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February 28, 2001

Claude Shannon is dead. For some reason the lyrics to this song went through my head when I heard this, incongruous though that might seem --- perhaps it was because Shannon was emblematic of the monumental shift that occurred during the twentieth century, going from the physicalist way of looking at the world to an information-oriented perspective, an almost legend. It's apt that he lived into the 21st Century since it is this century that is likely to see the unfolding of many significant implications of this shift. Information theory is not only pivotal in obvious ways, being at the heart of our information infrastructure, but it also was influential in inspiring the work of many others, for example Gregory Bateson's profound interpretive work in cybernetics and the biologist R.H. MacArthur's original work in ecosystem modelling.

February 25, 2001

A poem by Princess Shikishi:

Be a guide!
This is a boat rowing
over traceless waves,
not knowing where to go--
eightfold ocean wind.

Via Christopher Baskind, who said that he initially thought it was a love poem, as Princess Shikishi is famous for her love poems, but he later realized it was more likely about our existential condition, with a Buddhist twist.

I upgraded to a WAP phone; and with all of the rebates and promotions, it ended up costing nothing. And the basic service is free. I sort of bought the phone almost just on a lark, to see what it might be like; I didn't actually expect very much. It turned out to be exceptionally useful, however. The tiny screen on the phone turns out to be more usable than you might expect; a well-designed WAP site can pump out a significant amount of information for you on the go. And the basic (restricted to a set of pre-chosen WAP sites) AT&T WAP service is free and unlimited use. So far I've tried looking up movie listings, Zagat reviews, weather and traffic reports, MapQuest directions, phone numbers (both white and yellow pages are included), news reports (CNet news, Los Angeles Times, USA Today and a number of other sites are available), gotten flight schedules, found the closest restaurants, and I played a game. I even tried looking up Andre Breton on the Britannica WAP site (also part of the free service), looked up tents on eBay, and searched for mp3 players under $150. Admittedly a number of the sites aren't likely to be things you'd be doing on the phone (are you really going to buy CDs or books or DVD players on your cell phone?) but there's quite a lot of really usable functionality. MapQuest even tells you when there's road construction.

For $7/month you get unlimited email (including sending attachments --- I'm not exactly sure how you would generate attachments on the phone, however), and for $15/month you get access to a PDA-style functionality as well as unrestricted access to any WAP site. There are some tricks to it (for example, using Moviefone instead of works better if you want to get directions to the theater, because the Hollywood site doesn't automatically link to Mapquest); but once you get the hang of it, it's pretty cool. One of the most fun free toys I've ever bought.

February 23, 2001

I read something which inspired me to imagine I read this today:

"Today I want a new page. I don't want to know what I wrote before. I don't want to knowwhat I wrote before. I don't want to know what I wrote before. I don't want to know what I wrote before. I don't want to know what I wrote before. I don't want to know what I wrote before. I don't want to know what I wrote before. I don't want to know what I wrote before. I don't want to know what I wrote before. I don't want to know what I wrote before. I don't want to know what I wrote before. I don't want to know what I wrote before. I don't want to know what I wrote before. I don't want to know what I wrote before."

In case you missed it in Rotterdam last month, you get another chance to see the Swan Tool in London sponsored by the Lux Centre, at the Institute for Contemporary Art, 8pm, March 2nd. There will also be another showing in Holland, in Utrecht, on March 8 at 8pm, at Filmtheater 't Hoogt, Hoogt 4.

February 19, 2001

Went to see a movie today. Just before it opened we were treated to a special trailer hailing the spectacular new Kodak "ScreenCheck Experience." They showed a pair of uniformed men walking to blaring fanfare into a theater to "check" the equipment to make sure you see the movie "as it was meant to be seen." Which, as far as I could tell, basically meant: to focus the projector. And,lo and behold, the image was, in fact, focused. I think it's funny that it takes a huge corporate program just to focus the projectors. And I have been in theaters where the picture is completely blurry, and when I went to complain, they actually did try to adjust the picture --- they'd fiddle with it and fiddle with it, moving it in and out of focus, until it settled in on --- precisely as blurry as it was to begin with. Maybe they were wearing special glasses that made blurry look clear and vice versa. So I guess it actually does take Kodak and a multimillion-dollar ScreenCheck Experience to focus a projector.

We create time: waste time, think about time, worry about things happening in time, throw time away, hide time, pretend time isn't there, wish for more time, run out of time. Do we really need to live this way?

What is the alternative to running out of time?

February 14, 2001

Happy Valentine's Day.

