Empty Days

Saturday, January 10, 2004

Genetic roots of Free Will

Vygotsky is a Russian (actually Jewish, and in Russia these things do make a difference) psychologist from the 1920's. One of those thinkers who make sense even today, which is good news because a lot of what we get to hear from our contemporaries doesn't make much sense one way or another.

Vygotsky's books were on the blacklist under the Stalin regime, his published articles were actually cut out from the the archived newspapers in the Moscow Central Library (Orwell really didn't have to strain his imagination here), and even after Stalin's death, when Vygotsky became legal again, the censors refused to publish some chapters of his books. For example a chapter called: "Genetic roots of thought and speech" - because it contradicted the highly ethical ideals of the stalinist state.

Somehow this does sound familiar - if we now lived in a Christian fundamentalist state, such a chapter would also go against the grain, the ethical grain of high-morals. And perhaps it's not even a matter of political control - after all, these high ideals are engrained in our thinking, and despite much debate and much research it is still very hard for any of us "moderns" to truly admit to this kind of insight. "Genetic roots of thought and speech" lead almost directly to "genetic roots of Good and Evil" and suddenly a sort of abyss opens open - and what then of our free-will, oh Lord?

Our so-called free will.


Comedic musings

Went out on my bike today - nearly froze to death. At the same time it is clear that all it takes is a bottle of whisky, a seemingly warm coat - go out at night, get drunk, fall asleep - and you'll never wake up. Won't even see it coming. The only problem is - it is very hard to arrange accidental death on purpose. The workings of chance and time are so subtle, purposeful imitations have a way of falling terribly short. Possible malfunctions: instead of falling asleep, the mind, intent on its plan, resists relaxation needed for the body to stop fighting. Result: frozen limbs, amputation. Or else: you choose a snug corner behind a garbage bin in the darkest alley and somebody finds you anyway. Or else: you drink up the whole bottle and go on a rampage instead of dozing off. Or else...
It's almost comic, really.

Thursday, January 08, 2004

Paradise Lost - the real mind

Something I was not looking for but found nonetheless. So may Schiller say it better than I've been trying to so far:
Dickens's children, and his grownups too, lack the knowledge which brutalizes life. Lev Shestov says (in his Athens and Jerusalem [Simon & Schuster. 1966]) that man exchanged faith for knowledge in the fall. Dickens tries desperately to recapture vestiges of our prelapsarian state. Of course he would be among the first to admit that we cannot restore Eden; but he seems to say that we can remember what we have lost.

Schiller began to remember, but considered the loss irrevocable. In a famous essay of his he distinguishes between the naive poet, who is characterized by spontaneity, immediacy and absence of self-consciousness, and the sentimental poet, who subjects his feelings to the scrutiny of the intellect, tests their validity by reference to some external criterion. Naivete', Schiller says, is the ideal; sentimentalism is what we have. The ideal is unattainable -- for the adult; but the child, who naturally exists in this state of naivete' or innocence, reigns as a supreme symbol for Schiller. Children, he says,

are what we were. . what we should once again become. . . . They are . . . not only the representation of our lost childhood . . . but fill us with a certain melancholy. But they are also representations of our highest fulfillment in the ideal, thus evoking in us a sublime tenderness. We are touched, not because we look down upon the child from the strength of our height and perfection, but rather because we look upward from the limitation of our [adult] condition (Naive and Sentimental Poetry (Ungar, 1966), pp. 85, 87].
And since I am on such a binge here is something else, which I did not remember on my own:
Lev Shestov remarked, "Perhaps truth by its nature makes communication between people impossible, in any case, communication by the intermediary of words. Everyone may know it for himself, but in order to enter into relations with his fellow men he must renounce truth and adopt any conventional lie."



