31 March 2008

Now, More Internet @ Work!

Sorry I haven't been posting about anything lately. I've been hard at work on a few projects and, with my move to my new apartment completed, I now lack internet until it gets set up there. On the upside, we have a newly connected computer at work, so I can kill bits of the fourth dimension just like I'm doing right now.
Speaking of dimensions, I'm a bit pissed because I was about halfway through Michio Kaku's Parallel Worlds when somebody stole that book from the store! Fuck you, thieves! So in it's place I started to read Kaku's previous book, Hyperspace. Figures people would buy both copies in the space of a week. So now I have no Kaku!
Now back in college we used to do a bit of thievery, which I don't condone, but I know folks do it. Thieves make me feel old and crotchety now. Humbug, you swine! I want to read about higher dimensions and here you are swiping paper! Then again, by the oddities of quantum mechanics, the book may have just disappeared into another dimension or somewhere else in our universe in a wormhole of sorts. Highly unlikely, but still possible, nonetheless.

17 March 2008

This ain't so bad at all!

Sorry I haven't posted anything in the past week or whatever (if it even matters). But I've found some really great stuff while glued to my laptop in the endless pursuit of knowing more things than I knew yesterday and then writing about them for money.

1. I wrote a long piece based on all the Turgenev/Nihilism/Postmodernism stuff I rambled about not too long ago. Because of that research I discovered that I was right about many aspects of "postmodernism" (ie; it's not really a coherent thing at all), but also that I was a bit
closed-minded about it and there are some writers whose stuff I really appreciate. One of them is Richard Rorty. When I first was exposed to some of his ideas I thought they were reprehensible. Of course, when I read the interviews with him gathered in Take Care of Freedom and Truth Will Take Care of Itself, I realized I agreed with an incredible amount of pragmatist and antifoundationalist thought. It also germinated a drive to recast elements of nihlism in a more positive light (though that's a really long-term project, I guess). You can get a good idea of where my brain might be after reading the essay through which I was exposed to Rorty's ideas. Now I don't necessarily agree with everything in the essay, but I don't think I have to agree with anything. Necessarily.

2. Tonight I finished an article on string theory and cosmology that was exhausting to research. Fortunately I found a great guide to help me out and give me some focus. A couple months ago I waddled my way through Brian Greene's The Elegant Universe and enjoyed it despite not really understanding a whole lot of what was going on. Thankfully, PBS made a three part documentary based on the book that makes a fantastic companion! The whole thing is streamed here in segments which make it way more manageable to watch. It also makes it a hell of a lot easier to watch a part again if you didn't understand it the first time. I had to do that a few times.

3. After this week I'll hopefully be able to return to posting a bit more regularly. I just have a bunch of material to submit in a short time. Since I have no idea when the site I'm writing for is going to be up and running, I may post more excerpts and links to keep any readers updated on things. Also, if any of you haven't yet, go check out some of my friends' blogs. A few of them
(here, here & here) have been contributing material to the same website and I think the product will be incredibly interesting (I'll keep everyone updated when it finally goes online).

04 March 2008

Computing Consciousness?

Quick update for today: I just got hooked up with what seems like will be a sweet, paid writing gig for a website. Some of the material may overlap with what I post on here already, but the important thing is that somebody will be paying me. Not sure how much this will get in the way of SpaceshipBastille, but seriously, could I be more inconsistent anyway? Probably not.

In some amazing science/brain news, researchers are building a model brain from the bottom up. Best of all, what they have so far works! Unfortunately, it'll be some time before the full plans can be put to effect because our brains are far more powerful than the supercomputers we have available. I really appreciated what the head neuroscientist, Henry Markram, said about consciousness near the end of the article:
"There is nothing inherently mysterious about the mind or anything it makes," Markram says. "Consciousness is just a massive amount of information being exchanged by trillions of brain cells. If you can precisely model that information, then I don't know why you wouldn't be able to generate a conscious mind."

Since the time I first started engaging the ideas of consciousness that many philosophers and scientists probe, I've wondered if folks were overthinking everything, that our consciousness just is the experience of processing so much information simultaneously. We think there must be something else to it, when really it's just that there is so much going on that keeping it all together is simply too overwhelming. Thinking about the extent of the universe or how something could be "infinite" is overwhelming to most minds, so the fact that our brains are continually processing so much information surely inhibits our ability to make sense of that processing. In some way I'm sure this is connected to meditation and "clearing your mind" type actions (or non-action, really). I guess my ultimate point is that we are the products of our processing of experiences and perceptions of the world around us. To think that there's something else going on seems a bit daft, eh?

Seed Mag: "Out of the Blue"

02 March 2008

This is for Satan!...or Odin!...or someone...

Lords of Chaos: The Bloody Rise of the Satanic Metal Underground
- Michael Moynihan & Didrik Søderlind

I had been eyeing this book at work for some time now and finally picked it up this past week. As far as any book on "metal" is concerned, this is surely one of the best and most thoroughly researched. Black Metal is a subgenre whose reputation far outsizes its reach. I would bet most people know little about it and the scene itself isn't particularly large, but
it has a prominent (short) history of murder and destruction. I'm not aware if author Michael Moynihan has a direct connection to the scene itself, but I do know that he moved in some odd musical circles and may have far-right connections that go unacknowledged in the book. Søderlind is apparently a former music writer from Norway and doesn't have any such connections it seems.
In terms of the content of this book, the history is exhaustive with profiles of the major personalities involved with black metal since its inception. The material, though probably shocking to many, is presented quite even-handedly and the major figures aren't spared critique. Reading this is worthwhile for just the history of the fledgling Norwegian scene and the subsequent terror waged through church-burnings, a few murders and right-wing political action.
It is this latter story, though, that is most open to critique here. While there is no doubt that many figures in black metal have rightist views there is no profiling of characters who do not espouse such views. Whether this is a conscious move on the part of the authors to exclude such remains unknown. There may just not be anyone vociferously leftist within the scene's ranks to bother reporting (and let's face it, BM is too extreme for moderate personalities). It is true that the martial/medieval aesthetic and raw power of the music excites those with affinities towards power and violence. Thus, there is a natural fascistic connection that can be made.
As well, some of the folks discussed in Lords of Chaos are claimed to be "intelligent", I can't help but object as many of their ideas are clearly nonsensical and betray an incredible sociological ignorance. For some, an adolescent "satanism" matured into political doctrines based on pagan/heathen Nordic legends imposed on modern circumstances. Clearly some of these men (as most of them are) have difficulty discerning reality from fantasy. I think the authors could (and should) have been more critical of some of these views, (though I'm sure the book would have ended up much longer if they had followed through with this) and their failure to do so has led some to wonder if this is a veiled or subtle attempt to sway readers to rightist opinions.While I would not say that far right opinions are necessarily glorified, they certainly could have been more effectively critiqued. It is the lack of critique in this regard that betrays possible rightist sentiments of (one of) the author(s).
On a whole, however, I'd say that this book is definitely worth checking out for anyone interested in metal, in Nordic mythology or in rightist politics as a movement.