ideas

In Danish, Kierkegaard means churchyard, i.e., graveyard

I have just now come from a party where I was its life and soul; witticisms streamed from my lips, everyone laughed and admired me, but I went away — yes, the dash should be as long as the radius of the earth’s orbit ——————————— and wanted to shoot myself.

{ Søren Kierkegaard, Journal, March 1836 | Continue reading }

from swerve of shore to bend of bay

Do you surf yourself?

No, I tried. I did it for about a week, 20 years ago. You have to dedicate yourself to these great things. And I don’t believe in being good at a lot of things—or even more than one. But I love to watch it. I think if I get a chance to be human again, I would do just that. You wake up in the morning and you paddle out. You make whatever little money you need to survive. That seems like the greatest life to me.

Or you could become very wealthy in early middle-age, stop doing the hard stuff, and go off and become a surfer.

No, no. You want to be broke. You want it to be all you’ve got. That’s when life is great. People are always trying to add more stuff to life. Reduce it to simpler, pure moments. That’s the golden way of living, I think.

{ Jerry Seinfeld | GQ | Continue reading }

related { Anecdote on Lowering the work ethic }

‘There are a lot of images out there today that serve no purpose.’ –Paolo Roversi

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Any viral post on X now almost certainly includes A.I.-generated replies, from summaries of the original post to reactions written in ChatGPT’s bland Wikipedia-voice, all to farm for follows. Instagram is filling up with A.I.-generated models, Spotify with A.I.-generated songs. Publish a book? Soon after, on Amazon there will often appear A.I.-generated “workbooks” for sale that supposedly accompany your book (which are incorrect in their content; I know because this happened to me). Top Google search results are now often A.I.-generated images or articles. Major media outlets like Sports Illustrated have been creating A.I.-generated articles attributed to equally fake author profiles. Marketers who sell search engine optimization methods openly brag about using A.I. to create thousands of spammed articles to steal traffic from competitors.

Then there is the growing use of generative A.I. to scale the creation of cheap synthetic videos for children on YouTube. Some example outputs are Lovecraftian horrors, like music videos about parrots in which the birds have eyes within eyes, beaks within beaks, morphing unfathomably while singing in an artificial voice, “The parrot in the tree says hello, hello!” The narratives make no sense, characters appear and disappear randomly, and basic facts like the names of shapes are wrong. After I identified a number of such suspicious channels on my newsletter, The Intrinsic Perspective, Wired found evidence of generative A.I. use in the production pipelines of some accounts with hundreds of thousands or even millions of subscribers. […]

There’s so much synthetic garbage on the internet now that A.I. companies and researchers are themselves worried, not about the health of the culture, but about what’s going to happen with their models. As A.I. capabilities ramped up in 2022, I wrote on the risk of culture’s becoming so inundated with A.I. creations that when future A.I.s are trained, the previous A.I. output will leak into the training set, leading to a future of copies of copies of copies, as content became ever more stereotyped and predictable.

{ NY Times | Continue reading }

and { When Marie was first approached by Arcads in December 2023, the company explained they were seeking test subjects to see whether they could turn someone’s voice and likeness into AI. […] Marie doesn’t worry that by giving up her rights to an AI company, she’s bringing about the end of her work—as many actors fear. […] Hyperrealistic deepfakes and AI-generated content have rapidly saturated our digital lives. The impact of this ‘hidden in plain sight’ dynamic is increasing distrust of all digital media—that anything could be faked. }

What happened to the doll? It was destroyed.

At 40, Franz Kafka (1883-1924), who never married and had no children, was walking through a park one day in Berlin when he met a girl who was crying because she had lost her favourite doll. She and Kafka searched for the doll unsuccessfully. Kafka told her to meet him there the next day and they would come back to look for her.

The next day, when they had not yet found the doll, Kafka gave the girl a letter “written” by the doll saying “please don’t cry. I took a trip to see the world. I will write to you about my adventures.” Thus began a story which continued until the end of Kafka’s life.

During their meetings, Kafka read the letters of the doll carefully written with adventures and conversations that the girl found adorable. Finally, Kafka brought back the doll (he bought one) that had returned to Berlin.

“It doesn’t look like my doll at all,” said the girl. Kafka handed her another letter in which the doll wrote: “my travels have changed me.” The little girl hugged the new doll and brought the doll with her to her happy home. A year later Kafka died. Many years later, the now-adult girl found a letter inside the doll. In the tiny letter signed by Kafka it was written: “Everything you love will probably be lost, but in the end, love will return in another way.”

