2023 December❮❮prevnext❯❯

December 1, 2023


Open Photo Gallery

Big clouds behind School of Honk percussionists

(i mean a little overstated on both fronts but still)

new music finds playlist november 2023

So-so month for new music finds:

4 star:
* Aqua Teen Forever Intro (Aqua Teen Hunger Force)
Youtube rip... this show has some fun with hiphop.
* Hot in Herre (The Bosshoss)
"Germans pretending to be American Cowboys" remains one of my favorite subgenres of music...
* Spider-Man India (Pavitr Prabhakar) (Daniel Pemberton)
"India Spiderman" theme from "Across the Spider-Verse" - I always love the instrumentation of India
* Turn It Up (Remix) (Busta Rhymes)
Nice use of the Knight Rider theme...
* Crazy (Gnarls Barkley)
New Old R+B Classic... bless your soul
* Big Spender (Peggy Lee)
Hit me that this would be a good song for JP Honk...

3 star:
* Goodbye Blue Sky (Pink Floyd)
* Flava in Ya Ear (feat. Busta Rhymes, LL Cool J, Notorious BIG & Rampage) [Remix] (Craig Mack)
* Boss (Curtis Cole & Ofrin)
* Sink or Swim (Kris Delmhorst)
* You Feel Me (Otis McDonald)
* Now And Then (The Beatles)
Story of the last last song with all 4 Beatles is amazing
* Love Man (Otis Redding)
* Walkin' After Midnight (Patsy Cline)
* Pregnant Sonic (Omri & Auntie Boy)
I'm almost said to miss the prelude of this
* Wir singen beide Do-do-do (Oskar Dénes)
* Chameleon (Buddy Rich)
wait so like people are making up breakable 4th wall? that's wild
Super Mario Bros on all this tuned percussion!

Laughing is good exercise. It's like jogging on the inside.
Kurt Vonnegut

December 3, 2023

Active Interlock! Dynotherms Connected! Infracells Up! Megathrusters are go!
In reviewing a letter I wrote for future delivery to my 9 yr old superniece... I am sort of alarmed to realize the Supreme Court protecting gay marriage happened in her lifetime.

December 4, 2023

Thrilling tales of old video games has some neat retro tidbits, especially about how things got their names, and the translations involved.
from the Patrick Sean Farley / Electric Sheep Comix The Guy I Almost Was... I need to see if I can make a mirror of that page...
(Actually here is a mirror I made but I need to see if I can get the font mojo working...)

December 5, 2023

Dream time thought: Movies pronouns are "a/the"
(ex: "let's go to the movies!")

apparently my sleep self doesn't know pronouns from articles
Happy Clair Cameron Patterson Day! He was the science dude who fought against gas and car companies about lead in gasoline and why we have kids wtih 85% less lead in their systems than before - and a correlated decrease in violent crime...

December 7, 2023

You cannot sink the Titanic
Saturday Night Slam Masters

Saving for future reference, on introducing people from conservative backgrounds to liberal ideas - and also understanding the vehemence against feminism - kind of like with racism, there's generally the presumption that it's a solved problem, so any efforts to keep striving for equity are just making new "reverse racism" problems.

December 8, 2023

Survey Time!
I love slippery socks, and the little scoopy slides you can do. Melissa on the other hand hates the idea of risking a fall and even prefers those ones with rubber traction

What's your view?

A. Yay! Slippery Socks! Wheeeeee!
B. Boo! Lets get without risking breaking our necks...

December 9, 2023


Open Photo Gallery

Boston City Hall so looks like a weird video game level. I think only the back part interior of the BPL looks more brutalist-y game-ish.
Red Rebel Brigade...
Lego Minecraft.
Cora is getting really tall.
Cora is getting really crazy.
Baking! (Doggy-Biscuits)

December 10, 2023


O, Christmas Tree

on systemic racism...

December 11, 2023

The progression of a month is so weird. One day you're like "oh the month has barely started, plenty of time for it to live up to its potential" then a week later "oh jeez this month is like almost half over".

open letter to Noah Wardrip-Fruin of "How Pac-Man Eats"

Hi Professor-

Just read and enjoyed "How Pac-Man Eats". I'm not much of an academic but I've engaged with a couple game-making communities (for a while I had a job at Pearson with Gerard LaFond, Ian Bogost's co-founder of Persuasive Games (just to try and name drop) and I hosted Anna Anthropy when she visited Boston (we were connected on the message boards for The Gamer's Quarter, a New Games Journalism effort) and got to playtest some of her games.
had some thoughts I'll try to keep quick:

* Sort of amused that a book called "How Pac-Man Eats" barely mentions the word "mouth", which I think does a lot of the heavy lifting in "skinning" the pellet collisions in Pac-Man

* Anthropy's book "Rise of the Videogame Zinesters" inspired a little poem of a game The Pr3vent Trilogy - kirk.is/2012/04/19/ - her talking about what a game is "about" led me to basically put 3 skinnings in one game, ala "Kaboom! is a Many Splendored Thing", with the small joke that all 3 are played at once. (Also from a mechanics/logics/collisions stand point, creating obstacles for an animate NPC and thwarting their desires might be somewhat novel.)

