My weblog ELECTRON BLUE, which concentrated on science and mathematics, ran from 2004-2008. It is no longer being updated. My current blog, which is more art-related, is here.
Fri, 31 Oct, 2014
With all the disruptions in my recent life, including the good disruption of the new PyraCar, I haven't had time to do much art or math. But a meeting with someone from Falls Church's downtown gallery (while he was shopping at the gourmet store) reminded me that I have a prospective show to prepare for, and that I need to make an appointment to show my architectural and landscape work to the gallery-owner.
As for math, I haven't read much text or solved any problems recently. "Doing math" is mostly made up of those formal activities, I guess. But I have been thinking aabout calculus all along. Even the little amount of calculus that I have learned has been an influence on me. Learning calculus changes the way you think. For instance, at work there are two ladies named "Carol" who work in the same department. One has been working there for years, but the other just joined in the last couple of months. How could I distinguish them? Well, the "senior" one is Carol, and the "junior" one is Carol Prime. And how do I stop my new Honda Element? By reaching the limit at the red light or the parking lot. The road is full of limits which are not just speed limits. And my car, like any other vehicle with front and rear wheels, sits at a tangent to the slope of the road. If it didn't, I'd be off balance and skid off the track.
I have not forgotten physics, either. My new car is heavier (has more mass) than the older one, so it has more momentum while I drive at the same velocity that I used to. That means that it takes more braking power to stop it. Fortunately, the new brakes are much smoother and easier to use than the previous car's. I am still getting used to the new geometric configurations of the Element, as well as its turning radius, which is surprisingly small, (at low speed of course) due to its somewhat shorter length than the old Electron.
Some time ago in one of these Electron essays from May 2004 I speculated that the orange Element might be the anti-particle of the Electron Blue CRV. Am I now driving a Positron? If so, how can I navigate on roads made of matter, without causing a matter-anti-matter explosion? Experiment and Honda specifications have proven that the Orange Element is not a positron, because it has more mass than the older Electron Blue CRV, and electrons and positrons have the same mass. This then opens the question as to what Element-ary particle my Element is. Perhaps some car-loving physicist might know the answer. Anyway, it's time for me to get back to learning more math. And I'm glad that I won't have to be called "Auntie Matter."
Posted at 11:59 pm | link
Switching to Winter
My year, like that of most people, is marked by rituals and transitions. For the last twenty-one years, my entry into winter has been celebrated at Darkovercon, from where I have just returned. The weather here in MidAtlantica isn't very wintry, though. Even though it is still mild, I put aside my colorful autumn garb and don the black and purple of December, and Advent. It doesn't matter if the religious ceremonial Advent isn't quite here yet, I still count it as such, as does the commercial world. After all, "Commercial Advent" and the appearance of holiday items and decorations has already been around for more than a month.
This was quite a successful DarkoverCon. Not only did I happily host my Salon on Friday and Saturday nights, with much pouring of wine and cheer, but I also sold a major painting to a collector. Longtime readers of the Electron may remember a picture that I did early in 2005, dedicated to the memory of the September 11, 2001 attacks, called "The Geometry of Remembrance." It can be viewed at this Electron entry. I included it in my DarkoverCon art show because I wanted to show it, but I put it "not for sale" as it was not really a "science fiction" or fantasy painting. It got a lot of attention from viewers, but one of my good friends, who has loved my art for a long time, was deeply moved by it and begged me to sell it to her. I told her that, since this picture was not for sale in the convention art show, it would have to be sold directly, outside the show, and I would have to charge her full "gallery" price for the piece. To my amazement, she agreed to that price and said she would write the check right away. She explained that she had recently come into some family money and now had enough to spend on things she loved. Naturally, I wasn't going to stand in her way, so "The Geometry of Remembrance" went home with her.
There have been some questions about whether an artist should sell work to friends at "public" or "gallery" prices. Should I have cut the price because I was selling it to a collector who was a friend, rather than just any collector? I did ponder this during the convention, but when she explained about her legacy and that she was now "financially comfortable" and could afford it, I went ahead and charged the full price. Had she wanted the picture intensely but was poor, I would have found a way for her to get it. I have traded pictures for craft work, massages, food, dental work, vacations, and collectibles, so I know how to negotiate these things. She felt that by paying the full price she was also supporting the art work of a friend.
I sold a few other pieces, including "Postcards from the Multiverse," as well as "Orange Cosmic Rays" from the previous entry. These went through the convention art show and their prices were much less than the "gallery" range. Friends bought these, too. Attendance at DarkoverCon, after all these years, has become something like a "family reunion," so there are few people there who are not friends or at least acquaintances.
Now I'm back at work in the gourmet store, surrounded by sweet holiday goodies. I have new co-workers, who are so far working very well. Despite the mild temperatures, the low sun and early darkness tell me that it is that season known as "Brumalia," the weeks before the Winter Solstice.
Posted at 11:59 pm | link
Getting Used to Delta
I ran out of review problems in Anton's book, at least those concerning finding the equations for tangents at any point on a function's graph. So I went back to my collection of calculus books and retrieved Allyn Washington's "Basic Technical Mathematics with Calculus," which I described in this earlier entry. (The Electron reserves the right to be self-referential.) This is the Fourth Edition, dated 1985, and one of my Friendly Scientists actually worked as a co-writer on a later edition. I have more recent calculus books, but they demand the use of complicated, expensive calculator equipment which I don't have. I have a 15-dollar calculator which has been sufficient for anything I've done so far. My Macintosh has a graphing program which I sometimes use to check my work. I prefer to use the books which expected the student to work things out with pencil and paper.
And there in the instructions for finding equations of tangent lines was the Capital Delta, the Greek letter which is one of the unmistakable signatures of Calculus. I used to be a classicist, which like "physicist" is one of those all-encompassing vocations which takes up your whole life. In my Greek and Latin days, I had plenty of Deltas: Dionysus, Demeter, Democritus, Diomedes, Demosthenes. But this is Delta from a different discipline. The book explains:
"…The symbol (Delta) used here has no meaning by itself. The name increment is given to the difference of the coordinates of two points, and therefore (Delta)x and (Delta)y are the increments in x and y, respectively."
As the virtual Professor explained in his first DVD calculus lecture, this is all about change and motion. I am dealing with intervals and increments rather than single quantities, and processes rather than single operations. It's Delta for Difference, D for Diligent, Daring, and Dynamic.
