October 14, 2010

Godel, St. Anselm and Descarte's Cogito

Is there any similarity between the cogito and sentence in English, that is used as the final hey presto sentence of the sketch of Godel's incompleteness theorem on wikipedia?

As an example of a demonstrably unprovable theorem (I think) the wikipedia article introduces a "sentence in English" in this way.

"This is similar to the following sentence in English:

"when preceded by itself in quotes, is unprovable.", when preceded by itself in quotes, is unprovable.

This sentence does not directly refer to itself, but when the stated transformation is made the original sentence is obtained as a result, and thus this sentence asserts its own unprovability."

I feel, intuitively a similarity between the sentence above and the cogito as it takes place in Descartes. Can one morph the cogito into the above assertion of its unprovability?

Before the Descartes struck on the cogito his existence was presumably unproven. He proved it, he claims, with the cogito. So might it be okay to say that until the cogito, the "I" that he was trying to prove is in some sense in quotes?

Generally speaking perhaps non existent entities are in quotes? E.g. when considering if bigfoot exists, asking oneself or others, 'does bigfoot exist?" just thinking "bigfoot" does not make it exist, because bigfoot is just a name for something that may or may not exist.

This seems to me the problem with St. Anselms proof of the existance of God. Does God exist? He asks and says that God entails its own existence since it is the perfect and a perfect being exists. My reaction to St. Anselm is to say that when wondering whether God exists we are thinking about whether there is something that corresponds to the word "God". I feel that "Does God exist" is asking whether "God" refers to anything, or asking, if in all of existance is there something that it would be correct to call "God." Some words refer to things that exist, others (others, like bigfoot and father christmas) do not.

I am suggesting that prior to the cogito at least, "I" is a word like that, that is kind of in quotes, and it is not yet proved until he gets to the cogito, where claims that he has proven his existence. So perhaps we can say that since he uses the word I when it is not yet proven,

"I" am not yet proved, when preceded by "I" in quotes.
but this is still "not yet" rather that "unprovable". But perhaps it is fair to say that
"I" am unprovable when preceded by "I" in quotes is unprovable.
And it seems to me that it the above is both true, and may be a particular case of (the sketch of) Godel's unprovable statement:
"when preceded by itself in quotes, is unprovable.", when preceded by itself in quotes, is unprovable.  

Alternatively, I was provable all along, even prior to the cogito, and if so perhaps, St. Anselm is right. I don't think so, because just thinking something does not prove its existence, all you have is the word (unless, like St. Anselm and Descartes you were sure of its existence anyway).

Originally posted to the Philosophy Forum.

Then I realised that I had not mentioned thinking at all! I am so stupid. All the same I feel a similarity between the unprovable (and provably unprovable) statement in the Godel wikipedia entry and the cogito. I will go on about it in the extended post.

Ps I am in agreement with Woody Allen, who said "Therefore the Cartesian dictum "I think, therefore I am" might be better expressed "Hey, there goes Edna with a saxaphone!""

When I first heard the cogito I was persuaded. "Yes!" I thought, "this is it". It really does sound persuasive doesn't it?

Then later I had a really strange experience which brought the cogito into a new light. My strange experience was to feel that all I am is the cogito, and that I am wrong. The person that I believe myself to be is just the experience of thinking I am thinking. In that experience of myself I saw, or thought I saw, other entities, at least one of which a truer existence. And that truer existence should not be called "I".

When one thinks the cogito, "I think therefore I am" it can sound persuasive. But after that experience I had, the "I" of "I think" resounds as a word, in quotes, like "bigfoot" or "the perfect being" or "Father Christmas," or "an ancestor of mine that was a king." I may have had an ancestor that was a king. I may not. I don't think that "bigfoot" or "Father Christmas" exist, but I have words for them. I think that the words that I have do not describe anything real. When it comes to "I," I am torn. There is something that you, others, can experience. But for me, "I" now seems to refer, if I were lucid, to precisely the cogito and no more. "I" am for myself the experience of thinking myself. I am the monologue/dialogue that have with myself. I am the talkies in the brain. That makes "I" very ephemeral. I thought that "I" was something, but "I" turn out to be a character in a silent radio play. And indeed a "play," a charade, a masquerade, a character, a mask, merely a fiction.

The cogito reminds me of the ontological argument, that I refer to as St. Anselm's proof of the existence of God above. It goes something like this: If one has an idea of something, God, and that something is the perfect being, then it must exist since a perfect being would exist. People have laid the ontological arguement upon me. My retort is that while words like "pink elephant" and "perfect being" have some meaning, they are merely words. The question is, do these words correctly describe something that exists? Is there an "elephant that is pink"? Is there "a perfect being." Just because I can think the words, does not mean that these things exist. They may exist, they may not. The words are words. They are hypotheses in a sense.

Lets say I lived in England in the 5th century BC or before news of elphants had come to England. Someone might say to me "There are grey elephants," and explain what they look like, what they eat. I might say "Nah, I don't believe you." I would be making the judgement, in my unwisdom, the words "grey elephant" are words that refer to nothing. If the person that had ridden an elephant had said "Well, you don't know what an elephant is" she would have been right to a considerable extent. I would not have known. I'd be, I would have been, wrong. I would have understood the words to an extent and rejected the assertion that the words refer to something. The words "grey elephant" would have only been words. Similarly a "perfect being", may or may not exist.  If somene were to say, "oh, if you deny the existence of a perfect being then you do not know what the words mean" then I would agree. I only know a bit. I hear the words, they mean a little, but I might judge that their is nothing that corresponds to them. Bigfoot likewise. The word sure enough exists. But that does not mean that there is a giant roaming the woods of central USA. 

