Archive for the 'Uncategorized' Category

July 22, 2014



July 22, 2014

I couldn’t sleep last night so I just got dressed and went to my diner on Greenwich Avenue, to have a cup of herbal tea. In case, I can go back to sleep later.  I was worried by yesterday’s meeting I had with Doctor Menninger, my psychiatrist for the past three years.  I suffer from depression that just doesn’t stop.  In the middle of the night, while I’m in bed, I often started crying for no reason, at least in my mind I can’t find the source of this misery.  He has given me a prescription and I have been taking it on a strict basis, but still, I can’t remove the darkness that seems to be tattooed on my brain.  Being a rather vain man, people, especially girls, have commented that I have developed bags under my eyes, which are a pretty new visual for me.  The utensils at this diner are very shiny, and I can see my reflection on the back of the spoon, and the first thing I notice are the bags.   My face is very pale, and the darkness under my eyes disturbs me.  Doctor Menninger, thinks I should think of other things besides yours truly.



The situation is I only know myself, and I don’t know that much about anything else. When I feel anything, emotionally speaking, it is always a bad feeling.  If I had one philosopher or writer that I followed, it’s Amy Vanderbilt.  Her “Complete Book of Etiquette” is as close to the Bible for me as possible.  In the book, I found this quote that rings true to me: “Good manners have much to do with the emotions.  To make them ring true, one must feel them, not merely exhibit them.” That and “do not speak of repulsive matters at the table” pretty much rules my thoughts on how one should interact with the world today.   The problem with me is how far can I go with my emotions in a public space?  My awkwardness just gets in the way, when I wish to express myself in a certain fashion, and usually I have to re-think how I should say or convey my feelings, so it won’t disturb or put people off.



When I want to communicate, that is the time or moment when I fail to do so.  Which of course, triggers off my anxiety which leads to the crippling depression.   The Vanderbilt book is an excellent guide for me to follow and also I can obtain information in the book in bite-size portions. Nonetheless, sometimes reading is very difficult, and I tend to read words off a computer or page, and I tend to wander into some abstract zone, where I find myself trapped with (again) the anxiety that seems to rule my conscience.   Going to the cinema helps me in that I don’t have to think, it is just sitting there in front of a large screen and focusing on the images, and if I want, I can hear and digest the words coming from the actor’s words. “Taxi Driver” is a film that I have seen at least 25 times.  I of course have the DVD, but when it originally came out in 1976, I would sit in a theater and watch that film over and over again.  The first viewing I wasn’t practically paying any attention to it, the images off the screen were just background noise, so I can sit in the darkness and think or let my mind wander.   Over time, and repeated screenings I started to pick up the anxiety of the main character, and that, oddly enough, helped me through the day.



The only other film besides “Taxi Driver” that had a huge effect on me was the “The Invisible Man” starring Claude Rains, directed by James Whale, and even the great Preston Struges had a hand in writing the script.  I think what appealed to me was Rains’ interpretation of the invisible man and how one can be there, but not there.  In other words, I often felt invisible to my peers, or in a crowd, and it’s moments like these, where I realize it doesn’t matter if I’m here or not.    I often wonder if I should just enter the world, and totally subject myself to a cause or even a position in life, but the truth in the manner, is that I wouldn’t be in it for the purpose of that cause, but more to fill myself with a duty to prove that I’m alive and somehow I can make a difference out there.  Then again, perhaps it is appropriate enough that I sit here and look at my reflection off the back of a spoon.

itscolossal: An Architectural Canvas of Shipping Containers…







itscolossal:

An Architectural Canvas of Shipping Containers Painted With Greek Gods by Pichi & Avo

hetaremozu: 日本の空から“電柱”をなくそう—民間による「無電柱化プロジェクト」設立 -…



hetaremozu:

日本の空から“電柱”をなくそう—民間による「無電柱化プロジェクト」設立 - インターネットコム

[Link: Efforts to eliminate utility poles in Japan.]

jellyfishtimes: by Luminokaya



jellyfishtimes:

by Luminokaya

The Unconquerable (4)

macinnesThe Old Square

“She might scruple to make use of the words”

A passage that has always fascinated me in Mansfield Park:
Of her two sisters, Mrs. Price very much more resembled Lady Bertram than Mrs. Norris. She was a manager by necessity, without any of Mrs. Norris’s inclination for it, or any of her activity. Her disposition was naturally easy and indolent, like Lady Bertram’s; and a situation of similar affluence and do-nothing-ness would have been much more suited to her capacity, than the exertions and self-denials of the one, which her imprudent marriage had placed her in. She might have made just as good a woman of consequence as Lady Bertram, but Mrs. Norris would have been a more respectable mother of nine children, on a small income.

Much of all this, Fanny could not but be sensible of. She might scruple to make use of the words, but she must and did feel that her mother was a partial, ill-judging parent, a dawdle, a slattern, who neither taught nor restrained her children, whose house was the scene of mismanagement and discomfort from the beginning to end, and who had no talent, no conversation, no affection towards herself; no curiosity to know her better, no desire of her friendship, and no inclination for her company that could lessen her sense of such feelings.

Fourth World (2)

Forever_People_1_1971Kirby makes love, not intergalactic war.

Closing tabs

Very nice birthday, but tiring! Too weary now to write projected thoughts on midlife....

A link I have been saving to post today.

10 questions I answered in support of tomorrow's midday event at Bryant Park.

An archeology of marginalia.

Good night!

