Well, fractal fans, I will not conceal that 2013 was a deeply disappointing year for me, both romantically and in the political-judicial-social sphere. But the former should and shall remain private (I am a gentleman of the old school) and to expound on the latter, I fear, would only decrease such audience as I have for my basically unpolitical artwork. I mean, I have viewers in Russia, China, Iran; have found my stuff juxtaposed with art bordering on the sick and morally reprehensible and just as often found myself in the company of the most insufferable Little-Miss-Sunshine übersimplistic optimists; have been linked to by Christians, New Agers, and Atheists. I have my beliefs and convictions, often vehement: but not here, at least not now.
But one thing I must comment on, an issue cutting across all the categories currently dividing our society - the horrible changes, amounting to butchery for the creative, that Google has made on Youtube. It affects me quite personally, as I have a presence on Youtube, where I'm known as "fractalbeethoven." Check me out, http://www.youtube.com/user/fractalbeethoven if you're interested.
Those of you who only visit now and then to catch the latest viral video may wonder what I'm talking about. Well, briefly, Google has insisted that all their Youtube posters must have an account on Google+ (their lame Facebook clone) - has in fact signed them up for one whether they will or no - and, in a move they call "integration" (am I the only one who hears "Gleichshaltung"? Or have I just read too much about the Thirties?) have insisted on merging all a user's Youtube identities onto this one channel.
What's so bad about that? Well, I was so...stupid, must now be the word...that I opened my Youtube channel with the username and password I use for my day job. I'm not ashamed of what I do - still less of my work with Fractals - but the briefest reflection will show why those two facets of my life must remain separate. But tell that to Google!
After losing the ability to comment I went so far as to open a completely different channel and recreate my stuff - alas! Instead of the former row of videos - which the user at his/her option could split into different categories - and a listing box which would by default play them one after another (until the hearer stopped it), the page now reads like the most boring social-media page imaginable. "Suchandsuch posted a video". No chaining. No splitting into categories. Google cares so much about their Youtube content contributors that it hasn't even updated their Help pages to reflect the new diktat.
And all this is on top of their last power-grab, when they took away users' ability to design their own homepage...
But of course, it's Google's nickel. And one of the best features of the free-enterprise system is that there's choice. If you don't like what A is offering, go to B.
Except that, for me, there doesn't seem to be a B. There is a social media site for musicians called fandalism (http://fandalism.com), if you're interested). A lot smaller than Youtube - but growing fast after this latest outrage - and populated by exactly the kind of people who would most appreciate my music. Alas, it's not a standalone, it's an add-on to Facebook - an entity which has its own bad history of privacy violations and forcing unwanted changes on users. And even if it didn't, I have absolutely no interest in joining Facebook. Joining a social-media site I don't want to join as a reaction against being forced into another one I don't want to be a part of doesn't seem like an effective strategy to me.
There is of course Vimeo. But its search feature requires Google Ads and you have to turn off some privacy features in Firefox and even Chrome to get it to work.
You'd think I was trying to decorate my Christmas tree without dealing with the Chinese government...
To give the devil (yes Google, that's you) his due, they claim they did this to cut down on the proliferation of nasty and beyond nasty comments. In plain English: bullshit! I got into some of this with German nationalists of a certain description in the Comment section of some German folksongs. Few peoples can be as verbally brutal as the Germans, they really flung it at me. But they'd thrown down the glove to a Volksdeutscher: I stood my ground and gave as good as I got.
As a younger man than me might say, if you can't stand the aggression stay out of the mosh pit...
But enough. I soldier on, hoping in the best American tradition
that 2014 will be better. But meanwhile, I would ask my readers of the
Left to consider all this and reflect how imposed changes by large institutions
(yes I'm talking about, but not only about, Obamacare) can totally screw
up people's lives, plans, and dreams. And my readers on the Right to consider
the African proverb: Every man for himself, said the elephant among the
--posted 24 Feb 2014
next article up
WHEN YOU REACH YOUR SIXTIES youre old enough to have seen it all and still young enough to remember clearly and care deeply. So the most sadly surprising development of the past few years for me has been the rise of militant intolerant proselytizing atheism.
