? (Like your phone call? Or your comments about the rain?)
"I always wondered how far I can evolve without stopping being myself... It seems possible that the identity issue can be the ultimate limit to growth."
(Sasha Chislenko, Drifting Identities)
"I bade farewell to myself in the mirror."
(Jorge Borges, The Garden of Forking Paths)
Alexander 'Sasha' Chislenko (1959-2000). Extropian. Last Friday and Saturday in Gent Frank Theys and I spoke about him. Frank interviewed him five years ago for his documentary Technocalyps. I read Sasha's posts to the Extropian mailing list during the period I read the Extropian mailing list (1993/1994) and a couple of years ago saw fit to archive his Drifting Identities post to Alamut.
"And this is just because we *define* our notion of identity as something that is preserved in the transformations we are used to seeing. When (not if) the transformations will become more drastic, this notion will be shattered. In fact, if we just look at our own lives, we go thru so many transitions that hardly preserve our identity in any reasonable definition of this word..."
(Sasha Chislenko, Drifting Identities)
Compare Spinoza, Ethics, IV, 39 scholium:
Non-sense then, senseful now. The Garden of Forking Paths. How many times have I read this story, rehearsed this story, gone through this story before?
(Fleeing vs. advancing. A meditation on the difference between the two.)
The Garden of Forking Paths
"Absorbed in these illusory images I forgot my destiny of one persued..."
... muses the German spy Dr. Yu Tsun in his effort to communicate to his chief in Berlin the location of the English artillery. Yu Tsun flees from Captain Richard Maaden but not in the hope of escaping. For he realises that this is ultimately hopeless, that Captain Maaden is 'implacable' in his quest. No, Yu Tsun flees his adversary in order to advance, to send two messages, one to his superior, the second to his confessor, the reader: "The author of an atrocious undertaking ought to imagine that he has already accomplished it, ought to impose upon himself a future as irrevocable as the past". By means of a single radical gesture, always keeping to the left, Yu Tsun arrives at the center of the labyrinth, repeating/completing the radical gesture of his fore-father.
Jalal Toufic writes in Over-Sensitivity:
Aparté: the whispering voice, the scholium. Strange sounds from the strange apartment next door...
(Note to myself: I really should put together an 'escapology' list...)
"Are you awake?"
Mise en Abyme
"Hey! There's a hole in the middle of that."
In case you were wondering... upon reaching the half way point in the book (in Burton's translation) Shaherazade proceeds as follows:
When it was the Five Hundred and First Night,
The fundament of an Arabian Nights list.
The rough beginnings of an Escapology list.
Rossetti. How They Met Themselves, 1851-1860 (detail).
The beginnings of a list on 'The Double'.
Pim Fortuyn, a right-wing politician, was assassinated yesterday. It's big news here in Holland.
From John Clute's introduction to Herbert Rosendorfer's 'The Architect of Ruins': "We are one-third the way through the novel, and going deeper."
As we are drawn in deeper and deeper into the labyrinth -- yes some sexual innuendo is intended here -- as we enter it and describe it by name, by mood, by memory, we realise that our memories are of times spent outside of the labyrinth, in other words that our only memories are of its external countenance, its emotions, its mooded-ness, and slowly we perceive the nature of the labyrinth, the fact that as long as we remain awake we can never turn around and leave, that we are forced to go forever deeper and deeper, that we are lost despite its unicursality (no forking paths).
Note: If we (sometimes) are able to orient ourselves, to navigate a forked path labyrinth (such as in classic text adventures) by dropping things à la Hansel and Gretel, we cannot be blamed if we attempt to sound out a unicursal labyrinth by echo-location, thus:
(More of the preceding days forthcoming...)
If you cry out in the labyrinth it is because you are entirely alone, not because you are trying to communicate with others or attract their help. For you every hope of communication has ended, has stopped. You might try to imagine the labyrinth in terms of a restricted, limited communication -- what it is like to live in places like Bergman's The Silence (where everyone speaks an incomprehensible language) or Herzog's 'The Land of Silence and Darkness' (Land des Schweigens und der Dunkelheit) -- but rest assured, even if you could imagine it (and you can't), it is not the same. For you are not Helen Keller. You are simply a bat in the labyrinth's ear, crying out in order to hear the sound of your own voice.