“How to Shake Hands”

David Rees on how to make a how-to show:
Here’s the thing: making a TV show is a great excuse to do things you always wanted to do and never have for whatever time or logistical reasons. We did an episode on how to climb a tree because basically, when I was growing up in North Carolina, there was a huge magnolia tree in the front yard and my parents wouldn’t let me climb it and I always wanted to climb it. I thought, “If I have to climb it as part of a TV show, my parents will have to support that.” Not only did I get to climb that tree, but I also got to go to the Redwood Forest in California, and I had always wanted to go and see these 3,000 year-old Redwoods, which was incredible. Or for “How To Shake Hands,” we got access to cadaver specimens of arms and hands. That was actually really profound because they had cut open the arm and tied strings to all the ligaments so when you pulled the string, you could watch the finger bend over and flex into the palm of the hand. That was obviously very heavy for a lot of reasons.

“How to Shake Hands”

David Rees on how to make a how-to show:
Here’s the thing: making a TV show is a great excuse to do things you always wanted to do and never have for whatever time or logistical reasons. We did an episode on how to climb a tree because basically, when I was growing up in North Carolina, there was a huge magnolia tree in the front yard and my parents wouldn’t let me climb it and I always wanted to climb it. I thought, “If I have to climb it as part of a TV show, my parents will have to support that.” Not only did I get to climb that tree, but I also got to go to the Redwood Forest in California, and I had always wanted to go and see these 3,000 year-old Redwoods, which was incredible. Or for “How To Shake Hands,” we got access to cadaver specimens of arms and hands. That was actually really profound because they had cut open the arm and tied strings to all the ligaments so when you pulled the string, you could watch the finger bend over and flex into the palm of the hand. That was obviously very heavy for a lot of reasons.

Worlds of trouble

Alice Goffman's On the Run: Fugitive Life in an American City really is extraordinary - a must-read. Now I just have to figure out whether I should buy it for various family members in hardcover or Kindle! The appendix in particular is quite amazing - the last book that had me so close to tears at the end, I think, was Ken Bruen's The Dramatist. It was also interesting finishing just after having read William Wells Brown's also rather amazing novel Clotel; the historical continuities are striking and disturbing, and really I think I need to read Michelle Alexander's The New Jim Crow now too.

Read another very sad book over the weekend, it made me feel mournful enough that I slightly regretted ever having embarked on reading the trilogy in the first place, though they are very good and I really do recommend them - that's Ben Winters' final installment in the series that began with The Last Policeman, World of Trouble.

Worlds of trouble

Alice Goffman's On the Run: Fugitive Life in an American City really is extraordinary - a must-read. Now I just have to figure out whether I should buy it for various family members in hardcover or Kindle! The appendix in particular is quite amazing - the last book that had me so close to tears at the end, I think, was Ken Bruen's The Dramatist. It was also interesting finishing just after having read William Wells Brown's also rather amazing novel Clotel; the historical continuities are striking and disturbing, and really I think I need to read Michelle Alexander's The New Jim Crow now too.

Read another very sad book over the weekend, it made me feel mournful enough that I slightly regretted ever having embarked on reading the trilogy in the first place, though they are very good and I really do recommend them - that's Ben Winters' final installment in the series that began with The Last Policeman, World of Trouble.

“One voluptuous delight at a time”

Read Paul Fournel's Need for the Bike last night in one sitting - a gift from my dear friend T.. I loved it - highly recommended.

Here is a representative bit - Fournel is an Oulipo member as well as an avid lifelong cyclist, it is a perfect combination of style and topic (the translator is Allan Stoekl - it's a beautiful little book from the University of Nebraska Press):
For the cyclist there are two types of meals and two types of appetite: during and after.

During the effort, eating is a complex problem. One has to indulge in things that are high-calorie, light, quickly chewed, quickly swallowed, quickly digested. 'Eat before getting hungry,' Paul de Vivie advised, and he was right.

Wanting to do the right thing, and certainly guided by the memory of the contents of the old-time racers' musette bags, riders often set off with a chicken drumstick, a gooey-fruited tart, a leftover bit of steak, a ham sandwich, just to make sure they're not hungry at dinnertime. Hunger exists, but effort conceals it, and the prospect of swallowing a chicken thigh while pedaling up an inviting false flat is enough to make you heave.

There are yet deeper mysteries. I can't think of anything better than chocolate. I eat it upon getting up in the morning and every time I come across it during the day. I like it dark, dry, and hard. But I've never been able to eat a bit of it on the bike. The bike eliminates my taste for chocolate by turning it into a sticky, nauseating goo. No doubt I should see this as a nice lesson in the nonconcurrence of pleasures. One voluptuous delight at a time.

The effect of marzipan is the opposite; I don't like it, but on a bike it's a blessing.

The mounted cyclist is a different person.

“One voluptuous delight at a time”

Read Paul Fournel's Need for the Bike last night in one sitting - a gift from my dear friend T.. I loved it - highly recommended.

Here is a representative bit - Fournel is an Oulipo member as well as an avid lifelong cyclist, it is a perfect combination of style and topic (the translator is Allan Stoekl - it's a beautiful little book from the University of Nebraska Press):
For the cyclist there are two types of meals and two types of appetite: during and after.

During the effort, eating is a complex problem. One has to indulge in things that are high-calorie, light, quickly chewed, quickly swallowed, quickly digested. 'Eat before getting hungry,' Paul de Vivie advised, and he was right.

Wanting to do the right thing, and certainly guided by the memory of the contents of the old-time racers' musette bags, riders often set off with a chicken drumstick, a gooey-fruited tart, a leftover bit of steak, a ham sandwich, just to make sure they're not hungry at dinnertime. Hunger exists, but effort conceals it, and the prospect of swallowing a chicken thigh while pedaling up an inviting false flat is enough to make you heave.

There are yet deeper mysteries. I can't think of anything better than chocolate. I eat it upon getting up in the morning and every time I come across it during the day. I like it dark, dry, and hard. But I've never been able to eat a bit of it on the bike. The bike eliminates my taste for chocolate by turning it into a sticky, nauseating goo. No doubt I should see this as a nice lesson in the nonconcurrence of pleasures. One voluptuous delight at a time.