I correct myself: militant intolerant proselytizing non-Marxist atheism.
Atheism itself I know from the inside, as do many believers. But the atheism of former decades was a quieter, more dismissive affair: believers were fools. Now, were villains, accused of monstrous, innumerable, but unspecified crimes against the human spirit.
Really! In the past 95 years the forces of organized Atheism have killed and tortured more humans than all believers of all persuasions in the preceding two millennia. What, o godless ones, could we possibly have done to begin to hold a candle to that? But we never get a bill of particulars, of course: just more vituperation à la mode.
If the insults flung at religion (and especially Jesus) were directed
at any human being, most people would have no trouble coming to one or
both of the following conclusions:
Now for any human being substitute back in God. I fail to see that these conclusions need to be changed in the slightest.
The old Communists were at least psychologically straightforward, and leaned to conclusion 2: religion stood in the way of their political agenda so they tried their best to eliminate it and anything else that might oppose them.
But todays militant atheists lean strongly to reason 1: and so I must ask, What part of God is so intolerable to you? The destruction of your sense of superiority based on an overly narrow version of rationality? The reminder that your life is not your own and you will someday be called upon to give account for it? The disapproval of your sexual arrangements? The idea that there exists a standard of right and wrong higher than and independent of anything you can legislate/intimidate/judicially force into existence?
Or as Nietzsche said (Zarathustra Part IV), If there were gods, how could I endure not to be a god? Therefore, there are no gods.
--posted 20 July 2012
But although it was happening, this time, in his own language (at least sort of), it didn't take a man never at a loss to know the end, and a tear escaped him and fell to the boat. He followed it with his eyes, and saw by his feet a white thing, a "newspaper," artifact of one of the nightmare-worlds he kept getting thrown into.
It was a world he hated above all the others, a gray and formless place, built on lies and evasions. They spoke proudly of their individuality and swarmed like ants. They kept mumbling Sustainability, and didn't even produce enough children to sustain their own society. They boasted high-mindedly of their freedom of speech, and ran with malicious and evil glee to break and destroy any who transgressed their unwritten limits.
And now they had allowed women into the heart of the Council, set weaklings and inverts in high office, procured beggars seats in the ecclésia, taught the children to despise their country, and brought men before judgment for acting like warriors. And to cap it all they had debased their money.
And now the "newspaper" asked, How may our problems be solved? His lip curled in contempt. Could none of them recognize the obvious? But clearly, it was one of the things they weren't allowed to say.
Ah, Penelope, Penelope! But she was gone, beyond all sailing even for a bold far-rover like himself, too far even for the audacious travelers of the void on whom the gray world was now turning its back. Lead me to her, Hermes Psychepompos, part of him screamed, let me plead my cause to dour Hades, and if he spurn me then let me play for the sympathy of Queen Persephone. For, all cold and wrapped in worms as she may be, yet she will not despise a love of the old sort, or censure a man for boldness, or condemn him for eleuthería. Pallas Athena, companion of old, sofía personified, speak a word for me to All-Father Zeus!
Yet he knew that, even if his boon were granted, he'd handle it no better than sweet-singing Orpheus. Besides, the goddess had visited him shortly afterwards. "There were reasons," she said, and her eyes had moistened beneath her severe war-helmet.
Somewhere, he knew, beyond the gray world and the other nightmares, the sun yet shone through crystal air and the wine-dark sea lapped at blinding white sand beaches. And on those beaches the children yet shouted and played, trampling the footprints the lovers had made the night before. And great shoals of fish still swam in that sea, and the fishermen sang and pushed their boats with the high painted prows out into the water, and pulled hard at the oars to drive them past the breakers.
Where was that Reality? What had happened? He thought he remembered Circe, and something about mushrooms. You wouldn't think she would, not after they...but...