Origine of thought

I was indeed wondering...
From an early date onward Wittgenstein was greatly influenced by the idea that philosophical problems can be resolved by paying attention to the working of language - a thought he may have gained from Fritz Mauthner's Beitrage zu einer Kritik der Sprache ( 1901-02). Wittgenstein's affinity to Mauthner is, indeed, evident in all phases of his philosophical development, though it is particularly noticeable in his later thinking.
http://www.cfh.ufsc.br/~mafkfil/sluga.htm

Our actions are always two-layered. They need attention, they need us being conscious of them, describing them and judging them in our consciousness. We can say that an action is something of which we can say that it has been done properly, correctly or not. We can behave properly, dance properly, write correctly, speak a language correctly, but we cannot fall in love properly, dream properly or feel cold properly. (...) Already Fritz Mauthner has written that it could be more correct to speak instead of "Ich denke" "Es denkt mich".
The mystical non-action
And countless others must have reflected on the same thing in private - that thought comes one knows not whence.


The Ivory Tower

I have *very* little to tell anybody about anything - and this quite despite my occasional loquacity etc.

This is actually why I shone a teaching career - it suddenly became all too clear that if I can't convince myself of anything, how on earth would I ever impart knowledge, love of, and other such highly improbable things to others? In the normal course of events I would have been fast at work teaching Latin and Greek, enthusing about Athens and Rome, breaking a replica of some really ancient pottery on somebody's head and publishing horrendously specialized articles in some particularly obscure academic journal. And the surprising thing - I would probably have been rather proud of myself.

As things stand some many years later, I can hardly believe I once actually bought into all these lovable futilities and even held some of them sacred. What can I say - it's wonderful to be an innocent believer. And it's entirely unwonderful when you look back on it. I can't really blame it on youth (though of course the innocence), especially when I see that quite a number of people actually maintain these beliefs and behaviors late into life, without any visible need to question or doubt or run away.

I suppose I just wasn't destined for blissful beliefs, I was destined for doubts.

And I know from unpleasant personal experience that doubts are not a proper fare for a teacher, especially one who deals with enthusing young minds. It's even absolutely destructive. It poisons the spirit way too early - people must have the freedom to wait for their own doubts to arise, without figures of authority screwing up with their heads. In fact, a teacher must be a believer - in something at least. Otherwise you just have nothing to say. And if you persists in talking and lecturing, you're committing a crime against personal integrity. In short - you're lying. Teachers must avoid lies.

The problem with things like Latin and Greek is that you can't really get away with just teaching the language - which is a highly technical endeavor, since these are dead languages that can only be studied from written texts. You also have to teach "the culture" these texts are part of, otherwise it just doesn't make much sense - people learn this stuff for culture, there are no other uses for it.

And that's where my problem occurred - I lost faith in the meaningfulness of such an endeavor. Basically, I found Horace boring and Seneca trite. And I found that Plato or Homer are well understood in English and it's not essential to know the original ("to on"? fuck it). Basically, I found that learning dead languages is a pedantic move and I didn't want to move in that direction anymore. All of which meant that it would be unthinkable for me to teach these languages to those who were still under the spell or desired to fall under the spell. I didn't want to do the bewitching. I threw the magic wand out the window and left.

This was also the start of my ongoing desillusionment with high-culture in general and though I've been trying very hard I still can't truly get rid of it - and the pedantic habits it engendered.

It's unbelievably hard to really leave the Ivory Tower, mentally - for all things and purposes, it is actually equivalent to leaving a big city for a totally uncensored life in a shack somewhere in the woods. It's a mental Ted Kozinsky thing - and I wouldn't be surprised if madness were the only thing that actually did the trick.

So in a sense I am in exile of my earlier nature - an exile is never free from his homeland, otherwise he wouldn't be an exile, he'd be something else. A displaced person, perhaps. A Don Juan or a Wandering Jew or a Flying Hollander, whatever. But I am an exile, always looking back at the Ivory Tower, spitting and cursing against the damn thing, and never able to just fuck it and move out of sight.

I require a change of nature. That's the only way out. But where to? And this is the real question. For children of the Ivory Tower see all of the world as a vast wasteland and when they flee, they flee into desert. That's what needs changing. And it requires a change of nature. Dispossession. A sort of death and rebirth thing. I need to die before it's too late and I am entombed forever.

Perhaps I require a mental harakiri - but how?

