Freakonomics Wilful Blindness Buddhism's one pointedness

You become a monster when you don't concentrate...

A Freakonomics podcast...

...speaks of Continuous Partial Attention, never concentrating on a single thing.

Willful Blindness by Margaret Hefferman...

 ...explains that attention is not divisible.

Buddhism has the idea of one pointedness...

So when we are discussing the angle of a mechanical cut, and at the same time you are emailing a Japanese distributor about pricing, and you say "I'm listening I'm listening..." you are deluded or lying.



The first and last real conceptual art work, Duchamp's urinal.

The first and only really original conceptual artwork was Duchamp's urinal. A "found object" as art.

The next imaginative leap should have been: "The whole universe is a found object, we can appreciate that, we don't need to create other conceptual art. Nothing can beat the universe."

But that thought would not feed the art market nor the ego of the artists. So was born the idiocy of conceptual art, poor in concepts, rich in wool to pull over eyes.

The upside is that many people art create ignoring the art market. John Craxton for example. And maybe you. Do it. Create it. Fuck'em all.

Before Life's Liquor In The Cup Runs Dry

I've learned part of the The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyám and one of the lines came to my mind as I sat on the sofa with a glass of wine balanced on the arm.

"Come my little ones and fill the cup, before life's liquor in the cup runs dry.

And the wine was nearly finished...

...and it occurred to me that the level of wine left in the glass might show how many years I have left to live. So when I was born I had a full glass. Now I don't.

So I'd better get on with all those things I want to do and keep putting off.

Strangely the thought was not morbid. Maybe I didn't really believe it, but certainly more than half my life has already gone.

There's a Buddhist saying "Those who are mindful will never die." I personally take it to mean that if you are awake to life you'll enjoy it better. And when you die you won't know it. There is a sort of infinity there, everything you'll ever know is what you know when when you are alive.

Hmmm. Can't explain this better.

(Old photos of me leave me almost untouched now. The memory of what I was yesterday is more alive than the memory of what I was 10 years ago and what I was 50 years ago. The memory seems  dead. The contradiction is that I can feel the nostalgia, but it is not me.)


Val Wilmer said an interesting thing...

I heard a program about Val Wilmer, an English jazz journalist who knew all the greats. She made an interesting point: In the last hundred years black music and cinema are the two art forms which changed the world more than any other. Without black music...

...there'd be no Beatles, Kinks, Rolling Stones or Elvis Presely, and all that followed. And maybe without black music there'd be more racism.

What ever Tacita Dean says about how important Cy Twombly's handwriting is for art...

...she's speaking to a navel gazing elite. Neither Dean non Twombli will be remembered in another hundred years. But I bet the musicians above are.

(And the critics gush and fawn on Dean, Twombli, Kapoor, Cross, and their ilk, without ever seeming to understand anything real.)


"You are either the programmer or the programmed" - said the fool.

The Radio Three Documentary often has interesting podcasts which I listen to as I drive to and from work. But sometimes I want to throw my MP3 player out of the car window at the things they say. Such was the case with "Sunday Feature: Select Copy Paste 3 partsConception". It is about using technology in art, and how it affects the artist.

One of the first to be interviewed was Holly Hendon who pointed out something that I've thought for a long time. Traditional blown, plucked, hit, instruments are very limited in the sounds they can make, and it takes ages to learn how to blow pluck and hit them. But the computer has an infinite variety of sounds which you can get to use without having to learn how to blow, pluck and hit. 

Unfortunately, from the extracts in the program, the music (the sounds) Holly creates with the computer are not great. They avoid cliche but they also avoid being listenable music.

She said that she "exposes what is happening in society" like this. Pointless. Waffle.

Another interviewee said: "You have to look at something again and again and again until you find the thing it wants to tell you." What does any inanimate object want to tell us? Nothing. More. Pointless. Waffle.