When Descartes was thinking about what exists, then if he was sincere about doubting everything, not assuming anything, then the word "I" should have been in quotes. Is there something that the word "I" refers to?

He used the word "I" a lot before he mentions the cogito. If the cogito is that which proves the existance of "I" then in all those places that he used "I" previously should, if he is unsure, be like "bigfoot," in quotes, a possible existance, a word that may refer to something, or may not.

Then he gets to his cogito. That thing, "I" that was previously only another word, that may or may not exist, finds its proof he says in the cogito. Till that point in time, "I" was in, as a hypothetical entity, in quotes.

I think, therefore I am. 

is like,
"bigfoot" has left tracks in the snow, therefore bigfoot is.

Okay, beginning the attempt to morph Descartes into Godel.
I think, therefore I am.
may be said to mean,
"I" think therefore "I" refers to something, which may be
"I" think therefore I am.

There is also something about the act of thinking which implies a saying, a speach act, or a putting into quotes, probably even of the act itself.

"I" think "I think", therefore "I" refers to something, I am.

hmm....still a long way from

"when preceded by itself in quotes, is unprovable", when preceded by itelf in quotes, is unprovable.


Posted by timtak at 11:58 PM | Comments (0)

October 13, 2010

Devil in Mind

I do feel damned, that there is a devil in my mind. And yet I do not believe in devils, or my mind, and there lies the rub. Fail though I am going to, I would like to put the Devil, in mind, on a more scientific footing.

So I talk to myself, don't we all? I do it in the silence of my mind. Scientific people like Mead, and Hermans and Kempen say how we speak ourselves to simulated others and in so doing we create ourselves as the would be signified of the first person of that silent narrative. What is going on here? When a 'being' (under erasure), narrates "itself", "it" turns 'itself' inside out. The vast nothingness that "it" was, becomes an ear to the voice, while it takes itself to be the non-entity signified by the first person of that voice, that narrative.

The "being" becomes an "it," an other, to a dream of personhood. Just as the child plays with a doll, and lives in the world of dolls, forgetting the player. The big-self, the 'true' self, becomes an other to word-made-glove-puppet that she takes herself, I take myself to be.

But there is a devilish mistake going down, seriously: a serious mistake of diabolical proportion.  

As a glove, no, word-puppet, muppet, dream-that-the-cogito-speaks; as a would-be-signified of the words that occur nowhere, I understand "I," "myself" and even "existance" in my own muppety, uber-fictious way. I have no words to frame reality. No words might.

As a would-be-entity, a word-dream, I can only recognise other entities in the same way. So to call the "big-self" the "true self" a "self" (or "true" or "big), I am doing it a gross misjustice. It is not even an "it", not-a-wordable-entity at all, far less a "self" and far, far less "me". So what should I call ** ("it" under erasure)?

A good name for it is perhaps God! Or G_d, to be a little bit more unsayable, and so slightly more precise. I should call "it" by another name, an other-worldly name. I should call ** by the biggest Word, a non-word-Word, a word that harks to places, sizes, powers, of which, in my wordedness, I can not dream.

To call ** by any name is a gross error. To call ** "myself", or any compound containing "self" (such as "big-self", "real-self") is an arrogant mistake. So who am I talking to?  

If I don't give ** a word like "God" (a word with no meaning and with unbounded meanings), then I am way, way, further, off the mark. 

And if I still keep speaking to **, as I sure as hell do, (don't we all?) then what am I doing? 

This action, this speech, is directed towards, an other-worldly, fantasmogorical, and Godless other. An other yet-otherwordly, that lets me dream that I am he: a Devil in mind.

Or something like that. Have I been at all communicative? Certainly, at the time of writing, you, assuming anyone reads this, were not here.   

Posted by timtak at 12:28 AM | Comments (0)

October 10, 2010

Occularcentrism, the Imaginary, and a return to the sign.

I have been claiming, or at least thinking, that there is something "imaginary" (term swiped from Lacan) about Japan. My understanding of these terms are from a very simple reading of Lacan, and James Mead, and indeed my own experience.

Taking these in reverse order, it seems to me that in my head, as it were (where?!), I represent things in words and imaginings. I rarely call to mind smells, or feels, or even noises, and even when I do, it is even more rarely to represent something. But I call to mind words all the time (I talk to myself), and I imagine images (less so now than when I was a child) to represent, to signify, to make a story/cinematography, to work through a problem.

James Mead talks about visual gestures (a frown or body posture perhaps) and says that when we make them it is difficult for them to have meaning to the person that is making them. They are thrown out there for others. It is difficult to see what they mean without a mirror he says. But when we speak, we automatically hear our own words and thus understand our communication as others understand them.  Critique: It seems to me that there are sevearal things going on. The physics of the situation: sound bounces back but without a mirror, while I can if I look down see my hand gestures, I can not see my frown or my body posture. Attention: one may care about ones words but not ones gestures. Interpretation: one may interpret ones words and not ones gestures. Affect and perhaps in the same breath identification: One may care about ones words but not ones gestures, one may identify with ones words, and not ones gestures.

