Archive for the Technology Category

Headaches 4 Free!

Posted in academia, Film, Storytelling, Technology, The Arts, The Media, Wizard Quotes with tags , on May 24, 2009 by wizardsmoke

Sorry if folks have been checking up on this blog and are disappointed (yeah right!) by the lack of frequent updates. Busy, blah blah, etc. I’m not abandoning this magical space yet, no sirree. But then again, would it hurt you guys so much to write once in a while? Axe me how I’m doing? Geez… what a guy got to do to get some internet love…

Ah-ha! But I conveniently have had time to post a few pseudo-theory heavy posts on this movie blog here. So why don’t you mosey on over and have a look-see? I’m sure the theory part will pique your fancy if you like any of the narcissistic jibberish I put up here…

Movies change our perceptions of life, by increasing our tendency to romanticize and idealize our lives, whether in the past, present or future. This is not new, or anything specific to movies, but we can be fairly certain that in recent decades industrial civilization has exposed its populace — through movies — to far more romantic narratives on a daily basis than any other group in history. The romantic depiction of a specific narrative leads the film to storytelling. Storytelling is literally a romantic narrative; it is an experience of individuality, projected upon others. As a result, everywhere one looks, one perceives an idealized narrative — a falsehood, created to sustain the illusion of a pristine, pleasurable or controllable existence — a fate with purpose — a destiny of sorts.

MM Film Theory

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Logic-master

Posted in Daoism, Feng Shui, Magick, New Age Baloney, Qi, Technology, Ultimate Reality with tags , , , , , , , , on April 22, 2009 by wizardsmoke

Some people I know seem to think feng shui is bunk. They have a nice, vain, insecure little chortle to themselves about how obvious it is that feng shui (originally ancient Chinese burial practice) is complete bunk; something for dopey LARPers who don’t understand the brilliance of science and the difference between correlation and causation.

W. Smoke, Esq.’s flawless argument for how feng shui works is as follows:

(1) Everyone agrees that music can be an emotional catalyst — a conduit to emotional and psychological states of mind. Even people who don’t care much about music will agree — music makes movies, advertisements, plays, etc. much more manipulative and affecting. Music is a medium of illusion, but an obvious one, which can make it more potent, ironically. So, we can be affected by music.

(2) If music does this, so do all forms of art — especially visual art. Paintings by sorcerors and illusionists have distinct effects upon the mind and environmental perceptions (stare at Van Gogh for too long and you feel spaced or forgetful) ; macabre or horribly melancholy paintings do likewise. There are also uplifting paintings: great masterpieces of sculpture, Daoist and Buddhist calligraphy, pinnacle achievements of technical craftsmanship in oil painting or ukiyo-e prints. All art and legit creative expression colors our mind.

(3) Paintings and music are intrinsic portions of a man-made environment. Sinister paintings create a sinister environment. And sinister art is simply a certain arrangement of lines, melody/harmony, aesthetics, etc. So, one could simply create an environment with completely decrepit and queasy arrangement, and the environment would be totally draining on a level related to natural energy. All environments naturally betray creative color or energy.

Ah! But that’s the missing link here: energy, or specifically qi. Most people don’t believe in it, because it’s not some concrete stuff they can put into a cup. The irony is that people don’t give a shit about the things that they can see and touch. Most of us, anyway. Actually, this is the entire point of prayer in religion (particularly Judaism/Xtianity/Islam): to elevate one’s gracious awareness of the delicate importance of all things we take for granted, like food and water, friends and family, the internet, our precious blog audience, etc.

So, for people to be aware of qi, they have to be aware of really basic things in the first place. Even if people could “prove” the existence of qi and these kinds of things, it wouldn’t make much of a difference. What good are people who refuse to cultivate qi because some scientist didn’t prove it to them first? Does anyone prove a sex drive to other people before they feel sexual impulses?

My science is too tight!

Headroom

Posted in health, meditation, New Age Baloney, Technology with tags , , , , , on April 2, 2009 by wizardsmoke

What is the point of “clearing the mind” — whether it be via meditation, seclusion, practicing a hobby, or any other method?

In audio engineering, there is a concept called headroom, which refers to the amount of audio space a recording, or audio wave, has before it clips or distorts. Each element added to a musical recording, every ingredient, every track of instrumentation, effects and chains — they all add to the recording and eat away at that precious overhead. The skill of good audio engineers and mastering engineers is capturing a fantastic sound and fitting it clearly into the right amount of audio “space” while still maintaining some overhead. They are able to do this through consistent practice, and by paying careful attention to every step of the recording process.