{ Avi | a true anecdote, unproven }

Drink a sip, drankasup

For a quarter century, Gerry Fialka, an experimental film-maker from Venice, California, has hosted a book club devoted to a single text: James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake, one of the most famously difficult texts in literary history.

Starting in 1995, between 10 and 30 people would show up to monthly meetings at a local library. At first they read two pages a month, eventually slowing to just one page per discussion. At that pace, the group – which now meets on Zoom – reached the final page in October. It took them 28 years. […]

This November, they started back on page three.

“There is no next book,” Fialka told me. “We’re only reading one book. Forever.”

{ The Guardian | Continue reading }

Finnegans Wake was first published in 1939 and it is widely regarded as being one of the most challenging novels in English literature.

Written in a torrent of idiosyncratic language over more than 600 pages, it includes made-up words in several languages, puns and arcane allusions to Greek mythology.

{ The Times | Continue reading }

The club is among several around the world devoted to collectively untangling the meaning of Joyce’s 1939 novel, which tells many stories simultaneously, and is dense with neologisms and allusions. Critics have considered the work perplexing; a review in The New Yorker suggested it might have been written by a “god, talking in his sleep.” […]

Margot Norris, a professor emerita of English at the University of California, Irvine, and a Joyce scholar, described “Finnegans Wake” as “dramatic poetry” that instead of following a typical plot plays with the very nature of language. “We get words in ‘Finnegans Wake’ that aren’t words,” Dr. Norris said, referring to a passage of seemingly nonsense phrases: “This is Roo- shious balls. This is a ttrinch. This is mistletropes. This is Canon Futter with the popynose.” The novel, she added, “draws your attention to language, but the language isn’t going to be exactly the language that you know.” […]

“People think they’re reading a book, they’re not,” he said. “They’re breathing and living together as human beings in a room; looking at printed matter, and figuring out what printed matter does to us.”

{ NY Times | Continue reading }

previously { Joyce invented a unique polyglot-language or idioglossia solely for the purpose of this work. }

Is the answer to this question “no”?

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On 25 October 1946, Karl Popper (at the London School of Economics), was invited to present a paper entitled “Are There Philosophical Problems?” at a meeting of the Cambridge University Moral Sciences Club, which was chaired by Ludwig Wittgenstein.

The two started arguing vehemently over whether there existed substantial problems in philosophy, or merely linguistic puzzles—the position taken by Wittgenstein.

Wittgenstein used a fireplace poker to emphasize his points, gesturing with it as the argument grew more heated. Eventually, Wittgenstein claimed that philosophical problems were nonexistent.

In response, Popper claimed there were many issues in philosophy, such as setting a basis for moral guidelines. Wittgenstein then thrust the poker at Popper, challenging him to give any example of a moral rule, Popper (later) claimed to have said:

“Not to threaten visiting lecturers with pokers”

{ Wikipedia | Continue reading }

Parnet: Let’s move on to “W”.

Deleuze: There’s nothing in “W”.

Parnet: Yes, there’s Wittgenstein. I know he’s nothing for you, but it’s only a word.

Deleuze: I don’t like to talk about that… For me, it’s a philosophical catastrophe. It’s the very example of a “school”, it’s a regression of all philosophy, a massive regression. […] They imposed a system of terror in which, under the pretext of doing something new, it’s poverty instituted in all grandeur… […] the Wittgensteinians are mean and destructive. […] They are assassins of philosophy.

{ The Deleuze Seminars | Continue reading }

‘She had deceived herself in supposing that she could be whatever she wanted to be.’ —Tolstoy

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Sartre, it will be recalled, had asserted a kind of absolute freedom for the conscious human being. It was this claim that Merleau-Ponty disputed. […] If freedom were everywhere, as seemed to be the case in Sartre’s Being and Nothingness , then freedom in effect would be nowhere […] “Free action, in order to be discernible, has to stand out from a background of life from which it is entirely, or almost entirely, absent.” (Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception, 1945) […]

While Sartre properly emphasized the subject’s freedom, he distorted the scope of this freedom by rendering it absolute. The subject, argued Merleau-Ponty, always faced a previously established situation, an environment and world not of its own making. Its life, as intersubjectively open, acquired a social atmosphere which it did not itself constitute. Social roles pressed upon the individual as plausible courses for his life to take. Certain modes of behavior became habitual. Probably , this world, these habits, a familiar comportment: probably these would not change overnight. It was unlikely that an individual would suddenly choose to be something radically other than what he had already become. The Sartre of Being and Nothingness underestimated the weight of this realm of relative constraint and habitual inertia.

