synthetic zero


November 30, 2006

I had dreams of the impossible a few nights ago.

November 29, 2006

Sometimes the way you feel is so complex, multifaceted, subtle, elusive, that it doesn't fit into any of the usual categories of positive, negative, willing, unwilling, optimism, pessimism... it's just what it is. I open my mouth and nothing comes out, but there's so much to say.

November 28, 2006

Missed my plane due to a combination of having tea a bit too long, the Tube line breaking down, AND someone on the train (which didn't have any indication of which terminal went with which airline) telling me to go to the wrong terminal, wasting half an hour, and after all that I just missed the check-in window by 3 minutes (even more frustrating since my flight wasn't about to leave for almost an hour...) Any one of those things not happening and I would have made it... But, it gave me a chance to spend a little more time with Jenny, and get on a morning flight that wasn't sold out, and thus I had a more relaxing and spacious ride home (with an empty seat next to me)...

November 27, 2006

Visited with Jenny Doussan today... she's having a good time being a grad student as part of a visual studies/curatorial program at Goldsmiths College in South London. She likes the radical nature of her department --- the head has said something along the lines of "representation has reached its end" --- I understood it a bit better after reading some of her writing (she's not referring to abstraction but to something else, I think, more that there is something problematic with viewing the museum as an institution that is primarily about representing something in order to communicate it --- rather, she's more interested in the museum as a place where things actually occur in the present time, in interaction between the curators, patrons, etc., right here and now, rather than attempting to just describe or reflect something that happened elsewhere, at another time or place.)

November 26, 2006

It's very hard to get wireless access in England --- people all protect their WiFi networks with passwords. It's possible, however, to get relatively cheap access via Skype Zones, which uses Boingo ... if you don't have Windows, you can log in to a participating provider if they support Boingo roaming.

Today I wandered about Hampton Court. It seemed oddly familiar. While wandering down one hall, which was decorated by just the sort of portraiture that I normally find exceedingly dull, I happened to see out of the corner of my eye one woman in particular who stood out. I went up to the painting and read the plaque --- apparently this hall was filled with paintings of women who had been rumored to have been mistresses of Charles II ... but she, in fact, was the only one who actually was; Barbara Villiers, the first Dutchess of Cleveland. Something about her really resonated with me, though on first glance there wasn't anything particularly different about her portrait than any of the others, there was nevertheless something striking about her, even from a distance. She apparently was called "the most powerful woman in England" at the time --- more so than the Queen.

November 25, 2006

Waves at the National Theatre was quite good; it was a sort of nonlinear, fragmented adaptation of Virginia Woolf's book ... the actors were performing scenes in front of video cameras that were projected on a large screen --- it was quite interesting, and a sort of tour de force technically. Still, there was something a tad stuffy about the whole thing.

Overall, however, I'm loving it in London ... it's much more vibrant and delightful than I was expecting. Even the famed terrible English food hasn't been bad at all. It's been warm and comfortable, despite the drizzle.

Also visited the Tate Modern... the Fischli and Weiss exhibit was the standout. I like their older work better than the newer stuff.


November 24, 2006

Met with Trisala and Stuart in the London office of my company... they gave me some good recommendations for places to eat, things to do, in the city. In the evening, went to see Therese Raquin, but I didn't care for the adaptation much. Hope that tomorrow's Waves will be better. The British seem quite fond of funny names... such as these from the London Underground: "Piccadilly Circus", "Bakerloo Line", "Cockfosters", "Elephant and Castle", "Chorleywood", "Wembley Park", "Marylebone" (pronounced MAR-lee-bone), "Bermondsey" (pronounced BER-mon-zee)...

November 23, 2006

My room is extremely small, but clean and comfortable. Hotels in London are different from what you'd expect in the States ... there's a "single" room which really means for one single person. Also: never use Hotwire or Priceline for a hotel in London ... you have no idea what you're going to get. Use a site like otel.com and check the reviews for the hotel on tripadvisor.com ... because the "star level" in London doesn't mean what it means in the US. A "two star" hotel is something like a zero star would be here (i.e., we don't have anything that small here...)