Lacan says that people identify with language (I?) and with self-image as reflected in a mirror. Critique: I wonder about what it is that I identify with. Do I think that I am the sound or called to mind sound "I," or do I think that I am that which the sounded or thought "I" signifies? Do I think that I am my reflection, or that which my reflection reflects? symbolises? or contains? Or alternatively, am I the entity that makes the sound/thought I, or that which hears it? Am I the entity which makes(?) the image of me, or the person that sees it?

I have fluffed, made vague, all these distinctions when I think about the Japanese, or Westeners. The extent of my observation is perhaps that, Westerners create, use and care about language more, Japanese create, use and care more about images.

Now then...Even if this fluffy, vague distinction were any good at all...Lately I am lead to semiotics! Now that I have children, particularly now my son, who is mainly Japanese, I see that he is very interested in visual signs.

I used to be interested in semiotics before I got into social psychology.

Social psychologist can be more fluffy. I was a bad and social psychologist, but even if I had been a good one, I think I would have been allowed to paint these distinctions with a broad brush. To "operationalise" at whatever level I could find data to support my assertions. E.g. I claimed I found that Westerners cared more about their self-representations in language, while Japanese cared more about their self-representations in images, then I was not required to go into the nitty gritty of what aspect of self-representation is important.

Now that I have children, or rather now that I have my first born son, Ray, I see that Ray is wildly interested in visual signs. When I was more philosophical I was interested in people like Levi-Strauss, Barthes, and Saussure. Looking at Ray, it seems to me that I need to return to that interest. Something semiotic (in the broadest sense) is going on.

Before I was reminded by Ray, I felt a temptation to say that the Japanese are into the visual but not the significant. But, Ray is interesting in visual signs/symbols/indexes/icons. I find myself being called back to Levi-Strauss and Barthes and other semioticians, because they talk about types of signification.

Cutting to the chase.

Looking at Ray I am reminded of Levi-Strauss' "Savage Mind" or "Totemism Today" and Barthes "Mythologies."

In Levi-Strauss's work there was the assertion that the "savage" used, bricoleured, things in the world to mean things. I did not find a place where he contrasted the savage with what we, non-savage Westerners, are doing. If I use Takemoto to refer to my family, then in what way is that different to someone that represents their family by an eagle?

In Barthes' Myth Today however, there is a heirarchy. Mythologists use things and images to communicate, but they do so resting on the shoulders of that which produced those distinctions in the first place. Savage Mythologists are derivative, secondary.

To be continued

Posted by timtak at 06:47 PM | Comments (0)

The visual as supplment

The "logic of the supplement" is a really bad name for how some things can have an important role as a foil, scapegoat, sacrificee, or supplement, and be both of lesser and central importance at the same time.

Consider a supplement to a book. It is the bit on the end, extraneous to the main part of the book (and thus of lesser importance) but at the same time may complete the book and by completing the book, be of prime importance. Or again, a vitamin "supplement" is something that is an addition to ones normal diet, that may at the same time contain vitamins, and minerals and the most important thing that the makers of the "supplement" say we should eat. Or again, there are things that are sacrificed, or made into scapegoats that are at once of lesser importance/value and of prime value. Consider the Jews in Nazi Germany. They were treated as animals, far beneath the "Aryans" but at the same time, by making a scapegoat of the Jews, the Nazis were able to rally the Germans together in the face of the common "enemy within." It coule be argued that the Jews, as victims and scapegoats, were the impurity that made the pure Aryan race possible. 

In his commentary on Plato's Pharmacon, Derrida claims that writing, or visual symbols are a supplement in that sense in the West and that Western philosophers often make use of writing (or perhaps the visually meaningful) as a scapegoat. I find Derrida's writing very opaque but I do feel that the visually significant, and the visual, or corporeal is used as the "supplement" to the symbolic in the Western tradition. Western philosophers since plato, point to some visual/corporeal istance and say well it is lucky that we have language, and the meaning that we can trust. The the visually symbolic acts as a scapegoat, victim that purifies the symbolic, linguistic.  Some examples...Austin claims that some linguistic statements are "speech acts." Such as "I promise," or "I bet" is not only speech, it is also an act. The speech act is a piece of dirty speech, that involves itself in the world of things. And after going on about these "speech acts" for a while, Austin then claims, but of course, there is some speech which is not an act, is simply referential. Thus he purifies language and its ability to refer to things without acting upon them in any way, by using example of speech which is also an act, caught up in the phenominal world. Similarly, Plato, speaks of writing as a supplement to phonetic language which is imperfect in being caught up in the visual world, less so phonemes, and even less so speech in the mind which is pure, not written, purely linguistic and not like that dirty corporeal writing stuff. In my view, all statements are acts in a sense. All symbols contain a little corporeality. But by setting up an example of an extremely corporeal example Western philosophers can return to their veneration of language. Derrida likewise, goes on about how easy it would be for all of "res extensio" (that which is extended, that which can be seen) to be a dream and after going on and on about how all this visual stuff could be an illusion, he returns to langauge and his cogito as if it is purified from being a mirage, despite the fact that he may be dreaming in gibberish. I think herefore I am, may be "flutch brenden under cellophone."

