Textabyss: Writing on an infinite plane

February 27, 2014

The textabyss is a computer project I’ve been working on: basically, an infinite sheet of paper that you can pan and zoom on, enough for holding a lifetime’s worth of prose. It is a very simple idea, and an odd mix of writeroom, personal wikis, desktop indexing, minecraft, etc.

Textabyss homepage @ Github

Youtube video

Thanks for checking it out!

A Splurge on Melancholy and Politics (Heart of Darkness)

December 6, 2013

Children and teens can be annoying yes but there is also the sense that they are too unformed, or too easy. There is a lot that is too easy, too intricate, too networked … and there are, I think, whole theories on all this, on how impermanent our judgments are. But I have certain thoughts now that border on sentimentalism, or on nostalgia, dedication — things that I’m honestly not quite comfortable with. I am not an altruistic person, and I don’t believe that children are magic creatuers that should be raised in a bubble. In fact, my general attitude towards that whole attitude is generally accusatory and full of bitterness. But nontheless I find myself drawn to a new understanding of power that may seem sentimental at first — and which I would like to move beyond: power as a kind of collective lying.

The insight, which is perhaps incomplete, hinges on the fact that there are no manipulators and manipulatees, but rather, only manipulaters, who manipulate themselves, or rather, who are manipulated by the logic of manipulating, if that makes sense. Who are manipulated by the logic of hope, but not, therefore, desperate in a direct sense. Kafka had a phrase, “There is hope, but not for us”, which sees at first to be a kind of blank cynicism but I believe that this is what he is referring to.

Let’s consider the final passage of Heart of Darkness. Well, throughout the book Marlow somehow finds himself compelled to life for Kurtz, for some reason. But I think the end is sort of the climax. What fasinates me about this sort of model is just how conscious it is, how consciously this sort of manipulation takes place. It is a very interesting series of lines, very mysterious but also very specific. He lies to her in the end but the whole feeling is, oddly enough, that the was somehow forced, by her, or perhaps other things, into manipulating her.

There is the issue of Kurtz’s memory. It is certainly not as vivd as hers — but that is what is intersting here, as we talk about memories that fade. Here, we are not merely talking about desperation or conviction in the face of a fading memory but rather a kind of indirect memory — she made me see. A memory, while being my own, is somehow … for her — can we even say, brought to life by her? Not quite, I don’t think — there is just the hint of insincerity here which reeks, to me, of nihilism or sentimentalism. Marlow has addressed this sort of discomfort, something to the effect of, “you know, I really hate lying, not because I’m better than all of you but because there is the feeling of death there, like biting into a rotten fruit” — and yet the story contains many instances of him lying on various levels. Yet it is not quite insincere, I don’t think — but what Marlow vividly recalls is not that time — and perhaps not even his own experience, but rather her experienceher understanding of Kurtz. And who knows if even her understanding is original.

Now of course we should address the fact that Marlow heard the leaves whisper, “the horror, the horror”, and saw, in the glass pane of the door, Kurtz staring back at him. There are two possibilites — there is, first of all, the notion that Kurtz himself was able to obtain power, not via manipulation, but rather, indeed, as we have been saying, manipulating the manipulator. Is it that he himself espouses, I mean, with his … exuberance, or with his shock and awe — prelapsarian times? (Indeed, the world of Heart of Darkenss is one of disarray, a postlapsarian one.) Or is it that he refers to those times, somehow, without really espousing it, or maybe both? The second possibility, oddly enough, is this notion that the voice of Kurtz is actually a genuine memory of that time and place — the way in which even that past, perhaps, seems to transform to a time somehow worth saving. But the origins are nowhere.

(Short) Essays without an Introduction: Heart of Darkness, first passages

December 3, 2013

Literature is the evocation of a time and place, it is memory, but not necessarily, perhaps, a time and place that you were physically at. But “real” memories are a pretension anyways, as many of us have come to realize. This thesis greatly simplifies how we read literature — although, indeed, it’s based on assumptions about truth, philosphy, etc. that are outside of the scope of this essay — I mean, it assumes certain sophisticated, and not naive, notions of why we need literature, it assumes a non-constructive model of philosphy and really behavior in general.