He was conscious of sitting in a chair before a glowing screen, so different
from the captain's bench on his fair ship where he gazed out to the far
horizon. It was fading, all of it. Hurriedly he wrote, to get it all down
before it changed into something else
--posted 1 May 2012
WELL, FRACTAL FANS, it can come as no surprise that my output has dimished this year. Whether this is a temporary slowdown or a permanent sea change remains to be seen. But it's certainly true that my interest has been diverted of late: primarily to a sound editing program, Audacity, freeware and open source, and brought to you by the same people that host the fractal program Apophysis that's been my prime creative tool these last couple years.
It's a full-featured sound editing program, capable of everything from multi-channel original recording and mixdown to simple tasks like chopping the applause off live tracks and flattening out the volume variations in classical music to turn it into background go-to-sleep stuff. Somewhere inbetween is the following mashup, which I include simply because I like it. Always did love those sci-fi echo loops, and I still can't get over the way digital allows you to alter speed and pitch independently -- a capability we would have killed for back in the days of analog tape (yes, I'm a veteran of real-to-reel)
So enjoy! Music to look at fractals by.
--posted 14 October 2011
The arc of history, in the long run, bends
toward justice. Martin Luther King Jr.
Despite the bewildering array of opening quotes, this essay is occasioned by my reading of Brian Greenes The Elegant Universe, an explanation for the layman, by one of its leading researchers, of String Theory.
The basic idea of string theory is that the elementary particles (electrons, quarks, etc.) that are conceived of as point particles in the standard model of particle physics are in fact tiny (on the order of the Planck length, approximately 1x10-33 cm) vibrating one-dimensional strings. But the devil is in the mathematical details. These infinitesimal strings are vibrating under literally tons of tension. They are moving in an 11-dimensional spacetime. The theory requires (due to an arcane symmetry principle) the existence of a whole class of particles none of which, though they should be discoverable at energies available or soon to be available to us, have been found.
So with all the improbabilities (and some mind-bending consequences I wont even attempt to explain), why is string theory seen by many as the cutting edge of physics? Because symmetry principles have been perhaps the greatest driver of progress in modern physics. Because string theory can eliminate the incompatibility between relativity and quantum mechanics. Because it shows promise if we can ever formulate its equations precisely enough and learn how to solve them of deriving the masses and other properties of the elementary particles, which now must be merely expressed as givens, as direct consequences of the theory, arising naturally from the vibration of the strings in a certain configuration of multidimensional spacetime.
The mathematics behind such a theory could not be simple; and indeed, its daunting even to the physicists working with it, pushing the very envelope of pure-mathematical technique. Greene has written a book for laymen. But a glance in the appendix at some of his notes for the mathematically inclined reader is quite enough to scare off 99.9% of us.
I have to explain my own position here. Me and mathematics parted company somewhere around the middle phases of completing the square, where I just could not see, despite many efforts to enlighten me, how what was being proposed was in fact doing the same thing to both sides of the equation. That there are areas of mathematics I cant understand whose very existence is unknown to me is no strange concept. But when physicists speak of a particle or its properties arising naturally from a set of equations (or being rendered impossible), I begin to feel myself in the presence of the kind of mindset that discovered concepts like the Trinity and Calvinist predestination within the pages of the Bible.
My most lasting impression, in fact, is how much the whole enterprise resembles medieval Scholasticism: a withdrawn expertocracy doing highly arcane research in a foreign language (there, Latin; here, mathematics) on the basis of principles as unprovable as Euclids axioms (though far less obvious to the uninitiated) and without the least hope of any confirmation within any reasonable time frame in this outer Universe.
And may I add (as Greene himself does) the shortcoming which no amount of peer-reviewed research will remedy: the lack of a master ground-idea, like Einsteins principle of equivalence between gravitation and acceleration, or his acceptance of the constancy of the speed of light not as an anomaly to be explained, but as the very foundation of a new world-view.
Obviously, scientific truths cannot be discovered without the organizational/technical apparatus to discover them or at least verify the work of those geniuses who, against all odds, discover them anyway. But once those truths are discovered, I ask myself, do they change society or is it the nature of the society itself that determines which truths are capable of being found?
