synthetic zero
email me


September 28, 2000

The word "love" seems so inadequate, when I think about it. There is such intense variety of love, and it seems to have flavors and sounds and colors and aromas and that's just the tip of the iceberg. Each love seems to be unique, so much so that using one word to cover it all just seems woefully inadequate. There ought to be a richer language for expressing the vastness of the spaces and dynamics of love. The single word makes it hard to talk about, like the reduced dictionary of Newspeak. Perhaps it would be useful to invent new language for the many kinds of love, the many varieties; not only new words, but ways of speaking, in a living fashion of course: one can never exhaust the possibilities of expression. But even having some more options would be interesting. One could tell a story, for example, about a particular type of love, and then use the title to refer to this kind of love, etc.

Recently I've been thinking about making feedback art (see these entries), and now it seems that Connecticut College is putting on the Eighth Biennial Symposium on Arts and Technology with a specific focus on... feedback. Strange coincidence.

Using a strange property of the physical world, quantum entanglement, NASA JPL discovers a way to etch circuits with twice the resolution previously thought possible with a given wavelength of light. Quantum entanglement is very odd, and can lead us to question the very idea of an objective reality in the ordinary sense of the term; but not only this, it has some remarkable practical applications (other applications include quantum cryptography, quantum teleportation, and quantum computation.)

September 25, 2000

Jouke (NQPAOFU) created a somehow strangely appropriate juxtaposition using a paragraph from my last entry. It becomes something new. Although Jouke's construction is better in its native context, I have taken the liberty of quoting him inline (with the required HTML editing) here:

  previous. search. archive. map.

notes quotes provocations and other fair use conversational drift, informatic license, exquisite enclaves by jouke kleerebezem

25 September 2000

Pablo Picasso

- There is a type of love which feels like a sort of happiness, an attraction, a pull ... and then there is love which feels undeniable, like it is taking over your whole body and soul, like a tidal wave, like the unstoppable, where one has no choice, it is very much akin to being doomed. One is doomed in such love --- no conscious movement can stop it, although one might try to suppress it or kill it, but nevertheless it keeps coming back, with the message: if you pretend to ignore me then you ignore something bigger than your own life. I don't think everyone always feels this when they fall in love, and I don't feel all love must be this way, but it is worth remembering that this sort of love can happen to you, and it can wash away everything else. This sort of love is not something or someone you choose, but rather it chooses you, for its own purposes and to serve its own mysterious ends. This sort of love comes up on me unexpectedly, unbidden.

(Mitsu Hadeishi, synthetic zero, 23 September)

September 23, 2000

An interesting study which shows that attempts to suppress emotions can have a negative cognitive impact. They found that when people attempt to suppress emotional reactions they can have impaired memory of events, whereas other strategies for dealing with emotional reactions such a reframing (in which situations are viewed in a different way, for example thinking of a difficulty as a challenge rather than a problem) can in fact lead to improvements in cognitive function (such as better memory of events).

There is a type of love which feels like a sort of happiness, an attraction, a pull ... and then there is love which feels undeniable, like it is taking over your whole body and soul, like a tidal wave, like the unstoppable, where one has no choice, it is very much akin to being doomed. One is doomed in such love --- no conscious movement can stop it, although one might try to suppress it or kill it, but nevertheless it keeps coming back, with the message: if you pretend to ignore me then you ignore something bigger than your own life. I don't think everyone always feels this when they fall in love, and I don't feel all love must be this way, but it is worth remembering that this sort of love can happen to you, and it can wash away everything else. This sort of love is not something or someone you choose, but rather it chooses you, for its own purposes and to serve its own mysterious ends. This sort of love comes up on me unexpectedly, unbidden.

Jeremy Bushnell's weblog, The Invisible City, in which he likes to comment on subjects ranging from games, game theory, and gamesmanship (he wrote me with reference to my September 18 entry, below) to minimalist music to graphic design.

The beginnings of a desktop collection (by Dirk Hine).

Stewart Butterfield commits an act of umitigated meta-hilarity with his Google-esque page. Meta-meta-hilarity here.