* You mentioned Knights of the Old Republic - I found its combat was a really weird and unsatisfying blend of a realistic, smooth look overlaid on a turn-based, probability dice roll system. So like on the first in-spaceship fight, I kept moving for cover, but really the movement was just resetting the "timer" before I had a chance to fire again.

* "By engaging the limitations of the television technology with which Computer Space was implemented, we can understand why its physics logic lacked gravity." Looking at footage, I think everyone spots the lack of physical grace it has - but I'm not sure if that's the limits of television technology. It is easy to get "good enough" gravity effects with simple arithmetic - in fact one of my proudest accomplishments is JoustPong/FlapPing, which is "Pong with a Flap Button" (years later Flappy Bird would have great success with this kind of one button control) I added some complexities (breakout-like walls and an interfering middle character) to increase its saleability, but the basic Pong of it - including rudimentary but satisfying AI - has been fun to port to different systems because its system - gravity included - is easy to implement. (the sine cosine stuff gets a bit more tough)

* In 2012 I made Action Figure Fighter - which predates "How Do You Do it?" by 2 years, but is kind of the "boy-play-coded" version of the same idea - it recapitulates the common mechanic of indicating toys are fighting by bashing them against each other...

* That game was made as a spinoff project of "Glorious Trainwrecks", that invented the "2 hour game jam" as an attempt to get around perfectionism by making the best worst game you could in that time frame - I'm not involved now but it still seems to be going. Interesting to think of where small games might be happening - more activity in some commercial ventures like Roblox, I imagine...

* WarioWare "Get It Together"'s gimmick is that it goes back to consistent avatars in game - each of Wario's buddies has a somewhat different move and attack, and then the joy is seeing that character's verbs against all the new minigame nouns (along with the usual trademark weirdness) - and some characters are much better suited at a particular challenge than others. For me it lacked some of the "this next game could be anything!" charm of earlier versions, but it was interesting to see how the basic WarioWare quick play idea could still work with a more traditional view of the avatar in the game.

* "Tax Avoiders" - you might be interested in this 1982 article from the Christian satire magazine "The Wittenburg Door" that I transcribed - they set up all these parodies of existing games (complete with Title art and a few screenshots) making up new stories while often keeping the basic mechanics the same as the famous Arcade games they parody

* Interesting to see what if Gemini could become more LLM/ChatGPT like (if it wasn't already) and what might result...

* Finally, I'm wondering if you know of Barbara Tversky's "Mind in Motion". To borrow Tim Harford's summary:
The psychologist Barbara Tversky, author of Mind in Motion, argues that our minds are built on a foundation of cognition about place, space and movement. That creeps into our language with phrases such as "built on a foundation" and "creeps into". Our brains started by helping us process our surroundings and the threats and opportunities they presented. Abstract thinking is an adaptation of those basic spatial capacities.
This idea that motion is so fundamental to cognition kept recurring to me in the early chapters about collision and systematic representation

Ok, thanks for your time! Please let me know if any of these topics captured your interest.

To invading germs, you are a jungle full of hungry tigers. To your gut bacteria, you are a warm orchard of perpetual bounty. To your eyelash mites, you are a walking fortress and a mountaintop pasture. How many generations have you hosted? What do they name the wilderness of you?
"Host" by @cryptonature, in his book Field Guide to the Haunted Forest

December 13, 2023

(Copying my response to FB friend Chad Robb's talking about religious journey)

Couple of notes from my journey:
* I think the traditional practice that most resonated for me was daoism. My favorite guide to it was "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" which winds its way through the conflicts in western ways of thinking of the world to find at something it realizes is described in the not-really-puttable-on-in-words of the Tao. Part of the Tao is the border where two somewhat opposite things come together in a "the opposite of a great truth is another great truth" kind of way. (In terms of books "The Tao of Pooh" is another, shorter intro to a more classical form of Taoism)

* It's not quite a religion or practice, but I admired how Alan Lightman's "Mr. g" outlined a new mythology more compatible with how science sees the universe to be - a god not totally disjoint from some of the Christian view, but not as "all dials of power knowledge and love turned to 11" - kind of harkening to the old "watchmaker god" version, god as a loving experimenter who creates universes, but in some ways the whole point of running those universes is that he can't know how they will come out - that the chaotically-unpredictable emergence is what generates the suffering and sin but also all the good stuff that wouldn't exist if the experiment hadn't been run.

* My own view is probably a bit of a hodge podge. I find myself not trusting anything that relies on a special, one time revelation to someone else and would even having trouble accepting an epiphany I had. And that seems to preclude most "supernatural" explanations of the universe, like a top-down creation. So I look to emergence - just like in theory economics is just psychology is just neurobiology is just biology is just chemistry is just physics, but still atomic theory won't help you think about the last recession - each layer adds something that is fundamentally unpredictable from almost any analysis of the layer beneath it.