The effect of marzipan is the opposite; I don't like it, but on a bike it's a blessing.

The mounted cyclist is a different person.

“Unsurprisingly, the blame game is now playing out on Wikipedia, where editors battle to record the…”

Unsurprisingly, the blame game is now playing out on Wikipedia, where editors battle to record the polemics that best reflect their side of the story. Earlier this morning, the Russian-language Wikipedia entry for commercial aviation accidents hosted one such skirmish, when someone with an IP address based in Kyiv edited the MH17 record to say that the plane was shot down “by terrorists of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic with Buk system missiles, which the terrorists received from the Russian Federation.” Less than an hour later, someone with a Moscow IP address replaced this text with the sentence, “The plane was shot down by Ukrainian soldiers.”

Thanks to a Twitter bot that tracks anonymous Wikipedia edits made from IP addresses used by the Russian government, we know that the second edit to the MH17 article came from a computer at VGTRK, the All-Russia State Television and Radio Broadcasting Company.



- Russian State TV Edits Wikipedia to Blame Ukraine for MH17 Crash · Global Voices

talk: how do we get to the future?

How do we get to the future?

I have longtime family friends who live in Ashfield a town in central-west Massachusetts and that is about half the size of the town that I live in. Their library, the Belding Library, is celebrating its centennial with events all summer long and they invited me to talk about the future and .. where it is?

William Gibson’s notable phrase that I repeat often is “The future is here, it’s just not evenly distributed” which I’ve taken as reflective of the digital divide issues generally. I have neighbors struggling with dial-up. Singapore has 100MB broadband available for $39/month. These differences matter but and wind up, over very short time periods, enhancing divides that may have started out smaller. And for technology’s end users, sometimes it can be confusing why this isn’t all better or easier by now since in many other cases we really are living in the future that we had envisioned when we were younger. So I talked a bit about that, and why we’re not there yet, and ways to make technology attractive to people so that they can possibly dip their toes into a fun project before they get stuck being forced to use it for an unfun project like taxes or health care or filing for unemployment.

You can read my notes and slides here and you might also enjoy this story of how the Belding Library (somewhat controversially) financed their library addition in part by the discovery and sale of an original Emancipation Proclamation copy that they found in their basement.

THIRTEEN WAYS OF LOOKING AT APOLLO (13)

Two months after Apollo 8 returned from the first manned orbit of the moon, Arthur C. Clarke in the pages of Look magazine predicted a blazing future for man in space: “Many of the children born on the day Apollo 8 splashed down,” he wrote, “may live to become citizens of the United Planets.” Born on December 22, 1968, I am one of those children. My father liked to tell me how he cried as he listened to the famous Christmas-eve broadcast on the radio while driving home from the hospital after my delivery. The Apollo 8 command module itself ultimately found a home in Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry, where I visited it throughout my childhood. The connection of the moon shot and my December nativity filled my imagination in those years; I was just old enough to watch and remember the last Apollo missions, when astronauts tore up the lunar surface in the rover and Alan Shepard hit his golf shot out of the biggest bunker in the solar system.

The years that followed brought little but frustrating news from the space program; by the time we sat in the school library and watched Christa MacAuliffe and her fellow astronauts disappear in a spidery plume of smoke over the ocean in 1986, it seemed unlikely that I would ever have my passport stamped on the moon, much less Mars or the outer planets.

challenger

And yet the view from space now dominates the imaginings of us Earthbound astronauts. We download satellite imagery with the flick of a finger; our unmanned craft even now speed among the outer planets, sift their sediments for signs of life, and probe the edge of the solar system, millions of miles from Earth where the sun’s influence finally ebbs. We’ve embodied that self-regarding wonder in the tools of exploration themselves: the Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity, like their forbears Viking and the Voyagers, have captured the imagination of millions with their inexhaustible adaptability. The Voyager probes carry burnished plaques with human forms engraved upon them, an acknowledgment, however inchoate, that they are our interstellar avatars.

Like WALL-E, the plucky robot star of last summer’s popular movie, the probes are tricksters and explorers, adaptationists, machines of many ways. As conjectured in the first Star Trek film, in which Voyager 6 returns to our solar system as a demiurge called “V’ger” striving to merge with its creator, they are latent gods as well. As with Apollo, of course, we’re fooling ourselves a bit — the Mars rovers are not autonomous adventurers, but long-distance tools controlled by hosts of engineers and scientists here on Earth. But using their aid not only to probe and explore but to adventure and to dream, we may be taking another kind of giant leap.

roverlove

Once, we sent humans into space to give a focus to our imagination; we needed heroes to embody our passions and our frailties. It’s by virtue of machines, however, that we have reached beyond the moon. Machines can compute but cannot feel; they express our intentions but cannot share our passions. Such, anyway, has been the understanding, and the dilemma, of modern times. But perhaps we’ve underestimated the machine — which is only another way of saying that we’ve underestimated ourselves. Dimly, we’ve begun to realize that as we extend ourselves with tools, we inhabit them with our dreams and desires as well. Perhaps as we probe the reaches of interstellar space, we’ll feel more keenly the extension of our senses by even such abstract and remote tools as these. We’re coming to the point where machines may become not only tools and extensions of our senses, but our heroes, too.

The thirteenth of fourteen posts on the cultural legacy of the Apollo program and its era. The original essay can be found at HiLobrow.com, where it originally appeared on the 23rd of June, 2009.

Lake Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg! “You fish on…



Lake Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg!