This is similar to what we are preserving when we attempt to clear our heads, relax and maintain good health removed from emotional binds. A while back, I pointed out a literary illustration Doug Wilson, from the Henka blog, used regarding his martial arts experience. When we train, we’re creating space in the mind, in which we can move freely, regardless of our physical position. The less space we have in the mind, the more attached and controlled we are by our everyday surroundings, circumstances, relationships, and emotions.

When we run out of headroom, our perception distorts and it becomes difficult to perceive what is really going on around us and inside our own heads. Not that folks who meditate or whatever else don’t have distorted perceptions — clearly many such people do. But the distortion that builds up from stress creates a serious mess. Better to have only a few distorted clips in the audio file than extended bursts of white noise. Likewise with headroom in the mind — ya keep it from clipping by paying careful attention at every step of its activity.

The Sound and the Fury

Posted in academia, Philosophy, Technology, Ultimate Reality, Wizard Quotes with tags , , , , on February 27, 2009 by wizardsmoke

Science is the analytical description, philosophy is synthetic interpretation. Science wishes to resolve the whole into parts, the organism into organs, the obscure into the known. It does not inquire into the values and ideal possibilities of things, nor into their total and final significance; it is content to show their present actuality and operation, it narrows its gaze resolutely to the nature and process of things as they are. The scientist is as impartial as Nature in Turgenev’s poem: he is as interested in the leg of a flea as in the creative throes of a genius. But the philosopher is not content to describe the fact; he wishes to ascertain its relation to experience in general, and thereby to get at its meaning and its worth; he combines things in interpretive synthesis; he tries to put together, better than before, that great universe-watch which the inquisitive scientist has analytically taken apart. Science tells us how to heal and how to kill; it reduces the death rate in retail and then kills us wholesale in war; but only wisdom — desire coordinated in the light of all experience — can tell us when to heal and when to kill. To observe processes and to construct means is science; to criticize and coordinate ends is philosophy: and because in these days our means and instruments have multiplied beyond our interpretation and synthesis of ideals and ends, our life is full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. For a fact is nothing except in relation to desire; it is not complete except in relation to a purpose and a whole. Science without philosophy, facts without perspective and valuation, cannot save us from havoc and despair. Science gives us knowledge, but only philosophy can give us wisdom.

–from the introduction to Will Durant’s The Story of Philosophy

Since this book was first published in the 1920s, I guess by “sound and fury” Willie D. was referring to crazy new inventions like the telegraph and jazz music. It’s kinda like when Dogen tells us not to be too enticed by pretty flowers — at the time it was a major distraction from the time one could be spending on (non)attaining nirvana, or exploring the superunknown.

Will was a funny guy — a fine writer, and full of interesting quirks. For example, in the first few lines of Chapter 1, he discounts 20th century Asia Minor as “quiet and apathetic,” and goes on to say that Socrates’ bust is so hideous, he looks more like a porter than a philosopher. ZOMG dude u r so judgmental!!1!

Cool book, though a little wordy. Durant wrote a bunch in this series, giving a chronological rundown in the major events of history, philosophy, great civilizations and thinkers, etc. They’re certainly better than the dime-a-dozen history books you can buy on Amazon on any subject and be absolutely mired in poor sources or a lack of inspiration (I’m looking at you Stephen Turnbull and Thomas Cleary).

Still, I cannot even begin to assess the can of worms that the quote above opened. Better to zip my lips. For once I’d like to write a post that doesn’t generate boatloads of hate mail.

DIY, Soldier!

Posted in Doom and Evil, Fighting, martial arts, society, Stayin' Alive, Technology with tags , , , , on August 10, 2008 by wizardsmoke

Life in many urban places is too cloistered, bureaucratic, unimaginative and boring these days. And I would argue that in a lot of industrialized regions, there really isn’t that much violence for the population size. But single acts of violence are so publicized and subject to so much fear-mongering that people become intensely affected by them. The other thing is, the good life becomes boring because it lacks drama. I think people are naturally geared towards creating drama for themselves.

Awhile back a sword ban proposal was introduced in UK Parliament, with the intentions of banning the trade, import, and use of real swords in the region. I can think of no other reason to do this except fear of sword violence or youth violence. What’s weird is that I can’t tell if modern industrialized life is better or worse for the lack of violence in it. I mean, violence is bad, but so much traditional culture has deteriorated as industrialized countries introduce more socialized measures and technologically impressive standards of living. As a result, traditional culture has become pretty expensive to uphold. Modern culture has become almost exclusively technological progress, the third phase of Neil Postman’s technological theory.