(She described to me the sounds made by the hearing impaired as they concentrated.)
Non-communication. The mirror maze. The fun house. Dear R., you are dreaming, dreaming that you are lost. What could be more disorienting, more debilitating, more frightening? Especially if in the dream state there appears a moment of understanding, of realisation, of self-awareness. You are dreaming you are in a chinese box world. All changes in your dreams are one-way, in one direction, a series of one-way transitions. You dream you are perpetually falling asleep or waking up but not both. For example: you dream you are dreaming, in this dream you fall asleep and begin dreaming, in this dream you fall asleep... etc. Or you dream you are constantly waking up, not into wakefulness but into a different dream from which you awake into a different dream. Either way, up or down, there is never resolution, no turning around and heading back the way you came. Waking or falling asleep have become the same, you can only continue deeper, like a badly programmed recursive function.
Concerning yesterday's description of the labyrinth as a one-way 'space' of ever-increasing bewilderment (where you, like Hansel, are alone, dreaming of Gretel; where your steps carry you inexorably forward (so relentlessly do you move and keep dropping your pebbles and crumbs that we wonder whether it matters at all if you are fleeing or advancing) where every move you make carries you deeper and deeper, not into the forest, but from forest to forest) where your plight reminds us of the following illustration from Manfred Jahn's narratology page:
Figure 'C' being the illustration you should turn your attention to, Jahn's illustration of the embedding structure in Henry James's The Turn of the Screw. Concerning this structure Jahn notes: "James's novella ends on the conclusion of a third-degree narrative (the Governess's tale) without explicitly closing its two superordinate matrix narratives." You see? For this one-way labyrinth Jahn suggests the term: 'dangling matrix narrative'.
Dear R., it is easy to imagine your wandering horror. Advance meaning: with never an end in sight you are drawn to move from forest to forest, from thought to thought, from book to book, leaving behind more and more unfinished business. But is this nightmarish effect of your movement, this increasing sense of your own unfinished business, in fact a cause? Think about it. Is this lack of closure a reason to further flee?
Or does the truth lie somewhere in the middle for you? Is it simply a case of physics, the propulsive logic of action and reaction, such as found in a space capsule? Is the growing pile of your unfinished business simply the by-product of your constant struggle to extracate yourself from the mess in which you are lost? It is certainly conceivable... Imagine it: each time you drop a breadcrumb or a pebble (as Hansel, a note or message to yourself) you find yourself instantly zipping off deeper into the labyrinth... (without even time to say goodbye!)
Of course it's been done.
And not only has it been done... it's been done distinctively enough to be classified as a genre.
I came across 'it' or 'One-move Games' via Emily Short's page of Recommendable Interactive Fiction. The category was tucked away as a sub-category of games with an 'Unusual Plot Organization' (games which "tell their story out of order, overlap parts, or otherwise diverge from the standard linear method").
Yeah right (you think). One-move games must be unusual plot-wise.
Make a move and...
*You have died.*
How much plot can you fit in that?
In her recommended list, Ms. Short recommends two 'One-move' or 'Learn-by-dying' games, Aisle and Rematch. You can play Aisle online here but you're going to have to download Re-match in order to play it... Oh, and while you're at it, you're probably going to have to download a Mac or PC TADS interpreter too.
To whet your appetite here's the opening screen for Aisle:
I really like Aisle's setting, a supermarket aisle. The fact that you are already restricted physically, that you can only move in a couple (or three) directions, means that you quickly start using your one-move to explore the space in 'mental' terms, as a memory space. Your one move becomes one thought. And playing Aisle you begin to see that each of your own thoughts is in fact a move, that it makes a difference... that each thought kicks off another causal chain of events... that each thought changes things forever.
Rematch is more of a puzzle. You keep living the same moment over and over again until you find the right move to make to avoid dying. Death interrupts your pool game and comes in the shape of a black suburban utility vehicle:
Go ahead and waste some time...