"You fish on your side of the lake, I fish on mine, and nobody fish in the middle."

installator: “Installing remarkable new work by Ann Hamilton.”…



installator:

"Installing remarkable new work by Ann Hamilton." (Transformer Station)

afp-photo: FRANCE, Chamonix-Mont-Blanc : Switzerland’s…



afp-photo:

FRANCE, Chamonix-Mont-Blanc : Switzerland’s Geraldine Fasnacht jumps from the top of the Brevent mountain to fly in wingsuit over the French ski resort of Chamonix on July 16, 2014. AFP PHOTO / PHILIPPE DESMAZES

AROMA FORK



AROMA FORK

July 21, 2014



July 21, 2014

To be honest, I’m very much influenced by the misery that is in the world.  For what I do, I need despair on a political and criminal level.  The horror of the bombings in Gaza as well as the commercial flight being shot down over Ukraine is fuel for my writing.  Without it, I do not have a thing to write about.   At this level, it becomes pornography.  I have seen so many images of death, that it has become meaningless to me.   As an artist I rather see a representation of death, then an actual obliteration of a human being, animal and architecture.  I imagine being a journalist in a war or disaster area, and telling the story through one’s eyes, has to be a difficult skill.  There is a need to distance oneself from what they are seeing to get a clear picture with respect to what that they’re reporting on.   Data facts are significant as well.  One just has to note the correct number of deaths, and buildings destroyed.  If one makes a mistake, it can throw off your whole story.



Often the problem is that we are looking at that singular tree, instead of the massive volume of forest around that tree.  This same problem happens when one is writing or doing art as well.  It is almost impossible to stay neutral when the world in front of you is being destroyed or changed radically.  Also the feeling of things not changing but just repeating itself over and over again, is a frustration in motion.  It’s like being trapped in a television show, where you pretty much know what is going to happen at the end of the episode. Yet, we keep watching it because the format gives one some sort of comfort that there is an order out there that will make everything to reach its natural conclusion.  The thing is, I don’t believe there is an order in this world.  I think every culture has a bit of self-destruction tendencies because it is somewhat embedded in our DNA.   This I thinks is what causes strife, horror, or in other words, Pandora’s Box.



I have a fear of doing something that will make things worst.  I think a lot of people feel that way. Yet there are a large percentage of people who jump in to something and ask questions later.  The impulse to jump into the fire is actually sexy, especially if one is doing it to feel more vibrant or even out of curiosity.  So when you do get that beautiful box or container and you know you shouldn’t open it, but alas, you do.  Well, that's human nature.  Between you and me, I never cared for human nature that much.



Acts of violence are never a good solution to a problem.  I understand the violent act, it can be satisfying to step over that line that separates insanity and sanity, but the circumstances of such an act can or more likely cause severely detrimental and far-reaching consequences.  I refrain from feeling regret, so therefore I pretty much ignore all my impulses in committing any acts of violence.  But on the other hand I don’t mind using violence in a narrative that I am writing or have or will have used in my work.   I like realism, but only in the context that it is made in a studio or on the page.  The French had a loose film movement called “poetic realism” where one recreates realism in a stylized fashion, and usually filmed in a film studio.  This, serves my sense of aesthetic and therefore I want to take the horrors that are out there, and re-arrange them to suit my purpose, either for narration sake or an aesthetic image.  As the world crumbles, I believe “art for art’s sake” becomes more important to me.

THIRTEEN WAYS OF LOOKING AT APOLLO (12)

“The medieval notion of the earth put man at the center of everything,” wrote Archibald MacLeish in a New York Times commentary that many believed was the best early distillation of the Apollo moment. “The nuclear notion of the earth put him nowhere — beyond the range of reason even — lost in absurdity and war.” By achieving the moon, MacLeish paradoxically hoped, we would discover a new humility — a humility born of the very recognition that this mythic act was manufactured, made by working men and women with the tools at their disposal. “This latest notion may have other consequences,” he offered. “Formed as it was in the minds of heroic voyagers who were also men, it may remake our image of mankind. No longer that preposterous figure at the center, no longer that degraded and degrading victim off at the margins of reality and blind with blood, man may at last become himself.” No longer at the center; no longer at the margins, man becomes himself. We were in the midst of that becoming in 1968, and it was a complicated becoming — and Apollo was but a piece of it. We were learning how to accept our reflection in technology. MacLeish goes on to say that “To see the earth as it truly is, small and blue and beautiful in that eternal silence where it floats, is to see ourselves as riders on the earth together, brothers on that bright loveliness in the eternal cold — brothers who know now they are truly brothers.”

Hereford_Mappa_Mundi_1300

The twelfth of fourteen posts on the cultural legacy of the Apollo program and its era. The original essay can be found at HiLobrow.com, where it originally appeared on the 23rd of June, 2009.

coketalk: …and an eager nose can smell your own bullshit. -…



coketalk:

…and an eager nose can smell your own bullshit.

- CQ

THIRTEEN WAYS OF LOOKING AT APOLLO (11)

The concept of “Spaceship Earth” fit well with Buckminster Fuller’s philosophy of engineering and design driven by natural forms. Fuller approached Earth as a sort of broken vessel, which it was our job to repair and keep well. Perhaps more than any designer, engineer, or science-fiction author, Fuller recognized that we were all astronauts already, that Earth is not merely in space but of it. Many commentators, from Arthur C. Clarke to Anthony Lewis, by contrast, had seen humanity’s move to space not as a chance to know and love the Earth better, but to leave it and its legion miseries behind. By 1969, the twentieth century had brought those miseries to what seemed an apocalyptic head; with the world wracked by famine, conflict, and the prospect of nuclear annihilation, it seemed we couldn’t break free from Earth’s bonds fast enough. With riots in the ghettos, the moon shot looks like a step towards the ultimate white flight, getting out of the neighborhood before everything goes to hell.