September 18, 2000

When President Alberto Fujimori first came to power in Peru, Japanese all over the world were proud that someone from the Japanese diaspora had won such high elected office. Japanese continued to be proud as he swiftly got Peru's hyper-inflation under control. He was invited to Japan warmly greeted and my own parents spoke of him with a tinge of ethnic pride.

But after a while things started to go downhill. He staged a "self-coup" and temporarily disbanded the Peruvian Congress. Later, his wife left him, accusing him of having become authoritarian. He packed Peru's Constitutional Tribunal to force them to approve him running for a third term. The last election was clearly rigged. He was hurting his own country and clearly engaging in a very unseemly attempt to hold onto power. Meanwhile, Japanese everywhere were increasingly embarrassed; perhaps not because people in general necessarily associated him with being Japanese, but we did.

Yesterday, however, Fujimori decided to disband the intelligence service and call new elections in which he will not run, in the wake of video evidence that Montesinos, the head of the Peruvian intelligence service and a man who is rumored to be more powerful than Fujimori himself, was bribing a member of the Peruvian Congress. Many theories swirl around why Fujimori did this, but one of the most plausible I think comes from Mirko Lauer, columinst for La Republika (for example as reported here by the Chicago Tribune:

Many Peruvians have viewed Montesinos as having even greater power than the president. He handpicked Peru's top generals and ran a spy network that provided him with information that he allegedly used against opponents to bend them to his will.

Lauer said Fujimori decided to resign when military officers loyal to Montesinos pressured him not to fire his spy chief.

"At that moment he understood that he had lost his battle because he couldn't go on as president after unsuccessfully trying to sack Montesinos," Lauer said.

If this theory is right, it would be a typically Japanese gambit, and one which at least restores a tiny bit of the ethnic pride we Japanese diaspora members once felt towards Fujimori. I was talking about this with Susan this morning, and she recalled this game element from a Sony Playstation martial arts video game called Toshinden. In this game, there is this peculiar element in which, when a character is near death, he or she get this one last gasp move, far more powerful than a normal move, which can allow the character to suddenly turn things around even when on the verge of defeat. We nicknamed this the "death move" and I used to say I really liked that idea, it felt peculiarly Japanese to me, but some of my friends joked that it was somehow "un-American."

The death move in real life is a little more extreme: you have to lose in order to "win." Someone like Montesinos would never expect that their opponent (in this case, suddenly, his former ally, Fujimori) would be willing to give up everything: essentially upset the whole playing board and "lose." It's not a move that you would ever consider making if you were only concerned with winning in the usual sense. Not only is such a move usually a total surprise, but it also tends to be a powerful motivator --- because people realize you cannot be doing this solely for your own gain because you yourself have given up the game.

In Japanese Buddhist circles, it used to be said in the old days that there was a hierarchy of possible outcomes of a fight to the death. The worst outcome is when you kill your opponent. The second worst is when your opponent kills you. The best is when the two kill each other (ai uchi). Of course, even better than this is for both to survive (ai nuke) --- but that is not always possible. This is why, traditionally, samurai were always ready for death --- because it allowed them to be willing and able to give up the game when it was called for and necessary.

September 14, 2000

GirlACE, webzine on "girl (sub)culture", forwarded to me by Lisa of GirlACE and a fan of Big Miss Moviola. I should note, since it is a cause for some mild confusion at times, that I am flattered to observe that many people initially think I am a girl (well, not after they meet me in person, unless perhaps they are looking only at the back of my head, as I have rather long hair). They think I am a girl either because of my site (not sure why) or because of some of the people I associate with). For example, I recall the first thing that Miranda July said to me in person (I had emailed her a couple of times before we met) was, "Oh, I thought you were a girl." However, for better or worse (perhaps mostly worse?), I'm a guy. I don't know if that particularly shocks any of you who are reading this having thought I was a girl all this time, but I hope it's not too disturbing a revelation... now go back and re-read everything with the new gender identity in your mind... how does it change, if it does change?

Coincidentally, today, in a similar vein, Chris (a guy also!) sent me a link to a site that he and his wife have started, also on girlculture: Church of Girl. Mostly aimed towards women but "enlightened men are encouraged to participate." Synchronicity.

On a different subject: a new group weblog.