Posted at 11:58 pm | link
The Multiplication of Identities
I received e-mails this week from Husain Mensch, Wenonah Liberto, Aurangzeb Swigart, Yuri Pilgrim, Merlin Frausto, Pacifica Snowden, Lysistrata Chipley, Kishore Krzeminski, Cobus Pastor, Antipater Pavia, Madhukar Whittingham, Selvaggia Hammock, and the exotic Ashtoreth Olson. They were not "real people," of course, but "sender" names attached to spam e-mails, created by the endless churning of an indiscriminately globalized name-generator. Most of them were ads for prescription drugs, which are counterfeit, or for stocks, which are almost certainly worthless. The value of these, for me, is in the philosophical entertainment of artificial reality and word salad.
The gibberish language and the surrealistic poetry generated by the spams has, alas, disappeared from the junk e-mail stream, so I am left only with the amusing names. As you know by now, I hold "virtual" or "imaginary" realities to be as real as our "real" reality, so all those generated named beings, passing through the internet in the billions per second like neutrinos, are identities of a sort. They multiply faster than any living thing, because they need nothing material to grow on, just a stream of information.
I gave a few charitable contributions last year, moved by the heartbreaking stories of oppressed people in far-off countries, dying children, and tortured animals. I wrote in an earlier entryof what happened once I was known to be a giver. At that point, in February of this year, I had received over 900 address labels with some version of my mundane name and address on them. As of today, I have well over 1000, perhaps even 1500 name-labels. I just threw out another 35, because they were poorly printed and did not include my mundane first names.
Why do I return to this theme over and over again? Because it is an illustration of something which doesn't get talked about enough in the social sphere. Many people in contemporary America are worried about the government's intrusion into the information and details of their private lives. But there is an equal, or possibly more extensive, intrusion done to us by commercial interests, companies, marketing agencies, and even charities. Every time I make a purchase with a credit card, legitimate organizations record what I buy and how much I paid for it, thus creating a record which can be sold to marketers. Every time I give money to a charity, not only do they target me for continual solicitations, but they put my name and address on dozens of other charities' lists, whether I want them to or not. In fact, the commercial websites, catalogs, and sendaway lists are more likely to include a "no-share" option for my address than the charities. The world is full of legal and commercially profitable spyware, aimed at me no matter what I do.
Identity theft happens all too often, where criminals grab the information and run with it. But what about identity "sharing," where non-criminal entities propagate your identity and information through exponentially growing chains of interlocking mailing lists and marketing data? True, there is no real harm done, unlike that of criminal identity theft, but it is a nuisance to receive piles of junk mail just because you were generous once. Looking at all those address labels, I get the feeling that I am becoming a spam-name, a virtual being multiplied by the thousands, growing smaller and lighter and more insubstantial with each pack of address labels. Ashtoreth, let's get together soon.
Posted at 11:58 pm | link
Lines of Lightning
It's been great weather so far this summer, sticky and hot in the 90's just the way I like it. And we have had a spectacular storm to honor the Solstice. For two hours on the night of the twenty-second and after midnight into the twenty-third, the skies over the Metro Washington DC area were blazing with lightning. The major part of the storm passed to the south so that I had a good view of the densest lightning display from the side, though there were many jolting bolts directly overhead as well. For the first time, I took pictures of lightning. I stood on my sheltered terrace and aimed my digital camera toward the sky, and though I had no tripod I used a 6-second exposure, to capture bolts that flashed every few seconds. Here is the best of my shots from the storm:
When I was a child I was terrified of thunderstorms but now I love them, as I recounted in this Electron post from last July. And seeing real lightning bolts is the most exciting part. It's just like watching fireworks, but put on by Nature and far more powerful than a few sparkly explosions. I can understand why some people with time and money on their hands become addicted to storm-chasing. How can you see something like this and not experience a true sense of awe? The storm-chasers don't just stand on their terraces, though. Tornadoes, anyone?
Back to lightning: I've seen a wide variety of lightning forms. There is single-line lightning, that wiggles its way through the clouds. Then there is what I call "basket" lightning, a whole network of glowing filaments that seem to weave through the clouds. There is also "root" lightning, which looks just like a plant root with a central stalk and many smaller fibers extending out from the sides. I've also noticed that the cloud-to-ground strikes, which are the strongest and the most dangerous, seem to be "straighter" and a bit more like the "zig-zag" stylized lightning bolts depicted in art and graphic design. I've never seen ball lightning, and I don't think I want to, as it is supposed to be quite dangerous because it can explode. My mother experienced ball lightning very close up, many years ago in her childhood, as it floated through the room she was in and exited out a window during a violent storm. I am here because that ball lightning escaped and didn't blow up!
Looking at the cloud-to-cloud lightning I viewed and photographed the other night, it always strikes me how similar the linear forms of lightining are to other unpredictably wiggly lines such as roots, branches, rivers and watercourses, and cracks in mud, earth, or pavement. It doesn't seem to make a difference whether the lines are traced by living or unliving things; they all look alike in their various sizes and shapes.
The reason for these shapes, as has been well-publicized in the last couple of decades, is that they are all composed of fractals, the self-repeating mathematical shapes which produce nature-like forms when unleashed using the power of computers. The lightning, the root, the river all form due to mathematical patterns, though they look as though they form at random. If you are so inclined, you might think that these are the equations by which God (or the gods) designed the universe! But if there is no God, we are still left with the bright lightning of mathematics, which is almost as good.
Posted at 11:58 pm | link
Echo of Small Things
In my public life, I have to endure every day having shrieking "soul" music or howling pop noise shoved in my face, no matter where I go, even at my beloved Starbucks. So it is with a vast sense of relief that I come home to ambient sound by masters such as Robert Rich, where quietness and contemplation are still cherished. You may recall my post earlier this year about Rich's piano album "Open Window." That same year, 2005, he also released a wondrous ambient album entitled "Echo of Small Things." This is inspired by his longtime friendship and collaboration with photographer David Agasi, whose moody black and white photos are featured in the album's graphic packaging.
Those who regard only Mozart and Bach and the classical genre (or any other established musical genre!) as "real" music will not care for this album, since it is not structured the way "real" music is. Rich's work here would be better described as "sound design," since it combines environmental sounds such as voices, footsteps, wind, water, thunder, or other seemingly random noises with long, drawn-out drones created by electronics or steel guitar. These are punctuated with pentatonic (in Rich's non-Western "just intonation" tuning) notes on synthesizers and chimes, adding a coherent musical tonality to the mix. The environmental sounds are intended to correspond with the intention of the photographer Agasi to portray "ordinary things" as poetic.