Basically this here looks like the very thing. From the website of a Douglas Harding speaking in tongues:
The best day of my life - my rebirthday, so to speak - was when I found I had no head. This is not a literary gambit, a witticism designed to arouse interest at any cost. I mean it in all seriousness: I have no head.

It was eighteen years ago, when I was thirty-three, that I made the discovery. Though it certainly came out of the blue, it did so in response to an urgent enquiry; I had for several months been absorbed in the question: what am I? The fact that I happened to be walking in the Himalayas at the time probably had little to do with it; though in that country unusual states of mind are said to come more easily. However that may be, a very still clear day, and a view from the ridge where I stood, over misty blue valleys to the highest mountain range in the world, with Kangchenjunga and Everest unprominent among its snow-peaks, made a setting worthy of the grandest vision.

What actually happened was something absurdly simple and unspectacular: I stopped thinking. A peculiar quiet, an odd kind of alert limpness or numbness, came over me. Reason and imagination and all mental chatter died down. For once, words really failed me. Past and future dropped away. I forgot who and what I was, my name, manhood, animalhood, all that could be called mine. It was as if I had been born that instant, brand new, mindless, innocent of all memories. There existed only the Now, that present moment and what was clearly given in it.
....
It was all, quite literally, breathtaking. I seemed to stop breathing altogether, absorbed in the Given. Here it was, this superb scene, brightly shining in the clear air, alone and unsupported, mysteriously suspended in the void, and (and this was the real miracle, the wonder and delight) utterly free of "me", unstained by any observer. Its total presence was my total absence, body and soul. Lighter than air, clearer than glass, altogether released from myself, I was nowhere around. (...)
I'd die that kind of death any time. Just for a moment to enter the picture for real, to live. To be or not to be as no question at all. Oh yes.


Ants on reason

It's interesting - why do I feel so good today? This near-fire did me a world of good (or was it that tv documentary that facilitated the fire?). The documentary was about microbiology - you know, the world of bacterias, the rain forest, fungi, the endless cycle of life and death in nature and how closely those micro-organisms actually resemble us, people (and they eat us too, all the time, before and after death, and they don't even know what death is, "too small to know", as if).

One thing that really struck me was how ants brought leaves to a hole where a mashroom mould was growing - to feed the mashroom because they themselves feed on the mould. (btw: turns out that fungi are actually closer to fauna than flora - somehow I always suspected as much)

The reason this give-and-take situation with ants and mashrooms struck me so vividly was because, just before that, I happened on a CBC documentary about industrial farming (especially hog-farms) and where it stands compared to traditional agriculture, rural community, environment. Well, you guessed it - it stands in very deep shit and what's more it spreads its shit all over the place. Of course, the reason behind deep shit is always the same - big money. And my first question was: who the fuck needs so much meat anyway? And the answer was - it's all for export anyway.

Isn't it interesting that whenever you start mass-producing for export you immediately forget where, why, and how you live?

Now, this was a Canadian documentary (The Nature of Things, "Farming Inc.") but it featured a very virulent Robert Kennedy Jr who kept telling his canadian brothers - don't wait until this happens to you, stifle it out while and where you still can! And he gave examples of North Carolina, and I've heard about this on PBS a while ago too, pigs are really famous there, and USA is so fucking rich for a price - to its own people, most obviously (who can possibly eat all that pork etc).

Against this dire background the unsollicited cooperation between ants and fungi really impressed me. I mean - it's almost as if ants had more brains than us, people. Of course, you can't ask that much of a mashroom - it can't move after all. But ants, those guys do move, and more is asked of them - they bring the leaves. For no other purpose than to feed the mould. Because the mould feeds them. This *is* impressive - it almost looks like some sort of a farming endeavor: grow your own food, or at least help it grow.

Bees are also super-organized, of course, but I never heard of anything like that from bees - they facilitate insemination of flowers but it's accidental, a mechanism of nature so to speak. In short - ants really did it for me today (I am not sure I am gonna squash out an ant after this, even if it bites me where it shouldn't).

***

And speaking of intelligence, dear friends. And those hog-farms.