A wide variety of estimates of remaining recoverable reserves of oil indicates that world oil production ought to peak sometime between now and the year 2015. Oil reserves in non-OPEC countries have already peaked and are quickly being depleted, and long before the world literally runs out of oil (sometime in the late 21st Century), we are likely to face much higher prices for liquid petroleum, with more price crises such as the one we're experiencing now.

It's not that I'm worried --- however, there's no doubt that the future will involve some pretty different strategies for dealing with the world. Time to get into alternative energy, transportation, and so forth. Hope Honda can keep improving those hybrid electric vehicles.

September 13, 2000

Nina (Geegaw) just put up "HOITY-TOITY CLUB," a friendly take-off of Ray Davis' Hotsy-Totsy Club, brilliantly done, I might add. This is such a good idea but I can't begin to think who I should try to parody, or imitate (it's being discussed "behind the scenes" that a number of us who read each others' blogs go ahead and do this as a group project so to speak). My Japanese sensibility to refrain from offending people inhibits me. I have no problem offending those I don't like and/or don't respect, but I do worry about offending people I do like and respect (just to name a few).

Of course, by now, everybody has heard of the release of Wen Ho Lee. I have referenced this since back in November, and I've thought the government handling of this case questionable from the start. The L.A. Times was one of the few papers to cover the outrageousness of the government persecution of Lee starting quite a while back, but other major papers, most notably the New York Times, believed the government line (lies) for some time. One has to wonder to what extent the government engages in this sort of deception and distortion of the evidence on a regular basis, in order to gain success in prosecutions, whether the defendant is guilty or not... it's rather disturbing. Thankfully the system finally worked this time, though not soon enough to prevent the poor Dr. Lee from having to serve nine months in solitary confinement.

September 9, 2000

Yesterday, went to a screening of lots of short experimental films and videos put on by a group who call themselves "the charm bracelet," at The Robot Steakhouse at 3605 NE 50th Avenue (where there are neither robots nor steaks --- it's basically someone's house with a big room where they show films to what was a super-packed audience at least last night). Films by a variety of people (I didn't write them all down), including Micaela O'Herlihy, Laura Klein (who I believe has a film on the Big Miss Moviola Break My Chainletter tape), Steve Gevurtz, and many others. You too can be added to the "charm bracelet" mailing list by contacting Brad Adkins, one of the organizers. They plan to have their next show (including music, film, video, installation pieces, and a slide show) on October 6 at the meow meow all ages club (527 SE Pine St, Portland, OR).

Then today I went to an art opening at the Q-Hut Gallery at SE Morrison and 9th here in Portland. I liked the exhibit, some good pieces; bought a drawing. I like these rag-tag shows in the less glitzy venues in Portland; these shows are often more interesting than what's being shown in the upscale galleries across the river in the Pearl District, for example.

Finally, saw a fun performance of the Portland Taiko Group, doing a variety of new and traditional taiko pieces, including an interesting piece called "Wind, Water, and Wood," commissioned for the Continental Harmony program sponsored by the NEA and the American Composers Forum.

September 8, 2000

Miranda July and Zac Love will be touring shortly with her new multimedia piece, The Swan Tool. I'm helping out with the technology aspect of the piece. We're starting with a sort of test run tour down the West Coast (plus Austin); the preliminary schedule is here. Next year, the tour will be on the East Coast and in Europe.

Moby quoted in an article about the MTV Music Awards: "Regarding musical matters, he was asked if he preferred American or British music, to which he replied pointedly, 'It depends on what kind of American music. If you're talking about the pabulum that's geared toward 12-year-olds, I can't stand it.'"

I think Moby is being a bit harsh regarding 12-year-olds; there are many with better taste or at least with more potential to appreciate quality than the record companies seem to presume. The record companies assume stupidity and they dumb down their product, clogging the promotional channels and the spaces of attention of the public. Of course, we can't just sit around whining for something better -- it's up to us to create something better, to facilitate other people doing better things. Both for and by 12-year-olds, as well as everyone else. You.

September 5, 2000

jacqamor�/a> continues to write:

"the lightness of avoirdupois...
about time.

life is a few friends. loneliness is believing in the soul of wisdom and of derision. albeit the strongest hand comes down hardest on those that are less than obvious.
in the axiom of the soul the heart is the only organ that is left. those others who prey on the said will be pitied by me."