Beautiful view out my window, though, and I'm finding myself strangely tickled to be surrounded by a country filled with English people.

November 22, 2006

Flying to London tonight.

November 21, 2006

Rummaging around in my PDA, I find a cryptic note to myself which I now have no understanding of: "Modelling future speed." I once had a thought, or so it seems, that was interesting enough to me that I wanted to write down a reminder of it, and that's all that's left of it.

This sequence of notes is also hard to fathom but I have some vague idea what it might be about:

The idea of now as the appropriate context for new teaching modes
Games in which people learn to change roles
Negative capability
Learning vs conversion


November 20, 2006

My father once told me, and I'll never forget this: It takes a long time to learn how to think simply.

November 19, 2006

What many people don't understand is that telling the truth about most things is a much better way of protecting your freedom and shaping the perception of others than making things up or hiding things entirely. It's just much more shrewd to "hide" things in plain sight; to diminish the power of the things you're worried about by admitting them, at least in some form, and at least to the people close to you. Then you can control how the information flows, and how it is framed, rather than letting other people frame it without your involvement. If you don't do this, you had better be lucky in the people you have around you: that they will understand when they find out.

Of course, there are always exceptions: where propriety or other considerations come into play: but, for the most part, it's better to operate as much as possible out in the open. The fewer secrets you have to have, the less vulnerable you are.

November 18, 2006

As Gregory Bateson pointed out, there are no monotone values in biology, but money doesn't operate on that basis:

A monotone value is one that either only increases or only decreases. Its curve has no kinks; that is, its curve never changes from increase to decrease or vice versa. Desired substances, things, patterns, or sequences of experience that are in some sense "good" for the organism - items of diet, conditions of life, temperature, entertainment, sex, and so forth - are never such that more of the something is always better than less of the something. Rather, for all objects and experiences, there is a quantity that has optimum value. Above that quantity, the variable becomes toxic. To fall below that value is to be deprived.

This characteristic of biological value does not hold for money. Money is always transitively valued. More money is supposedly always better than less money. For example, $1001 is to be preferred to $1000. But this is not so for biological values. More calcium is not always better than less calcium. There is an optimum quantity of calcium that a given organism may need in its diet. Beyond this, calcium becomes toxic. Similarly, for oxygen that we breathe or food or components of diet and probably all components of relationship, enough is better than a feast. We can even have too much psychotherapy. A relationship with no combat in it is dull, and a relationship with too much combat in it is toxic. What is desirable is a relationship with a certain optimum of conflict. It is even possible that when we consider money, not by itself, but as acting on human beings who own it, we may find that money, too, becomes toxic beyond a certain point. In any case, the philosophy of money, the set of presuppositions by which money is supposedly better and better the more you have of it, is totally antibiological. It seems, nevertheless, that this philosophy can be taught to living things.

Clearly, for the individual there is a point of diminishing returns when it comes to money. Studies show that human satisfaction increases a great deal when you go from poverty to middle class; it increases a little from middle class to upper middle class --- but after that, subjective satisfaction levels off. There's not that much instrinsic difference between making $200,000 a year and $2,000,000 a year, in terms of your personal life --- the big difference is between having no shelter and having shelter, having no food and having food. People nevertheless react as though having a hundred million dollars is a hundred times better than having a million dollars --- of course, if you had a hundred million dollars, you might be able to use it start a business, or feed starving people, or give grants to artists... but, ultimately, in terms of your own personal life, it won't make that much difference. In my current situation I am very unlikely to ever be in a position where I can't make enough money to survive reasonably comfortably, unless I am severely injured or imprisoned or something --- which are risks shared by the wealthy --- so wealth to me is just an abstraction, a bunch of numbers. I also don't relish the idea of the indolence that might go along with wealth, if I were to give up working --- I actually like the fact that I need to find ways to work with the world because I don't have unlimited material resources. It is a challenge that, to me, helps me build character, gives me the incentive to learn how to navigate my contexts. It's interesting, and having an interesting life is far more valuable to me than money.

November 17, 2006

My grandmother's funeral was today. Solemn, sometimes a little funny, mostly: just what it should have been.

