27 Years of Obscene Ecstasy.

…We are no longer a part of the drama of alienation; we live in the ecstasy of communication. And this ecstasy is obscene. The obscene is what does away with every mirror, every look, every image. The obscene puts an end to every representation. But it is not only the sexual that becomes obscene in pornography; today there is a whole pornography of information and communication, that is to say, of circuits and networks, a pornography of all functions and objects in their readability, their fluidity, their availability, their regulation, in their forced signification, in their performativity, in their branching, in their polyvalence, in their free expression…

It is no longer then the traditional obscenity of what is hidden, repressed, forbidden or obscure; on the contrary, it is the obscenity of the visible, of the all-too-visible, of the more-visible-than-the-visible. It is the obscenity of what no longer has any secret, of what dissolves completely in information and communication. and communication…
— Jean Baudrillard, “The Ecstasy of Communication”

in an essay from 1983.
I concur. Of course this was evident in 1983 but the effect seems to coincide with Moore's law and has taken an asymptotic route to the present. But in this obscenity can be encountered the sublime. There is an evolutionary flowering taking place in the opening up of secrets. We call these flowers emergent phenomena. How prescient was Baudrillard in calling this Ecstatic? And the obscenity is expected. A circus should have both art and clowns.

My Imagination Proves the Existence of God. And birds.

I close my eyes and see a flock of birds. The vision lasts a second or perhaps less; I don’t know how many birds I saw. Were they a definite or an indefinite number? This problem involves the question of the existence of God. If God exists, the number is definite, because how many birds I saw is known to God. If God does not exist, the number is indefinite, because nobody was able to take count. In this case, I saw fewer than ten birds (let’s say) and more than one; but I did not see nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, or two birds. I saw a number between ten and one, but not nine, eight, seven, six, five, etc. That number, as a whole number, is inconceivable; ergo, God exists.

—Jorge Luis Borges from El Hacedor

This passage from Borges is used by some to argue for the existence of God.  But you could also use it to argue for the existence of Borges' wry sense of humor.  I suggest you try the thought experiment and think on your results.  Imagine birds.  Find an answer to a question that never existed until a human culture imagined to ask it.

As for imagination, that could be a result of God.  If you look for a maker (El Hacedor) then you must find one.  It is all about cause and effect.  The problem is that the first cause can never be found.  Because when you find it you must ask, where did it come from?  Unless you accept that God or the first cause is incomprehensible to mere humans.  Then:

God (or the First Cause) is the only incomprehensible thing in the Universe.


The Spark from which imagination emanates is incomprehensible.

The conclusion: This Spark is connected to or has the same nature as God (or, once again, the First Cause).

This would imply that we ourselves are God.  So by imagining birds are we proving the existence of ourselves?

11 Thrilling Action Hero Quotes Delivered by our Robot Overlords

After reading Ben Goertzel's blog post, Dialoguing with the US Military on the Ethics of Battlebots, I was struck by the potential horror of his stated position on battlebot ethics:

I remain generally anti-violence and anti-war, but my main political focus now is on encouraging a smooth path toward a positive Singularity. To the extent that military force may be helpful toward achieving this end it has to be considered as a potentially positive thing....

In Ben's defense, he uses his blog to explore these ethics in a thoughtful way.  The levels of horror possible with Artificial Intelligence battlebots can be exposed if one considers them as potential action heroes delivering the requisite hero one liners.

Here are some of our beloved action hero one liners as delivered by the AI of Google translate:

We'll name our Artificial action starbot DOOMBA.

"They may take our lives, but they will never take our freedom!"  (Mel Gibson in Braveheart - 1995)

    It may take our lives, our freedom can not take! (DOOMBA)
    "Say hello to my little friend!"  (Al Pacino in Scarface - 1983)

    Greetings my little friend! (DOOMBA)
    "You've got to ask yourself one question: Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya punk?" (Clint Eastwood in "Dirty Harry" – 1971) 
    Ask yourself to try it. Do I feel lucky? Oh, what are ya? Punk! (DOOMBA)
    "Yippee ki yay motherfucker."  (Bruce Willis in Die Hard series - 1988)

    Ki yay motherfucker afford brush.  (DOOMBA)
    "Out here, due process is a bullet." (John Wayne in "The Green Berets" – 1968) 
    Out, due process is a bullet here.  (DOOMBA)
    "You talkin' to me?" (Robert De Niro in "Taxi Driver" – 1976)
    You are 'in me?  (DOOMBA)
    "Dyin' ain't much of a living, boy." (Clint Eastwood in "The Outlaw Josey Wales" – 1976)

    Not much in life, boy.  (DOOMBA)
    "Go ahead, make my day." (Clint Eastwood in "Sudden Impact" – 1983)
    Future, go to my day.  (DOOMBA)
    "You're the disease. I'm the cure." (Sylvester Stallone in "Cobra" – 1986)
    You're sick. I'm cured.  (DOOMBA)
    "I crap bigger than you." (Jack Palance in "City Slickers" –1991)

    If I was larger than junk.  (DOOMBA)
    "If you come back in here, I'm going to hit you with so many rights, you're going to beg for a left." (Chuck Norris "Invasion USA" – 1985) 
    If, come back here, if I have to hit very many privileges, I will ask for going left.  (DOOMBA)

    As you see, our plucky action star DOOMBA can't deliver a kick ass quote.  But I'm sure his killing will be all precision.