The late Carl Sagan was fond of remarking that the Aristotelian worldview was the natural outgrowth of a slaveholding society, and found it significant that, while the Hellenic scientists and philosophers questioned everything else, they never questioned the rightness of slavery. But there, whatever the validity of his first point, he went a bit too far. After all, when did Sagan or any of his fellows question the legitimacy of a societal structure that inserts its regulatory and tax-extraction apparatus into areas of human existence and family life that every other civilization in the history of this planet has considered private, and has turned its citizens into mere serial-numbered data-subjects as a consequence/enabler? And the reason for their silence is the same as Aristotles: who pays their bills?
The Newtonian universe was one of Euclidian space running by known laws, and a separate, absolute time truly a perfect fit for a society navigating the whole globe and starting to invent complex machinery, including timepieces accurate and motion-independent enough to serve as aids in that navigation.
Einsteinian spacetime destroyed those certainties, and was often quoted in defense of moral relativism. But society was well on its way to moral relativism anyhow, and according to Bertrand Russell (who at least was there) Einstein was much more excuse than cause.
The case is perhaps more complex with quantum mechanics. But the Uncertainty Principle has more-than-scientific resonances in this age of ours, and in the dichotomy between quantum-scale phenomena and the macrocosm to say nothing of the incommensurability of quantum mechanics and general relativity one can see (I can, anyway) a paradigm of the fundamental disconnect of our time: on one side a physical universe of violence on a grand scale and a biology of more-than-realpolitik ruthlessness, in which God, if not absolutely denied, plays no active part; and on the other a religious (no other word fits, even or especially for professional atheists like Dawkins) insistence on the values of altruism. Both sides, of course, to be defined and executed by the academic-bureaucratic class.
Conversely, Gregor Mendels work, meticulous as it was, was ignored for some half a century because it didnt fit with the scientific orthodoxy of the time.
And when it comes to the social sciences not even the words in which a truth is expressed hold their meaning. Take the quote of Dr. Kings with which I opened this article. I would be the last to shoot down an expression of long-range optimism from such a pc icon. And yet...a democratic man, whose people can only advance in a climate of democratic principles, in a profoundly democratic time when not only the academic-bureaucratic class but the judicial elite and the power directories of finance and industry have it as axiomatic that every individual must be allowed to rise in any social endeavor to the limit of their abilities what more natural than that such a man in such a time should see the bow as bending toward justice which of course is also defined democratically.
It should be obvious that I use the term democratic as deTocqueville used it, as the antonym of aristocratic, and in no way connected with any form of parliamentary governance, and certainly not with those values of freedom, responsibility and privacy which we continue to reflexively associate with democracy even as we legislate, regulate, and civil-lawsuit them out of existence.
But there are other voices, informed by other realities, speaking different truths. They see the loss by the West of its unquestioned predominance, the decay if not collapse of public morality, the squeezing of the middle class, an intelligentsia not merely divorced from but hostile to the ways and beliefs of the people, a lack of will to control even something so basic as immigration and recognize the telltale signs of a culture that has lost all faith in itself. And they know what the culture does not, that that faith is inseparable from the right to continued existence: and can only watch as the huge social organism hurries from one fatal admixture to the next as if propelled by some secret deathwish, fouling not only its environment (SOP for our species, unfortunately), but its foundational principles, its ideas, its national territory, and yes, its DNA.
So whose theory should we use to confirm (a certain set of) the experimental facts? Well, one could do worse than use the peer-review method in current favor. And both by majority rule (unless the courts overturn it, of course) and right of conquest (unless the intelligentsia doesnt like who won) we are all democrats. But a caveat. When your calculations yield infinite or absurd results, warns Greene, it is a sure sign you are pushing your theory into territory where it no longer applies.
Now the democratic voiding of artificial inequalities has in the past been the source of great progress. Starting with the elimination of distinctions based on religious confession, it has moved on to those based on birth, national origin, ethnicity, and finally sex and race. Our society (or the directing portions of it) now seems poised to extend the sweep of equality even farther, to those who deviate grossly from traditional standards of Western morality. I mention only Timothy Geitner and Barney Frank. Different names, and different lapses, will readily suggest themselves to any not totally anesthetized.
I personally find the assumptions behind this expansion wrong, its reasoning flawed, its implementation highly destructive of other values (religious freedom and the supremacy of the will of the majority, to name only two), and its chances of producing any net gain to society highly dubious at best.