It's not that I don't like Valentine's Day --- it's that in general my family never made a big deal out of most holidays, even birthdays (except when my brother and I were little kids). However, I really and truly deeply appreciate and love the people, men and women, I love and respect and admire.

I think the reason my family never made a big deal out of most holidays is that our attitude was, you know, every day should be a kind of holiday. I mean, we ought to appreciate and love each other as much on every day as on the holidays. Of course, we still did the Christmas tree and the New Years Japanese things and Thanksgiving --- but after we grew up, we kind of blurred past birthdays and Mother's Day and Father's Day and all those extra days. And it really was because our attitude was that every day is a good day. And we really lived like that --- it was/is a celebration of existence, every day.

Of course, that's no reason not to celebrate any holiday for the fun of it, in fact, any excuse to celebrate the day is a good excuse!

Which reminds me of one thing that I really liked about France --- the way people were much more open and natural and relaxed about flirting and romance. Unlike here, where flirting is often a lot more heavy-handed, people in France seemed to enjoy the casual flirt, the flirt that is meant to be nothing more than just itself, that isn't going to go anywhere. And of course, if it did, that wouldn't be a disaster, either. It was just pleasant and relaxing to be in a place where it was possible for women to feel comfortable enough to actually check out male strangers on the street (I enjoyed it when they would look me up and down --- something that happens much less frequently in America, when it is typically mostly men who do this to women, in a more annoying fashion); to have open sexual and romantic and playful interest going in both directions.

And I also want to put in a good word for the people we love not casually but uncontrollably, passionately. And those we love in every other conceivable way, in every flavor: tingly, secret, electric, furtive, sparkling, sweaty, physical, ethereal, and whatever else I have left out.

February 13, 2001

Via Lemonyellow: Five Movements.

February 12, 2001

A friend of mine once told the truth: "Enlightenment is retroactive."

The World Watch Institute has released its latest report, State of the World 2001, and it contains many danger signs worth paying close attention to. I listened to an interview with the director of the Institute on the radio last night, and he pointed out some interesting things; for example, Arctic ice has thinned from 2 meters to about 1 meter, and there is much more open water at the North Pole than there ever was before. This in itself would not raise sea levels, since north polar ice is already in the water --- but he pointed out that part of Greenland is in the Arctic circle, and there is enough frozen ice on Greenland to raise the sea level by as much as 23 feet if it melted entirely. Greenland ice is already melting; at present, the rate of melting is quite small, about one meter per year, only enough to cause a minor rise in sea levels, but it is very likely to accelerate. The seven warmest years in history have occurred in the last ten years.

I can't find myself getting emotionally upset about all this environmental disaster, however; I watch it, and I believe we need to pay close attention, and we should do what we can to ameliorate it. But I am not emotional about it. It is so big and so impossible to deny or ignore (those who do deny it are clearly the ones who are emotional about such things) --- it simply is a basic fact. There is no point in becoming upset. This is perhaps a Japanese cultural tendency. I recall reading a story about a foreigner who was in Tokyo during one of the firebombings, and these Japanese women were watching the fires and explosions from the window of their paper house. And so they exclaimed, "kirei-na!" (how pretty!) It's not that they were airheads who didn't know what was happening to them, but the Japanese attitude about such things is that one should accept even the worst disaster as what it is --- because there's no point in pretending or hoping it isn't happening when it manifestly is.

I have been thinking recently about worlds. Not worlds as in planets, but worlds of thought and feeling and meaning. In some sense I think that we become resonant with the worlds that we want to resonate with. So in a way, we can change the universe we inhabit by changing the way we resonate with reality --- to enter another world. All of these worlds can intersect each other, but they are in some sense different worlds.

February 8, 2001

A warning about Deep Vein Thrombosis, the syndrome which afflicts travellers on long international flights, where blood clots form in the lower legs during long flights. This syndrome kills potentially hundreds of people a year. Be careful to walk around on long flights and possibly take aspirin to thin the blood before you fly.

In memory of my friend Carl Loeffler, who recently collapsed in an airport and died of unknown causes. He had been ill recently. An interview with him in healthier times.

I've been thinking about fame recently. For some strange reason I have been meeting/interacting with a lot of relatively famous people. What would be the point of me trying to become famous myself? I think about this, and realize I don't really have the stomach for it; or really, it's more that I don't have the patience. But if I were famous ... I imagine all of the projects I might be able to get off the ground, the many-fold ideas I have that could finally have the time, space, and resources to be realized; yet I don't really want to bother with the actual grit of trying to sell myself, trying to be known. I sometimes thought that, like in school, I could just be awarded the right recognition, that the powers that be would see my excellent Imperial Examination scores or my great potential or my excellent background and give me what I needed, all of the facilities and people that I need to help me help other people. Can I learn to work for that instead of expecting it to be given by my mentors, or my peers? In many ways I am embarrassed even to ask for the recognition that I think I deserve for things that I have done, but I am always disappointed if I don't receive it --- not more than I deserve, but just enough --- not because I care about the recognition but because I care about being able to do more. Do more and help more, to be used, to be useful. In a strange way all I think anyone really wants is to be fully used up, to burn up completely, leaving no trace behind when you die, nothing unfinished, nothing unconsumed.

