September 27, 2009

Vistas of reality

The galaxy I Zwicky 18, originally thought to be a young galaxy, actually seems to have formed around the same time as most other galaxies. The bluish-white knots in the heart of the galaxy are two major star-forming regions.
Nasa / Hubble - image here, more here
The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.
H. P. Lovecraft, The Call of Cthulhu [full text]

September 22, 2009

Casey's Island

Strong Coloring Sample by Claudio Rocchini
The goal of is to get people to pay to join a community and advertise on that community under the promise of being allowed to live on an island that Serin intends to purchase with proceeds from advertising. [Wikipedia]
It can't last, but Casey Serin resurfaced about a month ago with a plan to buy an island, and the last few days he's been doing podcasts / call-ins. The archive of the shows [three so far] can be found here, until he breaks down and tries to erase everything again. Streaming video here. The new blog, which is nothing much to look at yet, is here.

Steve Serin, Casey's brother, has his own blog on the saga.

September 21, 2009

Another law of nature

Poincare Halfplane by Claudio Rocchini

Rudy Rucker has a post on finishing his memoir.
...thanks to the chapter I wrote about society as a kind of computation in The Lifebox, the Seashell and the Soul, I’ve finally came to accept that writers’ sales obey a scaling law that’s technically known as an inverse power law distribution. You’re not getting lackluster book advances because someone is actively screwing you. It’s the scaling law.

The scaling law applies across the board—to the populations of cities, the number of hits on websites, the heights of mountains, the number of friends that people have, the areas of lakes, and the sales of books. There’s no getting around it. Thus, if you’re the hundredth-most popular writer, you earn a hundredth as much as the most popular one. Instead of a million dollars, you get ten thousand bucks. That’s how nature is. It’s not anyone’s fault. [more]

About the same time I read that I saw John Gray's review of The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work, by Alain de Botton [which I haven't read], and this passage jumped out:

One episode covers the time the author spent with a career counsellor, “a professional dedicated to finding ways of ensuring that work will be synonymous with fulfilment”. Describing a session with Carol, a private client, “37 years old, a tax lawyer, in charge of a department of 45 in an office near the Bank of England”, de Botton recounts how Carol suddenly stared to sob as the counsellor “watched her with his kindly eyes, and outside, the neighbour’s cat took a stroll round the carp pond”. The counsellor has dedicated his life to the belief that work is a quest for self-enactment, a way of becoming who we really are. The trouble is that, like many of his clients, Carol seems perplexingly diffuse in her interests, and it is not clear whether there is a self concealed somewhere within her that is waiting to be enacted. Worse, it is unclear whether, if such a self does emerge, anyone will have any interest in it. These uncertainties extend to the counsellor himself who, in return for allowing de Botton to sit in on the sessions, asks to be referred to a literary agent who could promote a book on which he has been working. Twelve agents are contacted, and each replies with polite enthusiasm. The book remains unpublished.

Commenting on this episode, de Botton writes: “For the rest of history, for most of us, our bright promise will always fall short of being actualised; it will never earn us bountiful sums of money or beget exemplary projects or organisations. It will remain no more than a hope carried over from childhood.” [more]

I don't have these anxieties anymore, but that might be due to a lack of imagination or effort. This week is the first for a long time [four weeks, more?] when too many deadlines to reasonably handle have not been trailing me. I spent today [Monday] sleeping in, worked a little, scootered around town, collected cash from some clients, came home, cooked, read, took out the trash, bought some coffee and settled down for an hour or two's work ahead of a swim, and then came home to this. I don't have a boss, and work in my study or anywhere else I set up my notebook. I know how lucky I am, but I also know my story, although I almost never think about it.

Power laws and the failures necessary for success were also explored in this earlier post: The myth of 1,000 true fans

September 20, 2009

My life as a test subject

Eigenfaces from Wikipedia

I volunteered to take part in an MRI-based study on face recognition / memory out of interest and for the $, which I immediately went to a cafe to spend on espresso and alcohol. I also hoped they'd let me know if they found a tumor or some other abnormality, like a massively enlarged pituitary gland, lit up like Las Vegas.

I worried slightly about claustraphobia, although I've never suffered from it before, so I took the last Xanax in my pill box and it kicked in just as they were explaining the procedure to me. I was relaaaaxed in the machine and even enjoyed the noise, which sounded like the intro to a Daft Punk show. Like an idiot, as I was led into the room I asked if 'the music' was part of the test.