November 16, 2006

Back in California for my grandmother's funeral. She wrote her own epitaph back in 1990... she's been ready for death for a very long time.

November 15, 2006

When I see horror movies (which is fairly infrequently), I identify with the protagonists, but at the same time I think of myself as living in the world of the monsters, or coming from that world. I have the impression of myself as a super-monster, or perhaps an anti-monster, even more frightening than a monster. I sink my roots deep into the darkness, which is ulimately empty. It's not even that I am the monster, but that emptiness itself is both more monstrous and more human than any horror movie monster, and it goes beyond me, beyond even my own death.

November 14, 2006

The strange thing is, there are so many things that float at the edge of your mind... perceptions, awareness, even physical and mental habits, or resources or skills, oblique and hidden strategies, which we don't necesarily bring to the forefront of consciousness. But those things, for me, often seem to hold the key to deep and incredibly useful principles, but I often elide over them for quite a while before I really notice them. By the time I do notice them ... I usually realize I've been dimly aware of them for years.

November 13, 2006

Mary Halvorson and Kevin Shea's PEOPLE show was crazy, cacophonous beauty. Those of you who missed it, you missed out! In Mary's words, they are a "weird rock band" -- she writes, sings, and plays the songs on her electric guitar, her music influenced by her background in jazz, world music, experimental, modern classical, punk... Kevin plays the drums, and fills the space between the songs with bizarre verbal humor and creative improvised tangents. An inspired combination.

Before Kevin and Mary came on stage, I was already in a peculiar, nonlinear mood, maybe because I was somehow anticipating Kevin's strange utterances, or because of Peter Evans' solo trumpet freeform improvisations. While in this odd mood I had this IM exchange with Katharine via my PDA:

me: 8
me: I am listening to music
katharine: 8?
me: typo
me: I am in les
katharine: les?
me: LES
katharine: oh
me: it is the break
katharine: the break?
katharine: you're really not making much sense, mitsu
me: between sets
me: maybe it is YOU who is really.
me: making much sense.
katharine: that's called an intermission.
katharine: you're at a show?
katharine: who is playing
me: mary halvorson and her band PEOPLED
me: minus the D
katharine: jeez. maybe pda's arent what they're cracked up to be
me: maybe it is YOU who is what you're cracked up to be.
katharine: you're freaking me out
katharine: stop it
me: man I am cracking myself up here.
katharine: jeez
me: or cracked myself up to be
katharine: okay, that was mildly funny


November 12, 2006

I am holding another art/film/performance event in Tribeca; I will also be showing some of the films in the Bronx. If you have artwork, film, video, or are interested in performing at my event, please let me know.

November 11, 2006

I envision myself as a giant body that spans and jumps across space and time, which has sinews and muscles which recede into dark multidimensional folds --- it breathes and moves in slow, vast ways which, projected into our ordinary world, appear as movements with surprising origins, intersecting with ordinary clock time but also beyond it, present in this space but also touching elements far beyond what we normally call "here". Far and near can be inverted, or, more precisely, have no meaning, for this body. It has gigantic reach and is constantly present, while at the same time not being restricted to ordinary ideas of location. I open myself up to it and allow it to function (though whether I allow it or not, everything I appear to be is just a fragment of this big being), and when I let it function more freely, I more fully realize and feel the fact that I am always already free.

I have felt this sort of thing for a long time, increasingly concretely and vividly, though I hadn't really thought that much about it until recently. It's just been there, a growing sense in the back of my mind, an image of my way of thinking of this other aspect of my being --- outside of ordinary time and space --- where I live, in some sense. But this sense of myself doesn't conflict with my ordinary sense of time and space and body --- I see them as coexisting, with one being a sort of reduced perspective (the ordinary), kind of like a projection of the larger sense of my being. This larger being of course isn't only "me" --- I think everyone, in some sense, is always connected to this timeless greater reality. It's connected with, and in some sense IS: everyone, everything.