In general, nobody really knows how to use swords anymore. Some martial artists, historians, military men and sportsmen do, but that’s about it. Isn’t it strange that anyone would want to ban swords when nobody knows how to use them? Or maybe that’s the typical reactionary fear of things one does not understand? I don’t think of myself as a conservative zealot who wants guns and firepower to protect me from the government or whosits. But it’s a weird situation in some places: weapons only exist illegally, so citizens do not carry weapons, but many criminals do. And in some places, weapons are legal so everyone has weapons. It seems like no matter the legislation, weapons just won’t disappear.

The funny thing is, a lot of pro-gun people, for instance those USA citizens who argue for “the right to bear arms”, argue for a kind of anarchistic, Do-It-Yourself, frontiersman existence. Isn’t that quoted line from the USA Bill of Rights a colonial decree? It is, and the attitude hasn’t changed: people who want to own guns for purposes of deterrence (and other personal reasons) are arguing for a way of life that is libertarian and independent from any external protective organization.

Really, I think violence is just more common in harsher economic circumstances. But what is the best course of legislative action? In some ways, when we rely on the government to protect us, they take one step closer towards being the “Big Brother” of Orwellian legend. I see the danger there, but what if a lot of us can’t adequately defend ourselves? Is it just a cruel predatory world out there?

Love (in four acts)

Posted in love, Poetry, Reality Bites, Relationships, sex, society, Technology, Wizard Quotes, World of Emotions with tags , , , , , on July 30, 2008 by wizardsmoke

Frankly I’m sick of hearing about love. But it’s the main thing everyone in the universe is infatuated with. No matter the flavor, isn’t everything that causes existence a manifestation of the same root? The same springboard of love? Bah!!!

But still, let’s talk about romantic love again, even though I know nothing about it.

As an immature young whipper-snapper on the quest for idealistic romance, I tended to rationalize or theorize about love, about how it should work out best, or how I might be able to find a “soul mate”. Following this blind idealistic view, I remember I tended to categorize potential mates on a grid with two axis: “X” indicated pure physical attraction and “Y” was personal compatibility, understanding, chemistry, emotional resonance, etc.

Thus my dorky teenage model was: (optimal attraction) x (optimal personal compatibility) = (love of life)

Obviously the problem with this simplistic model is that there are no clear divisions between physical attraction and emotional/individual personality compatibility. Nor is there necessarily any reason for any two people to fall in love without a pretext under which to meet or befriend each other. Isn’t this why so many people fall in love after going through a serious or difficult ordeal together? It’s the same as a bond made between soldiers who live and fight together, really.

In fact, I find that this is a real problem with online dating services, that there is no motivation and no spontaneity to breathe romantic life into potential courtships. Dating services tend to categorize matches based on shallow personal interests and likes/dislikes, when love is not something you can gauge. And the things most of us write about ourselves are too one-sided or dishonest to be particularly useful in a romantic dating service search.

But people want company. I understand. I can’t blame ’em, really, since I feel that way too on occasion. The real tricky thing about love, and life in general, is that your perspective of it changes over time. And love itself changes with age and maturity. When sexual feelings are strongest it is most related to physical attraction or emotional chemistry, and later in life it often becomes a product of compatibility or peer admiration.

In my current dorky system of love analysis, I like to separate romance into four stages, representing the four seasons:

(1) Spring/youth — Here love is driven mainly by a physical, sexual attraction and lustful urges.

(2) Summer/young adulthood — This kind of love is accompanied by emotional longing, explosive chemistry and new realizations about what makes another person sexually alluring.

(3) Autumn/adulthood — Here the idea of romance factors in one’s lifestyle, moral upstanding, personal compatibility (i.e. things outside of mere shared interests) and mutual longterm goals.

(4) Winter/old age — I think in the final evolution of romance, before it returns to pure physical attraction, it is about simple companionship. Here I think people become less critical of each other’s interests or physical qualities and merely crave good company.

These are all slightly different manifestations of love, and I’d surely have argued at one point in my life that so-called “youthful love” is just attachment to lust. But to that extent, all of these categories are lustful attachments! I think the reason so many people don’t easily fall in love for extended periods of time these days, or the reason divorce rates are so high, is because people think about their choices too much. We’re too judgmental of each other. A plethora of choices and opportunities makes the attention span suffer.

But, eventually people become old and the final stage of love descends. There’s no escape from these sentiments if you seek to “fall in love” with another human, but it becomes harder to meet people as we age, so it’s a good idea to factor in all of these long-term interests when searching for intimacy.