We do have an inkling that pigs are far from stupid and are perhaps quite a bit more intelligent that dogs (surprise). We know that of elephants and we know that of dolphins too - though only dimly. We have a very big problem understanding alien intelligence, and animals on this earth are the real aliens to us - who needs ET, right.

The truth is - we don't want to bother with types of intelligence that are neither conquering nor very talkative. Because those types of intelligence have nothing to "teach" us. The only lessons we are inclined to learn and deem intelligent are those about better control and better conquest - this is the basis of human reason, how our intelligence works and why it works as it does.

So of course it's far more interesting to eat a pig than to hang out with a pig. It doesn't ask for anything more than food and good will, while we ask for angels and far away planets. So we can't possibly have any respect for pigs - not at this stage in our history, when we're landing on Mars etc. We're too busy being grand. Meanwhile we're shitting in our own backyard but it doesn't matter - we're really grand and unique, we're not part of Nature, we're above it, and blah blah blah. We even have a God who only bothers with humans and absolutely nobody else. Oh really?

I don't know if it even makes sense to fight for animal "rights" in such a world. Whose laws and whose rights? Animals are not "nice" - they don't have those fucking moral laws, and that's because they don't need them (and they eat each other in peace). Ants bring leaves to the mashroom - and they don't eat all of the fungus mould, they also let the goddam mashroom grow. We don't do that - we require moral laws to *force* us do that. We'd run completely amoke without those laws. And we regularly do in any case.

I don't know. I can't seriously hope for the survival of the human race. I am expecting those very many nuclear bombs to finally put a massive end to our population - or something. In the book of Genesis (which is part of a very old mythology, pre-Judaic etc) the great Flood is interpreted as the final solution for a first version of the human race - the Creator was so unhappy with it, he decided to wipe it out and start anew. Given that mythology delves really deep into human psyche, we have here a glaring example of first-rate pessimism: God, please kill us already, we're so fucking tired of being so dumb and bad and screwed up. And here comes the Flood - finally!

If the Flood came today, the modern Noah would forget to take the beasts with him - he'd take the machines. And I don't think there will be a Noah and a third draft this time.

Emigrating to Mars? The stones are awaiting. Amen.

***

In an old Kurosawa film, Dersu Uzala, the aging native hunter refers to the tigers in the forest as "people" - to him animals are not an inferior species, it is simply a different race of people, and that's the way animals see us too, though we hate to admit it.




Oh man, this is just too good to pass (if you're surprised I am mixing in fairy tales into my usual high-philosophy crap, maybe you shouldn't be, it's the most natural thing to do):
Russian Existentialism and Vampire Slayage: A Shestovian Key to the Power and Popularity of Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Russian Existentialist Lev Shestov provides the key to understanding not only Buffy’s power to vanquish vampires, but also the popularity of the Buffyverse. This profound narrative for our time cannot be dismissed, as in Levine and Schneider’s "Feeling for Buffy: The Girl Next Door." Taking our cue from episode 6012, "Doublemeat Palace," where Buffy, having been fired, perplexingly requests, "I'd really like to not be fired anymore," we argue that although it is logically impossible both to be fired and not fired, such difficulties do not faze the Slayer. According to Shestov, creative freedom gives one the power to overcome the law of non-contradiction by choosing unreason over reason. Like Buffy and her circle, Shestov seeks guidance through the interpretation of ancient texts. He sees the story of the Fall recounted in Genesis as the loss of existential freedom through partaking of the tree of knowledge (reason). Shestov argues we should use reason as a tool rather than falling victim to the necessity of its laws. Buffy’s wooden stake is such a tool, which she uses most effectively to confront the logical impossibility of vampires, the undead. This explains why vampires simply go poof when the point of their own logical absurdity is driven home. Thus, having the law of non- contradiction in hand accounts for the Slayer’s power. The popularity of the series itself is found in the paradoxical ways it embodies existential choice and privileges ancient texts over contemporary science and technology.
Meantime I am half-listening to the murmor of an interminable PBS feature on Lincoln and it feels just as if I am being read a bed-time story, and it's almost time to fall asleep. Sweet dreams of American Civil War? Why not indeed.