So I'm left with the idea that it's the shared objective reality that matters most (even though, objectively I have to recognize how important subjectivity is to so many people! and scientists or atheists who claim "objectivity" are often jerks who can't acknowledge the presumptions that led to their scientific enquiries) but also I embrace the uncertainty in a way most other faiths don't. Like Goedel says there are things true about the universe that can't be proven within the universe. So the "Faith" aspect comes in for me that everything is emergence, and that objective reality is shared and our best guesses/estimations about what is most likely *universally* true should guide our individual actions-- but we have to be humble and recognize they are only best guesses/estimations (when you talk about "accurate template for extrapolation into the outer cosmos" -- well, it's the "accurate" part I am not sure anyone can help you with - it seems like uncertainty is baked into everything, and so I will always be suspicious of sure and certain Faith.)
Time is always ticking... which is better than the alternative.
Mobius M. Mobius (in Assembled: The Making of Loki - couldn't find it in the original.)

December 14, 2023

Just a quibble, ChatGPT and its ilk don't 'hallucinate', they 'confabulate'...
For grins I put on the version of "The Office" from India, which Hulu thought was in my wheelhouse. Interesting to see the free mix of languages, and then all the cultural references I don't get, like "12:00" jokes against Sikhs, all in a context that is sort of familiar, having seen the same setup in the US and UK versions. (Strong multiverse vibe)

some good headphones

RIP two of my favorite sets of headphones - Skull Candy Navigator (with distinctive tortoise shell coloring) and V-Moda Crossfade M-80 with its snazzy red chevron.
Both have earcups where the black vinyl-ish cover of ear cushions leaves bits of itself on your face...

I still think no wireless headphone or earbud has the dignity of something with a cord. Headphones look like earmuffs, airpods look like you're sticking cigarettes in your ear, the semi-wireless buds I prefer (that turn into magetic-front-claspe necklace when not in use) look like a librarian's eyeglass chain.

December 16, 2023

If I drink water I will have to go to the bathroom and how can I use the bathroom when my people are in bondage?
Saddam Hussein declining a glass of water during his his post-capture interview sessions... 20 years ago today.

I admit I often think of this quote when I go to get a drink of water.

Another time I blog about is when I figure something out that I've been trying to understand for a long time, in some cases my whole life. That still happens. The other day I found myself talking with a friend about love, why when someone says "I love you" it doesn't mean what it seems to. Love comes from understanding someone well enough that you know what they desire, what they ache to have, and you to try to help them get it. See all the qualifications in that. Try. Help. Them. In other words, you can love someone when you know them. And you don't give them what they want, you help them get it. You can't love someone who your whole idea of is based on a dream you have about them. That's different. Anyway, lots more to say about all this. It's a recurring topic. It might be the *only* topic. Someday they'll invent an AI that can analyze my writing and tell me if I've ever written for any other purpose than being worthy of love.

Like, my God is not an old man in the sky. It's a metaphor for a mystery that absolutely transcends all categories of human thought, including being and non-being, but that's too many words for the back of a quarter. That's Joseph Campbell. I got all the best teachers later in life. Like Barry Taylor, the road manager for AC/DC, said, "'God' is the name of the blanket we put over the mystery to give it a shape." Shouldn't I have learned that in church? Why am I learning this from Barry Taylor...the road manager for AC/DC?
Pete Holmes, "I Am Not for Everyone"
Tickled by the namedrop of Joseph Campbell who I'm reading now. Probably the best "wisdom from metal reference" since Ted Lasso's Roy Kent quoted Motley Crue's Nikki Sixx: "You Gotta Date Your Wife"

December 17, 2023

On Linked I took the plunge and added a part-time job I'm taking on to my list of jobs: the adjunct-instructor'ing I'll be doing next quarter at the Computer Systems Institute in Charlestown.

It should be some interesting times and good filler in my CV for this period, but it's not providing a livable wage. (Would be like an ideal role for quasi-retirement, but I'm not stocked up for that yet, for sure) Since it's just teaching in the evening, I will be able to keep up my search for a real programming gig, and even take a fulltime role on as long as it has a modicum of time flexibility.

But It will be a sacrifice because I won't be able to attend band practices for a bit, unless we find some kind of time and space workaround for my group.

Which brings me to this Atlantic article
The Joy of Underperforming (gift link, so you should be able to read it). It's about thinking in terms of "seasons". "This Too Shall Pass" stuff.

(In a random email my comic artist collaborator James Harvey wrote "Sorry you're unemployed at the moment. It will get better soon!" - a sentiment not grounded in much save a general, somewhat optimistic knowledge that most conditions are fleeting, but somehow still is heartening.)

The article digs into letting some things go (at least temporarily) during such times, so seeing how that kind of foretold my course with my band there hit home - especially since band has been one of the consistently nurturing and joyous and reassuring things for me during this whole time.

Like I mean this could be mostly "just" a tough season, the big wheel of fiscal fate turning with me at the bottom in a way it hasn't save 2001 and 2008.... the recession-resisting low interest rate cheap money made quarantine a boom time in tech that I was barely aware of, and now there's this MASSIVE hangover - but largely industry specific. If you're on the outside looking in you're joined by legions of smart eager folks. (And it certainly raises any imposter syndrome that might be murmuring in your ear to shouting levels.) Plus so many companies are trepidatious with a middling general economic outlook, and with a kind of fad among CEOs trying to look smart by cutting cutting cutting.