Now there seems, at first, to be a difference between literature and an actual place, as that which is evoked in the beginning of Heart of Darkness: the river. The effort there, in the beginning, by the narrator — I mean, where he sits on a yatch and reminesces about the history of exploration — should not be understood as sentimental. There is indeed the sense that it is really a far better understanding of exploration than more materialistic ones. But it does seem to differ from literature, I mean, this much is obvious, literature being words on paper and the historical memory being, perhaps, a kind of recurrence of some attitude, ie, in the sense of asking, you know, how many men in history have passed through this sea-reach.

Although, on a second analaysis, perhaps literature is the same way. It is not the communication of content. You know, so much must be known beforehand, so much must be shared, before any communication takes place — and communication is really just reference to things we already know, typically. Ie, communication is a way of activating elements in a shared memory — it requires familiarity. The space of familiarity I call the neighborhood — a suprisingly deep and central concept in philosophy, perhaps the concept of philosophy. Philosophy is not primarily the application of rules and reason but rather that yearning for an understanding of knowledge and our experience, most of it at least, as localized rather than universal. But memory lies at the border of familiar, in the (un)familiar, I mean, neither and both familiar and unfamiliar. With literature, too, what we do may resemble a kind of placid staring — as we await the clues that would offer us some pivotal insight into memory. This awaiting will bring us to the metaphysics of time and space.

 

Notes without Introduction on Heart of Darkness

October 27, 2013

(P1-P3) A meditative state, a moment of stillness or halting (as that which characterizes philosophical rather than ciritcal thought — an attempt to halt the progress of knowledge).

(P4) Again, a state of beginning or halting, the first step. Mentions of archeticture and bones. Later on, Marlow will talk about the sea reach as the launching point, the first step, of great projects — ushering in the question of the way in which progress is conceived, but in a perhaps retrospective sense. The temporality here is complex: at the end of the era of exploration, Marlow then looks back to the very beginning. This is the same way that Cartesian meditation occurs, well, of course. One is already familiar with thinking and its movements before looking back to the first step. But then this first step is a moment of looking foward, or rather, of halting before movement. And finally, the entire book then looks back, I mean, in the realm of personal experience, on the act of meditation — an act which itself, despite being a return to the step (to the first step, or to every step) seems so much like the beginnings of something. Philosophy is something that comes after but that derives its imaginative power from attempting to reach back to the before.

(P6) The question here really is how the river can be related to something as complicated or massive as the general trends of exploration. Are we talking about actual origins or the retrospective origin we speak of above? I am reminded of Flaubert’s effort with Madame Bovary, which I finally realized was political and not in the ‘feminist sense’. To go back to a life already lived, and to reorganize its details, while leaving the superficial appearances intact. Here the effort is perhaps much the same: to go back to the age of exploration, to put the past in services of an arising power.

(P8) A provocation — is Marlow about to offer a synopsis of his argument?

(P11) The description of those who enter into the darkness, and those who are saved by ‘efficiency’, or maybe pragmatism, is still an introductory offer. The darkness is not really a single thing, but it is an acceptance into meditation or a state of longing. It emphasizes that meditation is fundamentally waiting for something.

(P18) I mean, what is the spirit of exploration anyways? Is it a chance to work at something, or to get at the roots of something — maybe the origins of trade, or the origins of all that talk? I mean, Marlow did not really go out there with an high and noble ideas. I think of it as a chance to do an honest day’s work or something like that: sort of like what I’m doing with this book. Perhaps Madame Bovary can be compared to the Heart of Darkness in that the latter is a retrospective rethinking of Marlow’s life as meditation. (And note that that suffices to think about power, it is not necessary to explicitly consider how the past influences the choices of the present.) The question then arises: what is Marlow meditating on?

