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October 5, 2001
The great aesthetic crisis of The
West: all must be nice and neat
and tidy, lined up into rows,
smoothly painted and polished,
but when we really get a world
like this, we find it dull and UNIFORM_AND_SHAPELESS
unsatisfying. Given any vacation
time and modest resources we
all run off to the _real_
places: either natural sites, Or more likely,
or older cities built before the "natural" sites.
mania for order completely
swallowed things up. Consider Yellowstone:
Given enough wealth, the world can a paved road and a
be remade in our own image. parking lot for every
Monsters of the
super-ego are born.
Saw an article in a zine by a
woman living in sili-valley: she
complains that the trouble with
suburbia is that the obsession
with newness obliterates all
contact with history. "History" has some strange
Ruins are fascinating -- she significance to lefties that
hopes -- not because of the I am only just beginning to
"romance of decay", but because grasp.
they are history made visible.
E.g. in the campus culture wars,
If you stroll along the waterfront the multicultis dismissed the
on the bay in San Francisco, most arguments for "color-blind"
of the scene has been remade into policy as being "ahistorical".
neat-and-clean ticky-tacky. One of
the few things that stands out is E.g. Someone writing for
the crumbling remains of some old "Maximum Rock n' Roll" slips
wooden docks: rows of dark brown in what's evidently
pylons pushing up out of the water; supposed to be a killer dig,
the remaining dock work sags down the marxist jargon "in
in peculiar organic curves rarely apparent disregard of the
found in our architecture. historical specificity of the
I don't think the appeal of these
docks is that they remind of a past
when shipping was more central to
SF's economy; nor do I think it's
_solely_ a matter of "the romance
of decay"... rather they're
beautiful because they're unplanned
(or not _entirely_ planned).
When we try to create something;
it comes out ugly, or at least bland,
in nearly every case.
A reflection of the deep
limitations of human intellect,
or at least western intellect. I don't mean to presume
that eastern intellect
has magically evaded these
AGES kind of problems, and if
only we could recapture
the wisdom of those ancient
noble savages all would be
I throw in caveats like
"western" because that's
the culture I'm familiar
John Cage's solution: with. A traditional
create the new by Japanese architect might
embracing randomness. CHAOTIC_SOUND be expected to do better
than a traditional American
in these respects...
Brian Eno's idea: create a
set of rules to use as a
"seed" and watch what grows
try to move faster than the
boot of the super-ego.
The conservative approach:
distrust the new, build AGES
replicas of the old in the
hopes that evolution ("the
test of time") will have
delivered the solution
that they're not capable
of determining on their
Then there's drugs: many (typical for me:
an artist at least claims this one is an
that they're out to afterthought.) DRUGS
narcotize Morton Rigor.
The key issue in art,
politics and code:
The need to intelligently UNCONSTRAINED
manage your own stupidity.
As for code, consider all
the doctrines of Correct
Programming that have arisen
of the years.
All of them seem to boil
down to an injunction to be
orderly. If you just pick
the right set of rules and
stick to them closely,
quality will be achieved.
The different doctrines are
adhered to with religious
fervor by their adherents.
When they result in failure Original doctrine:
it is presumed that the Object-Oriented Programming
doctrine was applied
incorrectly. Then an Ancillary doctrine:
ancillary doctrine accretes Interface inheritance,
around the original: it not implementation And now
explains the correct way of inheritance. (2009):
applying the doctrine. roles not
Eventually it is admitted Ancillary doctrine: interfaces.
that the original doctrine Design Patterns.
is incomplete (it is "not a
silver bullet"), but no Fad of the future (?):
apology is ever heard for Extreme Programming.
it having been oversold
The implication is that
this is *not* a flaw in the
original doctrine, since it
is unreasonable to expect
anything to be a "silver
bullet", though this *is*
how it was sold in the
And this sets the stage
for the next
To veer back toward art:
The sound of the beach vs. the sound
of the highway. The white noise from But then,
each is so similar but nearly all the peculiar
prefer the commutation of the sea vroom/swish
to the sound of highway surf. of the highway:
And many prefer the exactly *intended*
gurgling water was it?
sculpture to the
There's a strong component of the
unintended, the unplanned, the
_undesired_ in much of what we
Ugliness has to do with getting
what you ordered and finding it And beauty is
wanting? getting what
I'm not comfortable with this line of
thought, but it has to be followed.
It seems inescapable, though I remain
uncertain of all the details.
The self isolated is unreliable and limited.
It must be engaged in the world, perpetually
scrambled by external (random?) input.
All good work must be compromises with the
materials, the moment, the deadlines, your
fading energy, your waning enthusiasm.
Infinite time and freedom are invitations
to laziness, and the doorway to the
For my first trip to Burning Man, I decided
to try to build a large structure out of BURNING_MOMENTS
slotted angle iron.
