Kirk Israel's commonplace and blog. Quotes and links daily since 2001.
I'm very set in my musical ways: I like purchasing single mp3s (or the equivalent), and then resorting to youtube rips if I have no other option. I've rated all my music ever since my iPod only had room for "3 stars and up", and then have good, better, best (3+ stars, 4+, and 5, respectively) smart playlists, and then try to listen to the "good" playlist (in reverse chronological order) daily, so I form a connection with the music. Anyway, Apple has a curious algorithm for assembling a thumbnail for a playlist, and mine has been consistent for a long while:
I think it's picking "A,B,C,D" so in my case, Ani "Buildings + Bridges" DiFranco, BPA ("Toe Jam" with David Byrne - fun sort of NSFW video for that), CAKE ("The Distance" was my senior solo), and Dar "Cool As I Am" Williams.
There is an interesting question in the Summa of St. Thomas Aquinas and also in an old science fiction story, the name of which I forget, concerning the paradox of free will and predestined fate. It asks whether a man in making a great decision that will forever set the seal on his future does not also set the seal on his past. A man alters his future, and does he not also alter his past in conformity with it? Does he not settle not only what manner of man he will be, but also what manner of man he has been?Via a Wired piece on R. A. Lafferty, an enormously influential but not widely read author. He reminds me a little of Vonnegut's foil Kilgore Trout.
This quote reminds me of my recent ponderings on free will and my own fixed mindset. I mean if all is predestined, is there ever a choice to make, or merely an unveiling? But even the concept of "unveiling" presumes a linear sense of the progression of time... it is unveiled, but in some sense, if its predestined, than it has always been unveiled... or rather, the unveiling is an essential element of what it is.
I've been thinking a lot about this left brain / right brain stuff. Looking for a critique of McGilchrist's"The Master and His Emissary" I came across Nick Spencer's thoughts. There's this kind of Catholic/Anglican vibe about it. I think from a McGilchrist point of view, that church vibe of Mystery has a right brain "everything is known but not definable" vibe. Protestantism gets pretty left brained and specific sometimes. But of course there's Calvinism and predestination, which from a rationalistic point of view makes very little sense, but I guess if you're right brained enough you can embrace the contradiction of "we have no choice but to believe in free will".
For my dev blog, I posted a link to this article on how Apple with its M1 chip feels like Homer Simpson as new manager at the Bondish Villain's Evil Nuclear Lair, getting better work just by asking for it....
I do think of this scene a lot.
Peanut Butter is smoky pudding. Smoky pudding we've all consumed.
Viral videos greatest hits
*yelling at joggers* Why do you run? Do you feel the hot breath of God on your neck
For every thing that lives is holy, life delights in life;
Because the soul of sweet delight can never be defil'd.
Melissa and I watched Bo Burnham's "Inside" a few days ago.
"White Woman's Instagram"... dunno if it's punching down a little besides potentially yukking someone's yum, but damn he did such an amazing job making authentic looking versions of some of the tropes... it really made one think about the style of femininity the form represents.
31 details and references you might have missed in Bo Burnham's new Netflix special 'Inside' pointed out a further redeeming nuance; most of the video is square-cropped ala instagram, but the part that's emotionally opening up is reflected with the cropping widening as well.
The whole thing was kind of astounding insight into wrestling with depression and uncertainty and grinding out something artistically productive; like the odd cutaways of him making himself eat breakfast while reviewing the previous day's work.
Interesting piece on trauma, the thread leads to talking about autism spectrum issues as well.
Still strolling through "The Master and His Emissary" - about how our brain's left/right lateralization is a crucial key in understanding ourselves and cultural trends. (I've been reading this book since March! Though often in daily conjunction with another, easier read.)
McGilchrist is getting into written languages - pictographic vs idiographic vs phonetic. And he points out that even among phonetic languages, many (like ones that don't write out the vowels) depend on context more than others; I'd put it that you have to read more holistically to know what each word actually is, rather than a more reductionist system where each word more or less stands on its own.