(P21) Origin of Trade — In a partial response, so far, we have an understanding of this notion of getting into the heart of the company, the origin of ivory and trade, but there is also, of course, the attempt to get at the cause of this mystery, such as that of Fresleven.
This suggestion is actually quite fascinating, since it suggests an organization built up around the idea — and not ‘sentimental pretense’ of something occuring at the origin — the origin of wealth, or the origin of trade, of exploration, cultural contact, and so on — some sort of transformation of the cities, for example, that takes place elsewhere. Rather than seeing, say, London as a launching point or the origin, we could perhaps see London as orbiting or fascinated by this origin — which is, oddly enough, perhaps well understood despite its mystery (cf, the final scene with the Intended). Basically, this is a way to think beyond cartesian meditation.

(P25) Women and the Power of the Past — The description of the two fates, the women dressed in black — very interesting, as this seems to suggest that, as above, when we say that it “suffices to think about the past”, that the woman have a hand in the transformation of this into power: the two secretaries, the introducer, and concrete workers of this powr.

(P27) The doctor passage really sort of reminds me that nothing should be taken for granted here, and that everything should be significance. Ie, there is no need to red in value judgments here at all. One feels that one can almost vaguely make out what the doctor is getting at here. There is a richness to this scene, is what I’m saying.

(P29 — halt) Summary: This has given me really quite a lot to think about. Conrad seems to offer a very real analysis of the project of exploration and the role of meditation / philosphy on that project!

The Dangers of Meditation

October 23, 2013

I had been thinking for some time now of what I now realize can be called “Cartesian meditation”, I mean, the sort of meditation that Descartes performs in “Meditations on First Philosophy” — I mean, a kind of highly concrete introspection, involving the inner eye, looking inwards, and so on. People who read Descartes, or whatever, today, may be … lured in by the clarity and simplicity of such practices, and also by a subtle sort of condescension, by escapism. It would be nice to make money in that way, by lying, I mean, and by leading a kind of innocent existence. But there is seriousness there that we may miss, I here accuse people of not reading Descartes seriously enough, especially those who enjoy him or think they understand him. Cartesian meditation, like all meditation, is a very real way, a mode of thinking that we have to respond to, of responding to the world — not so much at it’s essence, but at it’s step — before we take the first step, the first of many steps. I am not talking here about the foundations metaphor — “before we start constructing edifices we have to lay the groundwork” — but rather about steps, walking, movement — meditation is to the step as the critique is to the groundwork.

The basic thesis of Heart of Darkness involves the dangers of meditation. What’s so interesting about Kurtz is the sincerity of all those around him, he doesn’t promise power, fame, etc. so much as truth, as a kind of meditative truth. Marlow is inexplicably drawn towards him and inexplicably finds himself defending him — one of the central questions of the book — why? Why if Kurtz is not worth the life of the foreman lost to get to him, for example? But in order to think about this form of meditation we may will have to think beyond cartesian meditation.

… one thing troubles me highly, which is that meditation, unlike ideology, is true … it’s true in some sense. We have for the longest time been blissfully equating thinking with peace, with progress, and so on. Even for the critique, we have been equating that with self-questioning, doubt, all good things. I had a talk with someone today and I found myself, despite my best efforts, falling back to such banalities. How many times, for example, have I said that love, and not hate, is the justification for most violence? (Hate associated with guilt, doubt, and so on…) And I have quite a few drafts in my computer regarding Nietzsche’s On Truth and Lie, which is at once – true, I mean, I have thought about that work in relation to what feels like basic, preliminary insights — and at the same time, specific, powerful.

There is a kind of … historical theory, I guess, in Heart of Darkness, where history is seen not as the struggle between good and evil but rather the struggle between … light and darkness, maybe. Light here symbolizes knowledge, clarity, self-interest, and so forth — it is associated with reason, communication, and nihilism. (And sometimes with death and bone.) In a sense, anything goes, everything has an exchange value, but we are kept from each other’s throats by the careful balancing of self-interest. I mean, not the balane between self and other but the balance of conflicting self interest. I am not against light, I live, it feels like, in a world of light. When I sometimes stumble into darkness I feel the need to lash out and defend myself against these goddamn idiots who think they are so much cooler or more soulful than me and cannot recognize how common interest works. I hate you too, but let’s just keep it to our interests, shall we? I think I have plenty of these moments in previous entries.

