Thursday, April 29, 2010

what are things?

But what are things? Nothing, as we shall abundantly see, but special groups of sensible qualities, which happen practically or aesthetically to interest us, to which we therefore give substantive names, and which we exalt to this exclusive status of independence and dignity. But in itself, apart from my interest, a particular dust-wreath on a windy day is just as much of an individual thing, and just as much or as little deserves an individual name, as my own body does.

The mind is at every stage a theatre of simultaneous possibilities. Consciousness consists in the comparison of these with each other, the selection of some, and the suppression of the rest by the reinforcing and inhibiting agency of attention. The highest and most elaborated mental products are filtered from the data chosen by the faculty next beneath, out of the mass offered by the faculty below that, which mass in turn was sifted from a still larger amount of yet simpler material, and so on. The mind, in short, works on the data it receives very much as a sculptor works on his block of stone. In a sense the statue stood there from eternity. But there were a thousand different ones beside it, and the sculptor alone is to thank for having extricated this one from the rest. Just so the world of each of us, howsoever different our several views of it may be, all lay embedded in the primordial chaos of sensations, which gave the mere matter to the thought of all of us indifferently.

We may, if we like, by our reasonings unwind things back to that black and jointless continuity of space and moving clouds of swarming atoms which science calls the only real world. But all the while the world we feel and live in will be that which our ancestors and we, by slowly cumulative strokes of choice, have extricated out of this, like sculptors, by simply rejecting certain portions of the given stuff. Other sculptors, other statues from the same stone! Other minds, other worlds from the same monotonous and inexpressive chaos! My world is but one in a million alike embedded, alike real to those who may abstract them. How different must be the worlds in the consciousness of ant, cuttle-fish, or crab!

William James, The Principles of Psychology (1890)

Saturday, April 24, 2010

everybody draw muhammad ~ may 20

If our government won't stand up for us and our corporations only cower in fear, it falls upon the individual to keep the world safe for free expression by banding with his peers in a show of solidarity. If terrorists wish to control us through threats and fear, then we must banish that fear from our hearts and rise up to meet the challenge. Safety in numbers has been the watchword of all peaceful movements to change the world. Maybe fighting the close-minded, terrorist fascism of muslim fundamentalism can also be peaceful ~ why invade when we can take the moral high ground and draw!

We lost - you know what I mean? Something that was ok is now not ok, and that's just . . . fucked up.

Are you afraid that if the network allows you to unveil the prophet Muhammad that you will be bombed?

We'd be so hypocritical against our own mess... - our own thoughts if we said, "ok well let's not make fun of them because they might hurt us," like, that's messed up! - to have that kind of thought process, you know? ok we'll rip on the catholics cause they wont hurt us, but we won't rip on them cause they might hurt us?!?!?! Like that's, that is not what we -

It so sad that the whole Muhammad . . . the whole Danish cartoon thing . . . it's like if everyone would have just, like normally they do in the news organizations, just printed the cartoons -

Right, and no one rallied together -

Now that guy had to be in hiding, and all this shit, because no one, everyone kinda left him out to dry.

That's a big problem when you have, like, the New York Times and Comedy Central and Viacom basically just pussing out on it, I'm sorry to say. It's just sad. It's sad. I was like really sad about the whole thing.

So, help make the world a better place and participate in Everybody Draw Muhammad Day on May 20.

I know I will, will you?

Friday, April 23, 2010

south park solidarity

Any self respecting government refuses to bow to terrorist threats. If they allow terrorists to determine policy through the threat (or even the implementation) of cowardly violence against innocents, then that government is no longer autonomous—if others control your behavior through violence, you are a slave.

However, if the citizens and private organizations of a community themselves succumb to terrorist threats, the situation is no better than if the government itself had. For what is the government but the collective will of the individuals that comprise the state?

