Archive for weird projects
This is the first installment of The Trading Post, what hopefully becomes an ongoing series in which I trade albums with fellow writer friends and then we proceed to dance about the architecture with which we’re presented. This project stems from the many discussions through which it became undeniably clear that my musical tastes are vastly different than most of my literary friends; I thought it would be fun and enlightening for us to both share what we love with while hearing new music we might not otherwise encounter. Though there will likely be a decent amount of hating on stuff (from myself at least), that’s not the point at all. Rather, much like my encounter Lynne Tillman’s novel American Genius: A Comedy, I appreciate wrestling with work with which I don’t have an immediate affinity and then trying to understand why I might hate it so much while also recognizing important qualities such a work may possess. Having said all that, these aren’t going to be deep analyses, either, merely thoughtful reactions or something along those lines. I guess we’ll see what happens and that’s part of the fun!
For this first installment, Seth Graves decided on a simple trade based on vocals and guitar. He gave me albums by Why?, Danielson and Destroyer. In return I made him listen to albums by Gorguts, Krallice and Vektor. We’ll start with Seth’s responses because I flipped an imaginary coin and won the toss. Follow us after the jump!
We can’t help but think about what other people are thinking about. It seems the more boring our lives become, the more we seek the flat yet palpable experience of film. The fact is: We won’t free ourselves from a dysfunctional and unfair economic order until we begin to see ourselves as communities, not commodities. If one embraces an atheist worldview, it necessarily requires embracing, even celebrating, one’s insignificance. Independent thought, originality, has to be its own reward, because normative history offers revolutionaries the reward of oblivion or villainy. Our distant ancestors were explorers and inventors, and we owe it to them to continue their legacy, not wallow in the mundane minutia of post-industrial life, trapped under the heel of bureaucrats bereft of any vision or sense of wonder. So often we wake up at 25 and realize ‘adults’ really have no idea what they are doing, no matter how confident they seem when preaching tenuously built ideologies which seem infallible to a child and dull their willingness to be awed and inspired by the discoveries of science. It’s just the idea of the thing that puts people off. A lot of people thought the sense of self was hard-wired, but it’s not at all. Even with a map, some people manage to get lost. Nature generally goes for the simplest and most robust solution. We’re still scanning the skies, and may yet see another event like this.
Sometimes it is difficult to ask a question when the reward of silence has just commenced. La douleur exquise gets at the emotional heartache, specifically, of being the one whose love is unreciprocated. We can take a punch. We might have a sensation of a unified integrated consciousness, but it’s actually individual sensations popping up with whatever you’re particularly conscious of in one moment. Value’s just what relationships are built through sequence, through temporal distribution. Yet there is a timelessness to this event. And it’s interesting to think that somewhere out there, light years away, a lonely, dark, and slowly freezing planet may be bulleting through the galaxy. A good theory rules explanations in and out, and if it rules out the wrong explanation that will become clear over time as you pursue your theory guided research. The larger lesson is that the brain is a neural tangle of near infinite possibility, which means that it spends a lot of time and energy choosing what not to notice. It’s not a perfect measure, but it gives you an idea.
(h/t to Sciencepunk for that video, which should be watched full screen)
We humans have evolved inside a complex, fractal, structurally hierarchical environment, so that our neurophysiology responds positively to and receives sensory pleasure from natural environments. That is, our cognition is influenced, perhaps determined by, our experiences in the physical world. The exact same parts of the brain that light up when we’re in physical pain go haywire when we experience rejection. Ennui is a cognitive gift, but it must be properly unlocked. Only intelligent animals play—animals like crows and chimps, dogs and humans. If I had been living somewhere else, I could have been someone else. And thus began a tiny rebellion. Nature loves chaos when it pushes systems toward equilibrium, and geeks call this universal property entropy. There are causes we will never know about and sometimes it’s better to live with the ambiguity. They’ve also withstood the test of time.
Because we are social animals, our memory of the past is constantly being revised to fit social pressures. Humans can’t help having their preconceived beliefs take precedence over the facts. When people face an uncertain situation, they don’t carefully evaluate the information or look up relevant statistics. I’m not sure what kind of conventionality is being invoked, but I don’t want any part of it.