The darkness on the other hand is associated with … yes, meditation, but not cartesian meditation, but rather, the feeling of a kind of significance, the feeling of the step. Well, that is the entire effort here: how do we go beyond cartesian meditation? I have a few drafts where I talk about Pandorum, which is a recent sci-fi movie. Well… the movie is not important, the point is that, whenever we take interest in anything, we find that it is due to a kind of weird fascination rather than any kind of satisfaction of desires, aesthetic pleasure, and so on. I took interest in Pandorum because it dealt with a kind of space sickness, a kind of insanity in the depths of space. Well, it also tied heavily to Heart of Darkness, Lord of the Flies, and various questions about restraint. But what fascinated me definitely had something to do with the “step”, with the supernatural .. the subconsciousness. I mean, if you think about it, the supernatural is a kind of underlying questioning, the question of the daily course of events, of the step by step.

With Kurtz, too, there is this notion of the –

TBC

Junji Ito

October 3, 2013

I’ve been reading the collected works of Junji Ito lately. It’s very iteresting stuff — it feels like it’s all the same, which is probably a good thing. Billed as a horror comic, except It’s not really all that horrifying, and in the very last volume he does a rewriting of Frankenstein, mostly true to the original Mary Shelley version, which is quite interesting, since I hadn’t noticed before just how Itoian that book was. My favorite webcomic gunshow actually references Ito … a few times, I think. I think he’s fairly well know around the internet.

I have been thinking over a sense of freedom — the freedom of the mastery. I don’t think I drew out this final sense of mastery — I know I keep returning to it. I mean, anything goes. We are not fundamentally, our intellects, are not fundamentally determined by technics. … I had not thought about the most radical consequences of the desolution of the borders between disciplines, the most radical consequences of not taking people at their word — the most radical consequences of Socraticism, let’s say.

CRP — which sounds sort of like CPR — I use to stand for, the “complex recent past”. It’s an idea of the thinking of history, what are we going to do with this incredible freedom? Well, we did talk about this notion of selfishness. Of looking out for myself, my kind. With so much freedom, such a task , well, we can do it unapologetically. The Complex Recent Past is our way of avoiding phenomenality, it’s a way of abusing this freedom. We have an experience, logically, in the complex recent past, and then, maybe, we experience it. This is the sort of power or freedom I feel.

Anyways, let’s talk a bit about Ito. I was happy that I did not draw any of the usual conclusions, any of the Freudian conclusions. It was definitely interesting — it was not horrifying. I did not even want to read it as some Japanese audience, that I couldn’t understand — rather, I don’t think anyone really felt it, or, alternatively, that no one really felt horror, that the fascination with horror isn’t aesthetic. The characters are stupid of course, but maybe that is part of the dreamlike sense of claustrophobia or helplessness.

I am a lot racist than I’ve ever been, really. Which doesn’t mean that I respect differences but rather than I believe all people are the same. So, again, for Ito, there is no privileged audience. Nor do I want to go the route of saying that there is some kind of art of the future. I think that there is a lot — me included — exoticism when it comes to this guy. So, rather, I want to apply this principle of CRP, of the complicated recent past, which, recall, synergizes with that sense of absolute freedom.

There is definitely something very interesting about the drawn image. I think I read one of the critics say that it was a character wasn’t beautiful so much as she was a symbol of beauty. When I read it, I confess, I tend to skim it — not even because I disrespect it or anything, but merely because it feels like it suffices. That’s what’s interesting about comic books I guess. I mean, I know the translation is bad, that there is nothing really to be understood in the word bubbles. I could probably read the entire work in Japanese (I don’t know Japanese) and have much the same effect. The dialogue is very banal, which may mean that it was translated badly, or it may mean it was intentionally banal — which is a real possibility, I’m not sure. Anyways, I tend to skim it. Not all comic books, but these ones are sort of like IV’s into the brain. A sequence of mostly identical, repeated images, combined — it is very interesting.