February 7, 2001

I am writing to you from the Air France jet taking me back to Los Angeles from Paris. In the meantime I've been to Amsterdam, Leiden (quick lunch with the philosopher Thomas Reydon, whom I met at Kira last year), Rotterdam (where I sort of saw Paul once more, only to spend the whole time rearranging my ferry schedule, sorry again Paul!), to London (I saw Miranda and Zac one last time there, where they are doing work at the Lux Centre: a short film plus another performance of the Swan Tool later, and I did a little more bits of last minute work on the Swan Tool), and finally to Bourgogne for an all too brief visit with Jouke Kleerebezem before returning to Paris for a quick overnight at Loic's place and then to the airport this morning...

Toadex writes me to mention some of the new content on his Doxo Wox site, including some from La Belle France...

Some random observations:

Holland seems more American in feel than England. The mannerisms of the people, the facial expressions, the way people interact in public. Most of the television channels are in English with Dutch subtitles. One difference: waiters are incredibly bad, not exactly rude but they ignore you and take forever (and not only I noticed this but most of the Dutch people I spoke with mentioned this).

People in Europe are less overweight than Americans. On the other hand, Brits often seem rather unhealthy looking, even if not overweight. Except for the people working at the Lux Centre, who all looked attractive and hale (I am serious!)

Everything having to do with communications is unbelievably expensive in Britain (as in Japan, oddly, another island nation --- why the parallel?). They still charge per minute for local phone calls. It's incredible to me that they haven't reformed this yet. It is definitely holding them back.

French women do tend to be, as their reputation suggests, beautiful and mysterious and somehow very knowledgeable about femininity without being submissive or powerless. In fact, the impression I got was that French men (even quite grown men) tended to be treated in many ways like children by the women. Perhaps this is a more accurate reflection of the way things really are.

On the other hand, French people seem to have a really undeveloped sense of humor. If you thought America's Funniest Home Videos wasn't funny, you haven't seen anything until you've seen the French version of the show. The laugh track only highlighted the intense lack of humor. British people, on the other hand, despite (or perhaps because) they live in more dreary everyday circumstances, seem to have an inborn sense of humor, refined to a remarkable degree. Magnifique.

Another thought I've had recently.

Studies show that people tend to intuitively choose to roughly double the risk in their minds of a given choice; that is to say, they tend to pick choices which would be optimal only if the risk were double what it actually is. I myself have always been attracted to risk, but then again I've always built in safety valves -- that is, if X fails, I always arrange for a backup. So two or more things must fail for a disaster to occur: that's always been my rule. But it occurred to me that there may be times when a sort of "make it or die" attitude is better --- that is, rather than trying to cover yourself with "insurance" all the time. You might fail, but then you accept that risk. It might be that certain great things cannot be accomplished without at some point doing this. Naturally, one still wants to avoid unnecessary risk, yet dive into the necessary ones.

February 2, 2001

Well, the world premiere of the Swan Tool is over, here at the International Film Festival Rotterdam, and it's both a relief and sort of unexpectedly sad. I end up identifying to a great extent with things that I enjoy working on, people I enjoy working with, and the part of the work in which I was involved is coming to an end; though of course it is very satisfying to see it come off well in front of audiences, I still feel a loss because I won't be actively involved any longer with this particular work. For a long time I was sort of looking forward to this moment, but now that it has arrived, I feel sad.

Although actually I'm still doing a few last touchups on the video right now...

And, even as I write this, I am feeling better.

Paul Perry and I had a wonderful tea-time conversation last night. We ended up discussing life paths. He told me he thought I should just go ahead and become an all-out artist. He thinks I have sufficient credentials, in a sense, because I grew up around art all the time (my father is an artist), and I have my contemplative/philosophical practice, and I've always been involved one way or another with the production of artwork (even though it has usually been in a technical role, collaborating with other artists). And anyway it's simply quite usual in the art world for people to crash it from the "outside."

Next up, a quick visit to Amsterdam and Leiden to visit with Thomas Reydon, then to London, and then back to France to visit with Jouke. And then home!

Portland holds up very well in comparison with world cities so far, I must say.