synthetic zero


May 23, 2006

If you're in town, please come to my next art event in Tribeca. We'll have lots of experimental film, shadow puppetry, a live multimedia performance, music, and visual art.

Studies have shown that people tend to learn much better when they actually do something as opposed to read a book about something. I've always found, however, it quite easy to learn from bare hints; I prefer the short abstract presentations to the long involved tutorials, for example. I was thinking about why this is, the other day, and I realized that it has to do with the fact that whenever I hear, read, or see something, I actively imagine what the other person might have been thinking or feeling or doing or experiencing or imagining in order to produce the words, images, artwork, etc... not only what they might have been thinking but I even imagine what might have been going on at a non-verbal, non-conceptual level. Injured athletes, for example, have found that just visualizing practicing their sport can be as effective as actually practicing it; I suppose I do this as a habit, myself, whenever I perceive anything... imagining, in this case, what I guess might be what is happening internally in the speaker. Thus --- I find most fascinating those things I don't immediately understand, because I want to try to understand --- what could possibly have produced this? Of course, saying this I don't mean to imply that there is a single "correct" original motive, nor that it is actually possible to really imagine what someone else is going through --- but still, it's a way of listening/perceiving which makes it easier for me, I think, to extrapolate from fairly fragmentary information.

May 17, 2006

I remember my freshman year of college, one of the first conversations I had with my friend David Franklin was when we were discussing the idea that there may be major environmental catastrophes, or other upheavals, in the future, and what about people who were planning for these disasters by stocking up and living in the woods, etc... I suggested that if you spent all your time trying to plan for some far-off event then you'd become very good at planning for a far-off event, and not much else. What happens when life actually happens to you, right now?

That's not to say I'm against preparation --- I love preparing for things. But not because I like to live in the future --- it's because I like to live in the present, I just arrange things so that a range of possible situations can arise and I know I can forget about them because I've already prepared for a variety of contingencies. Life is unpredictable, it's unknown. Planning too much of it doesn't actually lead to happiness. Preparing for a variety of eventualities and then focusing on the present --- that has a much better chance of success.

May 12, 2006

We all knew he could do it: Bush breaks below 30; he's truly a man who doesn't shy away from a challenge.

May 11, 2006

Arrianna Huffington is still writing about the Colbert performance:

...shockingly, one of the few people still unaware of just how big an impact the twin evisceration of the president and the puppy dog press has had is Stephen Colbert himself.

When I ran into him the other night at the Time 100 celebration, he told me that he had strenuously avoided reading anything about his appearance -- the good, the bad, or the ugly -- preferring to focus on the present and putting together his nightly TV show.

If anything, he seemed to be nursing a tender spot about the chilly reception his utterly brilliant performance got in the room that night. He is, after all, first and foremost a performer -- and it's tough for any performer, especially one used to appearing in front of a wildly appreciative crowd night after night, to suddenly find himself playing to a hostile crowd. It's the comedy equivalent of having the Dementors from Azkaban enter your body and suck out your spirit.

Nora Ephron framed the dilemma perfectly when she asked, "Is it possible for a comedian to utterly kill and bomb at the same time?"

To which I say, Absolutely. This was Dylan plugging in at Newport in 1965. The crowd may have booed, but the music world had forever shifted.

To which a reader attached this moving comment:
A good friend of mine grew up under the Communist regime of an East European country. When I told him Colbert would be performing at the dinner, he predicted it would be a "government sanctioned performance designed to release the steam of public unrest". When I showed him the video last night, he leaped up and paced around the room saying, "I was completely wrong. This is a great man with the courage of a lion! He sliced them with the sword of his tongue."
Not only courageous, but intensely funny. If you weren't one of his targets, as were many of the people in the room that night.

May 9, 2006

Saw this on the back of a van while driving through Manhattan:

in what appeared to be vinyl letters. I'd love to have a truck store boat, myself.

Meanwhile, in science news:

White blood cells from a strain of cancer-resistant mice cured advanced cancers in ordinary laboratory mice, researchers at Wake Forest University School of Medicine reported today.

"Even highly aggressive forms of malignancy with extremely large tumors were eradicated," Zheng Cui, M.D., Ph.D., and colleagues reported in this week's on-line edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The transplanted white blood cells not only killed existing cancers, but also protected normal mice from what should have been lethal doses of highly aggressive new cancers.

"This is the very first time that this exceptionally aggressive type of cancer was treated successfully," said Cui. "Never before has this been done with any other therapy."

Will cancer be cured before most of us get it?

May 2, 2006

"After the final no there comes a yes/And on that yes the future world depends." - Wallace Stevens

Across the street, there is a billowing curtain hanging behind a closed window, as if the wind were blowing right through the glass. To the right, I see a new skyscraper going up, covered in white cloth and orange netting, capped by a dinosaur crane reaching ten more stories into the air. The water towers on the building to the left seem so close I could taste them, feel their texture against my tongue; I could step across the cavernous gap in one stride and dance on rooftops, surrounded by crazy city.

I've been feeling a sense of fragile intense possibility, but I'm not sure exactly why. It's more thin in the last few days, like it could evaporate, however.

Come to my next events in the Bronx and Tribeca --- we'll have art, music, performance, and experimental films.