November 10, 2006

Mary Halvorson and Kevin Shea are performing at Tonic on Monday at 8pm... see it, see it, see it.

don't be afraid, little ones...

if you prefer i'll wear the old cologne.
or, my sweetlings, if, and only if you prefer it, i'll have something with a little more spice -- an after shave suitable for wayward elephants ... elephant's who look in the mirror and recognise their giant-mouse-clone reflections (lest for the no hair and the giant trunk ... and don't forget the tusks, my chicklets, the tusks of ivory like herbie hancock used when he killed an elephant in the '60's and used the tusks to make piano keys for a miles davis session [have you heard miles smiles? listen to it a little closter and you hear a faint whining in the background ... this is the whining of the dead elephant herbie hancock killed in the '60's, a whining fading away ever so slowly into the butcher's single-handed solos])...much like we humans do -- isn't it strange, my children?

or shall i go aux naturale -- suffer the stank of my ape-like colleagues -- you know who you are DENARDO COLEMAN.

rrrrrrraaaaaarrrrr goes the ape!
and meeeeeeeeoooowww goes the kitten!

which do you prefer, pepe le peu?

PEOPLE is Mary Halvorson and Kevin Shea. We are playing a show at TONIC (norfolk st btwn delancey and rivington, lower east side, manflatten nyc). we have just recorded a new record, should come out on our label ierecs.com in the spring 2007!
(if you are in austria tonight, hear mary halvorson and jessica pavone at the WELS festival!)


November 9, 2006

My grandmother Fusaye Hadeishi passed away today; she had suffered for many years from debilitating micro-strokes that slowly robbed her of her mental acuity, mobility, and eventually her life. It was particularly sad to see her lose her faculties as she was an exceptionally bright woman, who, even quite far into her illness, had the presence of mind to be aware that she had lost her mental faculties, which usually brought her great distress. But I want to remember her for a couple of things that really stand out in my mind about her. One was the last complex, coherent thing she said to me, a little over a year ago, which I wrote about at the time:

Tonight while she was repeating, again, how she doesn't know anything, her head is "empty," etc., I decided to do the thing I sometimes do at such times, which is to bring up her memories of the past, which sometimes gets her on a different, less repetitive, track. I mentioned the fact that she used to run a tropical fish store in the old days. Unlike in the past when she would then start reminiscing a little, this time she was more philosophical; in fits and starts, still repeating herself, she turned to me and said (over a period of many repetitions): "Now that I'm old, I don't worry about anything. I don't know anything, but I also don't care that I don't know anything. When I was young, it was different; I worried about the store, I worried about money. Now, I don't need money, and I have no idea what happened to the store, but I don't care. Isn't that funny? Young men, they have stores, do you have a store? And they worry about them. But I am just here, in the bed. I am here. I don't have anything to worry about."
The other story I want to remember her for is from years ago; I don't think I've ever written about on this blog, though it is a story I enjoy telling. When I was younger I used to do a martial art (primarily intended for body conditioning and awareness, not so much for fighting, per se) called Shintaido; my main teacher was Michael Thompson, who was formidable and brilliant in the way that he taught the art on the field, but, at the same time, also a little bit of a slightly nerdy WASP who was enamored of Japanese culture and sometimes, perhaps, a bit too reverent about some of its customs. He was trying to teach me how to iron a hakama, a traditional garment worn by instructors in our martial art. His technique was extremely studied, careful; we folded it and ironed each crease precisely, meticulously... I'd seen it done before this way, and it takes a very long time, and requires a lot of concentration to do properly, because a slight misadjustment in one fold and all the other folds would get out of whack. However, after my teacher had just begun, my grandmother walked by and observed our sluggish, painstaking efforts... she strode over to us and gently yet swiftly swept the iron out of my teacher's hand, saying to both of us in an animated tone, "Hakama, ne?" (It's a hakama, isn't it?) She proceeded to deftly and effortlessly whip the hakama around, ironing it practically in the air as she flipped it over and over while simultaneously folding it, and after just a few moments of this dazzling display, there was an absolutely perfectly folded and ironed hakama, every crease razor sharp and exactly in its place. I learned that moment from my grandmother (who had always seemed a rather imposing and stern figure to me, when I was a young child), that one can achieve precision and near-perfection while remaining completely relaxed --- in fact, how being relaxed while alert is actually key to living life simply while hitting the mark.