And theres yet more. A positively Nietzschean transvaluation of all values is going on here. This expansion is being pushed not by the popular will or any significant portion of it, but by the courts and the elites. Democracy, in short, has been declared too important and complex to be left to the people and been entrusted to the tender mercies of the judicial elite and the academic-bureaucratic class.
In mythological terms: Luke Skywalker is beginning to look more and more like his father (and ruling with a hand of iron!).
Again: the progress of modern physics has been almost inseparable from the elimination of privileged frames of reference. For the ancients, the earth was the center of the Universe. Then the sun, then the galaxy. Now there are galaxies like grains of sand and the center is everywhere and nowhere, the uncertainty principle sets limits to what can be known, and all the matter we can see is only a tiny fraction of the total mass/energy of the cosmos.
Something analogous took place in the moral field. Civilization abstracted universal principles from tribal practices, so that even an enemy could be recognized, at least in certain ways, as a good man. The axial religions completed this separation of morality from ethnocentrism. Then Marx, and later Nietzsche in a different way, posited that even these abstracted moralities were but the power-lust of particular groups. Despite this, there remained a range of activities that believers, pagans, tribesmen, and even Marxists would all call good.
Its just these behaviors that now seem preferentially under attack: and in certain sectors of the ecology movement even the welfare of humanity is not seen as central. The consequences have not been long in coming, and I see many especially the young who hate themselves and everything they are, and have been encouraged to do so, in large part though by no means exclusively, by people old enough to know better.
One could argue with the conclusions I draw from my data. But that so many, preferentially of the most intelligent, educated, and evolved, have such a relationship to the circumstances in which they find themselves that they feel disinclined or disempowered to bring children into them, is not open to dispute.
We may have reached one of those junctures which is a turning point precisely because it does not turn. There are equators beyond which going south will not make you warmer, but the reverse. Only so much salt improves the flavor of the stew.
--posted 14 April 2011
The weathermen were predicting a moderate winter, but the wooly-bears (wooly-bullies, wooly-worms) said it was going to be a hard one. And at the end of the first period the score is Caterpillars 3, Meteorologists 0...
My grandson is surely getting a lot of use from the sled I redid for him this past Christmas. After all, this is getting to be a tradition but it's probably the last one. I think a lot while doing these projects (I think a lot anyway), mostly thoughts connected with the relationship of present and past. And I have to say, much as I love this old stuff, that the new plastic cheapo sliders are actually more in tune with the way we clear our roads these days.
But...send my granddaughters downhill on something whose raw material comes from a place where they made little girls like them BURN TO DEATH rather than run out uncovered? Give my grandson a gift from a country he may have to fight (and with nukes!) when he grows up? Say "Merry Christmas" with oil from a country that has made it a crime to preach parts of the Bible (like I Corinthians 6)? NO!
And if you don't know which 3 countries I'm talking about, shame on you! Saudi, Iran, and Canada (our largest source of foreign oil, by the way), if you needed the help.
As for new directions for myself this year, I am getting involved with 3-D, animation, and even electronic music. If you dont know what Im referring to you could do worse than start here. If I succeed in producing anything worthwhile (inshallah!), youll see it on my site.
And if I can offer some advice (the besetting sin of the old) it would be this: stay true to yourself and your experience. Dont be misled by arguments that underneath are nothing but concealed hucksterism; dont confuse possessions with happiness or reward with meaning; and above all, dont surrender your sense of right and wrong to pc kulturmeisters with their own (often unsavory) fish to fry.
And remember that one out of four people in this country is mentally ill. Think of your three closest friends. If they seem normal...its probably you.
--posted 31 January 2011
If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it probably is a duck. -- Folk Wisdom
AS CHRISTMAS APPROACHES other writers make lists of things they might want, for themselves or for the world. But I'm doing something a little different. I have in mind something I want, and I suspect a lot of other people in the world want: but we're not going to get it -- because, although it was once available, it no longer is. And unlike so much else in the cyberworld (and many other places) its unavailability has nothing to do with the Copyright Police, product liability lawyers, or insurance companies' rate-responses to product liability lawyers. So what is this piece of digital Unobtainium?
