MAY 1999


Yesterday was Queen's day and the weather was beautiful. I spent the whole day indoors oscillating between bouts of sleep and bouts of Bateson. Listening to Jewel and John Martyn. Today Loes and I will go to Antwerp.

Today's Secret Word...

... is inchoate. A verb and an adjective. Meaning (in other words redundantly synonymous with): undeveloped, just beginning (as adjective); and to begin or orginate (as verb). Inchoate is an optimistic word. Consider your own inchoate forces as your hope and salvation.

SUNDAY, 2 MAY 1999

Folklore and Funny Money

Yesterday, May Day, was celebrated in Antwerp with a workers parade 'compleat' with red flags and banners. Loes and I were amused, but on the whole disappointed to find most of the stores closed, as we had planned to do some shopping. Instead we ended up walking and walking. At least the weather was lovely and the atmosphere festive.

Before leaving Rotterdam I had downloaded a currency convertor for my Palm III and found an envelope of Belgian bills and coins that I'd kept from previous trips south (the last time being about a year and a half ago). The envelope contained about 2,500 Belgian francs which mentally 'converted'--courtesy of my pilot--to about 140 guilders of mad money.

Stopping at a café for lunch, Loes made a joke that since I had kept the money for so long, maybe it was no longer good (geldig). When the time arrive to pay, her words turned out to be prophetic! The bills I had were declared by the waiter 'old' and no longer accepted as legal tender. It was both a strange and uncomfortable experience to have a pocket full of nothing--money which I had thought was 'good' turn all-of-a-sudden meaningless...

Oh Man This is Cool

Check out 'Everything' at -- for a glimpse of (the future of) hive mind. I looked at this site a while back and either it or me was not ready... this morning the beauty of it hit me like a 'ton of bricks'. The world divided into People, Places, Things and Ideas and reviewed. I want this for my ontogroup! From the FAQ:

Profuse linkage is the key to Everything's structure. Links are created any time a person moves from one node to another, and strengthed if travelled again. Sometimes links (such as links in writeups) are required to define a node. The links at the bottom, however, are more likely to be loosely, if at all associated with a node - but they provide paths to new trains of thought.

Littleton U.S.A.

Yes, it did capture my attention and I've been reading about it. Below are 3 pieces which I've found interesting. Katz's piece at Slashdot highlights the repercussions for all 'outsiders' in the wake of the media/public attention to the shootings and reminds us of just what a hell school can be. As one of Katz's correspondents writes:

"No one seems to think that peer abuse is real or damaging. I would like to see any adult report for work and be taunted, humiliated, harassed, and degraded every single day without going stark, raving mad. Human beings are not wired for abuse."

There was a kid at my own high school (the time was 1970, the location New Westminster Seconday School) who was taunted, humiliated, harassed and degraded every single day on his way to school, in the hallways, at his locker, and in the class. His name was Danny Podivin. He was a nerd, complete with pimples, glasses, a briefcase and slide rule. His life was hell. I wonder what ever happened to him? Assuming that such an extreme situation (and it was extreme) would leave both behavioral scars (remember high school = 5 years) and the need for some sort of balancing act--ie. some sort of revenge--I wonder where or when he got his?


"Adolescence is a surreal world: kids who don helmets and practice banging into one another for hours each week are deemed healthy and wholesome, even heroic. Geeks are branded strange and anti-social for building and participating in one of the world's truly revolutionary new cultures - the Internet and the World Wide Web."

"Instead of banning Doom and Quake, schools should be forming Doom and Quake clubs, presided over by teachers who actually know something about the online world..."/p>

What makes 'innocent' kids so unbelievably cruel? Camille Paglia writes in Salon:

"We are hierarchical animals," I declared in my first book. Rousseauist liberals and armchair leftists (like Michel Foucault) think hierarchy is imposed on free-flowing human innocence by unjust external forces, like the government and the police. But hierarchy is self-generated on every occasion by any group, especially in a philosophical vacuum. As an atheist, I acknowledge that religion may be socially necessary as an ethical counterweight to natural human ferocity. The primitive marauding impulse can emerge very swiftly in the alienated young.

The totem pole again. No amount of insight/hindsight or celebrating today's network/meshworks seems to mitigate the fact that we are and remain hardwired as "hierarchical animals". Remember: William Golding's 'Lord of the Flies'? It used to be compulsory reading back when I was in high school...

(UPDATE 5.05.99) Or as JK puts it in NQP#10: "old habits will perform ugly practices..."

John Katz at Slashdot: The Price of Being Different

Camille Paglia at Salon: American Poison

Wolf DeVoon at the Laissez Faire City Times: The Decision to Kill

MONDAY, 3 MAY 1999

A 'good enough for me' definition of epistemology: What do I know and how do I know it?

A Map of the World

A history of Penjing by Keith Davies (external link):

2500 years ago Emperor Q'in Shih Huang Ti, the first emperor of the Q'in (pronounced "Chin") Dynasty (255-206 BCE), and the man who gave his name to the country, sent men of the arts, sciences, horticulture, and floriculture to all his provinces with instruction to recreate representative replicas of each canton's landscape in miniature, and bring them back to the palace. He instructed them to portray each canton, complete with people, animals, architectural features, in such a way that seasonal changes would also be an integral part of the landscapes. He wanted to see the rivers and streams, lakes and ponds, and mountains and valleys. He wanted to see the extremes of the season, and feel the tranquillity of perfection.