{ Merleau-Ponty: The Ambiguity of History | Continue reading

Cognitive science is lacking conceptual tools to describe how an agent’s motivations, as such, can play a role in the generation of its behavior. […] a new kind of non-reductive theory is proposed: Irruption Theory. […] irruptions are associated with increased unpredictability of (neuro)physiological activity, and they should hence be quantifiable in terms of information-theoretic entropy. Accordingly, evidence that action, cognition, and consciousness are linked to higher levels of neural entropy can be interpreted as indicating higher levels of motivated agential involvement.

{ PsyArXiv | Continue reading }

Spinoza defines the first kind of knowledge as the lowest or most inadequate kind. It is also the natural way humans have knowledge.

Humans can think about possible states of the world without believing in them, an important capacity for high-level cognition.

Here we use fMRI and a novel “shell game” task to test two competing theories about the nature of belief and its neural basis.

According to the Cartesian theory, information is first understood, then assessed for veracity, and ultimately encoded as either believed or not believed. According to the Spinozan theory, comprehension entails belief by default, such that understanding without believing requires an additional process of “unbelieving”. […]

findings are consistent with a version of the Spinozan theory whereby unbelieving is an inhibitory control process.

{ PsyArXiv | Continue reading }

the friends to the family were outraged, and sued

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Inside, Mr. Pierrat found a literary treasure trove: long-lost manuscripts by Louis-Ferdinand Céline, the acclaimed but equally reviled French author who wrote classics like “Journey to the End of the Night,” published in 1932, as well as virulently antisemitic tracts. […] Céline always maintained that the manuscripts had been stolen from his Paris apartment after he escaped to Germany in 1944, fearing that he would be punished as a collaborator when the Allies liberated the city. […] David Alliot, a literary researcher, said the issue for many French was that while Céline was a “literary genius,” he was a deeply flawed human being. […]

Mr. Thibaudat said he was given the manuscripts by an undisclosed benefactor, or benefactors — he declined to elaborate — about 15 years ago. But he had kept the stash secret, waiting for Céline’s widow to die, at the request of the benefactor, whose wish was that an “antisemitic family” would not profit from the trove, he said in an interview. […]

the manuscripts includes the complete version of the novel “Casse-pipe,” partly published in 1949, and a previously unknown novel titled “Londres” […]

With his lawyer by his side, Mr. Thibaudat met Céline’s heirs in June 2020. It did not go well. Mr. Thibaudat suggested that the manuscripts be given to a public institution to make them accessible to researchers. François Gibault, 89, and Véronique Chovin, 69, the heirs to Céline’s work through their connections as friends to the family, were outraged, and sued Mr. Thibaudat, demanding compensation for years of lost revenues.

“Fifteen years of non-exploitation of such books is worth millions of euros,” said Jérémie Assous, the lawyer and longtime friend of Céline’s heirs. “He’s not protecting his source, he’s protecting a thief.”

In July, Mr. Thibaudat finally handed over the manuscripts on the orders of prosecutors. During a four-hour interview with the police, Mr. Thibaudat refused to name his source. The investigation is continuing.

{ NY Times | Continue reading }

Like the chocolate of Vavey, in the sun they’ll melt away

In building your book I wanted to pursue my own process of decomposition.  I began to think about the ways in which paper degrades.  Rotting in the ground, exposure to rain, chemicals (I used Xylene, a paint thinner, for the image transfers on the cover), and fire.  Although rain or burying paper in the ground would have created unique and unpredictable patterns of ruin in the paper, these seemed like passive processes, whereas burning paper could achieve some level of stochastic design but in a more involved, active, and risk-exposed situation.   I followed the traditional recipe for Chinese blackpowder: 75% potassium nitrate, or saltpeter, 15% carbon, 10% sulphur. […]

On a hot plate, outside, the potassium nitrate is usually dissolved in a pot of water, however instead of water I poured into the potassium nitrate a jar of my stale, sunbaked urine since it accelerates the burn process.  

{ Big Other | Continue reading }

‘any time it’s nice outside I spend one million dollars’ –@danielleweisber

Canada, one of the most real estate-obsessed nations on earth — and one of the least affected by the 2008 crash — is up 42+% in the past year alone.

Even in Ethiopia, where my wife grew up, a three-bedroom detached house in the capital can cost you $1+ million USD.

Until recently, most people’s house price paradigm looked something like this:

A house’s market price is the maximum amount that a buyer can expect to afford over the next 25–40 years. But because wages are flatlined and purchasing parity is the same as in 1978, the only rational explanation for this current price explosion is a giant debt bubble.