I was in the machine for 30 minutes, and they stuck in a 6 minute 'rest period' between the practice and actual tests, during which I put myself into a trance and tripped out / fell asleep. I'm really interested in the results, which will be sent to me in a few weeks.

I ought to donate my whole body to science well before death, but I'm sure that I'm now on a university hospital blacklist.

But the summer / early fall mad rush is over, and I've lots of time for things that can't be easily explained.

September 13, 2009

Huge post from someone else

This is supposed to be part of a post on Henry Miller, but it can come in two or three parts.

Terry Rossio wrote a lot of successful movies, and this is a piece he wrote called Throw in the Towel, at a blog I can no longer access [maybe you can, but in Taiwan, from this machine, no]. It starts like this:

You don’t get to hear the truth much in this town, so listen up. I’m gonna back up the truck and unload. Harsh truths, right here, right now. And we’re gonna start with the most brutal: You people really aren’t much good at writing screenplays.

In fact, your writing pretty much sucks.

I tried to be different. I tried to leave the door cracked open a bit. I politely asked you to send me only good stuff, your best stuff. And for years now I’ve been deluged by a storm of crappy query letters and mind-numbing script submissions. So many I can’t keep up, can’t even respond to them all. And not one of them has been any damn good.
Now I’m about ready to slam the door shut, and lock it down like how they do in cartoons, with a whole series of barricades and bolts and latches and such.

It’s disappointing. Especially after offering all this advice and encouragement. But man, I’m tired. Tired of being informative and helpful and optimistic. Tired of wasting my time answering your pedestrian-at-best e-mails and faxes and message board questions.

Tired of inventing nice ways to avoid telling you all that your writing sucks.
Hollywood, it is said, is the only place where you can die of encouragement.
Well, not here. Not anymore.

Your writing sucks.

You simply cannot write to a professional level. And you probably never will. It’s a safe bet to say that none of you will ever make a sale, anywhere, anytime; to think otherwise is just deluding yourselves. It’s a waste of your time, and that pains me, and it’s a waste of my time, and that pains me more.

Got it?

Oh, of course not. I knew you wouldn’t. I know you people all too well.
It's 5,500 words long, and it doesn't seem to be available elsewhere, so I've uploaded a WORD file to Google Docs, here.

September 10, 2009

But what goes on

Jane Birkin & Brian Ferry "In every dream home a heartache"

Sometimes I can only listen to one song all day, again and again and again.

In the process of shedding skins, although it may just be another mid-life crisis / breakdown.

Taiwan is forgiving.

EDIT: Wrote /posted the above late last night, a little drunk after a long bike ride, which is all cool, but in the morning it reads slightly alarming. There's nothing wrong with a small crisis and breakdown now and then, as generally they're just milestones on a path of interesting changes that I observe as much as order. And these days my idea of a breakdown is just the collapse of one system or outlook and the emergence of another. Nothing to fear, and much to enjoy.

This is just the result of physical+mental relief+relaxation at the end of a huge piece of work, waking up at the end the summer with my aims achieved and various attractions laid out in front of me. Now I wait and see what happens next.

September 06, 2009

El hombre invisible

Always the romantic, Lester [Bangs] viewed [Richard] Meltzer, [Nick] Tosches, and himself as heirs to the Beats. He claimed the mantle of Jack Kerouac. Meltzer he named Neal Cassady, and Tosches became William S. Burroughs. Nobody wanted to be Allen Ginsberg.
Let it Blurt (the life and times of Lester Bangs), Jim DeRogatis, p91
Finally done editing the textbooks and now want to spend as long as possible away from this machine. Just work on paper, in cafes and the garden, or sprawled on the daybed with a fan.

September 05, 2009

Raw power

Primal Scream - Accelerator

September 03, 2009

Summer's end

Huge backlog of work almost done, and so the 7am starts and night time finishes are over, and I can start enjoying my life and this city again.

In England the end of summer is always sad, because it's so short and a long, dreary season is all that's ahead until next May, at best. Out here the summer is the worst season, so hot and wet, and the rest of the year is just warm. Also, being just in the tropics, there's barely any change in hrs of daylight. In this way time feels more linear than circular, and it's easy to wake up two or three years later with few points of reference for all the times past.

The Beatles - Within You Without You / Tomorrow Never Knows