So the events could also have aspects of a climate shift - maybe AI and 2020's sudden jolt (demonstrating the potential "remote"-ability of a lot of tech jobs) is a seachange. But there could still be a sense of seasons within that - like even ice ages had their summers, just like our heating up planet has its winters.

In any case Melissa and I are not in dire straits. I'm at Plan D or E and can probably go pretty far down the alphabet before radical life changes are mandated, though I think I've lost some of my rosier retirement hopes I was hearing 5 years ago. But any season shift can't happen soon enough for my liking...

December 18, 2023

brilliant minimum wage art

December 19, 2023

via cursed ai generated images
If there is a God, his plan is very similar to someone not having a plan.
Eddie Izzard

December 20, 2023

(by Robin and my friend Pooja)

December 21, 2023

I made a slideshow web app for a collection of photos of my community street band JP Honk: stuff.alienbill.com/jphonk/shoebox/slideshow (p5.js / canvas)

I really like how the presentation came out; I put all the thumbnails in a roughly square grid, then the page picks a photo, pans over all the thumbnails to it, zooms in, pauses, zooms out and repeats.... it gives a sense of context to the scale of the band's joyous events over the years.

A little more info on my devblog

December 22, 2023

There's nothing guaranteeing tomorrow. We could die today or we could die 60 years from now; Either way, there's never enough time to do everything we want.
Akira Tendo, Zom 100: Bucket List of the Dead

Advice from a professional experience creator to all other professional experience creators and aspiring ones:
If you start working on a project, and realize partway through that it has a critical flaw that breaks the whole thing, and you stop working on it, then with absolute certainty someone else will come along and make that same project, miss that critical flaw, and release it. And a few people will notice the critical flaw, and complain about it, but enjoy the thing anyway. And the majority of people won't even notice the critical flaw.
In 2024, aspire to be that stupider version of yourself. ❤
Hunter Gough

December 23, 2023


December 24, 2023


Melissa has amused disdain for my sloppy gift wrapping style, foregoing bows and tags (that are just going to fall off anyway, safer to just write a cute to/from on sharpie right on the paper) but it turns out science is on my side: The science of gift wrapping explains why sloppy is better
Tom Whitwell's 52 things I learned in 2023

December 25, 2023

This holiday season (during a challenging season of life for me) I'm having a lot of weird synchronicity on religion and mythology. Lots of different threads, nothing really resolved.

The biggest thread comes from Joseph Campbell's "The Power of Myth" a book we're reading (based on a PBS series back in the day) for my UU Science and Spirituality class.

He's quick to make a distinction between mythology and religion, besides pointing out the archetypes that so many mythologies share. Going to a Sunday/Christmas Eve day service with my Mom and Aunt, I see all the stuff that I know came before or after Christianity in its most ascetic form; the Christmas tree, the poinsettias, even the time of year that has MUCH more to do with old moods of the transition of the seasons than any actual birthdate of Jesus. But in the Campbell context, I guess that makes the Santa-laden tradition I grew up with seem more resonant, not less. (Side note; As I'm writing this, I've been watching "The Chosen" with my folks which seems a pretty sophisticated retelling of Jesus and the Disciple's story. Last night had some "making of" around the Christmas special that was also kind of interesting.)

My superniece Cora is getting into "Therian" stuff - a community of folk who see resonant parallels between various animals (their "theriotype") and themselves. I'm glad she's not woo-woo about it (I think she's been instilled with a more or less humanistic and science-accepting framework) - It would be easy to dismiss it as just a furries-adjacent lark, but right now I can see - it's a pretty resonant mythology for her. Through the history of humanity people have found exactly these kinds of parallels so important to their development, and I think with a little poking I could see long and deep roots in shamanistic traditions that so many cultures have drawn from, though ones that are a little thin on the ground in the Judeo-Christian soil we walk on.

Another thread: The "Making Sense" podcast just had an episode with Brian Muraresku, who wrote a book about about ancient mystery religions and their use of psychedelics that might have had a strong influence in the Hellenistic strain of early Christianity. (Notably, Muraresku is Catholic, and abstains from psychedelics.) Like when you hear about older religions - many older than Greek culture - with aspects about drinking symbolic divine blood-wine, the path to the Christian "this is my body, this is my blood" sacrament of the Eucharist gets more interesting - just like how an appreciation for Mary's role led to a Europe full of cathedrals named Notre Dame.

There is so much that protestant American Folk Christianity leaves behind when it tries to strip away the trappings and get back to basics. (Actually maybe some of the snake handler / speaking in tongues Pentecostals get back to those earlier, more ecstatic forms of religion?) They even gloss over things in their own Bible - who is the rest of "Us" in "And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness"? Is Sophia/Wisdom of the second half of Proverbs 8 just a poetic conceit, or is there something weird and older and more beautiful going on there? Explaining away those bits is kind of weird for a faith that claims to look to only its scriptures as God's protected final word for so much.