There is a highly personal element to the photographs, some of which are of a Japanese girl on a bed (he lives in Tokyo) including one partial nude. The eroticism of these photos is echoed by Rich's sensuous sound textures, languid and dreamy and sustained. It is a world away from the pounding beat of porno-pop eroticism. But Rich's interpretation of Agasi is not just about people and relationships. It is about spaces, both architectural and natural. Agasi photographs stairs, or ferns, or a leaf-drifted wet autumn sidewalk, and Rich conveys this with his slowly changing hovering sounds, almost melting into the background at times, with only tiny increments of bells or crickets to catch one's attention. Both artists have in mind that famous Japanese aesthetic, unknown in American culture, of mono no aware (pronounced moh-no no awah-ray) which is sometimes translated as "the pathos of things." It is, in this context, a look at those "small things" with a combination of wonder and melancholy, since they are all transient but beautiful nevertheless.
There are also elements of deeply nocturnal mystery and spooky weirdness, most evident in track 6, "Scent of Night Jasmine," and its following track, "Summer Thunder." This is where Rich takes a listener into a dreamlike, surrealistic world where his drones, flute notes, and environmental sounds are overlaid by percussion which never quite gets into any rhythm. It is one of Rich's most characteristic touches, to suggest at rhythm without really committing to it. In "Summer Thunder," the sound of distant thunder is combined with crickets and some very eerie soft synthesizer drones. You can just feel the breeze from the far-off storm lightly agitating the window curtains at 3 AM.
In the last two tracks, the night is over, with a sense of oncoming day and the sounds of birds and people waking. The last track, "Weightless Morning," evokes a pale and somber dawn, with sounds of drones and chimes fading into light. The album ends in the same serene but uneasy quiet in which it starts. This is not the kind of album you put on to soften up your work space; it resists being utilitarian "background music" like many ambient productions. This is a participatory experience, even without Agasi's photos, a sound environment which may bring you to visit your own memories and reflections, and fears.
An afterword to this review
I must add an extraneous but still serious critical comment to this otherwise splendid artistic collaboration. Agasi's photos in the album show his model with a lit cigarette in her hand, as well as an ashtray full of cigarette butts. His other photos on his website often show people smoking. Now I realize that in Japan, and among artists in general, cigarette smoking is something everyone does, and it's taken for granted. But as a nonsmoker and a strong adversary of this filthy and health-destroying habit, I never take it for granted, no matter how sexy a cigarette appears in the hands of a beautiful woman in a beautiful photograph. When I see a cigarette in a picture, I find it as jarring as if the model were holding a crack pipe or a syringe. Many readers will say I'm over-reacting and that I should just get over it, but I am hoping that somehow tobacco addiction will continue to recede into the realm of unacceptable behavior, rather than be promoted, however subtly, as part of the life of art and beauty.
Posted at 11:57 pm | link
When I first started studying mathematics seriously in 2001, I immediately encountered negative numbers. They were just as scary as I remembered them, back in my wretched high school days. If you added them to a positive number, they took away quantity. If you added them to each other, the sum was smaller. (I hadn't been introduced to absolute value yet.) If you subtracted the negative number, it was like adding quantity. I was in a mirror-universe where all the directions were the opposite of what I was (newly) used to.
But if you multiplied two of these mirror-universe numbers, they were redeemed. Their product left the mirror-universe and returned to the world of the positive universe, where everything can be counted upon. But if you had the misfortune to multiply a positive number by a negative number, it was once again plunged into the other world. And fractions, which were annoying enough to begin with, were turned negative if one of those numbers was negative.
If you think this sounds mathematically melodramatic, you're right. I envy those lucky minds who can think about mathematics and scientific data with no pictorial, imaginary or emotional involvement. Numbers are just numbers, data just data, graphs look like nothing but graphs. There are no silly childish stories to be told about them, only what they signify for the experiment. This is one reason why I'm not a scientist. The world of numbers is like a comic book to me.
In a very early posting here from 2004, I discussed synesthesia and numbers. I am synesthetic when it comes to numbers, though not as much for letters. Negative numbers also had a somewhat predictable synesthetic component for me. They were cold, blue, and sad. They sent me toward chilly, depressing realms of the number world where I looked with longing at the bright horizon of the x-axis and the sunny northeastern quadrant of the Cartesian coordinates where everything is positive. On the other side, doomed pairs resided in the opposite realm, the hellish southwestern quadrant where everything was negative. Not only did negative numbers have an emotional element, they even had a moral element. Negative numbers were somehow wrong. After all, negative numbers take money out of your bank account, make your environment colder, and even shorten your lifespan. If you multiplied a positive number by a negative number, it was poisoned. It became afflicted by negativity.
But then, along came mathematical functions. You can, through a miraculous process, take away the negativity and turn the negative into positive. That cheerful self-promoter among functions, f(x) = x2, not only helps run the universe, but saves numbers from negativity. Only a sinister mathematical villain with an evil imagination would come up with i, the imaginary number whose square is minus one. And then there is absolute value. In the absolute world, between those staunch uprights, you don't have to worry about negativity. It's just quantity, without its positive or negative value.
But I can't rest on absolute value. Doesn't everyone tell me that there are no absolutes? Not even in mathematics? I am told that there are places where even the holy laws of mathematics break down. What's that saying…? "Black holes are where God divides by zero." There are places in Quantumland, where I may never visit, in which the ordinary mathematics I am currently learning gets blown to bits (or, perhaps, qubits.). I wonder what weird colors, what harrowing emotional landscapes are waiting in that world beyond, where only a few brave souls are able to win their way through.
Posted at 11:56 pm | link
Recent Music from Steve Roach
I've been a supporter and fan of Steve Roach for a long time now. Early on in this Weblog's history, I wrote about him in one of my earliest entries from 2004. Since then, he has released more than five solo or collaborative albums, and recently I added a number of newer Roach works to my collection, which already takes up a whole bookshelf.