(The Miracle of Economy)
Rogério, Tuesday evening, in the coffeeshop across the way from the restaurant 'Tampopo' (where we later ate), marvelling over the following paragraph from John Barth's short story 'Echo' (from Lost in the Funhouse).
(the story so far... Narcissus has been chased into a cave...)
"An imperfectly dark passage. Outside his ardentest suitor calls, pederast Ameinius, spurned. The nymph soft-seconds his bugger woo. Chaste Narcissus shivers, draws further in, loses bearings, daresn't call, weeps. The life-long bother! Seized he gives shriek, is released. How come? What next? Hadn't he as well have his blossom plucked? Who says so?"
The Gemeente Zoetermeer wants to move this work -- originally produced for the Allocations exhibition in 1992 and ironically titled: 'Victory, Love, Conquest: A Monument to Rape' (the letter 'O' being formed by a pair of whale jaw bones) -- to another location. Yesterday I spent a couple of hours helping the art commission choose a new site for it -- though I have to confess that I like the situation where it is now.
I've acquired quite a few books the last couple of days. Mainly for projects I'm working on. Some ordered online. Some stumbled across in bookstores (in Brussels, the Hague, Amsterdam, Rotterdam). A couple received as gifts. I'm most excited about my Burton translation of the 'Nights' (which I suppose is my big reading project for the next year or two). Here's a list of the rest:
Mark Kremer writes:
Yikes! It turns out that one of N's flatmates, Marcel, is a board game designer... and that I actually own one of his games: Verräter (Traitor).
Meuterer (Mutineer) being a more recent creation.
Went to Star Wars Episode II with N. and M.
All 3 of us were majorly disappointed.
What do you do when you've completely lost the plot... when everything, that is everything, you do, look at, read, think about, reminds you of some other thing, something else, somethiing equally pressing and important, some other connection, some other link?
"Even sleepers are workers and collaborators on what goes on in the universe." (Heraclitus)
Everything matters. Everything is connected to everything else.
Nothing is ever truly 'hermetically sealed'.
During the middle part of the last century locked-room puzzles/problems/mysteries were
"Indeed, the real genius of Carr's locked room mysteries was not only that he devised eighty-three different solutions, but that each of them was plausible." (Andrew Davie.)
A typology of Locked-Room Mysteries and Other Impossible Crimes.
While on the subject of 'locked room mysteries' R. mentions Fritz Lang's Secret Beyond the Door (1948). I've not seen it, so I'm not sure we're talking the same thing here, but from what I gather it sounds interesting.
When a map brings new territory into being...
Map of John Sladek's The Lost Nose: A Programmed Book.
(At the Rijksakademie yesterday and today.)
Via one of Cosma Shalizi's notebooks (slightly edited by me):
"The great Muslim theologian, jurist and logician Abu Hamid al-Ghazali in his book, 'The Incoherence of the Philosophers', much attacked the notion of causation along lines which would be followed several centuries later by David Hume. One of his examples was a demonstration that there is nothing logically impossible in a corpse happening to 'sit up and write learned volumes in a well-ordered script,' though he allowed that such occurrences were not 'habitual.'"
Search terms: 'backward causality'; 'backward causation'; 'retro-causation'; 'circular causality'.
Watched Jodorowsky's El Topo (1971) again last night. There are at least 3 scenes here which warrant (in my opinion) repeated viewing: the scene where the Colonel is getting dressed; the shoot-out with the 1st Desert Master; and the 'Miracle! Miracle!' Russian roulette scene. (Thanks James Beckett for lending it to me.)
To what extent is escape a creative act? (Perhaps all creative acts are escapes?)
I looked at churchyards and I bought more books:
Will (solublefish.tv) writes:
Which is true?
By my mortality do I not mean the priviledge and priority I grant my waking state over my dreams? The waking state in which I believe in death, believe in my coming death, the waking state in which I see myself one day dying, in which I might fear death?
By my mortality do I not mean the state in which I witness animals, the cat, the dog, the lion, spasmodic, muscles a-twitch, chasing and being chased, escaping, mewling, whimpering, in dreams, making no distinction between dream and 'reality'?
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