But what if the paradigm — the baseline assumption of what dictates house prices — is changing?

What if the newly-redefined value of shelter is the maximum amount of annual rent that can be extracted per unit of housing? […]

As reader Valerie Kittell put it: “Airbnb-type models altered the market irreversibly by proving on a large scale that short term rentals were more lucrative than stable long-term residents.”

We’re in the middle of a paradigm shift to corporate serfdom.

Stop enriching corrupt banks — pay off your mortgages and never look back. Parents and grandparents with means: Help your kids get a start in housing before it’s out of their reach forever.

{ Jared A. Brock | Continue reading }

Who would put a recreational zone next to waste disposal?

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In 2008, the report warned about the potential emergence of a pandemic originating in East Asia and spreading rapidly around the world.

The latest report, Global Trends 2040, [was] released last week […] “Large segments of the global population are becoming wary of institutions and governments that they see as unwilling or unable to address their needs.” […] Experts in Washington who have read these reports said they do not recall a gloomier one.

{ NY Times | Continue reading }

art { Günter Fruhtrunk, Rote Vibration, 1970 | Bridget Riley, Ra, 1981 }

Les coïncidences montrent que vous êtes sur le bon chemin

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The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket (1838) is the only complete novel written by American writer Edgar Allan Poe. […] The story starts out as a fairly conventional adventure at sea, but it becomes increasingly strange and hard to classify. […]

Peters, Pym, and Augustus hatch a plan to seize control of the ship […] soon the three men are masters of the Grampus: all the mutineers are killed or thrown overboard except one, Richard Parker, whom they spare to help them run the vessel. […] As time passes, with no sign of land or other ships, Parker suggests that one of them should be killed as food for the others. They draw straws, following the custom of the sea, and Parker is sacrificed.

{ Wikipedia | Continue reading }

On 19 May 1884 four men set sail from Southampton in a small yacht. They were professional sailors tasked with taking their vessel, the Mignonette, to its new owner in Australia. […] The Mignonette’s captain, Tom Dudley, was 31 years old and a proven yachtsman. Of his crew, Ned Brooks and mate Edwin Stephens were likewise seasoned sailors. The final crew-member, cabin boy Richard Parker, was just 17 years old and making his first voyage on the open sea. […]

On 5 July, sailing from Madeira to Cape Town, the Mignonette was sunk by a giant wave. […] Adrift in an open boat in the South Atlantic, hundreds of miles from land, they had little in the way of provisions. They had no water, and for food, only two 1lb tins of turnips grabbed during the Mignonette’s final moments.

Over the next 12 days, these turnips were scrupulously rationed out […] For water […] they resorted to drinking their own urine, although this too was a diminishing resource as their bodies became increasingly dehydrated.

By 17 July all supplies on board the little dinghy had been exhausted. After a further three days, the inexperienced Richard Parker could not resist gulping down sea water in an attempt to allay his thirst. It is now known that small quantities of sea water can help to sustain life in survival situations, but in that period it was widely believed to be fatal. Parker also drank far in excess of modern recommendations and he was soon violently unwell, collapsing in the bottom of the boat with diarrhea.

Even before Parker fell ill, Tom Dudley had broached the fearful topic of the “custom of the sea,” the practice of drawing lots to select a sacrificial victim who could be consumed by his crew-mates. […] According to their subsequent depositions, however, no lots were drawn. Instead, Dudley told Stephens to hold Parker’s legs should he struggle, before kneeling and thrusting his penknife into the boy’s jugular. […] Parker’s body was then stripped and butchered. The heart and liver were eaten immediately; strips of flesh were cut from his limbs and set aside as future rations. What remained of the young man was heaved overboard.

{ History Extra | Continue reading }

Sit with your eyes closed and your back straight. Try to bring your full attention to the feeling of your breath coming in and going out. Every time you notice that your mind is wandering, bring your attention back to your breath and begin again. You will “fail” a million times but the “failing” and starting over is succeeding. The trying and starting again, trying and starting again, that’s the whole game.

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Most life on Earth will be killed by lack of oxygen in a billion years

photo { Taryn Simon, The Central Intelligence Agency Main Entrance Hall, CIA Original Headquarters Building, Langley, Virginia, 2003/2007 }

I got 99 problems and can’t find my notebook to write them all down, so I guess that makes 100

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Speakers take a lot for granted. That is, they presuppose information. As we wrote this, we presupposed that readers would understand English. We also presupposed as we wrote the last sentence, repeated in (1), that there was a time when we wrote it, for otherwise the fronted phrase “as we wrote this” would not have identified a time interval.