Now, I have not forgotten about truth, or historical significance. I mean, yes, selfishness, but there is also the need to talk about historical significance, that is probably the main purpose here. Now, my theory of history, or of interesting history, is that history is determined by the CRP, which is an odd sort of hypothesis. I mean, it is one step removed from simple aesthetics — it is indeed undeniable that aesthetics, pain and pleasure, correspondence, etc., itself has a history to be written. Say, the history of pain and pleasure. But that is perhaps not so interesting. A history of CRP is one step away from aesthetics and — importantly, not merely exoticism, ie, not merely, as we said above, in anticipation of an ideal Japanese audience. It is a history where the basic cause is what just happened. And a major reason why CRP is so important is because it ties in so closely to mastery, to the freedom of mastery. (And as a reminder — let me remark that we are not above lying, cheating, fronting, when it comes to mastery!)

In other words, Junji Ito’s has a historical theory — it is at once a theory of history, and a model of the CRP, the two are not the same. (The former depends on the latter.) Now when we think of the CRP for Ito we think of … something that is very different, certainly, form someone like R. Crumb of Jim Woodring. He is highly aware of how repetitive his comics are.

TBC, for real!

Who is the bigger loser?

September 27, 2013

So the question is, who is the bigger loser, me or them? (… whether tis nobler to suffer the slings and arrows …). Or more precisely, is it better to live in the world, to live joyfully, or … to seek the truth? I mean, we’ve made a big deal out of such issues as honesty, nihilism, and play. Well, what is our, what is our high horse anyways? Maybe it is to get at what is really driviing the world, or what’s on the back of everyone’s minds, etc.. Well … I wrote this on Facebook the other day:

“Vaccination and the Age of Reason” –Vaccination is something that has saved countless lives and is one of the benefits of living in civilzation, it is one of the fruits of the age of reason. But beyond our modern conveniences and our limits there is very little that separates us from jungle tribesmen, cannibals, what have you. But is vaccination “caused” by the reason? And what really characterizes the age of reason? It is not, actually, any ideas of justice, human rights, etc., but rather, maybe, the capitalization of man’s mental *energies*, ie, in the same way that oil has reshaped the world mental energy has reshaped the world — suggesting by this term a kind of undirected, violent, inevitable force. Vaccination was discovered by someone (quite by accident, as certain anecdotes go) that had put forth immense mental energies, mental capital. There is no way to “repeat” the insight of vaccination, though we tell stories about it. This is why reason is not the driving force, because its insights cannot be “repeated” — experiments are verifiable, but there is no way “repeat” that same insight. What this means is that technical history is a history of *accidents*, it can be likened to the discovery of gold nuggets unearthed by the explosive energy of mental capital. (And I am arguing, we cannot repeatedly, methodically, discover gold nuggets — it also means that there may be some limit to how much we can unearth).

This actually raises the question of whether there are *other histories*, a history that would not be a history of accidents. And this is where the concept of mastery fits in: since mastery, as a regression to childhood, give us visions of the future not shaped by accidents but genuinely our own, unreachable yet so imminent that they are often mistaken for having happened.

I’m not sure if the whole thing needed to be included, but the basic argument here involves the thinking of a kind of mental energy — there is a critique here of reason here, the Age of Reason. The Age of Reason — bless its heart and its consequences — is nothing but “the discovery of (a finite number) of gold nuggets unearthed by the explosive energy of mental capital”. I try to argue for an energy-based account of history in order to discredit any essence of reason. So that is “them”, I mean, those who carry on — with whatever consequences, beneficial or not — with belief in the cohrenecy of their own life, of their own essence.

So yes, it’s hard to put a fine distinction, when asking the bigger loser question, on what the distinction, which we feel so strongly about, even is.  But there is a distinction isn’t there? I am not here to tear this down or to argue that there isn’t. There is. Well, and I am not here to, of course, really answer the question of who the bigger loser is. Who cares? We each have our own failures. I am penniless but I have the time to do what I want. And I have a lot of trouble getting a girlfriend, even though I am, well, not unattractive, and this is a combination of my pennilessness, isolation, and my general misogyny. Fine. But they have their own issues to deal with. There are very few of us who aren’t selling our youth for money. I mean, if I can’t stand the life they lead, if hell is other people, then on some level they can’t either, I’m sure.