He knew it would be years before the penjings would be delivered to the Forbidden City, and while he waited he prepared a place for their eventual display. He had a map of China carved into the marble surface of his personal courtyard, and had pedestals placed in the center of each canton (states) for each miniature landscape to rest upon.

When the penjings were delivered, and placed upon their respective pedestal, he took a walking tour of his miniature empire each morning to appreciate and celebrate the natural diversity of his kingdom...


NATO forces attacked the Yugoslavian infrastructure last night, knocking out water and electricity in Belgrade and elsewhere. Apparently their attack on the electricity grid was not with convential bombs and missiles but with 'graphite bombs' and carbon fiber which shorted out high tension wires...


Sighted, Seen, Visited, Discovered, Read

Sighted yesterday: a new newsgroup

Seen yesterday: the new Nikon Coolpix 950 digital camera (Foto Klein Professional). Not as small as the Fujifilm MX2700.

Visited yesterday: a much better nursery/garden center in Rotterdam than the Intertuin (Zwinkels). And found online an even better garden center in Boskoop (Fa. C. Esveld). Fa. C. Esveld has a large Pinus collection.

Discovered yesterday: 2 relevant books for gardening with moss. (1) Schenk, George. Moss Gardening. 1997. (2) Bland, John. Forests of Lilliput. 1971.

Read Sunday in the Volksrant: on the 11th of August a complete solar eclipse will occur for the first time in Europe in 40 years. Next total eclipse in the Netherlands? 7 October, 2135.


Radio Free St. Germain-des-Bois

Jouke's 'Notes, Quotes, Provocations and Other Fair Use' (NQP) is back from weggeweest with a 'new issue' (#10) from St. Germain-des-Bois. Covering the period from April 9 to April 27, JK describes his first impressions of his family's move from what he calls 'downtown Amsterdam to the middleofnowhere'. Sparing us neither the trials (literal nightmares, getting connected, first day of kids at school) nor the joys (the estate, the birds, the points of view, check out the salon photo of April 20), the latest NQP proves that intelligence in the right hands makes for excellent reading...

"Our move to the moulin is by far the most real thing I've done in my life. The house feels like it's been here waiting for us since a long time. Meaning among other things that we fitted in without much ambiguity of what was to go where. It even seems that our furniture and the other 'stuff that surrounds us' was collected over years to finally fit into this place, and start rooting."

As always there is much symmetrical and synchronous attention to the world--reflected in/between NQP and Alamut. Eg:

  1. NQP--April 9. Jefferson Airplane. JK was reminded of Slick and co. in S.F and writes about it. And I, after watching the film 'The Game' last month, sought out the lyrics to 'White Rabbit' online and prepared a 'note', thought I haven't got around to publishing it (yet)...

  2. NQP--April 9. Current female folk enchantment. Mine: Beth Orton, Jewel, Kristen Hersh, Mazzy Star, Alison Statton (Devine and Statton). Male folk enchantment: Jeff Buckley, Nick Drake, John Martyn.

  3. NQP--April 9. JK mentions David Ireland (SF artist/architect). I'd forgotten about David Ireland. I visited his (open) house in SF one Sunday afternoon in the early spring of 1982 and his 'then-style' of exposing the process of his (victorian) house renovation made a huge impression on me. BTW, this morning's web search turned up an Australian novelist with the same name. On the net simple proper names are no longer adequate as maps.

  4. NQP--April 13. JK and family are inhabitants 100, 101, 102 and 103 in St. Germain-des-Bois.

    Writing up last August's summary, I noticed a reference (07.08.98) to psychologist Robin Dunbar's book: 'Grooming Gossip and the Evolution of Language' and his thesis that the maximum manageable size of human community is 150 people (so Jouke and family are doing okay). Here's some follow up:

    "Why is it that among all the primates, only humans have language? According to Professor Robin Dunbar's new book, humans gossip because we don't groom each other. Grooming is a way to forge alliances, establish hierarchy, offer comfort, or make apology. Once a population expands beyond a certain number, however, it becomes impossible for each member to maintain constant physical contact with every other member of the group, so we developed language as a substitute for physical intimacy."

    See this external link for a Scientific American review of Dunbar's book, Grooming, Gossip and the Evolution of Language, Havard University Press, 1996. Note: a 'stroke' is also the basic element of both transactional analysis and NLP.

  5. NQP--April 14. JK writes of French telecom: 'ALO, ALO?' On April 3, Alamut writes of JK's telephone booth call as 'HALLO, HALLO'. (3.04.99).

  6. NQP--April 16. JK is somewhat cynical over consumers becoming producers:

    "In an information economy, all that the consumer produces, is better profiles of himself..."

    "...The rest of us is on the consumers' market, let's face it. Not a Genius Market. A poor simulation at best. But a rip-off, really. Faux-market for faux-Picasso's. Genius served on the suburban placemat and the local pub beermat and the deliver-it-to-my-home doormat."