(1) As we wrote this, we presupposed that readers would understand English.

Further, we presupposed that the sentence was jointly authored, for otherwise “we” would not have referred. And we presupposed that readers would be able to identify the reference of “this”, i.e., the article itself. And we presupposed that there would be at least two readers, for otherwise the bare plural “readers” would have been inappropriate. And so on.

{ Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy | Continue reading }

photo { Pieter Hugo, Escort Kama, Enugu, Nigeria from Nollywood, 2008 }

‘are you ready for me to blow your mind: Luke Skywalker, George Lucas. Luke, Lucas.’ –Aaron Bady

Fette Sans: I want to cut you open and pour out all your insides, chew on your liver and your heart, and then sew you back together using your intestine and maybe I will pack you better than you were and there will be some left to crochet myself a necklace.

{ Forty-one reflections on 2020 | Continue reading }

‘No man can bring about the perfect murder; chance, however, can do it.’ –Vladimir Nabokov

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Here’s a puzzle […] It’s called “Cain’s Jawbone,” in which people are challenged to put the shuffled pages of a murder mystery novel in their proper order. Since its creation in 1934, it has only been solved by two people — until now.

British comedian John Finnemore made it his quarantine project to crack “Cain’s Jawbone” — and he succeeded, making him just the third person to solve it in its nearly 90-year history. […]

The puzzle takes the form of 100 cards, each containing the page of a murder mystery novel. In order to solve the puzzle, participants must put all the cards in the proper order and determine who murders who in the story. There are 32 million possible combinations, which makes finding the correct result quite a feat. 

{ The World | Continue reading }

There’s not enough popcorn in the world

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An astrophysicist of the University of Bologna and a neurosurgeon of the University of Verona compared the network of neuronal cells in the human brain with the cosmic network of galaxies, and surprising similarities emerged. […]

The human brain functions thanks to its wide neuronal network that is deemed to contain approximately 69 billion neurons. On the other hand, the observable universe can count upon a cosmic web of at least 100 billion galaxies. Within both systems, only 30% of their masses are composed of galaxies and neurons. Within both systems, galaxies and neurons arrange themselves in long filaments or nodes between the filaments. Finally, within both system, 70% of the distribution of mass or energy is composed of components playing an apparently passive role: water in the brain and dark energy in the observable Universe. […]

Probably, the connectivity within the two networks evolves following similar physical principles, despite the striking and obvious difference between the physical powers regulating galaxies and neurons”

{ Università di Bologna | Continue reading }

oil on canvas { Karel Appel, Portrait, 1966 }

Adam’s age at death is given as 930 years

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life expectancy for men in 1907 was 45.6 years; by 1957 it rose to 66.4; in 2007 it reached 75.5. Unlike the most recent increase in life expectancy (which was attributable largely to a decline in half of the leading causes of death including heart disease, homicide, and influenza), the increase in life expectancy between 1907 and 2007 was largely due to a decreasing infant mortality rate, which was 9.99 percent in 1907; 2.63 percent in 1957; and 0.68 percent in 2007.

But the inclusion of infant mortality rates in calculating life expectancy creates the mistaken impression that earlier generations died at a young age; Americans were not dying en masse at the age of 46 in 1907. The fact is that the maximum human lifespan — a concept often confused with “life expectancy” — has remained more or less the same for thousands of years. The idea that our ancestors routinely died young (say, at age 40) has no basis in scientific fact. […]

If a couple has two children and one of them dies in childbirth while the other lives to be 90, stating that on average the couple’s children lived to be 45 is statistically accurate but meaningless.

{ LiveScience | Continue reading | BBC }

‘If people remembered the same they would not be different people.’ –Nabokov

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Say you travelled in time, in an attempt to stop COVID-19’s patient zero from being exposed to the virus. However if you stopped that individual from becoming infected, that would eliminate the motivation for you to go back and stop the pandemic in the first place. This is a paradox, an inconsistency that often leads people to think that time travel cannot occur in our universe. […] In the coronavirus patient zero example, you might try and stop patient zero from becoming infected, but in doing so you would catch the virus and become patient zero, or someone else would. No matter what you did, the salient events would just recalibrate around you. Try as you might to create a paradox, the events will always adjust themselves, to avoid any inconsistency.

{ Popular Mechanics | Continue reading | More: Classical and Quantum Gravity }