Comedy Central recently succumbed to terrorist threats and edited the 201st episode (season 14, ep. 6) of the TV show South Park. This episode depicted a number of religious figures and celebrities in humorous situations. One such religious figure was Muhammad, who was envied by all other celebrities precisely because he had the power of not being ridiculed. (Muhammad himself is depicted as an associate of the other religious figures who don't give a damn about such nonsense, as is fitting of a religious figure.) It ended, as all South Park episodes do, with a moral message. Comedy Central blacked out all appearances of Muhammad, bleeped out his name whenever it was uttered, and bleeped out the ending moral message, which "was about intimidation and fear," and "didn't mention Muhammad at all."

It is embarrassing that we live in a country were private businesses don't feel free to allow expression without fear of terrorist reprisal.

It is cowardly of Comedy Central to submit to terrorist threats (and vague, insubstantial ones at that) rather than stand by their content providers.

But it is scandalous and offensive that a moral message emphasizing the dangers of intimidation and the importance of resisting terrorist-imposed fear was also censored in response to nebulous terrorist threats.

Shame, shame Comedy Central you spineless Quisling, you patsy of the enemies of freedom, you embarrassment to free-thinking, liberal-minded citizens of the world. You enemy of morality. You servant of evil, oppression, and fascism!

Monday, April 19, 2010

"just another statistic"

This expression is used ironically to indicate an event, often an instance of human tragedy, or the subject of that event, was treated as merely a number in discussions of that event (i.e. tragedy) type in the public forum.

Strictly speaking the usage is incorrect: a "statistic" is a function on data. The complaint is not that the person or event has been treated as a statistic, but as a data point.

According to the Bayesian foundations of statistics, we can legitimately apply the standard methods of statistics (e.g. fitting the distribution of data to a normal curve) if we can treat data points as exchangeable. This follows from de Finetti's Theorem.

If we can't treat data points as exchangeable, however, if we know more relevant features of one data point than another, then in principle standard techniques and Bayesian techniques (which take into account prior knowledge) can produce radically different analyses.

So, when someone tells a tragic anecdote and bemoans that it is "just another statistic", they tell us more about that data point, one which had perhaps been the object of "statistics" which delivered an incorrect analysis without the benefit of the prior knowledge provided by the particulars of its case.

Monday, April 12, 2010

the satisfaction of black mariah

In 1987, Howard Chaykin's Time2: The Satisfaction of Black Mariah, the follow-up to 1986's Time2: The Epiphany, was published by First. Although the two constitute some of the most beautiful work in the entire medium, they have yet to be republished and the series remains incomplete.

We've seen Chaykin's trademark triptych style in his earlier work on 1974's Ironwolf. 10 years later, Chaykin has extended the style from close analyses of action to broader dynamic effects. This sequence is one of several depicting the slow surprise and seduction of a doorman against the backdrop of pandemonium on the other side of the gate. Pandemonium caused by the implosion of the android jazz musician Cosmo "Cos" Jacobi's comeback concert.

Here, for example, the triptych gives us snapshots from a long (implied) tracking shot past Cos and through the club. The overall effect of these sequences is decidedly cinematic as the reader's gaze is guided through richly detailed environments and encounters. Of course, Chaykin extends these techniques to the overall layout, allowing not just three but many panels in sequence, arranged horizontally, vertically, diagonally as the needs demand.

Still, three panel sequences are strikingly prominent within the overall style.

Another beatnik is treated to a zoom effect here as he begins an android liaison. In fact, the extension of the triptych technique from violent action to "action" more generally is in keeping with the adult theme of many of Chaykin's works from the `80's.

In the climax, a giant murdering sex robot run amok ("Black Mariah") is "satisfied" by the spontaneous (voluntary?) sacrifice of all robots in the immediate vicinity.

Here we see the action triptych used as a backdrop for two floating panels depicting an on site reporter (whose convenient narration fills in some rather gaping holes in the this particular plot line). When the entire structure implodes, Chaykin concludes the volume with a final triptych depicting the humorous emergence of robot Cos from the remains of the collapsed orgy.

[Note, gutters have been changed from white to black throughout for aesthetic reasons.]