    That's JK, the misanthropist talking. Picasso wasn't a misanthropist. He was a sociopath. (All artists are either misanthropists or sociopaths).

  7. NQP--April 19. JK considers (on the 'dark side of lightness' and/or 'local color can make you go blind') insight and its accompanying blindness, citing Valéry. Meanwhile I've been reading in (my current 'guide') Bateson (Style, Grace and Information in Primitive Art, 1967):

    "...the better an organism 'knows' something, the less conscious it becomes of its knowledge, i.e., there is a process whereby knowledge (or 'habit'--whether of action, perception or thought) sinks to deeper and deeper levels of the mind."

  8. NQP--April 26. Wildlife. The moulin has dormice (Glis glis) (dutch: zevenslaper) living above the toilet. Dormice are cool. (JK: remember the 'monster' we created in Middelburg? The one who talked about 'leuke spul' all the time? He had a penchant for dormice.) 18.01.99.

Notes, Quotes, Provacations and Other Fair Use #10 (external link).


Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head

Last night's war chat:

00:15 "It is so nice and cloudy above Belgrade, a man simply wishes all nights were like tonight. What would it be like if they waged war with Sweden? Not a bomb would fall!"

The connection between clouds/rainfall and violence/warfare is old and strong. Think: ancient fertility cults. Think: Clockwork Orange and its twisted rendition of Gene Kelly's 'Singing in the Rain'. Think: Apocalypse Now and Jimi Hendrix's 'Purple Haze'.

It's been raining here since yesterday evening. For me the rain is welcome respite after a week of sunshine. reports that it has been also raining (cats and dogs) in Belgrade and Novi Sad. At this moment rain in Yugoslavia means another brand of respite.

So one wonders, would our Belgrade gentlemen feel safer in Stockholm? What is the most rainy place on earth?

Belgrade 65.6 cm 25.9 in
Stockholm 50.2 cm 19.8 in
Rotterdam (Schiphol) 83.2 cm 32.7 in
Vancouver (airport) 110.6 cm 43.6 in
Cherrapunji, India (1) 1,143.0 cm 450.0 in
Cherrapunji, India (2) 2,646.7 cm 1,042.0 in

(1) averaged over 74 years.
(2) greatest 12 month rainfall on record, August 1860 - July 1861.

So based on rainfall, Stockholm's weather would provide less shelter than Belgrade's. Vancouver's weather would provide twice as much. And the best place on earth to be would be Cherrapunji, India.

Sources: (external link)
weather extremes (external link)

FRIDAY, 7 MAY 1999


Just read at that Mark Weiser, 46, died of cancer last week. Weiser, who ran the Computer Science Lab at Xerox Parc for many years, was considered the 'founder' of (the notion of) ubiquitous computing:

"Ubiquitous computing is roughly the opposite of virtual reality. Where virtual reality puts people inside a computer-generated world, ubiquitous computing forces the computer to live out here in the world with people. Virtual reality is primarily a horse power problem; ubiquitous computing is a very difficult integration of human factors, computer science, engineering, and social sciences."

"The most profound technologies are those that disappear. They weave themselves into the fabric of everyday life until they are indistinguishable from it."

Remember the September 1991 Scientific American special on computing? Weiser wrote maybe the most interesting article in it: The Computer for the 21st Century (external link).

Profuse linkage is the key...

The Artist's Stroke

I was struck yesterday with the thought that artists are generally pretty bad at 'stroking' or paying attention to others, leaning naturally to one side of the relation (think: dynamic) exhibitionist <--> spectator. Artists are rewarded by placing their attention 'elsewhere' but still expect/require the attention of others.

Thinking about Robin Dunbar's idea that our neocortex can only handle a maximum community of 150 people, I remembered a conversation (01.09.98) that I had with Martin Meeldijk where he described a friend who only paid attention to a group of about 30 people and who was 'the happiest person in the world'.

From the Scientific American review on 'Grooming, Gossip and the Evolution of Language':

The figure of 150, Dunbar writes, represents the maximum number of individuals with whom "we can have a genuinely social relationship, the kind of relationship that goes with knowing who they are and how they relate to us."

Last September, (01.09.98), I wrote:

It's so easy to get bogged down in details and become 'distracted til death'. The notion that 'God is in the details' must only be applicable to art.

Too much linkage makes you blind?


Luxury Fever

I broke down yesterday afternoon and bought a Coolpix 950. It was tough choice deciding between the new Fuji MX 2700 (available next week) and the Nikon. The Fuji is elegant and small, the Nikon is bigger and uglier but has an optical zoom and offers a lot more control over the camera. I hope I've done the right thing--it was also damned expensive. It seems a bit nuts to buy a 2.1 megapixel camera in order to create 16k web jpgs...

Spent this morning hunting for NiMH batteries. Spent this afternoon cleaning my office.

SUNDAY, 9 MAY 1999

It was a year ago today that ST(*)boretum, an exhibition of work from Mike Tyler, davidkremers and myself, opened (09.05.98). Apparently to commemorate the event, this morning one of my peyote cactii flowered. :-) Nice huh?