    Paper or Plastic or Infinity?

    The modern dilemna.  I try to use cloth bags whenever I can, but things come up.  Here is a situation I encounter often:

    I was at my local market very early in the morning.  Only one cashier.  As she is checking me out she asks, "Paper or Plastic?"  I say paper.  I make this choice because I live near the coast where plastic is very threatening to wildlife.

    Now I nearly always do my shopping by using one of those little carry baskets instead of a grocery cart.  It keeps me to buying the essentials.  If I can't carry it I probably don't need it.  This means that on most occassions I have one to two bags worth of groceries max.  I aim for one.

    Nearly every time I check out I have the same problem.  The cashier or bagger proceeds to put one item in each bag.  I say, "one bag is fine, please."  So then they look at me like I'm crazy, and take one bag and stick it in another.  As soon as they hand it to me I pull the second bag off.  "I only need one bag."

    Sometimes they act really confused as to how to get ALL these groceries in one bag.  I end up showing them.  I have literally had them argue with me, insisting that I need double bagged groceries or the bags will tear.  I tell them I accept all risk of tearing thank you.

    I have requested paper, only to have them place the paper bag inside of a plastic one.  I say one bag is fine.  But you need the handles they insist.  I say I don't.  I can carry a paper bag in the old fashioned way... in my arms.  As I pick the bag up and smile, they look quite dubious.  Apparently I've crossed a line of normalcy.

    This morning it was me and the cashier.  She asks, "Paper or plastic?"  "Paper," I say.  As I am inputting my payment card information I see her place one paper bag inside of another.  I decide not to say anything, I will just pull the second bag off as usual.  She looks confused as to how to pack things.  I move over to assist.  At that moment, a bagger appears and literally shoves me away from the bagging area.  She tells the cashier, "I got it."  The cashier says, "You may need another bag."  The bagger grabs one.

    I say, "No.  One bag is fine."  The bagger glares at me.  I am amazed at what is next.  It was a new one for me.  The bagger pulls out some little paper bags I have never seen before and places each item in a little bag before setting it in the double bagged larger one.

    I am speechless.  So for my 13 dollars worth of groceries I end up with a total of NINE bags.  WTF?  I can't even protest.  I walk away from the store stunned.

    From NBC news:

    Here's how paper and plastic stack up side by side:
    To make all the bags we use each year, it takes 14 million trees for paper and 12 million barrels of oil for plastic. The production of paper bags creates 70 percent more air pollution than plastic, but plastic bags create four times the solid waste — enough to fill the Empire State Building two and a half times. And they can last up to a thousand years.

    Plastic, because it's cheaper to produce, is the overwhelming choice of grocery stores across the nation — the average family of four uses almost 1,500 of these a year.

    Strangers in the Tokyo wifi

    How to meet random nerds in Tokyo? I was trying to find free wifi at 7am on a Saturday in a Tokyo suburb. The streets were empty so I was free to follow signal strength where it might lead.

    It lead down an alley of small shops with roll down doors locking away their contents. A crowd of young men were huddled against one wall. Most were smoking cigs, a few were playing cards, and all had their portable electronics out.

    I sidled up to their huddle. The signal grew. That small curb was a wifi hotspot.

    As a foreigner in Japan I stick out. And I often attract second glances from the curious. It makes me feel on display like some kind of specimen from the land of gaijin.

    Here I was accepted in the wash of wifi that we all sought in that chilly morning alleyway.

    - Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

    Ars Moriendi, The Art of Dying: How to die in 6 chapters.

    I came across a reference to Ars Moriendi:
    Ars moriendi ("The Art of Dying") is the name of two related Latin texts dating from about 1415 and 1450 which offer advice on the protocols and procedures of a good death, explaining how to "die well" according to Christian precepts of the late Middle Ages. It was written within the historical context of the effects of the macabre horrors of the Black Death 60 years earlier and consequent social upheavals of the 15th century. It was very popular, translated into most West European languages, and was the first in a western literary tradition of guides to death and dying.
    I made some weak attempts at finding an English translation.  Unsuccesful, yet very moved by the idea of how to have a "good death," I decided to write my own counsel.

