August 27, 2009

The loss of normal responsibility

Ryan (2003) describes the tourist as a ‘displaced’ person: the traveler finds himself in unfamiliar surroundings, without being obliged to daily routines, thus being more susceptible to hedonism and the loss of normal responsibility.
The Roles of Perceived Risk, Travel Motivation and Perception Image on Destination Choice and Travel Satisfaction: A Hierarchical Model Approach, by Wann-Yin Wu, Hsiao-Yun Lu, and Sein Htaik [unpublished]
These last two weeks I've been up at 7am, coffee, starting work at the desk at 7:45 and on / off until at least 8pm, then a swim, then back to work for an hour or two if not out to a pub.

I've got all the usual papers on the go, plus six English for Special Purposes textbooks that are badly and / or half written to try and pull into shape for the local university on six wholly different domains, each with 16 classes of material.

While it's a little intimidating there are moments of pure Zen flow when things get done in the office and then it's out for a meeting or class that flies by full of interest, and money in envelopes, turning up in my account, like drinking water from a fire hose, but able to keep up, and as much as possible I surround myself with friends and / or beautiful women. An empty head can be a happy one.

Also running certain experiments on myself, which I'll get into in a later post. But am generally in a pseudo-manic phase, with all the superficial elements but none of the genuine mania. It's like I'm observing myself from inside and out, unconcerned with what's happening, controlled by forces that are unconscious and probably almost wholly external. A willing puppet of forces unseen, like spastic dancing on mdma, the realization of what just happened coming sometime after the event.

So I have this loss of normal responsibility, because at the most elated moments on the line just at the edge of chaos / order, where all the cool stuff happens, things neither breaking down nor boring, I seem to be able to give up choices beyond i) work hard, ii) exercise / eat right, and iii) try and be nice. The idea of this game being that you set up very simple systems and then release them into the wild, and see what happens over a period of time, making small adjustments all the while and clear in the knowledge that if one system is grasped for too long then failure is assured. The only way to not lose face is to tear off the old one on a regular basis, and not linger on the past.

August 22, 2009

Deeper ecology

Carl Zimmer writes:

We are, fundamentally, a fusion. As I wrote in my essay [subscription req'd - I don't have one] for Science on the origin of eukaryotes, there's now a wealth of evidence that our cells evolved from the combination of two different microbes. The mitochondria that generate fuel for our cells started out as free-living bacteria. Today, they still retain traces of their origin in the bacterial DNA they carry, as well as their bacterial structure, including the membrane within a membrane that envelops them.
In today's issue of Nature, James Lake [of the University of California, Los Angeles, a veteran researcher on the early history of life] questions whether we may be too quick to assume that only eukaryotes are the result of fusion. He observes that aphids depend on a species of bacterium called Buchnera to digest their food, and Buchnera in turn contains other bacteria on which its own survival depends. These two bacteria are still distinct enough from each other that we can tell them apart. But what if two bacteria joined together billions of years ago and their identities blurred together? How would we tell them apart?
When scientists dredge up muck from the ocean floor, for example, they often find different species of microbes living together in tight clumps. They have to live close to other species to survive because each species takes care of chemical reactions that their partners can't carry out on their own. That intimacy makes it easier for individual genes to move from host to host, as viruses infect different microbes or as microbes die and other microbes slurp up their genes.
Our cells, in other words, are not just microbes within microbes; they are microbes within microbes within microbes: a true Russian doll of evolution.
Slightly related post: Matryoshka selves, strange loops and inner voices

August 12, 2009

Dry drunk

The typhoon broke this tree, but plants are relentless, and it'll come back even stronger.

At the end of the fourth day with no running water in town, and patience is starting to run out.

We collect rain water and use it sparingly.

This is how some people live all the time, and it can be done, if you lower your standards and drink more beer than water.

August 09, 2009

Cabin fever

Into the third day of typhoon rain, and I wouldn't be surprised if tonight's news reports don't see a leap in overdoses, ax murders and deaths by sexual misadventure. Cabin fever is setting in, and if there were two or three months of this then something would break - hopefully my current incarnation - with a new one, better suited to the change in scene, emerging from the dead skin. And then the season would change, and I'd be stuck working from another out-dated and inappropriate model. I'm never going to work at a polar base station.