News Ops (Ellipsis)

NATO mistakenly bombed the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade late Friday (3 missiles) and all hell is breaking loose in the people's republic. What began as peaceful demonstrations at the U.S. embassy in Beijing have turned ugly, the embassy being stoned, the U.S. consulate in Chengdu stormed 'by thousands' and set on fire. has posted this report:

1532 GMT, 08.05.99: China Central Television (CCTV) in its evening news broadcast strongly condemned the NATO bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade Saturday, but refrained from reporting on NATO's position that the bombing was a mistake. "The U.S.-led NATO brazenly used three missiles from different angles to attack the Embassy of the People's Republic of China in Yugoslavia," broadcasters repeated over and over throughout the broadcast.

No mention was made of US ambassador to the UN Peter Burleigh's expression of regret and apology for the bombing, which NATO called "mistaken."

"The Chinese government and people express their utmost indignation and strong condemnation of this barbarous act, the U.S.-led NATO must bear all responsibilities arising therefrom," the broadcasters said.

CCTV's nationally-broadcast evening news, seen by up to 300 million people, spent a full 15 minutes on stories related to the Belgrade bombing, including a segment on peaceful and orderly protests of thousands of Beijing students in front of the U.S. Embassy in Beijing. The Chinese news agency "Xinhua" reported that thousands of Chinese had overloaded the switchboards at Xinhua, CCTV and China Central Broadcasting Station protesting the embassy bombing.

MONDAY, 10 MAY 1999

Just found out that Neal Stephenson's new book, Cryptonomicon (external link), weighs in at 920 pages (and is rumored to be the first in a series of books...) Oh boy! What a great book for the summer vacation. There's a review of it at the Washington Post (external link) but I don't want to read it and spoil the surprise.

Space Opera

Vernor Vinge, the man who put the concept of the singularity on the psychocultural map, has also published a new book entitled: 'A Deepness in the Sky' (thanks Jente!). Vinge is one of a group of scientists writing contemporary SF that can be considered visionary. His short story 'True Names' (1981) was probably the first characterisation of cyberspace*, 'compleat' with (gothic) pseudonymous avatars and strong encryption. A later novella 'The Ungoverned' was based on David Friedman's argument for anarchocapitalism, 'The Machinery of Freedom, a guide to radical capitalism' and was part of a tryptich including the 'The Peace War' (See: 24.09.98) and 'Marooned in Realtime' (all three bundled together as 'Across Realtime').

Vinge's last effort was the Hugo award winning space opera 'A Fire Upon the Deep' (1992). His new book takes place in the same future but some three millennia earlier. Structurally this sounds a bit like the current Star Wars prequel doesn't it?

* at least a couple years before Gibson's Neuromancer (1984), and many years before Stephenson's Snowcrash (1992).

Bad Form

Started an exceptionally busy week off badly last night with a lecture/discussion at the Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam. I'm not at all happy with how it went. When I'm nervous or tired, I tend to go too quickly into autopilot mode and 'not listen' to either what I am saying or to what others are saying... Ultimately it's all about respect, about giving the moment in 'time and space' credibility. How can I change how I do this? I'm scheduled to see the same group of students again this Friday and next Monday.


An image of 'TAZoo-I: Movable Observation Post, High Viewpoint' has been sighted on the Magasin's web site (external link). Jouke and I installed the giraffes in Grenoble in 1996 as part the exhibition, L'Arche de Noé, (Noah's Ark). If you look closely you can see the couple hundred kilos of dogfood which we arranged in a camouflage pattern on the floor when the fire department forbid our use of straw.


I've been looking for the May issue of Fast Company (external link). The Bruna and the AKO magazine stores/kiosks have never heard of the magazine and neither have the academic bookstores in Rotterdam and Groningen. I hate it when I ask for something which no one has ever heard of... I don't want to buy Artforum or Flash Art. I want to buy the the Utne Reader and the Whole Earth Review and Fast Company.


It's a busy week. Got home late last night from two days at Media-GN and this morning I'm off to a design workshop at the Van Nelle Factory. Today and tomorrow I'll be leading an 'international interdisciplinary' group here (very slow external link).


Pilgrimage Anyone?

Jouke's updated NQP (Notes, Quotes, Provocations and Other Fair Use) again. Sounds like there's a constant stream of visitors and visits to their new home in St. Germain-des-Bois. Hmm. It's telling that JK's already thinking about buying another piece of land in order to build a 'retreat'. And here I was thinking that a move to the 'country' was the way to get away from it all...

Education Anyone?

Education makes me tired. This last week has been extremely tiring, with gigs/days at the Rietveld, Media-GN, Media-GN, Van Nelle Fabriek, Van Nelle Fabriek, Rietveld. All-the-while talking too much. It is not good for me. Tell me, do you know how to 'teach' without talking?

I think: educator, educate yourself. I think: why don't you just...'Shut the fuck up!' (General Idea)

From the Devil's Dictionary (Ambrose Bierce):

Education, n. That which discloses to the wise and disguises from the foolish their lack of understanding.

Sustainability Anyone?

I've been perusing JK's musings (NQP #11 external link--will change) over learning, progress, pattern and re:invention (funny, the Van Nelle workshop was also called re:invent...) but I'm not sure I know what he means when he writes:

The habit of progress happily crashes in the aesthetic standstill.