So at stake in this question is really (of course) an effort to refocus on the question of who we are, now that we can no longer claim an essence, we have to get off our high horse, and yet continue to have, to feel the pull of, such diverse concepts as guilt, futurity, imminence, and so on. Indeed, the feeling is that we will be working on a history yet to be written, or a reanalysis of history. If not some thinking of the essence of history, then at least, some alternative history, a history, vaguely defined, involving these concepts. (TBC)

“Don’t get any big ideas” — I was reading, recently, someone’s blog about trying to develop a … graphical terminal emulator, I think it was. He was one of those mac programmers. I’m pretty prejudiced, I admit. I kept on reading… he tried to start a project but failed — it was an interesting effort. In the post-mortem, he complained a lot about the community and all the various software design tools that he had to work with. It was a lot of complaining. I was glad to see it fail, most because terminal emulators don’t really need a rethinking. They do need some added functionality, which was what I was googling for, but they don’t need to be rethought from the ground up. It was apparently a project that got a lot of vocal support but very little actual finger-lifting from the community. I love ther terminal, by the way, or rather, I have a different idea of what a pure terminal would be. The whole Mac mentality got to me anyways. It was like every single thing they touched was somehow a fundamentally different, beautiful, rethinking of data or something. I was sort of headed in the opposite direction, I mean, I love the sparse of text terminals. I would rather us think about ways for us to change our lives so that text would be enough. There is a lot of issues here, certainly. I don’t believe our lives are natural, I believe that a computer is not so much a way to represent our lives, which just leads to added complexity, but rather, perhaps, to simplify our lives.

I’m not sure how interesting Apple would be for our history, for example, for our purposes. It doesn’t really confront guilt. I would rather think about open source or something. I’ve been working on a very simple and small scale … text editor enhancement recently, hopefully I’ll have a chance to throw it up in a few weeks on this blog. But my experience there was that, well, I congratulated myself on not having any more big ideas. In the end I had very little to say about the whole software design experience. I spent a lot of time looking up documentation, and as always the logic of the underlying system can never really be fully documented. It was very messy, a lot of trial and error. It was almost like a research project. A lot of the work involved grouping conditionals into forms that I could deal with and maintain, I mean, attempting to categorize all the exceptions — and the feature set changed along the way. The feature set had to be coherent, too, I mean, it had to seem consistent even as it was stressed by the requirement of maintainable code, a very minor sort of feedback loop here. I was proud of myself for not having learned anything through this whole process. I wondered if this amounted the regression of mastery — the regression to a kind of childlike state, where the task becomes, the wrestling with exceptions, where nothing is so structured. (TBC)

The Consequences of Mastery

September 24, 2013

I want to write a hardcore philosophical essay right now, I mean, rhetorically. It is also going to be short, maybe. I say this because I feel like I am dealing with a priori consequences, or with results that flow from the concepts themselves.

Well, without giving a formal introduction, I mean, without laying out the stakes beforehand, let’s consider the question, “what is mastery?” I have been thinking over this for a few days now… I feel we can start with some banalities: namely, that mastery involves a non-concern with technics. So I distinguish it from nerdiness. … I just wrote this on facebook:

Mastery (of something) resembles spaciness / vapidity because it is not nerdy (it doesn’t concern itself with technical details), ie, a master sounds like a fool with the added aspect of being competent at technics nonetheless. It *does* resemble being nonchalantly good at something, but not because such technics provides a form of transcendance, ie, not from depths of experience. Mastery, then, may be not only superficially but also essentially a regression in attitude towards an earlier stage. We can maybe sum up all this by simply pointing out that a master, perhaps like a child (or certain childlike moments) is fundamentally interested in intentionality, choice, other living beings, and not objects or facts (I mean, with regards to the domain of mastery, not in a general ‘zen’ sense.).

So, I think we can say that we have moments of mastery, or mastery is not so much who we are as some way of seeing the world. … OK, so let that be our introduction.

