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January 28, 2001

Sorry for the lack of updates --- I am in France at the moment and it is somewhat difficult to do updates.

I have been pleasantly surprised to notice that the average croissant here is not necessarily much different from what we get at a good bakery in the States --- however, as one might expect there are some bakeries that produce croissants which are beyond anything that one could ever imagine obtaining in America. Culture does travel around the world yet somehow the absolute pinnacle of each culture doesn't always survive the trip.

Been staying with the tres gentil Loic Dachary and his "almost wife" Agnes. Almost because, as they explained to me, they have a sort of "lightweight marriage" which is a contract without all of the complications of an actual marriage. They have been putting me up here in Paris and it has been an exceptionally pleasant experience. Meanwhile I've been visiting with S. and Richard Stallman (Loic is a friend of Richard's). We spent a lot of time at the Centre Pompidou. S. is (was) an artist and Richard is not --- so we ended up having a lot of conversation about the relative value and significance of art with respect to society, civiliation, etc., as a whole. S. got quite excited about it; I was less animated but I did my part to construct as careful an argument for the importance of art as I could. Because I think art does have a very significant, strange, indirect impact on everything; art deals with perception and meaning in a fashion that is remarkably powerful and which I think has the capability of having an impact far beyond the boundaries of just the experience. When one adds new meaning to one's life, it has a potentially multiplicative effect on everything you do afterwards, because it can change the very way you perceive and therefore parse and respond with reality.

At the Pompidou museum there was a HUGE crowd waiting to get into the library. It looked like a rock concert; hundreds and hundreds of people in line, it looked like hours to wait. I wonder what this means? What is in that library, anyway? Or is library-going just some sort of ultra-cool, popular activity here?

January 19, 2001

What an idiot (scroll down to end): "The president-elect made a malapropism in his comments, saying he wanted his administration to be remembered for making America 'a more literate country and a hopefuller country.' " (from CNN) Yale really must have some pretty low standards.

I happen to think stupidity is more dangerous than evil.

January 18, 2001

Researchers in Cambridge, Mass. have succeeded in freezing a pulse of light in rubidium gas. The technique, which involves "imprinting" the quantum state of a pulse of light in the spins of rubidium gas atoms, essentially allows one to slow and then essentially stop a pulse of light with its quantum information intact. The technique then allows one to start the pulse up again later. This could potentially have application in the design and construction of quantum computers; you could store quantum information carried by light waves and later recall that information at will.

Jeremy Bushnell responds to my book-slicing remarks: "What about Burroughs' fold-in experiments?" I think this is interesting because it brings up another aspect of slicing; I don't think slicing a book is impossible, but if you're going to slice a book, to get interesting/meaningful results you have to inject intelligence into the process; for example, with Burroughs' technique, described above, the writer still has to exercise a lot of judgement as to how to use the technique. I've spent a great deal of time thinking about this issue with respect to interactive fiction --- how can one rearrange the elements of a conversation or a story in such a way that it remains interesting? It is exceptionally difficult to do so. But what you can get is a sort of sculpture in possibility-space; the space of variations on a theme ...

January 17, 2001

Planning my trip to Rotterdam for Miranda July's premiere of The Swan Tool, for which I put in a lot of time helping with the technical aspects of the production, for the love of it. On the way I will also visit Paris, maybe Amsterdam, probably London, and definitely Jouke at Le Moulin du Merle, and I hope also Paul though for some reason he seems to have disappeared from email and web for several days. And perhaps others if they are around.

Trying to gather together some affordances for my trip there. Connectivity, wireless and wired, and transportation, etc. It is of course much easier than it might otherwise be without the Internet; I also found cheap or free ways to call across the country and across the world via the Internet, so that has made it possible to talk with agencies over there to inquire about cars, trains, ferries, and buses, as well find out about cell phones and pagers and Internet access. However, I remain somewhat puzzled. All I want is a simple way to have a cell phone while there --- but the rates I have found are either $1/minute (absurd) or they only work one country at a time, or they require a 1 year contract, etc.