In Lacan too, the mirror image of the self, acts as a supplement, and essential lesser part to the self narrative of the linguistic self proper. The image of self, is essential, and it is only at the intersection of linguistic and visual self reference that we have a self at all. But it is the lesser part, the part of self which which one should not identify, which language saves us from. The image is like the twist in the mobius strip. It allows language to return upon itself, refer to something that is the sorce of the language, refer almost to itself. The self image is the veneer that proves that the truth is going on inside.

Posted by timtak at 06:47 PM | Comments (0)

Evidence for God

I was looking at Ayn Rand on YouTube and rather enjoying her personality. And saw her refutation of God and liked that too. She said, that while it is impossible to prove a negative - to prove the non-existence of fairies, say - she does not and we should not believe in God since there is no proof of his existence. If there were no evidence for the existence of God then I would agree. Donahue, the interviewer, then pointed out the order in the world. She countered by saying that it makes no sense to postulate a ordering mind, an order outside the order. We see the order, and the chance, and try and understand the order, but there is no reason to assume that there must be a something outside the order that we see that creates that order. This seemed fair enough to me too.

I would not say that I believe in God exactly. But I do think that there is some evidence for the belief in God, these are:

1) Testimony of others, over wide time frames and geographical locations
2) Behaviour of others that seems to suggest the existence of non-self-cantered motivations (altruism, "good")
3.1) Ones own adherence, and the adherence of atheists, to being honest non-contradictory and reasonable. All atheists should be self-interested, and therefore part-time, at least death-bed, theists.
3.2) The very existence of my own reason, or its nub-come-nexus: self-speech. Why am I, we, you doing it?

1) That many people believe in God. I think that normally, if a lot of people testify to something then it is not unreasonable to see that as evidence. Of course, I can think of lots of reasons for ignoring their testimony. The biggest one is perhaps that there are so many different gods. Thor, Allah, Yahweh, Zeus? They all seem to say that theirs is the only one. But all the same, from a detached viewpoint, it seems that there is a commonality between the testimony - e.g. a supernatural creator - that should make the objective analyst give pause. If one were investigating a crime scene for instance and found that witnesses were saying different things about what happened (as I believe they do) but they had a commonality in their testimony, then ordinarily one might think, there is something in, some truth behind, the testimony.

2) The existence of altruism. Ayn Rand seems to dislike it. Why do people seem to sacrifice themselves? Why do people go in for good and evil as objective standards, rather than pursue only their self interest? Ayn Rand saw this as a disease, something that should be eradicated. But all the same, it is evidence that people do believe in some objective standard. C.S. Lewis, argued from this evidence, that people who believe in good believe in God. I think that C. S. Lewis was right. It seems to me that there are loads of people including myself going around behaving in, from a objectivist point of view, strangely altruistic, and moral ways. Again I think that is evidence for the existence of God. Naturally like point (1) above one can think of other reasons why people believe in Gods (even though they do not exist) and behave altruistically (weakness). The evidence can be explained in other ways. But the evidence remains.

Taking the first two points...and returning to the invisible elephant. If one came into a room, or the world, where one could see no elephant but (1) there were lots of people saying "There is an invisible elephant (Yahew)" or "There is an invisible hippo (Thor)" (2) There were lots of people avoiding certain behaviours (as if they might get squashed), then it seems unfair to say that there is *no* evidence. There is evidence. But one can interpret it in ways that suggest that the people are wrong.

(3) Attitudes towards and Existence of Reason
Ayn Rand is big on reason. There are two parts to this. The first (relates to 2 above) is about Ayn Randfs attitude and behaviour towards reason, the second to the phenomenology and behaviour of reason itself.

(3.1) Did Ayn Rand have the courage of her convictions? Did she behave in a self-centered way? It seems that Ayn Rand upheld reason in a way that is a bit strange. I get this vibe from a lot of atheists. What is it about reason that Ayn Rand felt the desire to uphold? For example, even if she saw no reason for believing in God, but she was pissed off, dying, in need of some comfort, why did she stick with reason? Why be honest? Why ask for evidence, as reason does? She seems to base her philosophy on reason and self-interest, but aren't the two in conflict? Isn't it self-interested to believe in a fairy or two? Why not allow ones to be deluded, to delude oneself? Sure in a lot of cases one gets out of touch and suffers the consequences. But dying people, people with few realistic options, why should they stick with reason? If they were self interested then why would bother? Reason (whatever it is) would on the face of it seem to be a tool of self-interest. If so then when self-interest dictates that unreason is less stressful, why uphold it? This seems to be mystical behaviour. Thus in Ayn Rand's own behaviour there seems to be an unreasonably reasonable element. It seems altruistic to reasonable in the face of self-interest.

Hence, I think that Ayn Rand should have seen in her own behaviour evidence for an non-self-interested constraint upon her own behaviour. Reason is something that takes place in the mind, I presume. So I suggest that Ayn, and anyone that is into being honest for honesty's stake, or non-contradictory for non-contradiction's sake, should recognise that they are presenting evidence for the existence of non-self interested other in mind, in other words, a supernatural other, hippo, Thor.