I believe 'giant leap' progress is worth going for, even if it means we must suffer/experience Virillio's anti-inventions/crashes. Standstill is death. Trust me. Patterns (which JK sees as standstill) need not be static, they can be dynamic and evolving and still be recognizable--thus learnable.

SUNDAY, 16 MAY 1999

P. Breugel. Big Fish Eat Little Fish

Even though I promised myself not to start any new books before I finish 'Steps to an Ecology of Mind' (I'm a couple of hundred pages into it, currently reading the essay 'The Group Dynamics of Schizophrenia'), I ordered my first books from Powell's yesterday evening; out of print copies of Bateson's 'Naven' and 'A Sacred Unity: Further Steps to an Ecology of Mind' as well as a copy of Tyler Volk's, 'Metapatterns across Space, Time and Mind'.

Media-GN folk take note: (external link) is offering Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon for Hfl. 39.01 + a few guilders for shipping.

Yesterday's Secret Phrase

Follow up on JK's standstill vs. progress meditation, Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose, (the more things change, the more they stay the same): there is change and there is change. Progress proceeds within stability, within a pattern, up to a point--and then the pattern breaks and a singularity occurs. After the singularity a new pattern emerges. Life goes on but within a different order. One could consider the agricultural and the industrial revolutions as singularities. Then again one could also consider the approaching transhumanist age as man's first singularity... YMMV

It's always the others who die...

...writes JK on NQP this morning. While browsing yesterday, I found this very moving description by Bateson's daughter and co-author, Mary Catherine, over his death in San Francisco in 1980, 'Six Days of Dying' (external link).

"On the morning of July 2, Gregory asked his son to kill him. The asking was not a fully conscious request for practical steps - he suggested getting a stick and hitting him over the head with it, as if by brutal overstatement to achieve the opposite of euphemism - but it was a demanding paternal honesty."


Howard Bloom author of 'The Lucifer Principle' (on my bookshelf) and the 'History of the Global Brain' at Telepolis (read March 1998) has founded the International Paleopsychology Project (external link). This 'chatgroup' has quite a few interesting members including Dorion Sagan, Alexander Chislenko and Richard Brodie.

Internet War

Stratfor offers some commentary (external link) on the increasingly active role of the internet in the current war.

"Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm in Iraq could be described as CNN's war, with the Cable News Network building its reputation and ratings on round-the-clock coverage, even from within Baghdad. Operation Allied Force, by comparison, is arguably the Internet war."

MONDAY, 17 MAY 1999

e. e. cummings

The last couple of stanzas of e. e. cummings' poem 'Humanity i love you':

Humanity i love you because you
are perpetually putting the secret of
life in your pants and forgetting
it's there and sitting down

on it
and because you are
forever making poems in the lap
of death Humanity

i hate you

TUESDAY, 18 MAY 1999

Looks like one of my favorite info-dumps,, has recast itself into something different: (external link), with a new byline: Share what you know. Learn what you don't. Apparently archiving usenet is no longer competitive enough, so deja's started to leverage it's user's consumer savvy, urging visitors to: Rate products, services and people. Yessir. It's a new day and a new world.

I've been getting a lot of hits from Lithuania lately. (from Who's out there? An old friend from Vilnius? Please send me an email...

Psych Art, Psych Ops

Another friend, Wilco van Dijk, defended his PhD dissertation yesterday and Loes and I were invited to the ceremony and the graduation dinner that followed.

Later the new doctor clued-me-in to the names of a few classic socio-psychological experiments: Muzafer Sherif's Robber's Cave Study (1954), Leon Festinger's 'Cognitive Dissonance Theory' (1957), Stanley Milgrim's 'Obedience to Authority' studies at Yale (early 60's) and Philip Zimbardo's 'Stanford Prisoner Experiment' (1971).

"The cheapest way to propagate ideas is by address..."

I'd be interested (in doing or seeing) an exploratory inventory of the connections between these and other studies and the development of specific performance and situation-ist art works... Think: the dynamics of a relationship as the focus of the work. Think: Marina and Ulay, Linda Montano and Tehching Hsieh*. Think: Radical messing around with your public. Think: Chris Burden and ???

*The infamous Montano/Hsieh piece is described in 'The Year of the Rope: An Interview with Linda Montano & Tehching Hsieh' published in 'The Citizen Artist: 20 years of Art in the Public Arena, an anthology from High Performance Magazine 1978-1998'.


Victory, Love, Conquest

The Volkskrant has printed a picture this morning of Makah Indians (Olympic Pennisula, Washington state) dancing and cheering on the back of a female gray whale which they shot and killed on Monday.

Compelling image, especially for me--given my 1992 work (Victory, Love, Conquest, a Monument to Rape) for the Allocations exhibition was a sculpture/sign spelling the word LOVE and was composed of three aluminum canoes and a 'victory arch' made from the jawbones of a gray whale...

FRIDAY, 21 MAY 1999

Tour de Holland

I ended my weekly Media-GN constitutional with a quick tour of Holland today--travelling from Groningen to Kampen for a meeting of the directors of the Dutch MFA schools, then on to Den Bosch with Jules van de Vijver to see the results of a project at the art school, from there to Dordrecht to sit in Jules' and Ada's garden for a few pleasant hours, before finally heading home to Rotterdam.