On the other hand, I have discovered a number of things most people don't know about --- sometimes the bus is a really good bargain --- i.e., crossing the English Channel seems very expensive by most means; the Eurostar high speed train costs about $260 round trip, taking the ferry then the train in England is about $100 round trip --- but taking the *bus* is a mere $36 round trip. Also, renting a car can look like a better deal than taking the train. If I were in Europe for a long time then a rail pass might make sense, but given my requirements (just a short visit), car rental looks more economical.

Anyone who knows anything about cheap pager and/or cell phone stuff that works in Europe please email me.

January 13, 2001

In response to my comments about slicing books, below, Lopati sends me a link to a college project done by his friend, Dan, the Haikube.

It occurs to me that there are other things that are not amenable to certain kinds of slicing: like biological organisms. It seems to have something to do with the nature of the connectivity of the pieces; when the relations between the pieces are tightly coupled and structured in a particular way, you can't cut them apart in any old way (the first half of a book, the first half of every sentence in the book...)

January 10, 2001

David sends me a link (via Dean Kamen is rumored to have developed a technology bigger than the Internet.

If you chop an image in half, you can still get a sense of the image. You can see half of a movie (in time, the first half, the second half) and get something out of it; you can also see half of a movie (the left half of the screen, the right half of the screen). But slicing a book does not work this way; it depends on how you slice it.

January 6, 2001

Back in Portland from Los Angeles --- had to rebuild my video editing computer because the motherboard decided it didn't like booting anymore, and my laptop power supply has decided to freeze up. Otherwise, having a fine time back up here.

While doing computer stuff, I scribbled the following on a napkin, and it reminded me of calligraphy somehow:

Susan remarked to me that she had had some insights into metaphor. For one thing, she realized that metaphors are powerful not because they're flights of fancy, but because they're true. You can be very precise with metaphor, because you're dealing with the intersection.

January 1, 2001

The New Year is the biggest holiday in Japanese culture. It traditionally lasts three to five days, and it is supposed to be a time of renewal, starting over. Still, it's hard for me to be as enthusiastic about this particular year as I have been in the past, as the future looks and feels somewhat dark to me, but... renewal and redemption is always possible. At any moment, when you least expect it, when you're not even looking for it.

On compassion and ruthlessness. I think many people tend to think of compassion as something that one must be forced to do by moral imperative or commandments from some deity or something, but I think of it as a natural consequence of carefully examining reality from a totally ruthless perspective. When one is absolutely ruthless in a thorough manner, one ought to also investigate the matter of one's so-called self as well as the entire context of one's situation; at which point it can become clear that compassion is a natural corollary to what one discovers when one investigates carefully. If one is really precise, the sword that you use will cut through everything, including (and especially) one's own preconceptions and biases.

I've been thinking about sexuality and love recently. Lust used to be a very tricky thing for me, that is to say I felt it was an overwhelming force that in some peculiar way distorted the way I expressed love for women. I don't think my level of lust was any greater than any other guy's; if anything, I think I thought about sex less frequently (though quite often) than most men. But I wanted to somehow find a way to integrate raw lust with other feelings of love when it came to women, rather than having two seemingly separate processes going on (or sometimes primarily just one or the other). It's not as though I am a prude, mind you --- I tend to think we are far too constrained when it comes to allowing our sexuality to be expressed more freely (I am not a particular believer in strict monogamy, for example) --- but I still used to feel that my raw lust was somehow interfering with the smooth operation of my overall sexuality, which encompassed much more than that. I ended up studying Chinese techniques to try to channel my sex drive, to bring it more in line with the sexual response of my female partner --- this actually worked relatively well and led to some pretty amazing experiences. However, in a way, getting older has made things more comfortable in this respect; I no longer feel as strongly compelled by lust, so it is easier to feel sexuality and love and lust mixed together in what feels to me to be a more palatable combination.

I suppose I was also motivated in this quest to moderate my lust by the perception that women tend to feel somewhat oppressed by constant unwanted attention --- so I really would rather not be contributing to their discomfort. On the other hand, I have often avoided doing that only to later discover that the woman in question was interested in me but was discouraged by my apparent lack of interest. (And I was saddened by this primarily because I worried I may have caused this other person to suffer needlessly through my apparent lack of appreciation.) But now that I'm a bit older than I was, the whole subject doesn't seem to have quite the same pressing urgency that it did before.