Still it feels my own path may always be a bit more humanist, and rationalistic and skeptical. The Protestant God I grew up deserved to control everything in me and my Preacher Parents' life in part because it was a faith that was true (and available) for EVERYONE - but that faith turned out to be brittle when I grew up enough to ponder the justifications for so many other, competing Faiths. So the biggest, most last impact of that fracture is that I tend to reject mythologies - anything that seems to rely on a special, one-time revelation that you have to take on trust. And in this model, humanistic (and non-authoritarian!) rationality is the most empathetic kind of belief, because the important thing is, you don't have to take anyone's word on anything and it's available to everyone. (Of course it gets snarled up in the "Paradox of Tolerance", since it has to accept that most people will always cling to their people's or their own special revelations.)

Which I guess brings me to my folks. For years I was afraid to bring my skepticism up with my mom (though I suspect she'll be reading this or I might even point it out to her.. Hi Mom!) Being a minister as well as being my mom, she represented the voice of God and judgement to me, but I knew she was bummed I didn't find a church when I went off to college, and so I tried to keep that side of me hidden. But many years ago we had a good conversation about it, and I think her view leans more into John 14:2a (In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you.) than John 14:6 (Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me), which I think is compatible with the kind of humanist UU "multiple paths" approach I find most likely. (So technically, I guess I did find a church, but mostly I co-lead a science and spirituality discussion group there, and do most of my nurturing small community-ing with my activist street bands.)

And that leaves me with my dad - or rather his absence, since he died when I was early in my own teenage time of growth and change. There's some dialog there that may never happen in the way I would have liked, maybe even conflicts that will never be quite resolved in the way I wish they could be. But as Joseph Campbell points out "Frequently, in the epics, when the hero is born, his father has died, or his father is in some other place, and then the hero has to go in quest of his father" so maybe there's hope for me yet.

Merry Christmas!
I'll probably be finishing the Campbell book today, and ran into this quote: "Any god who can invent hell is no candidate for the Salvation Army."

That's some stirring synchronicity, given how much a fear of hell and The Salvation Army as an organization were two of the biggest shaping forces of my young life!


29 Strange Things People Do With Their Significant Other I find some of these weirdly sexy and romantic.

from Joseph Campbell "The Power of Myth"

The latest incarnation of Oedipus, the continued romance of Beauty and the Beast, stands this afternoon on the corner of Forty-second Street and Fifth Avenue, waiting for the traffic light to change.
Joseph Campbell

You can't believe [what's inside a computer]. It's a whole hierarchy of angels--all on slats. And those little tubes--those are miracles.

I have had a revelation from my computer about mythology. You buy a certain software, and there is a whole set of signals that lead to the achievement of your aim. If you begin fooling around with signals that belong to another system of software, they just won't work.

Similarly, in mythology--if you have a mythology in which the metaphor for the mystery is the father, you are going to have a different set of signals from what you would have if the metaphor for the wisdom and mystery of the world were the mother. And they are two perfectly good metaphors. Neither one is a fact. These are metaphors. [...] You must understand that each religion is a kind of software that has its own set of signals and will work. If a person is really involved in a religion and really building his life on it, he better stay with the software that he has got. But a chap like myself, who likes to play with the software--well, I can run around, but I probably will never have an experience comparable to that of a saint.
Joseph Campbell, "The Power of Myth"

CAMPBELL: We need myths that will identify the individual not with his local group but with the planet. A model for that is the United States. Here were thirteen different little colony nations that decided to act in the mutual interest, without disregarding the individual interests of any one of them.

MOYERS: There is something about that on the Great Seal of the United States.

CAMPBELL: That's what the Great Seal is all about. I carry a copy of the Great Seal in my pocket in the form of a dollar bill. Here is the statement of the ideals that brought about the formation of the United States. Look at this dollar bill. Now here is the Great Seal of the United States. Look at the pyramid on the left. A pyramid has four sides. These are the four points of the compass. There is somebody at this point, there's somebody at that point, and there's somebody at this point. When you're down on the lower levels of this pyramid, you will be either on one side or on the other. But when you get up to the top, the points all come together, and there the eye of God opens.

MOYERS: And to them it was the god of reason.

CAMPBELL: Yes. This is the first nation in the world that was ever established on the basis of reason instead of simply warfare. These were eighteenth-century deists, these gentlemen. Over here we read, "In God We Trust." But that is not the god of the Bible. These men did not believe in a Fall. They did not think the mind of man was cut off from God. The mind of man, cleansed of secondary and merely temporal concerns, beholds with the radiance of a cleansed mirror a reflection of the rational mind of God. Reason puts you in touch with God. Consequently, for these men, there is no special revelation anywhere, and none is needed, because the mind of man cleared of its fallibilities is sufficiently capable of the knowledge of God. All people in the world are thus capable because all people in the world are capable of reason.