I love the story of J.K.Rowling, authoress of Harry Potter the magic kid. I haven't read the books and almost don't need to - the rise to glory of this particular writer is the real fairy tale behind the printed tales, and by "glory" I don't mean money and fame - I mean the whole situation, the Cinderella effect of the pure heart acting as wings, flying, really flying. Here's what Rowling says of how the whole thing happened:
Q: How did you get the idea for Harry Potter?
A: I was taking a long train journey from Manchester to London in England and the idea for Harry just fell into my head. At that point it was essentially the idea for a boy who didn't know he was a wizard, and the wizard school he ended up going to.
...
Q: What do you think it is about Harry Potter that connects with so many people?
A: It's very hard to think about my work in those terms, because I really wrote it entirely for myself; it is my sense of humour in the books, not what I think children will find funny, and I suppose that would explain some of the appeal to adults. On the other hand, I think that I have very vivid memories of how it felt to be Harry's age, and children seem to identify strongly with Harry and his friends.

Q: Did you ever expect Harry Potter to be so successful?
A: I would have been crazy to have expected what has happened to Harry. The most exciting moment for me, against very stiff competition, was when I found out Harry was going to be published. It was my life's ambition to see a book I had written on a shelf in a bookshop. Everything that has happened since has been extraordinary and wonderful, but the mere fact of being able to say I was a published author was the fulfillment of a dream I had had since I was a very small child.

Q: Are you surprised to see Harry Potter connecting with so many adults, as well as kids?
A: I didn't write with a target audience in mind. What excited me was how much I would enjoy writing about Harry. I never thought about writing for children --- children's books chose me. I think if it is a good book anyone will read it.
Of course, the rest of the well-known context is: being a divorced mom, kicking that secretary job for teaching, and writing in cafes when time permitted. Just wonderful.




Now, we are having serious winter temperatures here: -30 C which usually means something closer to -40 when you actually get out there. Crack crack - and some underground pipe goes boom. Tonight it was a gas pipe - and an army of firemen putting on some christmas-style illumination in the neighbourhood. Last time it was a water-pipe - much less festive and you have to take your shower somewhere else, and forget using your toilet.

Serious cold will endure for a few more days, so we're not out of the woods yet, for the water-pipes and else. Sad as this sounds, we are sure to be doing some body-count in the mornings - a few homeless folks always end up in the morgue on such nights, and it's not because they don't know where to go, it's because they just won't. Maybe it's a wise decision, I don't know - the other no-hassle way to pass away is to suffocate in your sleep from fire-smoke.

Today I had a near-fire situation when I forgot I had food heating up on the stove. The kitchen door was closed, I was engrossed in some uplifting tv documentary, I have no smoke detector, and my nose is blocked with flu. Two hours later I heard a loud bang that could only come from the kitchen - the steel pot got so hot it separated from its base (whatever that means). As I flung the door open all I could see was a wall of thick yellowish smoke. No flames - there was no oil involved. So I opened windows everywhere, freezed out the place etc. Of course the smell is still bad but I don't really know it - thanks to the flu (it has its uses after all). The reason I got rid of the smoke detector was something I heard on local news once - some woman died in her sleep, by inhaling fumes from a nascient fire somewhere in the flat. Great, I thought - and removed the smoke-detector.

And I have my great coat on, of course.

Wednesday, January 07, 2004

Good Will Hunting exegesis

It's not what you do, it's how you live. Which means what exactly?

In my head I am executing a complicated dance, swirling around the prima-donna of all my thoughts, the magnificent Wait D, also known as "What am I to Do". Perhaps I should take this to mean "Do Wait"? I can't understand her but I am trying, I am trying.

***

Saw bits and pieces of Good Will Hunting, the film - I've seen it before, and was never particularly touched by this movie until this last time when it finally hit me: the movie per se is slightly crappy, but the psychology it's trying to get at (in a spectacularly clumsy way) is pretty interesting.