 Some counter this with some sort of liar's paradox gambit saying "It is impossible to be unreasonable (reasonably?)" but Ayn knows that there are so many people that are "weak" that do live unreasonably, surely she could do it too. Perhaps she should have said "I do not believe in God, unless or until it is more enjoyable to do so." That I could go for. But remaining reasonable to the end, hanging on to reason for reasonfs sake? Surely that is mystical and evidence for God, evidence that the seems to be overlooking.

(3.2) But is reason a tool? What is reason anyway? It seems to me that reason is very linked with language. Reason seems to be the application of language to life, taking language seriously, expressing ones self and ones world in non contradictory ways. Reason at the end of the day seems to be about respecting ones self speech. I have already questioned the "respect" given to reason in (3.1) but here (3.2) I mean to question the existence of the self speech itself. Why do reason, or why talk to oneself at all?  I think that the answer to the question, also answers why people respect reason, and also provides evidence for the existence of an intra psychic (in the mind, in the head) other, and thus a rhino (if not an elephant). 
 As Derrida says speech is on the face of it, a communicative activity. Communication usually requires an information gap. Being reasonable, when we are not engaging in phatic greetings, and needs to pour out our troubles, we speak, out loud that is, to communicate some information that we have that someone else does not have. But when it comes to self-speech, then there is no gap. What can I say that I do not know? Reasonably, there is something unreasonable about the existence of self-speech. Why are we doing it? Why don't we just quit this self-speaking thing? Since I can convey or communicate nothing to myself (a self contradiction) then it is unreasonable, strange, mystical of me to be doing it.
 There seems to be something in my experience, not the unreliable testimony of others, that has no clear explanation.

 Okay, merely because I do something for which I can see no clear explanation does not mean that I should see that as evidence for the existence of God. I like Elvis Presley, but that proves nothing. When it comes to self-speech, however, it is like that the room with with the "invisible elephant" with people in it that avoid certain areas of the room. One goes into the room and finds that everyone is avoiding the central aisle of the room. They say there is an invisible elephant in the room. These two facts, avoiding the central isle, and saying there is an elephant, are internally consistent. As is believing in God and behaving altruistically. Aha, one says, they are wrong about both things. But then one finds that oneself keeps on saying *to nobody in the room* "Tsk, Tsk" as if there is an elephant there. Doesn't the reasonable person say, ooops, it seems as if I believe there is an elephant in the room myself?
 Have you every tried stopping your own self-speech? Or even asking yourself why you are doing it? Why not quit? Why is it so difficult to quit? It seems to me that self-speech is a behaviour could be explained by the existence of god. It could be explained upon the assumption that, one self-speaks not so that one hears ones self-speech oneself (that would be silly, unreasonable), but so that some other intra-psychic entity, someone else inside ones head, may also hear it.

I can see no reasonable reason for my self-speech other than my own, at times unrecognised, belief that someone hears that speech. And what is a god if not another person that can hear inside ones own head? That being would have to be supernatural. Communication implies an other. I do a would be communicative act in my head. This implies that I believe in an other in my head, an other in my mind, a supernatural other.

Let us say that Ayn Rand, RIP and anyone unfortunate enough to read this blog were to agree: "Okay, self-speech does imply the belief in an other in the mind," this too would not prove the existence of God. But it would be evidence. Testimony of others (1), and behaviour of others (2) is easier to reinterpret. But when it is oneself that is doing the weird behaviour, then that is fairly strong evidence.

Back to the crime scene. A detective believes that a crime has not been committed. He speaks to people who were at the "supposed crime scene" and they all say that there was a crime but none of them can agree exactly as to what the crime was. They all say it was a murder, but none of them can agree on the details. They all avoid the place where there crime was committed. But, no body is found. The detective thinks, "Yeah, these people are all nuts, they are not being reasonable." But then the detective gets cold shakes whenever he goes to the place where the crime was said to have been committed. He starts screaming (our self-speech is so loud, in here) "No, no, nooo," as if he were reliving the crime that he believes was not committed. Then shouldn't he start to worry? Shouldn't he say, okay the other people may all be nuts, but for some reason I am behaving as if I saw a crime here too.

Do I believe in God? Yes and no. I am an a sort of "other-power" Buddhist.

Posted by timtak at 06:47 PM | Comments (0)

First Airplane Ride

For context see here. The following is fiction. The first person is female.

Some people get very nervous when they get on airplanes, but most people don't appear to be. A big chunk of metal the size of a block of flats revs up, gains speed and then TAKES OFF. And all the while the majority of the people on the plane are behaving as if this is the most normal thing in the world, chatting, checking their watch, taking out their copy of the inflight magazine. Nearly million pounds of metal and passenger meat goes up into the air, and almost nobody screams "Let me out of here!"

That is how I felt when I started going out with John. He was the first guy I had ever dated. People were telling me that he liked me, that he wanted to take me out on a date, that he was a good kisser, that he would be sure to want to make out, and all that and a lot more like it was all the most normal thing in the world. People make out, start relationships all the time, and get on jumbo jets all the time, millions of them every day. But when I thought about the the possible consequences, ranging from death from AIDS to finding my partner for life, I felt inside that I wanted to scream "Let me out of here!"