And yet some recognized that even in its straitening harshness, the Earth provided a unique protection to the life that had evolved upon it. In War of the Worlds, for instance, H. G. Wells already had understood that the Earth was no mere vessel, but a protector of its living creatures as well. In the end, the invading Martians die of bacterial infections against which humans had long been inoculated; “by the toll of a billion deaths,” he writes, “man has bought his birthright of the Earth.”

The eleventh of fourteen posts on the cultural legacy of the Apollo program and its era. The original essay can be found at HiLobrow.com, where it originally appeared on the 23rd of June, 2009.

Fourth World (1)

jack-kirby_new-gods-n5_oct-nov1971_pp2-3Had He But Worlds Enough, and Time…

THIRTEEN WAYS OF LOOKING AT APOLLO (10)

By the magic of Apollo it was not the moon but the Earth that we lost. No longer is it Turtle Island, the foundation, the enduring core; we’ve seen it for what it is: a bubble, a mote. Something more fragile even than “Spaceship Earth,” the pre-Apollo formulation of Buckminster Fuller. Robert Poole points out that the astronauts saw something similar to the Earth of Plato’s imagining: “variegated, a patchwork of colours of which our colours here are, as it were, samples that painters use… . Even its hollows,” Plato supposes, “full as they are of water and air, give it an appearance of color, gleaming among the variety of other colors, so that its general appearance is one of continuous multicolored surface.” For all Plato’s world-eschewing idealism, the ultimate ideal is perhaps the Earth itself; we’ve always been our own heavens.

But once the image’s inspiration had cooled, once the hyperbole had died down, we were left with the realization that the Earth’s resources are finite. Are we fellow travelers on Spaceship Earth? Or survivors cast adrift at sea, fighting for the last scrap of food, the last swig of sweet water?

Silent_running

The tenth of fourteen posts on the cultural legacy of the Apollo program and its era. The original essay can be found at HiLobrow.com, where it originally appeared on the 23rd of June, 2009.

Ernest Hemingway

Ernest_Hemingway_1923_passport_photoA willing inmate of his own prison: “Papa.”

Don Knotts

knottsHe elevated neurosis to a comedic height rivaled only by Woody Allen.

“O thin men of Haddam, Why do you imagine golden birds? Do you not see how the blackbird Walks around…”

“O thin men of Haddam,
Why do you imagine golden birds?
Do you not see how the blackbird
Walks around the feet
Of the women about you?”

-

Wallace Stevens, “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird.”

The ninth of fourteen posts on the cultural legacy of the Apollo program and its era. The original essay can be found at HiLobrow.com, where it originally appeared on the 23rd of June, 2009.

Are ranks bounded?

I was only able to get to two days of the arithmetic statistics workshop in Montreal, but it was really enjoyable!  And a pleasure to see that so many strong students are interested in working on this family of problems.

I arrived to late to hear Bjorn Poonen’s talk, where he made kind of a splash by offering some heuristic evidence that the Mordell-Weil ranks of elliptic curves over Q are bounded above.  I remember Andrew Granville suggesting eight or nine years ago that this might be the case.  At the time, it was an idea so far from conventional wisdom that it came across as a bit cheeky!  (Or maybe that’s just because Andrew often comes across as a bit cheeky…)

Why did we think there were elliptic curves of arbitrarily large rank over Q?  I suppose because we knew of no reason there shouldn’t be.  Is that a good reason?  It might be instructive to compare with the question of bounds for rational points on genus 2 curves.  We know by Faltings that |X(Q)| is finite for any genus 2 curve X, just as we know by Mordell-Weil that the rank of E(Q) is finite for any elliptic curve E.  But is there some absolute upper bound for |X(Q)|?  When I was in grad school, Lucia Caporaso, Joe Harris, and Barry Mazur proved a remarkable theorem:  that if Lang’s conjecture were true, there was some constant B such that |X(Q)| was at most B for every genus 2 curve X.  (And the same for any value of 2…)

Did this make people feel like |X(Q)| was uniformly bounded?  No!  That was considered ridiculous!  The Caporaso-Harris-Mazur theorem was thought of as evidence against Lang’s conjecture.  The three authors went around Harvard telling all the grad students about the theorem, saying — you guys are smart, go construct sequences of genus 2 curves with growing numbers of points, and boom, you’ve disproved Lang’s conjecture!

But none of us could.

And nobody could generate sequences of elliptic curves with unbounded ranks, either!  People have constructed lots of cool examples over the years.  But Noam Elkies’s elliptic curve with rank 28 has stood as champion for almost a decade now.  We may be approaching a Noamsymptote.

Now here’s what Bjorn has to say.  (This is based on my chats with others about his talk, since I didn’t see it.  Please correct/refine in comments.)  The BKLPR heuristics propose a very rich conjectural description of the distribution of Selmer, Shafarevich, and Mordell-Weil groups of a random elliptic curve over Q.  In particular:  the p-adic Selmer group of E should be modeled by the intersection between two randomly chosen maximal isotropic subspaces in a large orthogonal space over Z_p.

So it seems natural to model the actual Mordell-Weil group as the intersection between two random maximal isotropic lattices in a large orthogonal space over Z!

But now there’s a problem with “random.”  The space of maximal p-adic isotropics is a nice compact p-adic manifold with a natural probability distribution on it.  And in this probability distribution, there is zero probability that the intersection of two isotropics — the “Mordell-Weil rank” — is greater than 1.  Which is the answer we’re supposed to get!  But for the present problem, the claim that “0% of elliptic curves have rank greater than 1″ isn’t good enough.  We don’t want 0%.  We want 0.

What’s more, what can it mean to talk about a random isotropic lattice now?  There are a countably infinite set of such things, with no natural distribution on them to call “uniform.”