Whale Hunt 1999

Spent a couple hours this morning looking into the Makah indian whale hunt story, which came to my attention last Wednesday. The tribe's claim to both the legal and cultural 'right' to hunt whales has been hotly protested and disputed by environmental groups since 1994, when the tribe requested government permission to resume the hunt. Last monday the tribe killed its first whale in over 70 years. For many the issue of whether or not the tribe should be allowed to hunt whales rests on a question of intelligence. Do cetaceans (whales and dolphins) possess cognitive faculties equivalent or greater than those possessed by human beings? Do gray whales?

A sad footnote: A Vancouverite by the name of 'Roedy Green' offered himself (I believe a while back) as a alternative sacrifice to the Makah indians, and then realising that it was unlikely that they would ever take him up on his offer, declared that he would sacrifice himself (kill himself) if the Makah killed a whale. This the Makah did last Monday. As of this morning Roedy is still alive. Let's hoping that he won't follow through with his plan. Here is his Makah Whale Sacrifice Page (external link).

Above: Seattle television offers live coverage of Makah natives towing the dead whale (extreme right) into Neah Bay, Washington.

Now, when I say that I am in the habit of going to sea whenever I begin to grow hazy about the eyes, and begin to be conscious of my lungs, I do not mean to have it inferred that I ever go to sea as a passenger.

Herman Melville, Moby Dick (1850-1851).

See also: Sea Shepherd Org (external link).

Hunting II

Went out shopping for bread (found), litmus paper (not found), a book on rock gardening (found) and Tori Amos's 'Little Earthquakes' (rented from the library).


Tongues of Fire

Today is Pentecost (Dutch = Pinkster), the seventh sunday after Easter, the start of Whitsuntide, the day when 'tongues of fire' appeared above the apostles. As written in Acts II: 3-4:

3. And there appeared to them tongues which were divided like flames of fire; and they rested upon each of them.

4. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they began to speak in various languages, according to whatever the Spirit gave them to speak.

The story of Babel (God confounding the ability of men to speak to each other) and the story of Pentecost (God granting men the ability to spread the 'word of God' to other nations and peoples, to speak in tongues, to speak a universal language) define the two ends of an dynamic dichotomy. On one end: schismogenesis, diversification, breakdown and chaos and on the other end: unification/unity and order. So today represents 'unification/unity day' in the christian calender. Why isn't there a counterpart day dedicated to celebrating Babel?

Messages and Matter

I've been thinking about the passage reprinted below. It seems reasonable to distinguish between the 'world of communication' and the Newtonian world, between messages and matter. Bateson's distinction provides a framework to look at the question Dick and I encountered two months ago in Delft (28.03.99), when the 'realness' of communication by email vs. communication face-to-face was brought up by a number of students.

"It is necessary first to insist that in the world of communication the only relevant entities or 'realities' are messages, including in this term parts of messages, relations between messages, significant gaps in messages and so on. The perception of an event or object or relation is real. It is a neurophysicalogical message. But the event itself or the object itself cannot enter this world and is, therefore, irrelevant and, to that extant, unreal. Conversely, a message has no reality or relevance qua message, in the Newtonian world: it there is reduced to sound waves or printer's ink.

"...The difference between the Newtonian world and the world of communication is simply this: that the Newtonian world ascribes reality to objects and achieves its simplicity by excluding the context of the context - excluding indeed all metarelationships - a fortiori excluding an infinite regress of such relations. In contrast, the theorist of communication insists upon examining the metarelationships while achieving its simplicity by excluding all objects.

"... This world, of communication, is a Berkeleyan world, but the good bishop was guilty of understatement. Relevance or reality must be denied not only to the sound of the tree which falls unheard in the forest but also to this chair which I can see and on which I am sitting. My perception of the chair is communicationally real, and that on which I sit is, for me, only an idea, a message in which I put my trust."

Gregory Bateson, Minimal Requirements for a Theory of Schizophrenia (1959).

Found while looking for a reference to Berkeley's argument that 'a tree falling unheard in the forest would not make a sound' is this page on the Constructivist Museum (external link).

Also found while looking backwards in Alamut (23.03.99), a short formal thought byte on language and messages from Principia Cybernetica:

1. A language is a system which, if properly controlled, can produce objects called messages.

2. A message is an object which has some meaning for some agent.

3. ...messages are always addressed to a certain agent ...they are supposed to influence the actions performed by this agent, otherwise there would no sense in producing and passing the message.

4. We know of exactly two ways of changing the actions of an agent. One way is to change the state of the world as far as the agent is concerned. The other way is to change the agent's model of the world.

So the chair in Bateson's example above sends a message (in comfort language) that says 'sit on me' to Bateson. Hmmm. (1) I'm thinking of one of our MFA participants, Martina Nussbaum who made a work entitled 'Comfort Language' a few years ago. (2) And I'm thinking of Gibson's 'Ecology of Perception' (which I hope to read one day).