These are releases from 2004 through 2006. In chronological order from 2004 on, the first one in my new batch is FEVER DREAMS II (2004), subtitled "Holding the Space," the second part of a series of percussion and drone-trance pieces Roach created along with percussionist Byron Metcalf and bassist Patrick O'Hearn. This set of seven tracks is in the "shamanic" mode that Roach and his collaborators have done so well over the years. Most of the pieces have the regular rhythm, marked by both acoustic and electronic instruments, which shamans claim induces altered states of consciousness. Roach also makes much use of electric guitar, something he has been doing steadily since his "Earth Island" series in the early '90s. He uses dissonant and microtonal chords to set a rather dark "soundworld," but here he also plays actual tone-rows, including an ascending scale in one intense and focused passage.
Usually, Roach doesn't use that much vocalizing, but FEVER DREAMS II features singing and wailing by Jennifer Grais, a versatile singer who is also a "horse shaman," working with equines as a spiritual path. If Native Americans sang the blues without words, they might sound like Jennifer. And the insistent rhythms in the tracks of FEVER DREAMS II at times mimic the galloping of a horse. The last track, a long piece called "Holding the Space," is an answer and variation of its counterpart on the earlier FEVER DREAMS album, the long track "Tantra Mantra." Both feature trance percussion, overlaid by uneasy chords from Roach's well-reverbed guitar.
2004 also brought Roach's fourth "Lost Pieces" compilation, consisting of work that either appeared as single tracks in group albums or had never appeared before. These "Lost Pieces" now found date from 1999 to 2001, and are mostly in the majestic, vast spacey electronic style which is to me the quintessential Steve Roach sound. There are a couple of electronic-techno-trance pieces, such as track 2, "TranceFusion," but the best of this lot by far are the two space pieces on tracks 7 and 8. "Slow Rapture," track 7, cycles slowly round in a gorgeous ellipse focused on two fourth-based chords, while smooth harmonies float above it. Track 8, "Contained…Sustained," is another restful astral beauty. Interestingly, it features some of the same big wide-spaced chord progressions you can hear on the undertracks from Roach's BODY ELECTRIC, which was produced around the same time. This one's a fine album and evidence of Roach's consistency over the years.
In 2005, Roach finished and released one of his most unusual albums to date, the eerie POSSIBLE PLANET. Here he switches instrumentation from his usual ultra-smooth synthesizers, percussion, and slow-played electric guitar to a set of neo-retro "analog" synthesizers. These were designed to retrieve that "old-fashioned" pop sound of the '70s and '80s but in the hands of Roach, they put forth long, weird tranceworlds of drone-ambient. He punctuates these long drone pieces with electronic versions of rattles, shells, and insect noises. These sound truly alien, as if someone had put a tiny microphone in an anthill to listen to them talking to each other. The third drone-piece is full of insectoid buzzing, which has a shimmer of recognizable chords to it, though it is no less spooky than the earlier non-tonal passages. You get the feeling that the "possible planet" that Roach is evoking is not Earth.
This year, 2006, has already seen one new production from Roach. This is a long-form sound-environment called IMMERSION:ONE. Over the years he has done many of this type of album, which is meant to be background music, a kind of soft "sonic incense" which fills the room while you are doing other things. Some of these have been THE DREAM CIRCLE from 1994 and SLOW HEAT (1998). IMMERSION:ONE tends toward a wistful and melancholy mood, the kind of sound that might echo through a temple to the lost glories of the past.
I've saved the best of this batch for last: 2005's NEW LIFE DREAMING. This album arose from Steve's re-encounter with his older music from the 1988 DREAMTIME RETURN, which he was updating for re-release. In doing so, he came up with new music inspired by the mood and instrumentation of the old. NEW LIFE DREAMING has no Australian aborigines chanting, no didgeridoo, and no rattles or electronic wind instruments, but it does have sound contributions from Roach's now-familiar collaborators Byron Metcalf and Jennifer Grais. The chords in track 1, "Perfect Dream," are unusually major and cheerful for Roach, while track 2, "Where I Live," is filled with birdsong and desert sunlight, a portrait of his Arizona home. (Thank God he doesn't live in a big traffic-filled city!) The next two tracks are even better. Track 3, "The Ancients' Way," builds on Roach's heroic wide-spaced "American modern symphony" chords, and about halfway through, includes a softly tapped rhythm sequence by Byron Metcalf. This is just a wonderful, perfect Roach piece. The next piece, "Deep Sky Time," is all-electronic, in which scintillating sequences sparkle over a deep drone. It's a cosmological sound, evoking the brilliance and twinkle of the stars on a clear desert night. The last cut is a moving, gentle lullaby sung wordlessly by Jennifer Grais, while a muffled piano (played by Projekt label's Sam Rosenthal) accompanies Roach's melody on the floating, sustained guitar. It's a sweet ending to one of Roach's best albums of the decade so far.
If you would like to listen to or even acquire some of this music for yourself, samples and CD's are all available at the Steve Roach website which I mentioned at the beginning of this text.
Posted at 11:56 pm | link
Trying to get serious
I was brought up to revere Serious Art. I was also taught strict criteria as to what Serious Art is. As longtime readers of this Weblog may remember, I enumerated some of the criteria in a couple of early entries from the spring of 2004, especially this one about the "Art Renewal Institute," an art promotion group which attempts to re-instate academic nineteenth century values in the visual arts. The Serious Criteria remain the same: "seriousness, that the art addresses universal human or natural concerns especially tragic ones, difficulty, that the art is not easily appreciated by just anyone, but takes some thinking and reflection to enjoy, and technical superiority, that it's done really well."
There is, however, a bit of trouble in this definition, as well as just about any other attempt to pin down what Serious Art is. Not everyone shares the same criteria. What I was taught about Serious Art, including much more than the definitions above, comes from a very specific, Euro-American cultural milieu, which flourished from the nineteenth to the twentieth century. And the most difficult thing about holding to this definition is that, at least nowadays in our globalized world, it excludes most of the art that is currently produced. But you can still find pretentious attempts at Seriousness, in art galleries and university art departments all over the world.
Why am I bringing this up again? Haven't I said enough and perhaps I should just shut up and make art, no matter what it is? Like someone raised in a strict religious tradition who has "fallen away," I still am haunted by my old indoctrination. I still judge my art production by the old "Is it serious?" dogmas that I grew up with. And of course, as with some sort of artistic Calvinism, I always come up short.
Let's take my current work as an example. I'm working on page 36 of a graphic novel that I started in 1999. It will take me many more years to finish it. In Europe, graphic novels (long-form comic books) have long since been accepted as "art" but in the USA they are only now, within the last ten years or so, being considered "seriously." And even then, the graphic novels taken seriously in the USA are ones with, uh, serious subjects, such as Art Spiegelman's famous Maus, a graphic novel portrayal of the Holocaust.