(English gets a lot of "self-deprecation" from cosmopolitan first-language speakers of it for not being so elegant sounding, and for its spelling inconsistencies. But those inconsistencies reflect a larger than average draw from other languages. My understanding is that English is a pretty easy language to pick up the basics of (maybe because of that "reductionist" mode, without so many conjugation rules critical to making oneself understood) but also it has one of the largest vocabularies - a fluent speaker has a lot of near synonyms to choose from, each with a different nuance. (Like in that opening sentence, I chose "strolling" over walking, jogging, crawling, sauntering, ambling, puttering, moseying, cruising, etc))
I think a new thought I've had - bringing these ideas in line with my ingrained sense of the supremacy of consensus over personal preferences - is this contradiction of the left hemisphere (that McGilchrist argues is more reductionistic, and I'd say more prone to fury when the holistic world doesn't conform to its simplified, manipulable models) with its monopoly on language is the gatekeeper to learning about views outside our own experience! I think McGilchrist and many others over-romanticize the right hemisphere, the wisdom it carries from ingrained experience. It's a creation of its environment and its past as much as everything else is, but somehow carries a gravitas of Truth. But language - written and spoken, the ability to capture complex ideas and share them with new generations, to learn things from the experience of others without the risks and costs of doing everything ourselves - is a big part of what makes us unique as a species. Not to denigrate the interesting bits of language showing up in other species, but we do it on a scale this part of the universe hadn't seen, and that deeply informs my own practice of secular humanism.
Using the following as an excuse to say Arun should come over and keep my company as I attempt to build a flatpack TV stand...
The field of geology can unlock a deep Dread in a similar way that the spaces between stars or the depths of the ocean can, something existential and primordial.For me, coming to terms with this kind of scale of personal insignificance and vast scale impermanence is an important part of self-care. I know for some, the wiser tactic is to steer clear of thinking about it, but I find if I really embrace the "This Fate" tattoo I added a few years ago (we get tattoos of things we love or aspire to love, so my tattoo is a loose translation of "Amor Fati") I am better positioned to cope with what my more immediate world confronts me with. For me, hiding from something - catching myself realize I'm distracting myself - gives that thing I'm hiding from a more power than it would otherwise have, confirms it as a potentially unmanageable threat.
I have learned about the moving and colliding and buckling of tectonic plates beneath the Earth's surface, how the crust is miles thick and the heat increases with every kilometer closer to the core. The forces it would take to push mountains miles into the sky and melt and compress rock and force continents to bend and break? How impossibly heavy a mile of stone must be?
Best not to think about it. You will never be crushed by a mile of stone, or warped and metamorphosed by the heat and pressure in the depths of the earth, or anything like that.
I mean. Perhaps you will be after you are dead, if you turn into a fossil. Lots of things that were once alive and breathing are now trapped so deep in the earth we will never find them, and they will never be exposed to light again.
...Just don't worry about it.
Geologic time, too, is crushing. The Grand Canyon forms a cross-section of millions of years of geologic history. Near the bottom, there is a layer of rock from the Cambrian period, the Tapeats Sandstone--about 500 million years old, and 230 feet thick. Good? Okay. Below that, a body of impossibly old rock called the Vishnu Schist, which is hundreds of millions of years older, from the Precambrian era.
(Why? Well, there's a gap in the record called the Great Unconformity, which represents hundreds of millions of years of geologic history just straight up fucking gone. We don't know why. Maybe don't think about that either.)
Rocks from the Precambrian era are rarely exposed to the surface, which is why fossils from then are so rare--and when we find fossils, they are of living things so alien, we have no words for them. Some of the Precambrian fossils are always being slowly, inexorably annihilated in the earth's molten mantle, pressed down and forced underneath continents to meet a death beyond death.
But I don't know what chills me more--the thought of those Precambrian fossils, records of living creatures so unlike us we cannot name them, slowly being subducted into the mantle, pushed underneath miles of stone into ever-increasing heat and pressure until they are erased forever from existence, or the thought--the reality--that they are simply...still down there. Deep, deep beneath us, locked in a primordial tomb that we cannot reach because it is just...too...deep.
We can find the imprints of microscopic organisms in stone that tell us that they lived, but being pushed underneath the earth and melted into magma? That's truly irretrievable annihilation. And it happens all the time.
I'm just saying. There's a reason people thought hell lay deep beneath the earth.
A delightful take on sudden plethoras of upcoming baby announcements
Simone Biles in Extreme Slow Motion:
Happy Blade Runner 2049 Day!
Why the Red Sox = Dumb Cheap Skates
My longhouse is perfectly constructed. Every morning when I wake up in bed at the far end of my longhouse, I say my syllable. Then I spend all day sitting in bed. By sunset my syllable has traveled to the other end of my longhouse and back, and as it smacks me in the head, I fall asleep. My longhouse is perfectly constructed.