In the months before the event, my head was
swimming with various possibilities (the
overall shape of the structure; the details of
hub connection methods; the purpose of the
structure -- aeolian harp, observation
platform, windmill driven noisemakers... All
of these possibilities had to coalesce into
one, real physical object. To me, the
finished product seemed slight, but everyone
else found it impressive because they couldn't
see the missed opportunities, only what was
Why trouble to complete a work,
if it's perfect in your imagination?
Because it's *not*
perfect really: Also, it can't communicate,
just a hazy cloud unless built.
Art may not absolutely
Constructing it is *need* to be communicative,
playing tennis with but most of it has to do with
the net up. It the interaction of minds...
forces the final
choices on you.
Why not annihilate EXTREMES
the self? If not the
self of the audience,
the self of the artist.
The world exists, the
enlightened eye can
appreciate it's beauty,
why bother interfering Eh: why not?
with the natural
arrangement at all if Because producing intentional
the controlled is so art has communicative and
uniformly worthless? therapeutic aspects...
also for the
And the intentional
doesn't negate the
virtues of the
certainly need not
The fantasy novel. In principle,
it is constrained solely by the
imagination of the author. There
are no rules (or more precisely,
the author can choose any rules)
but in practice almost every
fantasy novel is much like every
other. Generic, derivative...
A form that _could_ be astoundingly
rich is more often than not quite
The ability to be anything in
principle becomes an excuse to not
really be anything in particular.
One needs no deep knowledge of
anything to write a salable
No political philosophy,
no historical knowledge,
is required to hack out
good king bad wizard
Music where the artist is free to choose
any set of rules is music that is
limited to only one function. It
demands focused attention. It cannot be
backgrounded, it cannot be accompaniment
to popular dance, it cannot be a vehicle
for words or worship.
At least not reliably:
it can serve a few of these functions
for awhile, but only for awhile...
until the artist changes the rules
Here, I try to treat all
art and design as the same.
But clearly there are
Words and music have different
limitations: the improvised or
the random play much better on CONCRETE_MUSIC
the 88 keys than the QWERTY.
But even in the realm of prose, it's
best if not too tightly controlled.
I find Flaubert's tortured precision BOVARY
dull and flat compared to Balzac's
Note: the best of the current generation
of music is the independently produced.
The major labels of the music industry
retains their grip on the ears of the Grip? Maybe collars?
sleepwalkers but anyone who wants to can
now slip that leash and find a near Yes, their high,
infinite universe of artist produced and heavy iron collars
packaged sound. locked around the
throats and ears
MUSICAL_DAMAGE of the sleepwalking
zombies, trapped in
Un-mediated music is their hideous half-life,
almost a prerequisite un-enlightened by the
for quality... and Oddly, though: piercing purple beam
yet in the world of Cheap CD-Rs of the rhetoric of
prose, the vanity are an freedom, the reasoned
press is regarded exception. rant of power, the
almost universally as righteous rap of the
the mark of CD-Rs are just.
mediocrity. getting a
bad rep: too Like this.
If you can't get the much total
seal of approval of junk is the doom of contentment
a real editor, then getting the law of the landless
don't bother me with burned. the lay of the landing party
it. the lair of the libertarian
Though there the lei of the beast
Except: fiction (and is one small
poetry?) is clearly CD-R label
different from the putting out Yeah,
"non"... personal some really it's
ramblings make up great music: getting
many a readable, Limited late.
self-produced zine. Sedition.
Small press fiction
is much less likely TOTAL_IMMERSION
to be readable.
(Though of course it's
not that hard to think
of poor standardized
by a professional
Does touristy = inauthentic?
Because tourist sites are designed to
be looked at by people?
Or not just people, but mere
As opposed to
suburbanites who come in on
residents who've lived here a year
and will return to the 'burbs
It often seems to me that the
trouble with tourist sites is not
so much that they're designed, but
they're designed stupidly, for But above I harp on how the
and perhaps by the stupid. *intent* to design seems to
corrupt, irrespective of
the intelligence of the
Some of tourist sites don't
strike me as mindless: In the college radio world:
e.g. the cable cars in SF. a DJ grabbing a card and
Because they remain a stumbling though it, reading
practical form of transit? it live on the air will
invariably sound better to
Possibly: the rule me than a pre-recorded
is that authentic announcement where someone
tourist sites are has carefully avoided making
historical, which "mistakes".
is to say that they
evolved rather than
Though once evolved, But: post-war they
they were frozen in wanted to destroy
place by design. the cable cars --
Attempts at preservation
can be a subtle destruction.
The above is essentially the second draft
of a letter to the Toadkeeper.
I hadn't intended to go off on this TOADKEEPER
stuff, but it turned out that I had a
lot I wanted to say about this sort of
The primary difference (at the
moment) is that I think that this On the other hand, it also may
version makes it clearer that these make it look like I'm making
are lines of thought I'm playing with, flat statements about what I
without necessarily believing in any believe is true.
of this stuff.
It might be more to
It's also shorn of personal remarks, the point to say that
random remarks about things I've been I make much less effort
reading, and so on. to make claims about my
beliefs one way or the
Who really cares
what I believe?
The idea means more
on it's own than
whatever my religion
of the moment is.
Or at least that's
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