My graphic novel makes no pretense of "seriousness." It's an adventure story about a modern wizard and a volcanic eruption. It has no commercial potential and may never see the light of day either in print or online. However, I really cherish this work and enjoy doing it. In fact, I like doing it more than I like the properly defined "serious" work that I showed in the Massachusetts gallery back last October.
You know how you can instantly tell that some work of art, writing, etc. is Not Serious? There's a wizard in it. Or a super-hero. Or a spaceship. Or a dragon. Now sure, the great literature of the past, especially things from the ancient and medieval world, have wizards, superheroes (of a non-costumed sort), and dragons. But that was then, this is now. What happened to take the dragons and the wizards out of the world of Seriousness and put them into the world of kitsch and childishness?
Just a century or so ago, Serious Art fans (Germans, especially, and they own seriousness) thrilled to portrayals of the aforementioned fantasy or mythological characters in the works of Richard Wagner. You've got dragons, helmeted sword-wielding warriors, flying Walkyrie maidens, evil or misguided magic users, half-human creatures, gods, goddesses, and all sorts of other types which are now represented in role-playing games, big-budget fantasy films, and comic books. How did the seriousness of Germany turn into the entertainment triviality of "Dungeons and Dragons?"
Tolkien fans might say, "What about LORD OF THE RINGS? Isn't that Serious?" Well, as a good friend of mine might say, "Yes and no." Many readers of "serious" literature detest Tolkien's fantasy epic. For an example of their opinions, here's an essay by Chris Mooney from a few years ago. One evaluation of Tolkien makes the connection more clear: LORD OF THE RINGS is sometimes seen as a tacky British imitation of Wagner. Which brings us back to Wagner and why dragons aren't Serious any more.
The horrors of the twentieth century, and the Nazis' use of Wagner as their propaganda, are in my opinion what devalued the dragons and wizards. In the Mooney essay, he cites some critics as claiming that Tolkien's story, and its brutality, was inspired by the author's experiences during World War I (and the situation of World War II, during which it was written). If LORD OF THE RINGS could be seen as an allegory of World War II, then it starts looking "Serious" again — just as a comic book about the Holocaust can be Serious while a comic book about a super-hero cannot. But few educated people can look at depictions of blond barbarians in horned helmets, or heroic maidens in armor, and not at least subliminally think of the Third Reich, and from there, back into the dungeons of mass entertainment.
I claim no historical or social commentary in my own graphic novel. If I knew what was good for me, I'd put it aside and paint more, like, meaningful stuff, earnest abstractions and tasteful landscapes, or more of my allegorical "angels" or something. I can still do that, and someone might even pay me to do it. But I really want to depict that wizard working his magic. So like a good artistic Puritan, I feel guilty. I'm doing work that is not Serious, and I like it.
Posted at 11:56 pm | link
I spend a lot of my time keeping myself from saying and doing things. You do too, but maybe you haven't kept track of how much you do it. It seems that I am constantly saying "I'm sorry," or "I apologize," even if I haven't even done anything that is worthy of it. You may remember one of my Electron posts from last year about "apologizing for everything." Well, not much has changed, except that I'm more aware of it.
Long ago, when I was a college student, I was obsessed with improving my character. I had lists of my unacceptable behaviors, which I was to monitor throughout the day so that I could eradicate them and replace them with better behaviors. Rude remarks, loud talking, interrupting other people, were some of the behaviors which I hoped to remove. And then there were thought-behaviors, too, which came out in writing as well as in talking. The worst of these were GENERALIZATION and STEREOTYPING, especially in human social situations. I reminded myself again and again that one must not make "sweeping generalizations" (they're always "sweeping," as if they were armed with brooms) about human actions, ethnicities, genders, or any other feature. Stereotypes were just as bad. Every human being must be considered as a unique individual, without any prejudice, and without any previous consideration of his or her social, racial, religious, or any other status. All human beings were created equal and unique. Noble sentiments and ideals, indeed.
As with all idealistic quests, I failed this one every day. I had a written journal, which I still keep. In those days, I marked a green dot on each day that I had failed to live up to my behavior improvement rules. There was a green dot on almost every day's entry, along with the sins in question: Generalized. Interrupted. Made a sarcastic remark. Generalized again. Thou Shalt Not Generalize, when human beings are concerned!
Now, thirty years later, I've learned to behave, at least in public. And also on this Weblog. You will notice that I will not make any general statements about anything social, if I can help it. General statements are fine if you are talking about physics. You can't offend a proton or the acceleration of gravity. But I try to not say anything "general" about gender or race or nationality or religion. That does not mean that I don't think these things. But I strive, as I did in those younger days, to constantly counteract the inner thug and bigot, or even pattern-recognizer, which is always lurking inside me. In fact, now that I am older, there are even more bad behaviors to watch out for. And I fail just as consistently. Thus, I'm sorry, and I apologize, all the time, giving my public and writing persona a kind of fussy, unconfident, self-reproaching ambivalence, which barely hides a bossy, aggressive, self-important transgressor. But something caught my eye recently, about all this apologizing, as I was reading a review of a book that just came out.
The book is called SELF MADE MAN, written by a journalist named Norah Vincent. In this book, she tells the story about the eighteen months she spent in disguise, passing as a male. I really want to read this book. Now if you are a journalist, you might actually be able to say something which might be construed as a "general statement" about something social, so I will simply quote Ms. Vincent as she was quoted in the book review:
"One of the things I picked up as a man was projecting a certain confidence and authority and entitlement," Vincent says. "As a woman, you're often apologizing for things."
It was just one of those things which makes me go, "hmmmm." Can't say anything about gender myself, but I offer thanks to Norah Vincent and all the other gender explorers and innovators and founding feminists, who dared to do what I must not.
Posted at 11:55 pm | link
The encounter that did not change my life
I was very much into electronic music in my high school years, as I have written about much earlier in this Webjournal. One moment in my electronic years stands out in my memory just as my later visit to Fermilab in 2000 did. I cannot remember just when this was, though some astute readers might be able to help me through the technological details. I have so far failed to find it entered in my written journals of that era. This moment probably took place in 1968 or 1969. It was the day that my father and I went to see the MAC PDP11 computer at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
My father was, for some years, director of the Electronic Music Studio at Brandeis University, where I would later go as a student. This entitled him to have access to all sorts of electronic music devices, studios, and concerts. I was constantly using the studio when the Brandeis students weren't there, and my father and I produced hours of taped improvisations, he playing the piano and I playing the Buchla Modular Synthesizer which was the mainstay of our studio. These taped sessions, including pieces of structured music edited from the sessions, still remain only on reel-to-reel tapes and I fervently hope that they have not turned to dust in the long years of storage.