The 5th Annual Dada Ball sponsored by PICA is going to be held again here in Portland on September 16th. I keep missing these events and I've heard they're relatively amusing so I plan to go this time for sure.

On the subject of Prigogine and fiction, Paul Perry (Alamut) sends me another interesting link: "Chaos in Contemporary Science Fiction", on the influence of chaos and self-organizing systems theory on the work of a number of science fiction authors, and the ways in which Prigogine's work has provided a framework for science fiction to explore postmodern epistemology. I really think there is something very exciting here, which I want to explore more in depth.

I've been thinking that computation can be thought of as a way of converting the potential into the actually present; that is, in some sense, it bridges between different worlds of possible experience. Before a computation is carried out, certain things are opaque or unknown, and afterwards facets of those things become accessible. According to the Everett interpretation of quantum mechanics parallel universes exist, but most of them are inaccessible --- not because we have no evidence of them at all (we have lots of evidence), but because the computation it takes to gain access to those universes is too difficult to carry out (due to what is called decoherence -- more articles on the relationship of decoherence and quantum theory here and here.). But if we build artificial quantum computers, we will be creating little isolated worlds of quantum coherence which, in some sense, exist in multiple universes at once for long periods of time --- what would their notion of computation be? These quantum computers would allow us more access to the parallel universes (at least little pieces of parallel universes that we isolated in these systems). What would their "consciousness" be like if we could build them so they fed back into themselves?

It has occurred to me recently that combining Gregory Bateson and the Everett Interpretation can provide a basis, perhaps, for a solution to the ever-puzzling quantum measurement problem. I will try to elaborate on this a bit more later, but in brief, the problem with the Everett Many-Worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics is: why do we observe the classical observables and no other observables? In other words, why are minds correlated with what we call the classical observables? Well, it turns out that the classical observables are the only ones which allow localized spatiotemporality; i.e., things that are compact in space and time. Other observables involve entanglements between states that could spread out over the whole universe. Now, if we add Bateson in: his view is that minds are built up from simple to more and more complex feedback loops. But for feedback loops to operate, we must have locality: otherwise it would take too long for things to happen: if your states were spread out over the entire Universe, your mind couldn't really operate in a reasonable amount of time, because minds require feedback, in Bateson's picture, to work. This would mean that ... drum roll ... it is the existence of mental systems (feedback systems of the right cybernetic makeup) that allow the observation of the classical observables (the feedback loops become correlated with observations) ... and thus, in some sense, the objective world exists, state vector collapse happens, only because they are correlated with feedback loops (systems with mental properties in the Batesonian sense)! Or: if there is no one to hear the tree fall in the forest, there is no tree, no forest, and no sound. (Well, the tree is a feedback system in the Batesonian sense, so it qualifies as an "observer" in that case).

For those of you who don't understand everything in the preceding paragraph I will elaborate more later. Please feel free to email me, too.

September 1, 2000

Jimmy was visiting and so he got to explore Portland ... when he stopped in at Reading Frenzy, the fantastic zine/independent press bookstore here, he found the very amusing Monkey vs. Robot by James Kochalka. There's something so archetypically perfect about the idea: the living versus the "dead" --- or the spectrum of apparently inanimate things brought into the realm of the (partially) living, and the sort of psychic horror that this brings on us ... expressed in a stylized manner in this book. (I'm not saying this is how Kochalka thought about the idea when he made this --- but this is related to something I have been thinking recently, and I feel it has something to do with why it is this idea seems so disturbingly funny.)

Rented Ghost Dog tonight. Excellent film. During the film the main character, who narrates, reads a number of quotes from the Hagakure (translated roughly as "hidden by the leaves." Full text). A few struck me in particular:

In the words of the ancients, one should make his decisions within the space of seven breaths. It is a matter of being determined and having the spirit to break right through to the other side.

...There is surely nothing other than the single purpose of the present moment. A man's whole life is a succession of moment after moment. If one fully understands the present moment, there will be nothing else to do, and nothing else to pursue.

...Our bodies are given life from the midst of nothingness. Existing where there is nothing is the meaning of the phrase, "Form is emptiness." That all things are provided for by nothingness is the meaning of the phrase, "Emptiness is form." One should not think that these are two separate things.