So here’s what to do.  You can count all pairs of isotropic subspaces in a “box” — say, just count those generated by vectors with entries at most B, or better, count all subspaces of height at most B.  There are finitely many of them.  And let p(r,B) be the probability that two of these subspaces, chosen uniformly at random from the finitely many choices, intersect in a lattice of rank r.  As B goes to infinity, we ought to expect p(r,B) to go to 0.

Similarly, let P(r,X) be the probability that an elliptic curve of conductor at most X has rank r.

We would like a heuristic to say that p = P!  But this is meaningless without a way of “matching” B and X.  Bjorn finesses this in a very clever way.  We already have random matrix predictions that tell us that P(2,X) is supposed to be on order X^{-1/24}.  So you “tune” B to match X by letting B be whatever power of X makes p(2,B) ~ B^{-1/24}!

(Note:  I originally had an exponent of -1/4 above, but that was for quadratic twist families.  Michael Rubinstein pointed out that I should have been quoting this paper of Mark Watkins instead.  Interesting — I’m very used to casually saying “quadratic twist families are the same as the general family,” and I think that’s true for questions about measures, as in BKLPR, but there’s no reason they have to behave the same way w/r/t more refined questions like this one!  This big difference in exponents makes me wonder — should we expect that 100% of elliptic curves should have no quadratic twist with rank greater than, I dunno, 5?)

And what you find is that, having done so, you get that p(r,B) varies as a negative power of B, and for r big enough, p(r,B) is smaller than B^{5/6}, which is supposed to be the number of elliptic curves of conductor at most B, and so for r this big, you find yourself predicting no elliptic curves of that rank at all.  Or finitely many, better to say.  After all, we know by work of Ulmer that there are elliptic curves over F_q(t) of arbitrarily large Mordell-Weil rank, and the BKLPR heuristics work just as well in this case — but the Ulmer examples will be very sparse.  Maybe a better way to read what Bjorn’s new heuristic says is that, for sufficiently large r, the number of E/Q with rank at least r and conductor at most X grows more slowly than any power of X.

All aspects of what I’ve said here are oversimplified and no doubt some are wrong!  But it’s very exciting to see conventional wisdom on such a fundamental question begin to shift, so I wanted to record the moment here.

 

 

 

 


THIRTEEN WAYS OF LOOKING AT APOLLO (8)

The astronauts of Apollo 11 and the later landings would bring back rocks and dust — handfuls first, and then great heaps, nearly nine hundred pounds of lunar rocks in all. The astronauts’ specimens are kept to this day in controlled vitrines, bathed in nitrogen to prevent their corrosion in the Earth’s atmosphere. But these shards are orphaned, their shimmer faded. Of course, ultimately they might be counted fragments of the Earth, as the moon itself was shorn from our planet by a massive impact billions of years ago; in the final analysis, the lunar rocks have come home. In their sterility, they bear the telltale trace of their long estrangement, a reminder that the magnificent desolation Buzz Aldrin described seeing when gazing upon the lunar surface exists in time as well as space. Mailer ends Of a Fire on the Moon inspecting a fragment of lunar geology behind its double panes of glass at the Lunar Science Center, apostrophizing to it as though it’s a long-lost lover or a virgin mother.

It’s fair to say the moon has kept its unimpeachable magic; in its unchanging revolutions it is as baleful and benevolent as ever. Its influence remains undiminished by a trampling of footprints, however giant they may have been for Mankind. The one truly magical artifact brought back from the moon was made by the Apollo 8 astronauts in December 1968: the famous photo of Earth’s swirling whites and blues set against the burnished grey plain of the moon. The picture Bill Anders shot through the one unfogged window of his capsule was quickly dubbed Earthrise — and yet it captured the imagination not of a rising, but of a setting world. Historian Robert Poole points out that this was a view imagined by the ancients, anticipated by modern internationalists, and claimed ultimately by the environmental movement as a transcendent symbol of the living planet as the final commons.

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The eight of fourteen posts on the cultural legacy of the Apollo program and its era. The original essay can be found at HiLobrow.com, where it originally appeared on the 23rd of June, 2009.

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THIRTEEN WAYS OF LOOKING AT APOLLO (7)

How do we place the energies and emanations of Apollo amidst the bloody kaleidoscope that was 1969? From today’s vantage point it’s hard to reconcile images of the lunar program — a combination of austerity, hope, and sheer power — with the spectrum of tragedies that turned the counterculture’s transformative possibilities into a tissue of rage, desire, and self-annihilation. But these images were very much on the minds of Apollo’s critics, as well as its planners, its engineers, and the astronauts themselves. Hardly a public announcement of progress in the program could be made without pious admonitions to turn the energies of innovation and the spirit of exploration loose on the problems of an Earthbound human race. engineering historian David Mindell points out that, while frontier images and Right Stuff machismo resonated in Apollo, such motifs were compounded with the increasing fear of technology running amok. In the midst of the Apollo era, Lewis Mumford would coin the term “megamachine” to describe the “aggregate of technology, social organization, and management.” 2001: A Space Odyssey, which appeared in 1968 — and which the astronauts watched in part to prepare themselves for a lengthy sojourn in deep space — conjoined the futurist optimism of Arthur C. Clarke with Kubrick’s more jaundiced, dystopian view. Though their views of our prospects were very different, Clarke and Kubrick shared a sense that mankind was inherently flawed.

2001-a-space-odyssey-ape

Such a meeting of contrary sensibilities was hardly limited to the creators of 2001, however. The angry dichotomies of political and cultural life in the sixties revolved around questions of our capacities for change and how to seek it. And in time it would be the counterculture, despite its criticism of the colossally misspent energies of Apollo, that would embrace the vision of Earth from space.

2001baby

The seventh of fourteen posts on the cultural legacy of the Apollo program and its era. The original essay can be found at HiLobrow.com, where it originally appeared on the 23rd of June, 2009.