One contact we had was at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, that is, M.I.T. I believe that our contact was the cyber/physicist Ed Fredkin, who was our neighbor a few houses down. He also introduced us to the famous cyberneticist Marvin Minsky. Through these guys, my father got an invitation to view what was then the hottest computer in the shop, the "MAC PDP 11." Since I was so active in the studio, I got to go along with my father when we visited the computer. We were introduced to the MAC PDP-11 (its "Mac" has, as far as I know, no relation to the Mac of Macintosh computers), and we met Marvin Minsky. Then we got the demonstration.
Not only was this computer able to do simple musical sounds, but it could play chess. Nowadays in the age of "Deep Blue" and other chess-playing computer marvels, not to mention any simple chessplaying program for your personal computer, a chess-playing computer was an exciting novelty.
The computer was set up in its own cramped room, jammed with equipment and specially air-conditioned to keep the electronic heat down. As I remember, it consisted of big, tall openwork boxes with dark-enameled riveted metal facing on them and some flashing lights. These boxes were connected by huge braids of cordage, inches thick, which were taped down to the floor with black electrical tape. We had to be very careful not to trip over them. The communications interface was a little typewriter-like keyboard, and a white-on-black screen no bigger than the 15-inch monitor screen I am currently staring at.
Some electronic music was played, possibly from our Brandeis tapes. Then we were challenged to play chess with the machine. My father was (and probably is still) a fine chess player, and even I could play a little chess back then, so we were confident that we could beat a big clunky machine. But as I remember, the machine played brilliantly in all the games we played. The moves had to be input from the keyboard and appeared as chesspiece symbols on a grid. We thought that a machine could not be "creative" or daring, but in one game, it actually sacrificed its queen for a winning advantage! The machine was amazingly proficient.
I have to add at this point that the room-size computer of the late '60s, attended by a team of experts and costing a fortune to develop and maintain, had less power and computing ability than the Dell desktop at which I am now writing this, as well as my companion Dell laptop. However, the connecting cables are still all over the floor, but behind the desk rather than taped up with electrician's tape.
I was in awe of this great machine, and of its contemporary relative which was at Brandeis. Brandeis had just one computer, and it was also sequestered inside its own special room. This room had a big picture window where spectators could look in on it, as the teams of computer scientists in their white short-sleeved shirts and black pants ministered to it. I never got to enter that room.
In those days I was busy with creative writing, both poetry and fiction, as well as my schoolwork, especially Latin. I was doing plenty of tape music, too, but I was never more than a user of equipment; I was not a builder or a developer or a programmer. It never occurred to me, while in the sanctuary of the MAC PDP-11, to say, "Hey, could I learn to work that thing, too?" And nobody ever asked me whether I might want to, either. I never entered that world. Back as a math-incompetent high school student, I figured that computers were impossible for me, because they involved math. I wonder how things might be different for me had I conceived a desire to work with these awesome computing machines back when I was just a teenager. It is a pointless speculation about non-existence, rather like playing with "alternate histories:" what if the Confederates fought the Communists?
I went back to my life as high school pedant and poet and artist, my mind filled with Vergil and Marvel Comics rather than assembly language. I got C minuses in math and barely passed. More than thirty years later, in a year 2000 I could not imagine back in the late '60s, I stood in the lofty hall of Fermilab, having been introduced to an even more awesome machine, and this time I asked the question and voiced my counter-historical desire. "Could I learn physics? I want more physics!" Now, as 2006 begins, I am still working on the high school physics I never learned back in the days of the PDP-11.
Posted at 11:55 pm | link
Open Window, by Robert Rich: a review
I've been following the work of composer Robert Rich for years now. He is one of the finest American ambient musicians, constantly creative yet retaining an unmistakable individual style. Readers of this Weblog may look back to my early entry about Rich and other ambient creators, which will tell you briefly about Rich's music. But what I didn't realize until just last year was that Rich was not only a synthesizer and wind player, but a pianist.
Robert Rich has a "signature" style which carries over to most of his albums, whether he is solo or with a collaborator. It is a very slow, often eerie atmosphere of synthesizer drones and spooky flute notes, tied together with the sustained wailing of a lap steel guitar. He uses microtones rather than conventional harmonies, and specializes in the alternative tuning known as "just intonation." So when I learned that Rich was releasing a piano album, I figured that the piano would be re-tuned to just intonation, as had been done by other avant-garde composers such as Terry Riley. (Danger: wacky psychedelic site!) But Rich chose instead to play a conventionally tuned piano, his own antique baby grand, in his own studio. "Open Window" is the selected result of hours of Rich's improvisations, which he used to play before his concerts as well as for himself alone. You can read about the process of composition at his "Open Window" notes page." It is not quite spontaneous, since it is edited, but it isn't pre-written either (at least for this recording.)
Listsening to these solo piano pieces, it is easy to pick out Rich's influences, noted by many other reviewers: Alan Hovhaness especially, Thomas de Hartmann arranging Gurdjieff, Erik Satie, as well as other more modern types such as the aforementioned Riley or Philip Glass or Keith Jarrett. But to my ears there are also influences on Rich from nineteenth-century Late Romantic Europe: the Russian Scriabin and especially the French Impressionist, Claude Debussy. His chords and his use of fifths are very much Debussean. Even more French are his "Westernized" use of Eastern scales derived from Indonesian gamelan or Iranian santur or Indian ragas, all of which Rich has studied. There is even an occasional hint of blues. It is a very erudite set of pieces he plays. And even though it's recent, it's already one of my all-time favorite piano albums.
Influences don't really tell the story of this music. Listening to Robert Rich's music puts me into a contemplative, quiet world away from the frantic shrieking of the public soundtracks. It's more than "meditation music." It's a powerful countercultural statement: acoustic music, played not to invoke heated emotion, or sticky sentiment, or fast-cutting violence or bitter irony or even clever self-conscious quote-weaving. Rich's window opens not onto the exhausting city, but into a fragrant inner garden cloister, where Persian fountains ripple in the quiet and poetry rises into the clear sky.