For most folk in NL today's a holiday. Not for me. I'll be tutoring a workshop at the Willem de Kooning Academy entitled: Sites + Situations; Old and new strategies within urban developments; Workshop on art and design for the public sphere.

Margin note: The workshop reader contains a photocopy of an article by Hans Ulrich Obrist entitled 'Unbuilt Roads', a collection of unrealised public art projects. Obrist was in contact with me once about including my Oosterhout project in 'Unbuilt Roads'. Unfortunately, I didn't follow up on his request. Looking at the completed article, I think my cryonic 'Shelter for Schiphol' would also fit within his collection.

Attention surveillance

Predictive Engineering 2 (external link) is a web project by the German artist Julia Scher at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

Principia Cybernetica on prediction: "A cybernetic system makes predictions in order to achieve a certain goal, ultimately survival and proliferation."

Principia Cybernetica (external link) on knowledge (and epistemology):

"In Metasystem Transition Theory, knowledge is understood as consisting of models that allow the adaptation of a cybernetic system to its environment, by anticipation of possible perturbations. Models function as recursive generators of predictions about the world and the self. A model is necessarily simpler than the environment it represents, and this enables it to run faster than, i.e. anticipate, the processes in the environment. This allows the system to compensate perturbations before they have had the opportunity to damage the system."

Been reading an interesting and art savvy web log:


Oulipo (workshop for potential literature) was a writer's forum founded in 1961 that explored mathematics and literary restraints. Members included: Georges Perec, Raymond Queneau, and Italo Calvino.

Found: The text (in french) of Georges Perec's (author of 'Things' and 'Life: a User's Manual'), 'Le Grand Palindrome' (external link).

Yet another interesting book to order: 'Exercises in Style' (external link) by fellow Oulipo member Raymond Queneau. 'Exercises in Style' tell the same (banal/mundane) story 99 times in 99 different ways. What with my privileging for pattern (form) over content, I find myself extremely attracted to this sort of thing...

From James Sallis' review of the 'Oulipo Compendium' in the Boston Review (external link):

"An essentially collaborative effort to create new work by arbitrary systems of constraint, recombination, transposition, and displacement, Oulipo is on one level a game-though of course all art is game-playing. And on another level, it is a means of breaking through what one knows and knows how to do, a way of forcing oneself to think in different categories, to come face to face with the surprising. Take the lipogram, for instance: a text excluding one or more letters of the alphabet. Georges Perec wrote an entire novel, 'A Void' (La disparition), without using the letter e. Walter Abish's 'Alphabetical Africa' consists of 52 chapters, each word in the first chapter beginning with a, each in the second chapter with either a or b and so on, until with chapter 26, where all letters are allowed, the process reverses, each word in the final chapter again beginning with a. Others have written texts in which each noun was replaced by that found seventh ahead of it in the dictionary, texts using no letters that extend above or below the line, texts in which all r's have been eased-make that erased..."

Fun with (my own) Words

Strangely appropriate anagrams of my name: 'Paul Michael Perry' courtesy of Wordsmith Internet Anagram Server (external link).


TUESDAY, 25 MAY 1999

De Geuzen

Had the pleasure of meeting two very smart women at the workshop yesterday. One Femke Snelting and one Renee Turner. They, together with a third accomplice, go by the name 'De Geuzen' (the original Dutch resistance during the 80 years war) and do art, design, organization and activism in a most commendable fashion. After work we did dinner with David Garcia in Dudok, talked politics and education, and succeeded in sending David home with two pieces of apple pie.

Fan Mail from Poland

Can someone please translate this for me?
Dajcie nam obrazek zamku alamut. Kochamy was assasyni!

Whale Hunt Update

For some additional context to last Saturday's attention (22.05.99) I've uploaded The History of the Makah Whale Hunt.

Reading a description of the ritual makes me want to turn Clarke's 3rd law around:

Any sufficiently advanced magic is indistinguishable from technology.

...Prior to the hunt, Makah tribesman would ritually bathe themselves in the icy waters of the Pacific. They would rub their skin raw on sharp mussels and barnacles. A few days before their hunt they would often dig up a fresh grave and dismember a corpse. During the hunt the they would secure the torso of the corpse on their backs-a gesture indicating their respect for their dead brethren.

...When the whale arrived on the beach, the whole village clamored towards the dead beast. The wives of the hunters were certainly relieved; during the entirety of the hunt they had been instructed to remain motionless in their beds, not eating, sleeping or talking.

Word has it that the Makah have been potlatching (the ceremonial act of gaining social respect by giving away wealth) big time with people as far away as Tanzania. Remember: potlatch is the historic expression for what is now known as 'internet gift culture'. Imagine the day when the Makah potlatch extends to the virtual communities--the doorbell rings and it's fedex with a pound of grey whale meat.

For a sample of this week's realtime-whale-killing-chat check out: alt.animals.whales and alt.native.

And Todays Secret Word...

Procrustean. adj. Tending to produce uniformity by violent methods. [from Greek Prokroustes, literally stretcher, name of fabulous robber who fitted victims to his bed by stretching or mutilation.]