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In this edition of loose_connections Jimmy Kipple Sound digs out a two-year old remix, goes loitering in a gennel near his flat, listens to freight trains [learns, again, how to spell ‘freight’] on his lunch break & steals the audio to a Vine by Peggy Nelson.

There’s also strange low-res murk, doom-ish flickers, wind, birdsong and a cheap excursion with a wavering drum machine.

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loose_connections is half hour an hour of seemingly arbitrary audio concocted by Jimmy Kipple Sound for the ever-amenable Basic.fm.

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TRANSMISSION DATES: Wednesday 23/07 & 30/07 @ 12:00 BST / Saturday 26/07 & 02/08 @ 08:30 BST

THIRTEEN WAYS OF LOOKING AT APOLLO (6)

If Apollo’s computer put a new spin on ancient technologies, in other ways it was starkly innovative—less the heart than the face of a new machine. Much derided today—compared to early PCs and even pocket calculators, its processing powers were minuscule—the Apollo Guidance Computer made use of a new concept, the interface, to adapt its powers to the astronauts’ use. The calculations needed to transport a manned vessel to the moon and return were dazzlingly complex and interdependent, a tapestry of celestial maps, Newtonian physics, and chemical and electrical engineering. While many NASA engineers wanted all of this calculation done on the ground, pressure from astronauts compelled planners to devise ways to monitor systems, calculate variables, and navigate and steer from aboard the spacecraft. Previous computers were autonomous; they were architecture; they were places. To interact with a computer even in the late sixties was to program it. On the Apollo missions, however, the astronauts would use computer software as a set of tools that were embedded in the machine. Engineers designing the computer were given one cubic foot within which to accomplish their task.

But with this wondrous efficacy, the machinery so loved by the American male was changing fundamentally; it was at once becoming more obscure and more intimate. On each Apollo mission, the Lunar Module pilot would assume control of the craft during landing — but the control was partial; the stick he manipulated also talked to the computer, which made numberless infinitesimal adjustments to his inputs. Apollo doesn’t create the shift to cyborg life; it only marks it, serves as its archetype. Ineluctably Apollo, like Mariner, Voyager, and Odyssey, lie in the long line of material culture, descended from flint axe and firebow.

Hannah Arendt understood that the limits of our machines were bound up with our own possibilities. She pointed out that computers could only replace our cognitive labor; they could never on their own take up the world-making work that goes by the name of wisdom—a habit of mind that needs a wanting, feeling, failing body to make it whole. Apollo was a product of the long struggle to step outside the blinkered viewpoint of the human, to reach what Arendt called the “Archimedian Point”: the vantage from which all nature could be abstracted and objectified. In the space race, Arendt saw the drama of this struggle entering a crucial stage—indeed, its tragic one. For she surmised that from the moon we would look down only on ourselves; that each step in the conquest of space would only redraw the borders of our parish, our domicile, our prison.

Tools themselves have never delivered us from our disappointments, and they never will. Consider HAL, the interface that was also the artificial malevolence at work in 2001. HAL embodied a fear that has been with us since the start of the machine age, but he also effaced the functional late-sixties mystery of how computers would help us do our work. Behind HAL’s red eye was a black box: the ultimate black box, that of the human pysche with its needs and passions.

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The sixth of fourteen posts on the cultural legacy of the Apollo program and its era. The original essay can be found at HiLobrow.com, where it originally appeared on the 23rd of June, 2009.

THIRTEEN WAYS OF LOOKING AT APOLLO (5)

The Apollo guidance system included a “space sextant” which the navigator used to sight on fixed stars or features on the Earth and moon; for all their craft’s space-age sophistication Apollo astronauts relied on the ancient practice of celestial navigation to keep it on course. One of the engineers on the MIT team that designed the Apollo Guidance Computer was in fact a descendant of Nathaniel Bowditch, author of The American Practical Navigator (still in print) and an eighteenth-century authority on steering by the stars — a practice that would have been familiar to Polynesian mariners lacking writing, metallurgy, and the wheel.

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Those Pacific voyagers wove their charts of wickerwork and shells; the positions of the astronauts’ stars were woven into the “core ropes” of physical memory that comprised the programming code of the Apollo guidance computer. Unlike today’s software, the programs the computer needed to run Apollo’s systems were tangible, material things — assemblages of fine wire threaded through magnetic loops, the ins and outs of which represented the ones and zeroes of code. The resulting “ropes,” woven by retired textile lworkers in Massachusetts, weren’t mere text, but textile — densely woven, thumb-thick hawsers of cable snaking in and out of the on-board computer. To change the software, engineers needed not only to rewrite the code, but to weave new ropes.

The fifth of fourteen posts on the cultural legacy of the Apollo program and its era. The original essay can be found at HiLobrow.com, where it originally appeared on the 23rd of June, 2009.

July 20, 2014



July 20, 2014

Happy Sunday Dear sirs and madams.  As you can gather by now, I’m a man who likes to surround himself with objects, books, music and videos or DVDs.  I really don’t have an interest in the outside world, because it tends to disappoint me on a regular basis.  Even going to my local market is an ordeal where I think myself as sleepwalking down the aisles.  On the other hand I have a great need for specific images and I don’t need a whole narrative behind those images.  I guess what I’m looking for is an image that represents yours truly.  If I can notice the likeness on everyday objects, better yet.