There is a sad afternote to this review I must report. Early last year, Robert Rich severely injured his right hand in an accident. Despite months of therapy, he has not regained complete use of it, so he no longer is able to play piano with both hands. I hope that either he is able to recover completely, or that somehow he will be able to keep this music going by writing it for another performer. He is already working on new music, on other instruments adapted for his use.
Posted at 11:54 pm | link
Spam of consciousness
I don't get many e-mails, at least "real" e-mails from people I know or do business with. I am on some mailing lists, but those are not aimed directly at me. I rejoice when I receive nice comments from readers of this Electron Weblog. Positive messages just make my whole day. But the vast majority of the e-mails I receive, as with most people who use Internet, are SPAM: unsolicited trash advertising, mailed in bulk of billions.
Earthlink's excellent filter removes all of the incoming spam from my main e-mail receiver, and sequesters it in holding files where I can go over it to make sure that no "legitimate" e-mail has been mistakenly filtered. I wrote about this whole process in an entry from November 2004. The situation is the same this year, but instead of an annoyance, I now regard these millions of falling leaves of spam as a kind of surrealistic entertainment. Perhaps it is even a kind of literature, a stream of cyber-consciousness, as the messages from all those made-up but virtually real names reach the filter's inbox.
Having used up the ordinary names, they've opened up their Kleimo Random Name Generator to more ethnic and less common names. But the Random Name Generator doesn't match the ethnicity of first and last names, so I get a wildly globalized mix of spam-names such as "Otthild McCarty" or "Gyuri Goggins" or "Bienvenida Tarlton" or "Concepcion Rutherford." Even more surrealistic is my phantom correspondent "Apolline Blum," who sounds like a character from some risque' novelette from the 1920s. The strings of absurd names and spam texts remind me of the literary experiments of the twentieth century, whether it is Joycean punfests or Gertrude Stein stammers or William Burroughs' weird cut-up verbal collages.
When even those names fail to reach the intended targets, the spammers move on to bizarre names concocted of one actual human name and another random word. I have thus received messages from "Pigeonhole Strickland," "Salvage Kaiser," "Stateroom Warren," "Housewares Lowry," and that charming guy "Jeffrey Xylophone." Sorry, Mr. Xylophone, I don't have a house to re-finance my mortgage with.
The funniest and most entertaining spam-names remain the ones which are composed from two not-quite-random dictionary words with a single middle initial. I don't know what the generator program for this one is, but I say that they are not quite random because almost all the words are multi-syllable words that are more than ordinary vocabulary. They are nouns, noun plurals, verbs, verbal forms from past tense to participles; adverbs, adjectives, and even proper nouns such as names of places and people. The name word salad generated by this program, within those parameters, appears to be random, but often results in either hilarious or intriguing combinations. Many of them can be discarded as just combinatoric duds, such as "Ore H. Bruins" or "Extincted B. Reform." But there are so many good ones that it's hard to stop quoting them, the ones which elicit humor and hilarity in my quarantined inbox.
My better correspondents include the canine philosopher "Doggier U. Kierkegaard," the fretting engineer "Distressingly J. Compactest," and the romance novelist "Ravished D. Confrontational." I have received urgent messages from "Grimacing P. Chastised," "Startlingly A. Carouses," "Angrier M. Effervesce," and "Strenuous O. Incremental." Meanwhile, helpful solicitations arrive from "Bahama G. Launderer," "Hairsplitting F. Bingo," and "Lithography E. Bookings."
If I need help with my spiritual life, I could always answer the mails I received from "Cements L. Transubstantiation," "Reorganizing U. Chant," "Syriac U. Conks," or my favorite, "Flapped V. Vatican." But I would much rather seek out the company of computer expert "Cecilia R. Mainframe," feminist "Suffragist F. Separatists," herb-puffing lawyer "Inhalation S. Jurisprudence," or Near Eastern short-order cook "Turk K. Cheeseburgers." Honestly, I am not making any of these "names" up. They all came from real spam mailings.
What are they all trying to sell me? Drugs, drugs, and more drugs. At least recently, all these marvelous monikers come with the same come-ons for online prescription drugs. This virtual crowd with its colorful array of comedic names is a plethora of phantom pharmacists, dealing out endless numbers of pills (many, if not most of them counterfeit) for the ills that we computer-addicted moderns live with. But the drug that they deliver to me is laughter. Here are the winners, the funniest ones I've received so far. Thank you for those lovely drug-logo-embellished napkins, "Unused H. Toiletries." And I share your pain, "Remorse F. Misunderstanding." You are the eight-hundred-pound canary, Mr. "Tweeting Q. Omnivorous." I will not corrupt you, "Precious S. Essence." I love your noble Roman mathematics, "Quirinal H. Exponentiation." And they are all marshaled by their boss, the chief executive of Cloud-Cuckoo Pharmaceutical Marketing, the most apt name of them all: "Quirkiest O. Ironic."
Posted at 11:54 pm | link
My physics work has taken me into a world of things hanging from ropes and pulleys, either unmoving at equilibrium or moving at a steady, industrial speed. For a moment I wondered why all this was necessary, and then I took a drive through my neighborhood and saw these things everywhere. The traffic lights, hanging signs, streetlights and phone poles held by guy wires, all of them are high school physics problems in the "real world" of a city infrastructure.
I never, ever thought I would see an American city destroyed. I am still in shock about it, even though I was only there for one memorable day. I have heard that some of the French Quarter, including that restaurant where I did the sketch, probably survived, though it was vandalized and looted. Right now, every time I look at the dry streets, flourishing business, and even the traffic of my urban area, I don't take it for granted any more. Not to mention the hilly terrain, that would keep many places safe from floods. All those sines and cosines, the ups and downs and co-efficients of friction, build a working world.
A Damn Long Road to Reality
An Electron reader wrote to me suggesting that I read THE ROAD TO REALITY by British mathematical physicist Roger Penrose. I went to the bookstore and opened a copy of it. Good grief, there were more equations on those pages than I had done in a whole year. And they were highly advanced stuff, things I may never ever get to. Or if I get to them, I'll be really old. Penrose's reality is somewhere far away from mine, where I am still cranking high school mechanics for the foreseeable future.