Community (ill) Logic

Jouke has adopted the community of 150 standard, (Dunbar's theory mentioned on: 07.05.99) and is using the concept to restrict membership to a list of people which he plans to mail periodically:

You have been added [to this list] through the sheer coincidence of knowing me... ...This is not a long list and it won´t get any longer than 150 addressees (the max size of a community that can play together and stay together, according to some calculation).

Small problem: What happens to the concept when 700 separate communitarians decide to include Jouke Kleerebezem, Jules van de Vijver or Renee Turner in their community of 150 lists? Today's human communities, unlike those of our ancestors (primate and more recent), are no longer exclusive. To a large extent each individual creates their own 'community' of members, who have each created their own 'individual' communities, which share varying degrees of commoness (members knowing each other).

The covert purpose of yester-years party and Jouke's mailing list? To introduce the individually formed community to itself...


Arrived home tonight after an especially interminable train trip (from Groningen) and immediately made myself a stack of tuna sandwiches (whole grain sour dough bread, madame jeanet pepper sauce, raw onions, olives, olive oil and tuna). Yumm.

The Answer

Munching sandwiches, I read a very nice email from an old friend, Raimundas Malasauskas. Raimundas is working as a curator at the Contemporary Art Center in Vlinius and is responsible for the slew of Lithuanian hits that the Alamut server has been receiving (18.05.99). Raimundas was also the first to translate Tuesday's Polish 'fanmail' (25.05.99) for me:

Dajcie nam obrazek zamku alamut. Kochamy was assasyni!
Give us an image of the castle of Alamut. We love you assassins!

To the sender: I will when I find one. Perhaps I'll have to go there myself and take one. To Mark Madel (who consulted his wife, Katashna ) and Loes (who forwarded it to a colleague who has a Polish friend). Thanks.

FRIDAY, 28 MAY 1999

Household Messages

Dutch: huishoudelijk mededelingen

I wish I had a cleaning person. Jouke's in town for the Sites and Situations workshop and will be staying here tonight. I need to vacuum. I hate vacuuming...

Diary? What Diary?

For lack of a better word, visitors to this page want to refer to it as a 'diary'. The word you want is: notebook. I see this page as an artist's notebook sorted by date. Diaries are hot (in the McLuhanist sense). Notebooks are cool. Notebooks are sketchy.

As the Master explained in 'Understanding Media':

"There is a basic principle that distinguishes a hot medium like radio from a cool one like the telephone, or a hot medium like the movie from a cool one like TV. A hot medium is one that extends one single sense in 'high definition'. High definition is the state of being well filled with data. A photograph is, visually, high definition. A cartoon is low definition, simply because very little visual information is provided. Telephone is a cool medium, or one of low definition, because the ear is given a meagre amount of information. And speech is a cool medium of low definition, because so little is given and so much has to be filled in by the listener. On the other hand, hot media do not leave so much to be filled in or completed by the audience. Hot media are, therefore, low in participation, and cool media are high in participation or completion by the audience. Naturally, therefore, a hot medium like radio has very different effects on the user from a cool medium like the telephone."

Don't think 'diary'. Think 'notebook'.


It was warm and clear tonight, with a very bright full moon. I wonder whether a full moon attracts moths? Or are they too smart to fall for a trick like that?

Sites and Situations

Today was the final day of the workshop. Jouke presided over a panel discussion with Anke Bangma, Jan van Grunsven and Renée Kool and myself.

The issues and approaches to public art raised in 'Sites and Situations' have given me cause to think. I'll post my notes here on Alamut once they are ordered. I promise.

Today's Secret Word

Miscible. adj. That can be mixed (with). Capable of being mixed (with something).

I'm OK, You're OK compliments

SUNDAY, 30 MAY 1999

Took the train to Amsterdam and went shopping with Loes. The city is a mess, with the garbage men on strike. I find it personally embarassing to see how dirty the streets can become even though people know that there is no one to clean up after them. Robert Smithson* once said that waste and enjoyment are coupled. Klopt. Amsterdam IS very, very horny.

Found a copy of Michael Spens' 'The Complete Landscape Designs and Gardens of Geoffrey Jellicoe' for Hfl. 62.00 at that odd 'remaindered' bookstore by the Munt. After looking into my wallet and deliberating, I ended up not buying it. Instead, L & I walked along the flower market looking at perennials. And ate lunch at Foodism.

* in Entropy Made Visible, an interview with Alison Sky in 1973.

Recast Notice

The Mining Company ( has recast itself as

MONDAY, 31 MAY 1999

Ordered some more books from Powell's. (1) Wasting Away by Kevin Lynch, (2) Angels Fear: Towards an Epistemology of the Sacred by Gregory and Mary Catherine Bateson, (3) Finite and Infinite Games by James Carse, (4) Poetics of Gardens by Charles Moore, and (5) Language in Thought and Action by S. I. Hayakawa.


I definitely live in a different world than you do. Why? Because it affords me different things than it affords you. (I've archived a collection of quotes on the concept of affordances by J. J. Gibson and others.) I'm beginning to see Bateson, Gibson and Merleau-Ponty as related...


It took some searching (hotbot: +smallpox +"hindu god") but I finally found the name of the Hindu goddess of smallpox, mentioned by Renee Turner last week.

Update (28.2.00): Another name for the goddess that seems to be in more common use: 'Sitala.'

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