Mrs. Emma Peel never seemed like a realistic person to me.  One of the reasons why I love her so much is that she basically represents a character that doesn’t exist.  I like to acknowledge the fictional aspect of a character and I never mistake or confuse what is the real and the unreal.  A woman walking inside my TV set with a full leather outfit got my interest right away.  On the other hand I never thought of her as being sexy, but beautiful yes.  Her relationship with John Steed plays with the idea that a relationship may have taken place, but I had the impression that it was more of a deep friendship than anything else.  The fact that she is named “Mrs. Peel” suggests that her heart belongs to another man, even though he was dead, it seems that relationship will never fade or change.  I love the beauty of that consistency, and rarely that happens in ‘real’ life.   Also time-to-time she is making sculptures in her home, when Steed pops in for a drink, or more likely a drink with a future adventure in mind.  Mrs. Peel in many ways is not only a visual artist, but also lives her life as an art piece.



One wonders if Mrs. Peel would be invited to Judy Chicago’s installation art work “Dinner Party?” An installation that is endlessly fascinating by the way.  The piece includes figures like Sacajawea, Virginia Woolf, Emily Dickinson, Sappho, Ishtar, Petronilla de Meath, and so forth.  All females of course, but what is interesting is to meditate on the various individuals and how they link to one another.  A party can come upon us in a very clumsy manner, but a dinner party, where one is expected to sit down formally at a table, is a mixture of social skills with insight into the invited guests.  One gets the impression that Chicago invited these “guests” with profound thought.  Also of great interest is Chicago’s interest in “macho arts” such as auto body work, boat building and pyrotechnics. I can imagine Mrs. Peel sharing the same interests.




Along with Judy Chicago, I also admire the works of Lászió Moholy-Nagy and Nam June Paik, due to the fact that they both have a belief in the integration of technology and industry.   Perhaps June Paik’s take on technology and industry is more human-like and individualistic.  He has been quoted as saying “Skin has become inadequate in interfacing with reality. Technology has become the body's new membrane of existence."  This I think is very true with respect how the world now operates.  Drones has taken over the role of physical bodies in war, and even now, death seems more conceptual than reality.   Which aesthetically, makes perfect sense to me.  Moholy-Nagy made a sculpture that had moving parts that reflected light projecting on nearby surfaces.  This kinetic sculpture deals more with the actual relationship between technology and art, but it's interesting when you compare it with something subjective like Judy Chicago and June Paik’s art and aesthetic.

My feeling of alienation in this world tends to overwhelm me, but alas, through art, and especially the artists above, has shown me another world that I can be focused on. It is not the issue of being positive or negative, but the way the arts have described or frame the world in a certain light that makes it bearable for me to go on.   One of my favorite films is “Vengeance Is Mine, by Shohei Imamura.  It’s based on a true story of the serial killer and con-artist Akira Nishiguchi.  The character is interesting because he drifts into people’s lives, and it seems almost he has no purpose or thought, but lives his life in a series of criminal activities.  The impulse of an artist is to always create than destroy.  Otherwise there is a similar pattern in one’s life with a criminal, but the standards that we set ourselves up with, should be high, ethical as possible, and never fear of the thought of failure.  As a man, I usually look up to Mrs. Peel as an inspiration for my own life.

wannabeanimator: Frederic Stewart











wannabeanimator:

Frederic Stewart

darylalexsy: Animation of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Coonley…



darylalexsy:

Animation of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Coonley Playhouse stained glass

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Adelie love

Penguinscapes!

Adelie love

Penguinscapes!

July 19, 2014



July 19, 2014

Nothing works here.  As a card carrying existentialist I can understand changes in one’s life, but this is ridiculous.  Ever since the bombings it has been difficult for me to find kitty food for my Siamese mixed with a Persian.  She usually likes meow mix, but lately due to the explosions and the sense of dread around the area, she hasn’t been eating properly.   I used to get wet and dry food, but now it is very difficult to find any wet cat food in the market.  Usually I would try to get it from Egypt, but even that is drying (no pun intended) up.  Her favorite was tender favorites® with real salmon in sauce, but now, if I can find it, she will eat Tender Centers Salmon & White Meat Chicken Flavor, but that as well, is not that easy to find.  In fact, even having water for my cat is difficult.  I’ve been hearing rumors that the sewerage system either is or was placed on the verge of collapse, that groundwater contamination is in the enclave.



I invested in owning a bird’s cage, because I had birds as well, but under these conditions it’s very hard to keep them alive.  Nevertheless the bird cage is suitable for me to put my kitty inside, when I have to continue to move around, in case of bombings or attacks.  My cat’s full name is Felix the Cat, but of course I call her Felix.  I was inspired to call her Felix because of the cartoon series. Over time, or ever since I was a child, I would lose a lot of property, and I was intrigued by Felix, because of his “Magic Bag of Tricks” that could assume an infinite variety of shapes and forms at Felix’s request.  I would imagine if I had to leave my home right away, all I need would be the magic bag.   I think Felix (the cartoon character) influenced my interest in having a cat.   Also to open up a pet store here in the Gaza Strip.

It’s a tricky business, because let’s face it, what I offer at the store is a luxury item, and without political or financial stability, people are not thinking of getting a bird or a cat.  I have approached some parents, especially mothers that a child can find great comfort in owning and taking good care of a cat.  Birds are good as well, but their survival rate in the current situation is not all that good.  So, my main inventory is cats, but it is a very difficult business.   Also with the lack of pet food in general, I'm feeling guilty obsessing over my cat over the other cats in the inventory.

Sometimes I feel like I should let all my cats free, because I don’t think I can stomach the idea that my structure can be bombed and lose all my animals in such a fashion.  If somehow they disappear on one night, at least I can have the fantasy that they are somewhere in the area surviving like the cunning beasts that I know them to be.  My Felix has a good personality.   One can hope that she will use her bag of tricks, and make a flying carpet, so both of us can float over the landscape and marvel a world that is down there, and me and Felix are not part of that world.

i am in love with Barry. i watch Cloudy with a Chance of…

















i am in love with Barry. i watch Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 over and over. it’s one of the few things that make me happy right now

The Lost Prince (29)

lost-prince’Twixt Night and Morning

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