A lot of the excerpts from electronic music compositions sounded like they were fun to make and horrible and/or boring to listen to. A bit like contemporary poetry or free jazz. 
And here's the fool's idea: "Real artists mix their own paint. It's crucial! If you don't mix your own paint you don't know what the paint is capable of..." James Brydel. "I've been on the internet since I was 12 years old." Well bully for you. "Everything I do is kinda filtered through that lens." So, like, you've already limited yourself by having a filter. "Word is open on top of Firefox, so like the manuscript of the book is literally layered on top of the flows of information on the Internet." WTF is he talking about? And "this is a very digital process of thought." It's not, he thinks in an analog mode like all of us. Such waffle. And by the way he likes to confuse self driving cars. Ah.

Brydel says we cannot understand why AI does what it does. And then contradicts himself to say unless you are engaged in writing that code you can't have a "strong philosphical position on how it works." Eh?

Hmm. One of the features/problems of artificial neural networks is that you cannot analyse them to understand why they come to certain decision. Artificial neural networks are trained, not written.

The presenter was Clemency Burton-Hill, who should have known better than to say some of the things she said. She "has always been fascinated by the creative process". But you need a bit more discipline than "WOW!" when you're making a program about technology and the creative process.

Holly Herndon "We have new emotions and new feelings which weren't possible before this new technology or the new ways we're connected with each other." What an idiotic thing to say. Stupid. Could she name or describe one of these new emotions? Or is it an old emotion? "We need to find new art forms to express that and all those things need to be developed." That's a lot of needyness Holly. 

And then she quoted Doug Rushcroft "Program or be programmed."

"If you are not the programmer you are one of the programmed." Another &%$£ing stupid thing to say. Trump, Putin, Xi Jinping are all computer programmers, otherwise how could they have so much power? So, humm. How can you control the computer if you don't control the compiler? (The compiler is the software which changes human readable text into computer zeroes and ones.) Following Rushcroft's logic you need to write the compiler as well as a write the program. And build the computer. And only then will you be a complete artist.

And Clemency Burton-Hill did not comment on the fact that she did not make her own violin. Blinded by WOW! again?
This is a confedracy of dunces. Do they get paid for this fluff?

Then we hear some piano music composed by AIVA (Artificial Intelligence Virtual Artist) which sounded to me pretty good. It is the first non-human to be given the official status of composer a the leading French publishing association. But Clemensy Burton-Hill  criticises it, almost the only time she criticises anything. "The technology might be terribly clever but I don't know, there's something that sounds just off".

But she knew it was composed by a program before she judged it. She has not done a blind test. The sort of blind test which ends up giving women more of a chance in classical music than they used to have. 

No doubt male orchestra condutctors choose male musicians because, though the women were "terribly clever", they just sounded "off." And that phrase "terribly clever"...talking down to the poor uncultured technicians, they are not intelligent, pushing boundaries, incredibly imaginative, just "terribly clever". 

And of course not one of these ego filled intellectual/tecnological artists commented on what sort of art would come out of an artificial conciousness. They all want to be personally at the center, they want to be the heroes of the artistic revolution. And they reminded me of the bloke 200 years ago who said that hot air balloons would be good for lightning the load of horse drawn carriages, ignorning the fact that you can actaully fly in a baloon.



Death In The Bank (La morte in banca)

I'm reading "La morte in banca"by Giuseppe Pontiggia. It is set in 1950s Italy and is about a 17 year old who gets a job at a bank, but who really wants to study literature at university.

I won't spoil the plot for you, but one scene struck me. A roomful of people all working on mechanical adding machines. And I thought that in some ways not much has changed. As far as I can make out at least 50% of all people in all the offices in all the world are copying columns of numbers from one Excel sheet to another Excel sheet. Excel is silent compared with a mechanical adding machine, but I imagine the expressions on the faces of the operators are much the same.

And how many people use Excel as a database!? They think: "Excel has a lot of tables, databases have a lot of tables, therefore Excel is a database". Excel is a brilliant calculator, but a godawful error-prone inefficient "database." 

The problem with Excel is that you can start using it from day one, no thought required. And the road to hell leads on from there.