Isn’t mastery a surveying? Yes, but it is at once a surverying, of the field, and of our past, and it is a way of continuing to live, which means, that it is still concerned with intentionality, or with the future. The master is concerned with history but not with a technical or intellectual history… and perhaps not with a history at all, in the traditional sense. The idea that mastery is a regression feels important to me, I mean, that it is a *non-technical* attitude, despite being deeply involved in some discipline. This is important because the consequences are quite nice, it means that we can deal with almost everything at all in a non-technical way, say, math, physics, as long as we restrict ourselves to mastery.

This is what I am so excited about — that mastery, the full understanding of anything, is non-technical (I mean, we will still have to be familiar with technical details) — it is not so different from the frightened apprentice except for the following important difference (the master shares more with the novice than with the journeyman): to the novice everything is a promise of future self-overcoming, everything is leading towards the future. But perhaps — and this is a big hope, a big perhaps — with mastery we can … manifest, or introduce into the system, these intentionalities or these futurities.

TBC: Examples; Relativity and Mastery

The History of Math / Dedicated to the one I love

September 17, 2013

The last words he pronounced were — your name. (Heart of Darkness)

There is are some complex things dealing with time. Well, let’s begin by talking about the Heart of Darkness, which ends with this lie about dedicating one’s life to a loved one. This whole whole section seems to be about the past and the future. Kurtz is the future, but he is also the past — he is dead and gone. Something so powerful as to be imminent — so real was this future that it was mistaken for having already happened.

That’s just it — the imminence of the future, the mode of imminence. I feel like this is familiar ground, but the whole oint here is semi-imminent, as we approach familiar ground with better tools maybe. And also, the women — for some reason the women has control over this imminence, despite having, of course, never set foot in Africa. But for her this imminence was as real as a river, or a window, as in the final scene. “Mathematics is profoundly feminine” I have here in my notes — which is a kind of a provocative formula that points at where we want to go.

The real question here is the imminence of math, or the mode of imminence. Again, I am not sure if the above quotation is right, but at least it does raise questions, ie, if it is wrong, then it is wrong in the right direction, I feel. Math, too, seems to be a future that has already happened, in the above sense. Well, there is a third concern here: that we do not know what math is. This is important to point out since all math does is talk about itself, it seems, but we cannot trust it, at least, not in the first, declarative, descriptive sense. The history of math has yet to be brought to light. We may have to talk about a psychological history of math, or about eras that we haven’t even understood yet, who knows. This is certainly an exciting venture though.

Oh, and one more thing: isn’t it true that all metaphysics can do is point in a certain direction, to point at something? nd if so, doesn’t the history of math consist merely of moments that point at something? Yet these moments must each be examined individually?

Now, by the “femininity of math”, I don’t merely mean, the creative feminine. This is a benefit of us returning to the same question with more maturity — I mean, that it’s easy to be misled here, to forget what we meant, and to dismiss it later as error. We are not referring merely to the playfulness of math, since that is simply being who one is, and is not a future that is imminent. It does not relate to guilt, for example, or to the future yet to come, which we identified in the previous blog as the uncanny.  But, on the other hand, it is not something other than what math already is. Again, this feels like some moment of maturity to me, I mean, the necessity of thinking such a delicate topic. It is the moment, not strictly outside of math, a moment when imminence and femininity intersect. That’s another thing about the feminine — that they seem more real.

(Sometimes I am troubled by the question of whether what we talk about is exists at all, ie, whether math isn’t merely the sum of technical exigencies. But I am comforted by … various reflections, not limited to the “categorical imperative” of criticism, the existence of parallel histories, etc..)

So what I’m saying here is that the only kind of reflection that matters, in math, are those that seem to determine our future, but that is subtle enough to not merely be a fantasy. But still feminine — that is the whole nature of the feminine. “They are out of it”, says Conrad, but at the same time, they are not fantasy. It is not obvious whether something is one or the other, whether something is fantastic, technical, or of literary interest, it is hard to tell the interesting from the uninteresting in history.