Another thing I have heard about riding an airplane is that the flight attendants do a sort of mime where one of them (or perhaps a tape) narrates the procedure to be followed in the event of the accident, while the other mimes it out. I saw a comedian make a joke about it. The fact that they are miming what would, should be a really scary event with a calm smile on theif face is pretty creepy. More so is the way the smiling stewardess who is fastening her seat belt, putting on the oxygen mask, and demonstrating the brace position, is doing it all to words that are not her own.

That was the way I felt the next morning talking to my friends in the diner after my first date. I was like I just said, cruising at a thirty five thousand feet in a block of flats. I felt that the diner was up in the air. But my friends were all asking me things like "where did he take you," and "did he make a move," and "was he a good kisser," and making jokes and smiling and laughing. And I responded in the same kind of way, with a smile, and using words that weren't my own. I felt like a puppet acting out the part of the high school girl on the day after her first date as if it had not been by far the most traumatic experience of my life, smiling and miming and pretending, being forced to pretend, there is no difference between life threating disaster and ballet class.

And then

Flying on a jet airplane sounds so classy. I mean they even had a phrase "jet set" meaning people with rich and classy lives. But, I hear that on jet airplanes the the food is not all that good and the toilets are really cramped sometimes messy. Flying on an airplane is on the face of it really high class, but in the detail there are some dirty, cramped and messy parts. Dating for the first time was like that.

Dating is a guy is meant to be all romantic. I had in mind sunsets, roses, whispers, and going to special places and spending a lot of money too. Or okay I hoped that someone would be spending so money on me. I thought that dating was going to be classy. But as it turned out, it was not all as classy as all that. We did go to a fancy, for me, restaurants or two, but we also went to some other places, which were not so classy.

Love is like flying, you get a feeling like your feet are not touching the ground, like you are floating on air, shaky, and ready to right back down to earth at any moment.

Love is so powerful that it can make everything else seem small, like the view from the window of a jumbo jet, where the fields, the size of football pitches, look like the patches in a quilt.

The worst bit is the landing. Again everyone appears calm but there is a tremendous difference in height and speed, so it is not surprising that it is bumpy, there is a lot of noise, and engines spinning in reverse. Splitting up is like that.

After we split up my friend said to me, "Well, that was one hell of a roller coaster ride wasn't it?" And that is when I said I felt that I had been on a jet airplane. The ups and downs, the thrills and the emotion, were like a roller coaster. But the biggest difference was that, when you get on a roller coaster you get off at the same place. But when after only 3 weeks I stopped dating John, I felt that I had got off somewhere else. I was in the same town, going to the same school but it all looked different. It was different, and I did not have a return ticket.

Posted by timtak at 06:46 PM | Comments (0)

Two Lip Synchs: Blue Velvet's "In Dreams," and Mullholland Dr.'s Club Silencio

Two of the best scenes from David Lynch films are lip synch scenes, where someone lip synchs the words to a romantic song. I am thinking of the scene in Blue Velvet where a drug dealer called Ben lip synchs to "In Dreams" by Roy Orbison, and the "Club Silencio" scene in Mullholland Dr. where a female singer lip synchs to another Roy Orbison song in Spanish (?).

As a structuralist the similarity between the scenes turns me on! What are the similarities and differences?

Similarities and Differences.

Two major characters are watching the lip synch being performed. That there are two viewers is more apparent in MD than BV. In Mullholland Dr. The two lead females watch the lip synch from adjacent seats in the theatre. In Blue Velvet, the two male leads, Frank (Dennis Hopper) and Jeffrey (Kyle MacLachlan) are both watching the lip synch, but it is more a case that Frank is watching the lip synch, while being watched by Jeffrey.

In both there is something stage like about where the lip synch takes places. In MD this is apparent. In BV, the camera pans out to reveal a stage-like opening bounded by curtains.

In both there is a square character (Kyle, Betty) and a full blooded character (Frank, Rita) watching, though in BV the full blooded character is up there on or next to the stage.

The act of lip synching, the act of a visual presence pretending and appearing to the source of sounds which in fact come from elsewhere, is shared between the two scenes. The lip synching is emphasised more in MD. The Emcee in MD really makes it clear that Club Silencio is a "lip synch stage", emphasising that we are hearing a lot of instruments, imagining them to be there, but that the sound is not bound up with the visuals that they are imagining to be on stage, or are seeing on stage, even before the song, with the white haired trumpeter that trumpet-synchs before fully-revealing that he is not the source of the trumpet sounds. In BV we could be forgiven for thinking  that the lip synch is not important, that Frank is just moved by the song, but in MD the lip synching is given fuller, central importance. "It is an illusion."

In MD the visuals are even an illusion - the emcee, magician(?), in MD disappears.

The viewers are very moved. Or at least Frank is moved in BV. From memory I thought that Rita was especially moved in BD but it seems that both women were moved.

The song in either case is romantic.

The lip synching is made apparent in both, by the removal of the music in BV and by the feinting of the singer (and stopping the pretence by the trumpeter) in MD.

In BV, there is a double lip synch. Frank, moved, lip synchs the words being lip synched by Ben the suave drug dealer.

Well, my take...