November 8, 2006

I had a strange feeling when Bush won in 2004 it would be for the best. And it does seem that it takes us Americans a while before we learn our lesson: six years of disaster, war, debt, and mismanagement, and we finally know who to blame: the party that has been in control of the whole government. Had Kerry won in 2004, Iraq would still have gone to hell, and the conservatives would have said "if only Bush had won..." Well, here on Parallel Earth, we know what "would have happened" had Bush won, and we seem to be slowly waking up from the national nightmare (though, unfortunately for us, it was not all a dream.) Thanks, George Bush, for discrediting your bankrupt and incompetent ideas for years to come. Your secret plan to destroy the Republican Party from within is finally starting to bear fruit:

Tom Beggs, Chuck Dubois and Danny Bell, three businessmen from St. Joseph, Mo., for instance, are all reconsidering their support for Bush and the GOP. Each voted for Bush in 2000; Beggs and Bell voted for him again in 2004.

....Dubois put an exclamation point on their sentiments when he said the group ... planned to memorialize the president during their golf game... "We're going to call every golf ball George Bush" and hit it...

As of this hour, 3:12am on Wednesday, November 8, Jim Webb has an unbeatable lead in Virginia (though there will be the inevitable recount), and my rough spreadsheet analysis indicates that Jon Tester will retain his slim lead and even extend it as the numbers from Yellowstone and Gallatin and elsewhere come in. We have retaken the House, and are likely to retake the Senate.

Time for bed.

November 7, 2006

My friend Karina sends me this:


November 5, 2006

In response to my October 11 post:

"While riding the subway today I was sitting (in the Zen sense, practicing meditation) and it occurred to me that one of the chief mistakes people tend to make when they meditate is they think of stillness as being stasis --- that is, that stasis is peace, when in fact stasis is a form of neurosis in itself. There's a much deeper sort of peace and rest in a dynamic, alive responsiveness to the world --- not the same as ordinary movement (which is far more tight, controlled, narrow) but rather a flow which contains what seems to be movement but which has a kind of deeper stillness. This to be contrasted with stasis: holding yourself still (or attempting to do so) which is itself a kind of narrow movement in which one is constantly attempting to hold oneself, one's mind, body, energy, etc., in place, which requires a million tiny adjustments and reactions --- that is not true stillness, at all. That is just another form of neurotic frenzy, in the name of peace."
Lawrence Wang writes:

there's a great phrase in Italo Calvino's novel "On a winter's night a traveler": "the ultrasonic nervousness of overpatient people." i've been chewing on that for weeks and thinking much the same thing -- the "macro" stillness that people sometimes comment on about me, even when i'm not feeling particularly calm or relaxed, is just a kind of physical discipline which can be helpful for approaching peace but should not be confused with it.


November 4, 2006

Romanticism is nostalgia for a future memory.

November 3, 2006

Khaela's performance tonight was a sensation.

Heather Anne and I have been talking about how, typically, in dreams, devices don't work --- which is often the case for her, though I'd mentioned it wasn't always the case for me. Later, she said that she dreamt about a toy car that started, for her, with a combination of factors, including a magic word ... when it started, she decided, okay, she must not be dreaming! She then proceeded to drive not only the toy car but determined that any household item could be driven like a car, and drove a bucket down the freeway. See? Devices can work in dreams...

November 2, 2006

When you start to notice that time isn't always linear (there seems to be a faint flow backwards, that is to say, future events seem to be correlated with the past in odd ways), you may start to rely on this fact too much, and start to think that everything is fated. But the fact is, however much there may be resonances from the future to the past ... everything can change, in an instant.

November 1, 2006

Why is it so difficult to resist pushing the big, red, shiny button with the sign "DON'T EVER PUSH THIS BUTTON!" Is it that we secretly might want our world to be destroyed because we are curious what might take its place? This isn't always a bad idea. There is a difference, though, between someone who pushes the button knowing they aren't supposed to, and someone who pushes the button because they have convinced themselves they should push it. If you're going to destroy your world, at least be aware that you're about to do it, and be prepared for the consequences.