Let's face it, there is no good reason why I should ever need to learn mathematics and physics to the level of Penrose's book. Why should I trouble my curly little head with attempting to learn this stuff. I should stay in my studio making pretty pictures and cute signs. But I have my own personal reasons why I want to eventually attain enough mathematical and physics knowledge to read Penrose's book intelligently. I enumerated some of those reasons last year in an entry from March 12 though some of those reasons, both right and wrong, have changed a bit. When it comes to physics, I feel like an old-fashioned kid looking at a big league baseball game. I know that I will never make it past the sandlot, but I admire the skill and ability and achievements and feats of the big league players so much that I want to be like them. If I ever were to read Penrose's book and understand his equations with real comprehension, it would be like running the bases at Fenway Park.
Posted at 11:53 pm | link
How I Learned to Love Thunderstorms
It was a thundery day today in Rainforest City, with drenching noisy storms moving between intervals of steamy pearl-grey light. Thunder echoed in the mist, and lightning blazed in the sky well into the evening. I was pleased and satisfied, enjoying my favorite type of weather. But it wasn't always my favorite type of weather.
Up until my twentieth year, all the way through my childhood and into my young adulthood, I was terrified of thunderstorms. When the lightning lit the horizon, I felt dread and horror. As a child I dashed into my parents' room during a thundery night; the storms were especially scary at night. I pushed my head into my pillow and covered my ears, wrapped my blanket over my eyes so I wouldn't see that terrible lightning. At summer sleep-away camp I made a fool of myself with my whimpering during storms.
But I remember a single moment when my terror of thunderstorms turned to tolerance, and then appreciation. It was in 1973, when I had a summer job at the Moog Synthesizer factory outside of Buffalo, NY. (I wrote about this in my essay series "Growing up With Electronic Music," which I placed as a link in an early entry on this Weblog.) Buffalo's lakeside, flat geography engenders lots of thunderstorms, including unusual ones in the morning, where the sky turns red and the storms begin their eastward journey across New York State.
Buffalo had a classical music station, WBFO (which now plays only jazz). I listened to my favorite music on that station while I lived with my host family: a Moog engineer, his wife and their three lively children. One morning, the sky out the window turned that ominous red, and I heard the sound of thunder. I felt the old terror coming at me, and I decided to switch on the radio to try to drown out the sound. WBFO was playing Saint-Saens' Symphony no. 3, the "Organ Symphony." If any piece of music could match a thunderstorm, this is it, a bombastic, driving musical pile-up with really thunderous organ chords. The symphony lasted as long as the thunderstorm, or vice versa, and after that, my storm fear was gone. Somehow, Saint-Saens had not only taken it away, but taken it into the symphony. Now, whenever I hear that symphony, I think of thunderstorms! I have enjoyed thunderstorms ever since, from Buffalo storms which come in from Lake Erie across the flat land, to East Coast storms which gather over the woods and hills, and one memorable one in Iowa when I truly thought the world was going to explode.
I have become a connoisseur. Each storm has its own personality, its own pace and structure, as if they were pieces of music authored by a weather-composer. And now that I am scientifically minded, I will be able to appreciate them as demonstrations of high-energy physics, available to everyone, without the need for a multi-billion-dollar particle accelerator.
Posted at 11:53 pm | link
You haven't heard from me this last week, because I have been sick as the proverbial dog. I was felled by a virulent stomach virus which has been very common in my area, which I probably picked up at my crowded workplace. I struggled to get through three workdays, and then it got too bad for me to go to work. I will spare you gentle readers the details of this affliction, but I was not able to eat anything for two days, and even now, when I'm recovered enough to work, write, and paint, I can't eat anything but mild stuff like toast and chicken soup. It wasn't a computer virus, but it certainly wiped out my central processing unit.
It was so bad that I couldn't do any math or physics, or even read a book. I was in virus limbo for about two days. But by the weekend I was able to get out of the house and do ordinary tasks again. So I have returned to both art and physics. My current book of choice, which I will be using for some time, is the Barron's high school self-teaching text, hopefully called PHYSICS THE EASY WAY. I have commented on this condescending title in an earlier posting. But I regard myself as a perpetual beginner, so I am re-visiting the very basic things like scientific notation and concepts of measurement. After that, I'll work my way again through now-familiar territory like vectors, forces, time and distance, gravity, and of course, Newton's laws.
Newton's on Third again, and I would like to know where the equal and opposite reactions are. So I sent a message to one of my Friendly Scientists, who has been a wonderful teacher so far, asking what was really going on with Newton's Third Law. He replied with these enlightening words:
"The problem is that Newton's Third is usually stated incompletely or inaccurately….It only applies to what are called "static" situations. If the object or point of interest in a problem is not moving, then the total….force on that object must be zero….you "invent" the necessary "reaction force:" (like the floor pushing up, or the rope pulling back) such that the total comes out zero."
At which point, I finally got the notion. So THAT's what they're talking about with the equal and opposite reaction and the floor pushing up. I kept imagining inanimate objects coming to life with a will of their own, like animated cartoon characters, pushing or pulling me about.
But if I push something over, such as a styrofoam cup on the kitchen table, it is a situation with unbalanced force, which comes back into equilibrium when something falls over and comes to rest. (Like me with the virus, but its force was biological rather than Newtonian-physical.)
So I replied to the Scientist:
It seems like there is really a whole chain of things of different mass affecting each other through various forces. Earth, me, the chair, the kitchen table, the styrofoam cup, etc. It isn't as simple as it looks.
And he then replied:
"There is no action at a distance…. (this is) the key to mechanics….Forces are local, and local forces act, one point to the next and one object to the next, all the time."
Many thanks to this Friendly Scientist, who is so generous with his knowledge and time.
I must also mention another scientist, whose Website I mentioned eleven months ago, when I was just beginning to write this Weblog. This is the cosmologist Max Tegmark, whom I profiled in my entry for February 9, 2004. After I wrote that entry, I notified him by e-mail that I had written about him on my Weblog. I never got a reply from him, so I just figured that like all scientists, he was just too intensely busy to answer. Well, just a few days ago I received a reply from Max Tegmark, who had somehow found the 11-month-old e-mail and responded to it. He suggested that perhaps my e-mail had fallen through the cracks into one of his parallel universes. He was delighted that I had written about his "enchanted world" and wished me well. The blue Electron received a beam of winter sunlight that day.
An afterword to this discussion of forces and action: I say that there is at least one force that acts at a distance, though it is not a physical force. Culture and communication form their own "metaphysical" world. If there is any force that really does act at a distance, it is the force of the human imagination.
Posted at 11:52 pm | link