Wrote the above, saved it, but the rain has now stopped, and the streets are just damp and full of debris. Over 2m of rain fell in some areas of Taiwan, and there's lots of flooding and pieces to pick up. There's also no water in town, supplies cut - floodwater contamination - for perhaps the next five days. Always a thrill at the height of summer.

EDIT: We don't have a TV, so I had no idea of the destruction across the island. Not good.

Luring disco dollies to a life of vice

soft cell - sex dwarf
...the tough guy knows when a point has been made, and can feel when the hairs on the forearms of the audience rise in sympathy and response. The typical audience is composed of amateur enthusiasts looking for excitement, and don’t talk about intonation or rubato...
Mike Thorne, producer of Non-stop Erotic Cabaret

August 08, 2009

Inertia / momentum

Philip Larkin dated the start of the 60s [sex] to 1963, and the end has been put at Altamont [1969] or when Haight Ashbury began attracting tourists and runaways from the midwest [1968, in Jane Didion's account], but I remember reading somewhere that for the Rolling Stones the sixties didn't end until the early seventies, around Exile on Main St / Cocksucker Blues. The point being that things don't follow a neat timeline, there's intertia / momentum, and the landmarks we set up are all just points of departure, convenient half-truths, like most of our perceptions.

All through my early + mid-20s I was a fairly typical under-skilled and over-employed liberal arts grad, and then when I was 26 I quit my job and spent the next few years traveling and getting more heavily into not working and over-partying, and there were many occasions when I should have died, been horrifically injured or imprisoned, all through stupidity rather than daring.

I think this is a good way to spend your twenties, if you can find a way out at the end, but that generally means not getting in too deep, not having as much fun as you could. Because the people who have a lot of fun, the ones who take a happily irresponsible attitude toward drink, drugs, sex, and so on to its logical conclusion - happiness being a button that you hit again and again - well, there are many traps along the way.

But then not following those lines of inquiry may leave you open to easy regrets, which can last for the rest of your life. And there are traps all over the place, in the quietest, safest lives you know.

So when I was 30 I wanted to get my life together, because I thought in neat, 10-year units. I skidded on haphazardly until at least 33, and then slowly pulled things into some kind of order, to the point they are now [39], when I'm married, have permanent residency and do my own thing with regard to time / $. But even in periods of seeming inertia things are churning beneath the surface. Nothing is consciously willed into being at the moment of decision or action. Which means that although I have no idea what will happen next, most of it has already started.

Related post: Monkey orgasm button

August 07, 2009

How many?

"[Taiji Tonoyma - a Japanese actor - asked] ...tell me Mr Miller, how many women do you think you've slept with in your life?" I was, of course, embarrassed, you know, and also puzzled. And I said, "Well, I've never thought about that, maybe 40 or 50." "What," he said, "I've slept myself with maybe 250, you know, and you, with your reputation, you must have had a thousand."
Henry Miller, 6 minutes or so into the clip above [part 1 of 3]

I'm 37- Clerks

Related post: Guardian sex survey

The secret of my success

bardot + birkin, via if charlie parker was a gunslinger... (good images every day)
I am quite certain that the most important reason for my having known some success is that I have had no competition.
R. Buckminster Fuller, Utopia or Oblivion p207

August 01, 2009

Team Venter making history

biomimicry, by jude buffum
In this future — whose underpinnings, as Drs. Church and Venter demonstrated, are here already— life as we know it is transformed not by the error catastrophe of radiation damage to our genetic processes, but by the far greater upheaval caused by discovering how to read genetic sequences directly into computers, where the code can be replicated exactly, manipulated freely, and translated back into living organisms by writing the other way. "We can program these cells as if they were an extension of the computer," George Church announced, and proceeded to explain just how much progress has already been made.
From George Dyson's introduction to A short course on synthetic genomics [July, 2009, Edge Masterclass], presented by Craig Venter and George Church. Videos [mostly difficult for me to understand on one watch] and a pdf from an earlier, related event, at the link

Richard Dawkins interviews Venter [2008, BBC], touring his lab. Much easier.