It's about somebody whose will is effectively paralized. Either broken will (through instilled fear) or unacknowledged will (refusal to be free). The movie's thinking reeks of pop-psychology and effectively avoids some unsolvable pitfalls by pretending it only takes a good man to save the damned. This is how it goes:
1. child abuse provokes early fear and breaks Will;
2. child loses trust in people and in himself;
3. child refuses to acknowledge he might be any good and this is due to unconscious sense of guilt;
4. nevertheless child is exceptionally gifted and it's only a matter of making him see just how good he is;
5. this may only happen through bonding with a trusted authority who will show him that really, there's nothing to feel bad about;
6. once child is able to trust the other's judgement his will is set free.

All nice and dandy. But of course it forgets to raise a couple of significant issues that might perhaps ruin the whole picture. And by omitting these things, the character's psychology is forever screwed, but we get to have a happy ending - and who cares if it's not true to life.
Here are the "issues":
1. child is entirely dependent on another's judgement to set his own value and this dependency will likely never be really "cured" and will continue to cause damage.
2. unconscious guilt might not be the thing that causes broken will, instead it would be broken trust, and that too is never really "cured" through subsequent experiences.
3. the reason Will sees no value in his giftedness is because natural gift doesn't require any effort - in fact he uses it to impress his friends (see dependancy issue) while it does nothing for himself and he knows it.
4. he refuses to use it as a weapon to really challenge those more on his level (MIT guys) as a weapon of ambition - because he knows it's too easy, and ambition requires difficult challenges.
5. as a result he finally goes after the girl and not after a brilliant career, since trust and feelings are in fact a bigger challenge.
6. unfortunately, it is perhaps too difficult and he is bound to fail - he goes to meet failure; later in life people like Will end up in AA meetings, after a few failed marriages and other mighty endeavors.
7. can broken Will ever be "cured"?

Child abuse context is actually unnecessary (contrary to what pop-psychology seems to believe) - any serious breach of trust or experience of failure will cause similar effects.
Also, taking for granted that misplaced guilt is the primary motive for refusing free will, and then organizing a direct assault on this unconscious guilt, looks really far-fetched and probably is too. One of the very frustrating things about the unconscious is that the person has no clue what's in it - directly pointing out unconscious motives does not make these motives any more controllable. Which is why no one has ever been "cured" by reading tons of pop-psychology books.
Besides, powerful defence mechanisms have already been described in the Gospels: why it is that people see the slightest faults in others and cannot see the biggest flaws in themselves? Indeed - how unreasonable of them.

So basically, after watching the movie, I still would like to know how Will Hunting was able to straighten out his screwed-up will and what kind of life it resulted in. I can't see the light at the end of the tunnel for the guy. Was he able to take advantage of his talents and did it make him proud or he kept feeling like a fake and a loser while being showered with praise? Was he able to develop an equal-opportunity relationship with the girl despite feeling himself to be the biggest victim in the world? Did he end up as a bitter alcoholic and an abusive father himself? Was he able to find a passion to his life, beside the passion of ruining himself and others? etc etc.

Perhaps I am a rabid pessimist but where the fuck is the fire exit?

Of course all this correlates with my own example of screwed up psychology - and I certainly know only too well just how difficult it is to deal with these things. No amount of thinking or not-thinking ever resolves anything, and no amount of talking or looking helps solve the problem. It's already enough of a challenge to recognize what exactly is "the problem", let alone do anything meaningful about it.

What is fear, for instance? It's not enough to just say - yup, here I am afraid and I know it. And it's also not enough to pretend this fear is unreasonable and that it should be overcome for whatever higher purpose.

Freedom of will and hope go hand in hand. Hope is either a consequence or the cause of self-confidence (I just have no idea anymore). Normally, self-confidence should grow through achievement, big or small is not really relevant. But what if no achievement is ever enough to uphold confidence, or hope? When you find out it's not enough, you are looking directly at the source of it all - and that is your will, and it's just completely impotent at the root.

Physiological impotence is dealt with rather beautifully through pills - Viagra and all that shit. But what about psychological impotence? And I assure you - it's not at all different. You want whatever you want but there is just no way you can get it up, so to speak.
What to do then? Pills again?