Our brain continuously constructs our sense of self using information from our eyes, skin and joints. Like I said, insanely cool. But the story does not end here. We need a way to try to access emotions in comatose and vegetative states. Confidence is a strange thing, and once you’re fed on a decent dose of it, lots of unusual things can happen. It will expose everything you’ve mastered and everything you’re scared of. The only way to survive is to believe that you really are good enough. What makes you so special?
We don’t call the rainbow the red spectrum. The truth is much, much more complex, and in my view, interesting. When we look far away, we are looking into the past, and that past doesn’t stretch forever. If you go to an abandoned orchard and lie on your stomach under a tree for a week, watching which insects land on a peach and move to another one you will know more about this fungus than anyone in the world. Put another way, the more we learn, the more we realize there is to know, and the more we have to go back and revise our earlier understandings.
So really, if you think about it, we are the result of the Universe’s laws made incarnate, evolved to the point where we can study ourselves. This is the definition of self-loathing. Without an obvious outside reward you create an internal one. We need questions. The envelope is continually being pushed, and in some cases, ripped to shreds. Everything counts and everything belongs to a poet, belongs in a poem. I never know what I’m talking about. At the end of the day you just have to follow your heart, even as cheesy as that sounds.
Even in the vast astronomical distances between stars, something lurks. Galaxies are moving away from us at an accelerating rate. On the face of it, this makes no sense. Clearly, there’s a lot left to figure out here. Nature’s been at it awhile, too. Natural navigation may be just what you need. Indeed, it’s hard to imagine convincing a people to go to war for the sake of beauty. There is certainly a great deal of structural variability between individuals, and that’s compounded by structural changes that go on across the lifespan. What is there to say in the face of color, a visual phenomenon that so often seems to elude linguistic expression? We’re not composing sterile, advanced exercises. These statements are getting progressively drunker. The trick is to give the brain information that it can use in an intuitive way. Education is the wisdom wrung from failure. Our lives are filled with loops that hurt us, heal us, make us laugh, and, sometimes, leave us wanting more. There is something boring and obvious in this sociological calculus. The more we try to avoid screwing up when stressed, the more likely it becomes. We just didn’t get the joke until relatively recently.
Road accidents are a prime source of organs because they’re one of the few times that young, healthy people die leaving most of the body intact. We want to see into each other’s hearts. Words are not always optimal, and there’s often something left out. There has never been a shortage of new inventions, what ‘shapes us’ is what we choose to pick up on. But the challenge is to extend these approaches to increasingly complex cases. We enjoy sprawling, complex pieces of art. Poetry is that which cannot be contained by the page or for that matter some ridiculous glass and steel mausoleum. Poetry is pretty much whatever you want to call a poem. Perhaps this will seem somewhat less far-fetched when one considers that, only two centuries ago, wigs designated social hierarchy, and comprised specific, unmistakable markers of caste, occupation, and position. Creative people make piles of things. The fabled “winter blues” are more due to fewer positive feelings than more negative ones. There is virtually no evidence that artworks activate emotion areas distinct from those involved in appraising everyday objects important for survival. We would not be here, of course, if our ancestors had not kept swimming. The real problem is therefore not mistakes. The problem is how to remain a scientist once we grow up. Science is a process not of affirming ideas but of attempting to falsify ideas in the search for truth. Keep washing your hands, for sure, but a whole-body sterilization would do more harm than good.
We like to have an influence. We survive by laughing. Ferdinand Cheval and Louis of Bavaria built the castles that they wanted to build, in accordance with a new human condition. They look like fields of stars. We want to share what we have. The impact of humanity on the environment is not determined solely by how many of us are around, but by how much stuff we use and how much room we take up. If you can make your way into a country you’re fighting and destroy the food source, you no longer have an enemy. Where do you think they’ve gone and where do you think they’re going?
The bad news, of course, is that all this creativity comes with a cost. It’s slow, metabolically expensive, and — as far as we can tell — unnecessary for intelligence. Yet somehow it keeps on floating. You experience a huge number of things every day, but you choose to tell your friends about only a fraction of them, because most of what you do isn’t worth mentioning. And if that feels like spin, well, that’s because it is. From now on, if you do not appreciate their tone, you can call them out.