All men are capable of reason. That is the fundamental principle of democracy. Because everybody's mind is capable of true knowledge, you don't have to have a special authority, or a special revelation telling you that this is the way things should be.
Joseph Campbell + Bill Moyers, "The Power of Myth"

The mystery of life is beyond all human conception. Everything we know is within the terminology of the concepts of being and not being, many and single, true and untrue. We always think in terms of opposites. But God, the ultimate, is beyond the pairs of opposites, that is all there is to it.
Joseph Campbell, "The Power of Myth"

I had a friend who attended an international meeting of the Roman Catholic meditative orders, which was held in Bangkok. He told me that the Catholic monks had no problems understanding the Buddhist monks, but that it was the clergy of the two religions who were unable to understand each other.
Joseph Campbell, "The Power of Myth"

Culture can also teach us to go past its concepts. That is what is known as initiation. A true initiation is when the guru tells you, "There is no Santa Claus." Santa Claus is metaphoric of a relationship between parents and children. The relationship does exist, and so it can be experienced, but there is no Santa Claus. Santa Claus was simply a way of clueing children into the appreciation of a relationship.
Joseph Campbell, "The Power of Myth"

Once in India I thought I would like to meet a major guru or teacher face to face. So I went to see a celebrated teacher named Sri Krishna Menon, and the first thing he said to me was, "Do you have a question?" The teacher in this tradition always answers questions. He doesn't tell you anything you are not yet ready to hear. So I said, "Yes, I have a question. Since in Hindu thinking everything in the universe is a manifestation of divinity itself, how should we say no to anything in the world? How should we say no to brutality, to stupidity, to vulgarity, to thoughtlessness?"

And he answered, "For you and for me--the way is to say yes."

We then had a wonderful talk on this theme of the affirmation of all things. And it confirmed me in the feeling I had had that who are we to judge? It seems to me that this is one of the great teachings, also, of Jesus.
Joseph Campbell, "The Power of Myth"

CAMPBELL: Yes, that is what I'm saying. Eternity isn't some later time. Eternity isn't even a long time. Eternity has nothing to do with time. Eternity is that dimension of here and now that all thinking in temporal terms cuts off. And if you don't get it here, you won't get it anywhere. The problem with heaven is that you will be having such a good time there, you won't even think of eternity. You'll just have this unending delight in the beatific vision of God. But the experience of eternity right here and now, in all things, whether thought of as good or as evil, is the function of life.

MOYERS: This is it.

CAMPBELL: This is it.
Joseph Campbell (+ Bill Moyers), "The Power of Myth"

The idea of the supernatural as being something over and above the natural is a killing idea. In the Middle Ages this was the idea that finally turned that world into something like a wasteland, a land where people were living inauthentic lives, never doing a thing they truly wanted to because the supernatural laws required them to live as directed by their clergy. In a wasteland, people are fulfilling purposes that are not properly theirs but have been put upon them as inescapable laws. This is a killer.
Joseph Campbell, "The Power of Myth"

CAMPBELL: I came back from Europe as a student in 1929, just three weeks before the Wall Street crash, so I didn't have a job for five years. There just wasn't a job. That was a great time for me.

MOYERS: A great time? The depth of the Depression? What was wonderful about it?

CAMPBELL: I didn't feel poor, I just felt that I didn't have any money. People were so good to each other at that time.
Joseph Campbell, "The Power of Myth"

You can't say life is useless because it ends in the grave. There's an inspiring line in one of Pindar's poems where he is celebrating a young man who has just won a wrestling championship at the Pythian games. Pindar writes, "Creatures of a day, what is any one? What is he not? Man is but a dream of a shadow. Yet when there comes as a gift of heaven a gleam of sunshine, there rests upon men a radiant light and, aye, a gentle life." That dismal saying, "Vanity, vanity, all is vanity!"--it is not all vanity. This moment itself is no vanity, it is a triumph, a delight.
Joseph Campbell, "The Power of Myth"

I had an illuminating experience from a woman who had been in severe physical pain for years, from an affliction that had stricken her in her youth. She had been raised a believing Christian and so thought this had been God's punishment of her for something she had done or not done at that time. She was in spiritual as well as physical pain. I told her that if she wanted release, she should affirm and not deny her suffering was her life, and that through it she had become the noble creature that she now was. And while I was saying all this, I was thinking, "Who am I to talk like this to a person in real pain, when I've never had anything more than a toothache?" But in this conversation, in affirming her suffering as the shaper and teacher of her life, she experienced a conversion--right there. I have kept in touch with her since--that was years and years ago--and she is indeed a transformed woman.
I gave her the belief that she was herself the cause of her suffering, that she had somehow brought it about. There is an important idea in Nietzsche, of Amor fati, the "love of your fate," which is in fact your life. As he says, if you say no to a single factor in your life, you have unraveled the whole thing. Furthermore, the more challenging or threatening the situation or context to be assimilated and affirmed, the greater the stature of the person who can achieve it. The demon that you can swallow gives you its power, and the greater life's pain, the greater life's reply.