Lacanianly speaking, it is the intersection of the symbolic and imaginary that allows us to think that we exist, to pull ourselves out of, to cut ourselves out of, the real. (The real in Lacan is confusing to me: is it the chaotic nothing fog, or is it the mundane/niave, thing-populated, real?)

Ventriloquism (see my youtube video on ventriloquism) is like this scene. A puppet that seems to speak, with a voice thrown from elsewhere.

When we watch TV, when we watch a movie, we see the sounds coming from the speaker in the screen. That is a given. We delude ourselves when watching films. But I think that we delude ourselves all the time. There is never a situation in which my voice comes from my image. There is always a lip synch.

This realisationi is love almost destroyting. IN MD it is enough to force Rita to disappear forever.

Posted by timtak at 06:45 PM | Comments (0)

Anti-Hero or Accidental Hero: The Anti-Hero is not conflicted, he is a goody-goody wuss

Characters like "Dirty Harry," and Jim McClane (Die Hard, 1988) are often described as "anti heros" since their gruff, unkempt, anti-social demeanour conflicts with their do-good, heroic image.

On the face of it then, the anti-hero as portrayed by these rogue cops, is a more ecomplexf, enuancedf or, eflawedf hero. Anti-heroes are, we are told, a little bit evil, or morally ambivalent, not just a bunch of unrealistically, steadfast, moral goody-goodies. I argue here that, on the contrary, the "anti-hero," is in fact even more unrealistically idealistic, moral and "goody-goody" by virtue of their accidental nature. First of all we hardly need to be reminded what all action heroes do; they shoot bad guys and generally destroy a lot of property in the process.

Shooting people and wrecking cars are usually seen as examples of undesirable behaviour. The hero remains the target of our admiration and identification due to the existence of the bad guy (it is almost always a male) against whom the hero rises in righteous rebellion. The hero thus is always, at the outset, a degree accidental, dependant upon the entrance of the bad guy for his or her existence. But is this enough? The best amongst us might urge a hero to back down from action and eturn the other cheekf. It can at least be argued that, hurting people, even bad people, is bad. To protect heros from this slur, their enemies become progressively more twisted and evil, the number of people that they threaten and that the hero must protect, progressively larger until, Flash Gordon (comic strip 1934, film 1980) and others become "saviour of the universe". But then somewhere on the way, even this was not enough. Flash Gordon started to get on our nerves.

We stopped liking him as much as we used to. We started to get the feeling that he was not such a good guy, that he is, as his name suggests, gflashh, egotistical, not so very nice at all. Incipit the so called "anti-hero". The gruffness, the antisocial, and even irresponsible persona is merely a veneer to allow an even greater moral purity; anti-heroes, are not happy in their role, they did not want to be heroes, their heroics are accidental. For example, the McClane character in all of the Die Hard films is an *accidental hero*.

McClane just wants to go home to his wife, meet his wifefs plane, go back to bed, or retire, but circumstances, events, and some really nasty bad guys *force him to become a hero*. Paradoxically, McClane becomes even more of a hero, because his heroics are accidental. Above all, the accidental nature of his heroism, protect him from any claim of hypocrisy. Bad guys are generally motivated by self-interest. They seek money or power, or some kind of ego boost, the fulfilment of a self-centred desire. Selfishness is at the heart of evil. Die Hardfs Jim McClane is however not rescuing people and killing bad guys through any James Bondian desire to be suave, or because he has a big John Wayne of an ego. Jim McClane does not even want to become involved but (like Clint Eastwood in the Dirty Harry movies, and Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca) a situation arises where he simply has no choice but to step up to the plate. Usually a bad guy arrives at the party that he is attending, or the plane that his wife is on gets hijacked. Lets have a look at some of the scenes in which the accidental nature of the anti-hero becomes apparent.

From Casablanca (1942): Rick Blaine: "Of all the gin joints in all the world, she walks into mine." Rick is hiding out in Morocco. Through a series of coincidences, culminating in the arrival of his ex-girlfriend, Ilsa Lund, the embittered, cynical ganti-heroh Rick is catapulted, unwillingly, into the role of the most acclaimed accidental hero in Hollywood cinema.

From Dirty Harry (1971) Harry Callahan: [after having reported the g211h armed robbery in progress, to the police and biting into his hotdog] Just wait till the cavalry arrives. [Alarm bell rings] Ah, shit. This scene ends with one of Harry Callahanfs most famous lines "You've got to ask yourself one question: 'Do I feel lucky?' Well, do ya punk?" The same being-disturbed-at-mealtime trope was repeated in the third film in the Dirty Harry series, Sudden Impact (1983), in the scene leading up to Clint Eastwood's most famous line "make my day," though this time Harry is disturbed in his enjoyment of a black coffee. In either case, Harry Callahan allows himself sadistic enjoyment of the suffering of the punks that he is bringing to justice.

We forgive him because the viewer knows that Harry did not give reign to his sadistic desire. Harry just wanted to finish his hotdog, or his coffee. His violent course of action - which if he is to take, he might as well enjoy - was forced upon him. From Die Hard 2 (1990): Captain (of airport security) Lorenzo: Hey McClane, I've got a first class unit in here: swat team and all. We don't need any Monday morning quarterback. McClane: Fuck Monday morning, my wife is on one of the god damn planes these guys are fucking with. That puts me on the playing field.