I read somewhere that they invented pills to combat phobias - the no-fear pill. Perhaps I should try a handful, you never know. Also, I hear ecstasy has a nice unbounding effect, as well as some other drugs. And with all that it becomes somewhat obvious that you just can't trust in pills for psychological potency - because you pretty much need it all day long and preferrably all year long without vacations. Can pills do that for you?

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

Words deprived - the case of Richard Rose

Basically all the "issues" I have with copyright revolve around books that are absolutely not entertainment oriented - and that doesn't concern academic type literature only. Currently I am being triggered by the situation with this mystic-aka-philosopher guy from the backwoods of Virginia - Richard Rose (see my links). The link points to the website of the spiritual community he founded in the 70's which is currently run by his wife and a few aging apostles who think the whole spiritual-retreat thing is still worth maintaining. So they keep his few books in print and from what I can gather, the man's family pretty much lives off the sales (and I hope something else too because the sales can't be very high).

All nice and snug as this sounds, I have a problem with it - the man himself always wanted to spread his word as wide as possible in the faint hope that it might reach some whom it most concerns: people like himself, who are asking the same type of questions. And he did it non-profit of course, because that's what you do when you want to say something you think important - cash just doesn't enter into it (think how Nietzsche published his books; it was almost hilarious, nobody read him - and the same with Kierkegaard etc etc etc etc).
So my conundrum with this Richard Rose legacy is that the guys who currently run his shop don't use the power of internet to publish his stuff. Instead they use it to promote his "organization" and this is not at all the same thing, as far as I am concerned.

In fact, the TAT foundation has at some time been listed as a cult - and I am not surprised, because when you structure everything around a powerful personality (and R.Rose was certainly quite a character in that sense) some people are bound to lose their wits and become severely endoctrinated. Which is what happened to some of those 70's guys who joined and stayed on for a good 25 years. But when the guru had passed, of course it must have been quite a shock - to realize you've given up everything to follow a man, and when he's gone you suddenly don't know what to do with yourself, or even who you are anymore. When I read what the "apostles" have to say, I can't shake the impression that they're essentially dogmatics, people who've espoused somebody else's ideas to build their life around, incapable of independant thinking - the kind of thinking that actually grows from meeting ideas, instead of clinging to them like a baby-monkey to its mother. So I call them apostles - because apostles petrify their teacher's words into a dogma (actually, the same thing was done to Wittgenstein, so it's really not confined to obscure spiritual communities, this whole disciple/apostle business).

So I find it kinda sad they're not using internet to promote Richard Rose's voice - because it's not just ideas, it's really a voice and it's unmistakably a voice of a thinking man - flawed, often wrong, powerfully true. Confining it to an "organisation" is something like the story of Apple computers - they preferred to keep PC development to themselves and lost by a huge margin to IBM, who took a wider view of how development actually occurs in the great wide world.

I am terrifically tempted to disregard the copyright laws in the case of Richard Rose, but I think it would be harmful to the livelihood of RR's wife and family - and while I couldn't give a damn about the foundation with their bagful of dogmas, I certainly wouldn't want to deprive some people of their meagre revenue. The ideological conundrum remains, but it's not up to me to act on it - not in this case.


Breaking the law in bookland - a How-To

So what was I going to say... Et voila. I can't remember :-0

Ah, here it is. Just read an article on amazon's book-search feature (via the Enchanted Cellist blog), which respects copyright laws by preventing you from copy-pasting, and yet permits a deeper glance into books still unread through surprising search-results - because you simply can't know what might be out there while you think you're looking for something specific. Basically, it's your dream-library laid open for you through digital search capabilities.

Now, of course the next huge step for mankind after this commercially-sponsored breakthrough would be to forego the copyright straight-jacket and allow quoting. And this revolves around a simple question: would digital reproduction really (or let's say - significantly) undermine book sales or not?

I don't think it would.