My friend had thought, "God did this to me." I told her, "No, you did it to yourself. The God is within you. You yourself are your creator. If you find that place in yourself from which you brought this thing about, you will be able to live with it and affirm it, perhaps even enjoy it, as your life."
Joseph Campbell, "The Power of Myth"
I admit I'm not sure I am ready for this - it sounds so much like blaming the victim and power of positive thinking woo-woo.
Frequently, in the epics, when the hero is born, his father has died, or his father is in some other place, and then the hero has to go in quest of his father.
Joseph Campbell, "The Power of Myth"

Eros is much more impersonal than falling in love. You see, people didn't know about Amor. Amor is something personal that the troubadours recognized. Eros and Agape are impersonal loves. [...] Eros is a biological urge. It's the zeal of the organs for each other. The personal factor doesn't matter. [...] Agape is love thy neighbor as thyself--spiritual love. It doesn't matter who the neighbor is.
Joseph Campbell, "The Power of Myth"
This one struck home for me. I used to pretentiously sign my letters "Agape", but that is telling - to this day I have a hard time leaning into "personal" love, since I have the compulsion to think of the objective and not the subjective, which is where troubadour love lives.
Our way of thinking in the West sees God as the final source or cause of the energies and wonder of the universe. But in most Oriental thinking, and in primal thinking, also, the gods are rather manifestations and purveyors of an energy that is finally impersonal. They are not its source. The god is the vehicle of its energy. And the force or quality of the energy that is involved or represented determines the character and function of the god.
Joseph Campbell, "The Power of Myth"

From the ultimate energy that is the life of the universe. And then do you say, "Well, there must be somebody generating that energy"? Why do you have to say that? Why can't the ultimate mystery be impersonal?
Joseph Campbell, "The Power of Myth"
This resonates for me and my mythology, which focuses on how miraculous complexity (and maybe even the "ought from is") EMERGES. But that thought is pretty impersonal - in fact the hope it needs only contemplation and not revelation is a critical aspect of it for me!
Whereas in our religions, with their accent on the human, there is also an accent on the ethical--God is qualified as good. No, no! God is horrific. Any god who can invent hell is no candidate for the Salvation Army. The end of the world, think of it!
Joseph Campbell, "The Power of Myth"
(Emphasis mine.) Dang, this quote near the end of the book seemed laden with synchronicity for me - how much the fear of hellfire shaped me, but how the organization of The Salvation Army so shaped my life. (It's interesting that he using it as a comic short hand for "do-gooders")
Wherever there is time, there is sorrow.
Joseph Campbell, "The Power of Myth"

Watched "It's a Wonderful Life" for the first time...

December 27, 2023

A piece on Usenet's the September That Never Ended mentioned Google Groups will be dropping Usenet support, which makes me sad. I haven't really used Usenet for twenty years, but for the ten years before it was really important to me, and I liked seeing it was still going on and to be able to look up the odd half remembered post.

Usenet really had a good vibe; the idea of bring your own client and use it across a variety of topic rooms, each forming their own community was great - my favorites were rec.games.video.classic, alt.folklore.computer, alt.fan.cecil-adams, and comp.sys.palmtops.pilot. (A friend of mine has a conspiracy theory that Usenet was too distributed and uncontrollable and so was repressed by the Powers That Be in favor of more centralized forms of social media...)

It made me think about social media forums I've lived in over the years. Each tends to encourage a certain style / length of post, has different types of message continuity (threads, etc), makes it easier or harder to recognizing recurring authors, and has different styles of if you rely more on following people or sipping from the main firehose.

I had a weirdly geeky urge to categorize what I've most used over the years... (my current favorite in blue) These are all based on my judgements of how I or most people use it:
Forum Post Lengths Crowd Size Author Identity Follow or Commons text vs image
Usenet Long Many Medium Groups .Sig Commons (per Group) Text
Livejournal Very Long Friends List Avatar Follow Text
Blog Comments Short Private-ish Name Commons Text
Slashdot Short Large (Geeks) .Sig Commons Text
Atari Age Forums Medium Medium-Small (Gamers) Avatar + .Sig Commons (in Topics) Text
Facebook Medium-Short Real Life (+Algorithmy) Name + Avatar Follow (+ Algo) Mixed
Twitter Very Short Very Algorithmy Avatar Follow (+ Algo) Mixed
Reddit Short Many Medium Channels Username Commons (per Channel) Text
Tumblr Medium Medium ("Mutuals") Avatar Follow Images
WhatsApp Short Private Avatar Commons Text
Slack Medium-Short Private Avatar Commons (in Topics) Text
Discord Short Private Avatar Commons (in Topics) Text
Facebook connects me with a wider range of people from all parts of my life, and despite the privacy concerns and what not, I appreciate how easy its been to share as many photos as I'd ever want, and get them in front of folks, abeit in a haphazard way.

I love the community of tumblr and it's my favorite source of stuff to repost on my blog - but I haven't figured out how to get "followed", so it's mostly a read-only medium for me so far.