A 4x3 aspect ratio flatscreen monitor, that's what.
Try to buy one in this past year, and you'll find the only things available are low, wide 9x16's. That's great if you're watching movies on your computer, but how many of us do? I certainly don't. On the other hand, we all read things on our computers (if you don't you're probably not reading this either, so I stand by my "we") and writing, from the earliest Sumerian clay tablets to the Kindle, has always been in a taller-than-wide format.
Which is why, if you have new equipment, you're seeing so much white space on either side of this column. Full-screen print lines would be out-and-out unreadable. Fitting in two columns might be nice, but while publishing programs like Quark have no trouble flowing text between columns, it's beyond the capability of HTML -- at least the HTML I know. And that solution would leave people with older equipment out in the cold, which is something I resolutely refuse to do. This is the WORLD wide web and it includes our long-term unemployed and people in dirt-poor countries getting by on first-world castoffs, and I'll thank you sanctimonious rich-b****d SOB technosnobs to remember THAT as we celebrate the birthday of One born in a stable!
But the aesthetics of wasted space isn't even worth mentioning compared to the serious problem of distortion. Even in prosperous businesses and major universities, I've seen fonts stretched halfway to illegibility and squares turned into rectangles, because those computers simply aren't prepared to deal with the new standard aspect ratio. My son bought me a new monitor last Christmas and that was exactly what happened. A half-hour spent searching Help files and Wiki's told us that we should go to the website of our video card's manufacturer and download an upgrade.
Right. First of all, I was already ahead of 95% of you in that I already had a printout of my computer's hardware and knew exactly what card I had. For all the good it did me. My card wasn't even listed. Further reading of Wiki's informed me that even if I did solve the card problem the BIOS might not be able to handle the switch. We wound up swapping monitors.
So, in line with the quote that begins this article, let me propose the simplest reason for all this: THIS IS A CONSPIRACY designed to force the peons (e.g., you and me) to buy new equipment.
It's not the first time they've done it. Back in the 1960's (I ask my young readers to pardon this excursion into prehistory) record companies released their LPs (those 12" flat black vinyl thingies) in both stereo and mono formats. But sometime around 1966 or 1967 they decided that this was too expensive and dropped the mono. This in itself was no big deal, because (as even the record companies hastened to print on the backs of their albums) stereo records would play very nicely on good-quality mono equipment. And so they did, as I can personally attest. The two stereo tracks blended into something as good-sounding as if it had been specially made for mono players.
But "too many" people felt like me, evidently -- and kept their old mono players -- so, sometime around 1969 the companies began to make their records with the vocal tracks in "phase cancellation." This is a process whereby, for a certain sound, one stereo speaker is vibrating out, and the other in. When both channels are put into one speaker, of course, they cancel each other out -- hence the name. The end result is a record with the instruments sounding normal, but the vocals reduced to the faintest of whispers -- an ur-karaoke track a decade before karaoke reached these shores.
The first record to receive this treatment, to my knowledge, was Laura Nyro's third album (although the technique had been used on some minor background vocals on one cut of Moby Grape's vastly underrated first album some two years before). The companies claimed it improved the quality of the vocals but I've never met even the most hardened audiophile who could tell the difference.
Overnight, this ended some very pleasant socializing over new records in student union listening booths at colleges across the country. But obviously the "illegitimi" got away with it. And now they're trying it -- doing it -- with computers. But so much of one's life winds up on a computer -- especially if you're a graphic artist who's lost the activation keys he would need to install his plugins on a new box. This is just plain NOT FAIR!
So if anybody from the manufacturing side of the industry is reading this -- you have a large and unserved market here! All you have to do to get a bunch of our $$$ is to make something you already know how to make! And until your competitors catch on you'll have NO COMPETITION!
But perhaps some of you my ordinary readers will look askance at my imputation of conspiracy, especially in this season of peace on earth goodwill to men. Legitimate. But was St. Joseph being paranoid when he packed up the family and headed for Egypt?
--posted 27 November 2010