========== END OF INTRODUCTION ==========

Let’s talk about the zero, the historical development of the zero. Now math functioned long before the zero, and it functions long after. The zero is certainly ingrained into math at this point, it has become one symbol among many other symbols. Now, I don’t really want to speak of the zero as merely a symbol, I don’t really want to associate with the rise of algebra or something, I mean. Rather, it is associated with a very specific sort of purity in math — I mean here specifically to dismiss the assumed distinction between the pure and the pragmatic, the notion of “mathematical autism”, for example. In a sense we are saying that everything is the same, that we are cut off from “our own” origin, that we work with ideas that are dead and gone. “I arrived in a city that always made me think of a whited sepulchur” (Heart of Darkness).

It is hard to imagine that moment. It is perhaps a profound transformation. It was at once anti-materialistic and materialistic. It faced great resistance for it’s amaterialism, but at the same time it seems undenaible with its play uon guilt, which we associated with the uncanny in the previous entry on Futurama. The uncanny causes metaphysical transformations, which may be, as we said above, pointers, or not stable in themselves (and rather only as an orbit). The phenomenality of the uncanny cannot be discounted but it slowly builds up until it becomes this imminence we speak of.

TBC

Futurama’s “A Game of Tones”

September 11, 2013

I like Futurama, but I don’t consider it really worth extended reflection, so that when we talk about our interest in The Game of Tones (from this latest season) it is in the sense that it is an unusual episode and in many ways quite unlike the rest of the show.

Now, I don’t want to go too deeply into the Lynchian influences, it is a great episode to watch from that angle, it reminds me of Twin Peaks… it actually also reminds me of being high.. and there is a sense that you aren’t really watching Futurama so much as you are a dream of Futurama, the way in which dreams seem to bring out the uncanny in the familiar, or how something in a dream often feels like a parody of that which you are remembering.

And then there is that sense of impending doom, which perhaps should be taken simply as an impending future (no pun intended) a future yet to arrive (rather than as death or destruction). There is a UFO approaching earth that emits a sequence of four tones that will literally blow up planets — but at the same time the show itself, also, as we allude to above, seems to be coming apart at the seams. “The impending future”  is not the extrapolated progression of day-to-day life — but it is very close… maybe we should even characterize it as a kind of gravity or something, in the sense of, that towards which the present is drawn, but which never arrives, a kind of orbit – ie, a spatial rather than a temporal metaphor.

The concept of “the future”, for me, is a way of getting over a kind of impasse, the impasse of descriptivism. I mean, perhaps the only way to understand the present is to understand such a future — some things about the world can’t be understood descriptively. The only way to understand the truth is to lie about it or to participate in this lie. (Cf, eg, the final scene of Heart of Darkness). This impending futurity is a kind of holism, it is something that cannot be understood aesthetically or as some kind of political “negation”…

As I said, we shouldn’t take the ‘doom’ too literally, but rather to think of it as a kind of blasting or exploding — a show “coming apart at the seams” we said. So that what impends is not absolute doom but rather the future, but the future that never arrives, or a future that we may have to pretend has already arrived — think, eg, Hitchcock’s Spellbound. Perhaps all psychoses have some connection to the future.

What is the future of Futurama (again, no pun intended)? It is an emptying out, it has a lot to do with the “conventions” of that show. The show is very concerned with math and a kind of systemic humor, the system of the crew — but the satisfaction with systemics can only take place if we are too content with the stability of everything around us. I mean, think about, for example, the kind of thinking required to become a mathematician — and I don’t even mean that one has to first be well-fed … doesn’t the initial, childhood interest assume a contentment with things as stable objects, as atomic elements of a system? So it is precisely this sense of stability that is being questeioned here — and this questioning, or rather this explosion, comes about via a kind of … dreamlike sensation, a kind of self-parody. I mean, the world that the crew explores is strange and terrifying, it is unlike the futurama we are used to. Even nature in that show typically exhibits the usual human qualities. But here they are caught in something way over their head (and the ending comes only because the show has to be aired, ie, it doesn’t reflect at all where the show was headed) — which is a kind of … vicious self-understanding. I mean, the way in which actions repeated over and over again seem to lose meaning — self-parody we said. But these elements can’t be understood in this way as descriptive, aesthetic, or rhetorical elements, but rather seem to take hold of our society precisely via their status as the future, whether we embrace it or not.

The future is the breakdown of the system and the coming fascination with the signifier. TBC


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