***

Soon I grew and happy too
My very good friends and me
We’d play all day and Sally J.
The girl from number four
And very soon I begged her,

“Won’t you keep me company?”

Now marriage is an institution sure
My wife and I, our needs and nothing more,

all my friends by a year, by and by disappear
But we’re safe enough behind our door.

I flourished in my humble trade
My reputation grew
The work devoured my waking hours
But when my time was through
Reward of all my efforts my own limited company

I hardly noticed Sally as we
Parted company
All through the years in the end it appears
There was never really anyone but me

Now I’m old I puff my pipe
But no one’s there to see

I ponder on the lesson of
My life’s insanity
Take care of those you call your own
And keep good company

Queen; “Good Company” from A Night at the Opera

Dehuman condition

Posted in Doom and Evil, Film, History, Reality Bites, society, Technology with tags , , , , , on July 16, 2008 by wizardsmoke

Do a person’s harmful or negative actions disqualify their artistic or social endeavors? Do the ends justify the means? I mean, if someone is a wretched wife or a nasty person or an abusive father or a bully, does that make their art or philanthropic social contributions more or less worthwhile? Or do we have to separate them from their work? Like, in the famous case of Wagner, is his music held accountable or penalized for his anti-semitic views? Do we consider Martin Luther King Jr. or Mahatma Gandhi’s extra-marital affairs to be impediments to admiring their virtuous causes?

On the individual level we can say the ends justify the means because an abusive spouse doesn’t directly effect the larger social group. The individual’s contributions to the broader human experience can somehow outweigh their atomic family damage. Or so we tell ourselves, when incubated from dealing with the suffering of the afflicted.

Ah, but if we excuse some people, how do we consider folks such as Joseph Mengeles or Unit 731 if they actually come up with valid research? What about the medical advancements of wartime conflict? Do the ends justify the means? I say fuck ’em, but I guess each one is a totally individual issue, isn’t that right? And from an economic viewpoint, the cold evanescent waves of society, only one thing matters (guess what that is?). Where we stand on the issue morally doesn’t seem to decide things. Political and social morality seems like a feigning stance sometimes. Moral issues — since when have those actually mattered in the economic progress of society? It often seems like morals are defined by economic conditions. *shiver*

Genocide, the Holocaust, the Rape of Nanking, Unit 731, African-American and South American slavery, colonization, the killing and displacement of the Native Americans or the Ainu or the Saami — they all functioned via one initial political policy: dehumanization. Treating the group in question as if they were less than human.

Yeah, we all know that’s what it means. It’s in the history books, dummy. But think about it: the reason for these groups to be dehumanized was not an individual choice made person-to-person (well, it was but they didn’t each spontaneously arrive at that choice). The decree was given from above, by the government and religious leaders; the idea was given that these groups were a threat, were the other, were out to get us, that they were not like us, that they were not human.

See, dehumanization is the first step in committing mass genocide. It just takes propaganda and a lot of straw-man building. Once people have a higher authority telling them it’s okay — nay, even good — to commit heinous murder, because the other is a threat to one’s people and culture, it becomes morally acceptable (and sometimes rewarding) to do so amongst members of the dominating group.

How people let themselves fall into believing this kind of sinister propaganda crap I don’t wanna know, but if you convince yourself of something for long enough, eventually you’ll believe it. Likewise, as soon as you’re convinced some person or group is being manipulative or has a veiled agenda or that there is a conspiracy theory afoot, everything they do will seem to validate your suspicion! Not that these suspicions are always wrong, but you see why it’s so risky…

Dehumanization, that’s bad. But that’s implying only humans receive quality treatment! What about the animals? Doesn’t a good human being treat all beings with the same kindness? Are the scientific achievements that result from experimenting on animals worth the price any more so than when the test subjects are humans?

Hrmm… the thing that worries me is what happens after we kill off all the animals. With no one left to kill or eat, we’ll turn on each other or validate individual existence by ethnic background. Isn’t that right? Once things get competitive enough, at the very least we’ll be designating an individual’s value by nationality or caste or whatever. Ha, as if we didn’t do that already!

Anyway: I don’t know if I want to live in a world without wild animals, and in which humans meet their friends and mates on computer-exclusive social networks. It’s starting to make me cry!

______

*I should point out, the two most disturbing movies on the Holocaust I think I’ve seen are The Grey Zone and the documentary Shoah. They’re so draining you can’t even shed a tear.