In music we are witnessing a very different phenomenon, where digital reproduction is actually transferred back into CD-format to be used as a pirated copy of an original CD. The current book-world analogy to this would be e-book software and portable reading devices, which are perhaps nice but definitely and by far not anywhere as nice/practical/valuable/meaningful as real paper books. There is one huge difference here - the true analogy to CD-piracy would be people actually illegally printing books from digitally reproduced material. And book-business being what it is, this is just not going to happen. Period.

Maybe I am old-fashioned, backward and out of touch, but my example (and I am a worst-case scenario because I am moneyless and thus reluctant to spend any cash, on new books especially) should mean something. And here is my example: when I find a writer I want to read, I first get my hands on him through a library loan (Wittgenstein most recently), or perhaps even illegal reproduction on the internet (that's how I first got to read E.Waugh). But my next move is always the same and has always been, whether I am out of cash or not - I hunt down their printed books (preferrably used and cheap of course, but I wasn't so particular about it when I had a salary; sheesh - if I could spoil myself with a porn tape for US$60, I could certainly afford some glistering new hardcover bricks too).

At the same time I realize that this only holds true for big publishing houses and well-established authors. Small publishing companies, always struggling and with very small runs, would probably take something of a hit from this kind of internet-library free-for-all. I suppose this also concerns quite a few living authors, and books designed for entertainment firstly - like thrillers let's say (you read a thriller because it's thrilling and then you toss it aside and never touch it again perhaps - and if you could read it free on the net or on your e-book-palmheld-whatever, you wouldn't need to buy the paperback etc). And what would happen to Harry Potter? Right.

So all books-authors-publishers are not equal, let's say, and while the same laws apply to all print, not the same results follow.

Perhaps I am wrong and stringent copyright laws must prevail in all cases to protect the most vulnerable ones of the crowd - and the most profit-hungry also. Between the virtually unknown and the money-sharks of the hit-list variety lies a vast ocean of what is commonly known as book-culture, or culture for short. In the end, my example is no good not because I am moneyless but because I don't perceive reading as entertainment - as opposed to the vast majority of those who actually buy books and uphold amazon.com and the rest of the fricking publishing industry.
Strange as this may sound.

So of course I can't really appreciate the terrible cost to publishing of an open-internet-library project with a search system and quoting - how can I, since I am still gonna buy the book? Right. And a whole bunch of others won't. So shove it, already.

But the thing is - I don't agree with that view, even though I've just argued myself into a corner here, it would seem. It's a legal corner, and though I am not a criminal by inclination, I am indeed inclined to break the law when it seems to do more harm than good - probably because the law is based on the views of a certain prevailing community to which I may not belong in all instances. So in that respect I may indeed be criminally minded - more along the civil-disobedience lines.

I have repeatedly broken copyright laws in creating certain websites that I knew would benefit not myself (except in some etherial way perhaps) but a community of people who need and have been waiting for that kind of resource - with the caveat that this need could not possibly produce any commercial benefits for myself or the users. Nor could it significantly detract some such benefits from some other parties. Nevertheless I did break copyright laws. And I'll do it again.

While surfing the blogs a while ago I happened on a Cornell University guy who was fuming about the situation of their university Library having to stop subscriptions to a whole bunch of important academic periodicals (mostly scientific) because the publisher of all these journals kept rising prices without taking any account of the buying-power of academic libraries. Now picture this - we're talking Ivy League here, Cornell U, whose library (and I can attest to this because I was lucky enough to use it for a while) is probably one of the richest and up-to-date collections out there. And this place can't afford periodicals now? So let us not be too soapy about the plight of those poor small-audience publishers out there - they really know how to milk the cow when they want to.




Goddam - this flu just won't go away. I am through with taking medication - it's not doing anything except inducing even more fatigue, constipation (yeah, the nicest part), and my kidneys issued a formal note of protest recently so I guess the governing body must comply with the popular wishes after all. Let the viri play their game to the hilt, I say. As a result I absolutely did not feel like typing anything for a while - bed-ridden reading did provoque thinking but in a kind of languid, dissipated way, unfit for writing - and in any case it all vanishes as soon as I sit up (could thinking be linked to the physical position of the body? under these circumstances, most definitely yes).





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