Slack closed-garden is my favorite community types now - if you find the right bunch of people (that balance of people who post a lot, and maybe some people who mostly lurk but chime in) it's fantastic. (On paper Discord has the same potential, and is a bit more hip, but somehow the UI for threading and private messaging is horribly confusing, and the whole things gives me Reddit-ish "I can't follow things" vibes.
My dad's Ohio cousins are legit farmers - Adrian, George (the doggo), Red, Kathy

My dad romanticized rural life, but I think more from his experience with the cousins farm than his small town county seat life in Coshocton

December 28, 2023

He visits my town once a year.
He fills my mouth with kisses and nectar.
I spend all my money on him.
*Who, girl, your man?*
No, a mango.
amir khusrow (1253–1325 CE)

somehow woke up dreaming / thinking about cellular automata processing and Conway's Game of Life - how you'd either need two grids or could use a single grid of "even/odd turn state" (i.e. it's turn 1, my current state is "odd [alive dead]", I am computing "even [alive dead]" , and then turn 2 doing the opposite.) and then i started thinking about sparse array processing. I think in the dream or halfway asleep aspect I thought I should ask ChatGPT. Which makes me think of the trope that you don't see many smartphones in dreams... but apparently ChatGPT has more dream resonance...

December 29, 2023

Melissa and I took a trip to Philadelphia - "birthplace of Independence" and of me. (I kept asking people there if they missed me but I guess they were all tourists?)

We got through like half of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, hit Monk's Café, went to the Philadelphia Zoo's LumiNature light show, then made a quick stop at Dalessandro's on our way out for cheesesteak.

Open Photo Gallery

We started at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Here's Melissa at Twombly's Fifty Days at Iliam.
It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia!
Here Melissa is playing a game I think many tourists play... where the hell is the Rocky Statue? Those cowards moved it discretely off to the side at the base of the stairs. I felt like it was false advertising tbh.
"The Shape of Time: Korean Art after 1989" was the feature show - this is a detail of Headless by Michael Joo
Melissa peeking at the main gallery...
...which features Augustus Saint-Gaudens' Diana...
Melissa was struck by some of the the stained glass in the old Europe section, and knew about the painstaking construction.
I like taking weird closeups of faces at museums...
Melissa struck by the beauty of the woman in Dorothea Tanning's "Birthday"
Chief Justice John Marshall... mostly just trying out the iPhone's portrait mode. Melissa reminded me that "Cinematic" mode for video is pretty dope (I should have been doing more of my 1 Second Everydays with it)
Killing time waiting for a table to open at Monk's, found this placard, which I think is a fancy way of saying "hey you bums stay offa our sidewalk!"
Went to the Philadelphia Zoo's "LumiNature" light show...
Flamingo Tree
Light Tunnel

December 30, 2023

The "Into the Vertical Blank" podcast (didn't realize it was by twin brothers!) republished an old episode "The Best Atari Christmas Ever". I found the text of the episode on Medium.

Their story really resonated for me - growing up in the 80s with parents who didn't have a lot of extra cash, seeing computer stuff from afar, digging into the materials (I remember my mom buying me a COMPUTE! book on programming as a placeholder for a computer) - experiencing Atari 8-bit computers, and then (SPOILER ALERT) getting a jumpstart by inheriting an grownup's collection once they upgraded.

The episode talks about Atari being having supply chain problems in 1983 and so releasing stuff to stores too close to Christmas. I think my Salvation Army family benefited from the liquidations and donations that followed (the church or thrift store wouldn't be allowed to sell the gear.) So my first computer was an Atari 800XL. (The article mentions that Apple stuff was at a higher price point even then, though also IBM was making its move - which I guess split the home market into "serious" and "fun")

So my first computer was a fresh Atari, but within a few years the 8 bit wars tilted in favor of the Commodore 74 - that was the machine more kids had and could get you copies of games for, and so I'll always be grateful to the giant C=64 shipment I got from my Uncle Bill (especially the magazine-on-disk collection of Compute!'s Gazette - years later I made a whole website reviewing every game they published)

I probably learned more on the Atari though, between BASIC (And Dr. C. Wacko Presents: Atari BASIC & The Whiz-Bang Miracle Machine) and Logo, it was an easier machine to do cool graphics and sound with. (I did make a lot of sprites and plot out a lot of games with the Gazette Sprite and Character editors though.)

People's relationship with money and consumer goods was different then - and catalogs and magazines and sometimes local clubs filled in for what we get over the Internet now (Man did I get into Antic magazine)

I was a few years younger than the twins. Sometimes I think I missed out by either being a little too young or not quite smart + ambitious enough to get my stuff published in those magazine...
Some people are philosophers and some are politicians. Philosophers want to reach truth/understanding. Politicians want to win.

Helped me rethink some relationships, how hard I was working to reach the other person and find understanding with them when they just wanted to win.
Gennifer Hutchison, @GennHutchison

photos of the month december 2023


Open Photo Gallery

Boston City Hall so looks like a weird video game level. I think only the back part interior of the BPL looks more brutalist-y game-ish.
Red Rebel Brigade...
Cora is getting really crazy.
O, Christmas Tree
We started at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Here's Melissa at Twombly's Fifty Days at Iliam.
"The Shape of Time: Korean Art after 1989" was the feature show - this is a detail of Headless by Michael Joo
Melissa peeking at the main gallery...
Flamingo Tree
Light Tunnel

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