    In the wiki entry there are six chapter headings.  These will be my guide.  I hope you can die well after consulting this:

    Stephan Doitschinoff, aka Calma, ‘Ars Moriendi’ 2008 (re This Isn’t Happiness)

    Stephan Doitschinoff, aka Calma, ‘Ars Moriendi’ 2008

    The first chapter explains that dying has a good side, and serves to console the dying man that death is not something to be afraid of.
    (spoiler alert)
    You are dying.  If you didn't know this or want to know this then you are reading the wrong post.  I'm supposed to convince you that dying has a good side.  Since I don't know what that is, we can brainstorm together.  Obviously this is not the good part of the process.  Sitting here contemplating your mortality isn't how I planned to spend my morning either. 
    Something good about death is that you don't have to worry about what it all means.  Too bad you didn't consider that sooner.  When you had time to capitalize on that knowledge.  Like say, the realization that agonizing over any decision is ultimately pointless since the consequences are largely negated by your passing.  Disclaimer: your belief system may propose consequences for your choices.  However unlikely that seems.
    Anyhow, between now and your passing you have carte blanche.   
    I know it seems like a bad time.  But consider that most the important events in your life were ill timed.  I know you had things yet to do.  Are they unfinished now or just unimportant?
    The second chapter outlines the five temptations that beset a dying man, and how to avoid them. These are lack of faith, despair, impatience, spiritual pride and avarice.
    You are to be tempted in your final moments.  You will suffer a lack of faith.  This is normal and possibly the sanest response.
    You will be beset by despair.  This usually means your death is not as spectacular as it could be.  In this case the obvious solution is to engage in some ill advised and very dangerous activity.  If that doesn't rid you of despair try the various substances you used for despair during your life.
    You will have little patience in your final moments.  Who has time for manuals on dying or talking to automated phone systems?  The poorly designed interface on your phone will probably hasten the inevitable anyway.
    You may feel proud of your piety.  Or feel self-satisfied with your donations to the church.  I sure hope you picked the right one!  It is a bit of a crap shoot isn't it?  What with so many religions and gods.  Yours is the right one, isn't it?
    Don't be jealous that others will wake up tomorrow without you.  We are all standing in line at the DMV of life.   And everyone is in a hurry to get their number called.
    The third chapter lists the seven questions to ask a dying man, along with consolation available to him through the redemptive powers of Christ's love.
    So let's ask the right questions now:
    Before it's too late:
    While there is still time: Yes.
    Who are you?  If you don't know by now, then be quick!
    What does it all mean?  This will be graded on style over substance.
    Why are we here? Nevermind.  I'm asking the questions here.
    Where is your god now? pretty standard stuff.
    When do we eat? That one is for me.  You are dying, so you eat whatever is on your plate.
    How does it all end? The answer shortly; after the jump.
    There were seven questions?  Hmmm.
    The fourth chapter expresses the need to imitate Christ's life.
    Ideally you will have imitated your heroes in life.  Maybe Christ, Buddha, Keanu, Ghandi, Your 6th grade teacher, that guy in the office downstairs, Joseph Campbell, and of course Al Bundy.
    The fifth chapter addresses the friends and family, outlining the general rules of behavior at the deathbed.
    Your Family and Friends should carry on like idiots as you are dying.  They should also fake smile and talk about everything EXCEPT the obvious.  Every time someone leaves the room they should hi-five the next visitor on the way in.  There should be lots of gossiping in the hall.  Especially about cousin Daryl.  You know what I mean.  I can't believe he's here either.  There is plenty of guilt to go around.  This is best alleviated by screaming children, going outside to smoke, and hurried calls to the office.  Someone in the family should be nice enough to provide some self absorbed drama to distract everyone.  Oh, and couples don't forget to get RAGING horny for each other later.  This is the only proof of concept vs. your own mortality.
    The sixth chapter includes appropriate prayers to be said for a dying man.
    Now we lay you to rest.  You will be missed.  Even by those who hadn't seen you in years.  Stuff will go on.
    But the ABSENCE.
    That's what we will feel.  The yawn of unoccupied spirit that you vacate.  It will sweep over us at odd moments.
    And those moments will have a sweetness to them that you left there as a surprise.

    Alan Moore states that ART is MAGIC

    I keep coming back to this clip from 'The Mindscape of Alan Moore'. Copyright, Shadowsnake Films,

    Alan Moore is a writer and artist famously known for Watchmen, V for Vendetta and other graphic novels.

    This video clip hits me in my gut.  As an artist myself it is like a war cry into my soul.  More than that, the ideas expressed by Alan in this clip, expose the source of the blood in my mouth.  The unwelcome taste that comes from fighting the opposing forces of a life in art and surrender to normalcy.

    Alan says that on his 40th birthday he would "Terrify my friends by declaring myself to be a magician."  That would terrify my friends, family, landlord, and dog.

    Alan calls this a logical end step in his career as a writer.  He argues that "magic is a science of language and you have to be very careful of what you say."  He says modern ideas of magic create "some confusion as to what magic is.  Magic in its earliest form is often referred to as the art."  He believes this to be completely literal,

    magic is art.

    Art forms like painting, writing, music, and sculpture are literally magic.  Because art like magic is the science of manipulating symbols.  As a writer you find magic woven into the fabric of language.  He points out that, "A grimoire or a book of spells is simply a fancy way of saying grammar."

    "An artist or writer is the closest thing in the contemporary world you are likely to see to a shaman." Whereas, in our past, Art was the province of the shaman.  The modern users of shamanism and magic are advertisers.  Modern writers and artists have sadly accepted that their work is mere entertainment.  Instead of knowing their work to be a transformative force that can change a human being or a society,

    They are seen as simple entertainment to fill 20 minutes or half an hour while we are waiting to die.

    The job of the artist is not give the audience what they want.  It is to give the audience what they need.

    And I would add that the artist is driven by his own need.