McClane also notices and claims to lament the coincidence, since this is the second film in the Die Hard series. McClane: Ah man, I can't fucking believe this. Another basement, another elevator. How could the same shit happen to the same guy, twice? At the same time, when compared to the hero who takes action into his own hands, the anti-hero lacks the courage of his conviction. He can not step right up to the plate, actively seek a position of responsibility. In that sense he is weak, and that is why, as well as a goody-goody, I call him a wuss.

This is why the most grim, gravelly-voiced, strong and macho actors must be used in these anti-hero roles.

1. In fact even Flash Gordon arrives as an anti-hero. In the first comic strip he is forced to board the rocket stops the comet threatening to destroy the earth.

2. John Wayne also portrays accidental, anti-heros such as in gThe Searchersh (1956).

This article in doc form

This article in pdf form

Posted by timtak at 06:44 PM | Comments (0)

Rouge no Dengon

This may be the first time I have reviewed a song. I can't get it out of my head. The song is "Rouge no Dengon", sometimes translateda as "Message in Rouge," by Matsutoya Yumi. Ms. Matsutoya is one of the most famous Japanese singers. She was born in 1954 and this song was released in 1975 when she was 21 years of age. She began her career as a lyricist for other artists, but became a mega famous singer, with multiple hit singles and albums, despite her less glamourous looks and contnues to record and hold sell out, 60 plus venue, tours as of 2009.
I first noticed her as the singer of "Mamotte agetai," which means "I'd like to protect you," a major hit. It struck me as strange because in the West, it seems to me, it is usually the guys that do the protecting. The song in question ends with the repeated refrain, in English, "My little darling, my little darling," (about a guy), so in this song too there is, from my British view point, a bit of gender reversal. Here in Japan the ladies do the protecting?

Here at least are the words.
To meet that guys mummy
I've now got on a train alone
Twilight falling town and rows of cars
In the corner of my eye I overtake

That guy is soon going to notice
The message in rouge in our bathroom
If you don't give up on your loose flings
I won't be coming home

Leaving, a sense of anxiety in my heart
The city fades into the distance,
Next morning in a phone call from mummy,
I will have him told off, My Darling!

That can is soon going to be stressed
The message in rouge in our bathroom
As he meets our friends will he ask
Where am I headed

Leaving, a sense of anxiety in my heart
The city clatters into the distance,
Next morning in a phone call from mummy,
I will have him told off, My Darling!
I will have him told off, My Darling!


Posted by timtak at 06:43 PM | Comments (0)

Two types of WALL-E and Freud and Japan

There are a few movies in which machines take over the earth. In the "Terminator" series of movies, the machines get so bolshy that they decied to wipe out those irrational humans. In other films however, such as the recent Disney film "WALL-E," the machines take over, but they attempt to have the best interests of humans at heart. They are continuing to obey one of the laws of robotics, or some such.

Okay...let us say that at some point in the future, machines have taken over. They run human society. They make the laws and policies, and they make them in such a way as to make us humans happy. After a lot of experimentation the machines find that human happiness is something that we don't get used to easily. It needs practice (would you agree?). Upon this observation, and with a view to the fact that resources for producing happiness are limited, the machines decide that rather than giving humans a mediocre life for all of their lives, it is best to give us humans a period of happiness and a period of relative suffering. The machines decide that humans should spend a period of their lives that has quite a lot of suffering, and a period of our lives that is fairly happy. Bearing in mind that it takes a while to get used to happiness, the machines decide that it would be best to diivide human life (or lifespan) in the middle and make one half of it happy and one half of it more painful. So the machines decide that since learning how to have fun takes a while, and providing the resources for people to have fun requires effort, the cut human life (about 70 years) in the middle and decide that one half will contain work and the other half will contain play.

But then the machines reach a disagreement about which half should contain the work and which half should contain the play? Which would you rather?

Some of the machines decide that giving the young folk the fun time is a good idea. They reason that by so doing, young people will havve a great time and then in the second half of their lives while they are working and suffering they will be able to look back and remember the great time they had, and work to provide the great time that they experienced for the next gneeration.

Some of the machines decide that giving older people the good time is the way to go. They reason that if people suffer while they are young then it won't be so bad because they will know that they have good times ahead of them.

Posted by timtak at 06:42 PM | Comments (0)

Making Sense of Scientology

 In a manner of speaking, I am a bit of a scientologist with a small "s," in that I am kind of religious, but also I am scientist. Or I am a scientist but also I am kind of religious. I am not sure what my religion is. I am interested in more than one religion. I try to understand what religions have to say from my sciency perspective. I have spent a lot of time trying to understand what Christianity has to say, and perhaps even more time trying to make a sciency sense out of Shinto mythology. I like to think that there is truth in what Christians have to say (about people rising from the dead for instance) and what Shinto has to say (about the world being created by gods, for instance). That is hard work!

 Recently I have been having a look at what Scientology has to say, particularly the more extraordinary claims of Scientology, the ones that some people like to make fun out of, about Xemu, and aliens being blown up.

 Before I write about the really weird parts of Scientology, the first thing I like about Scientology is the self-analysis part of it. This comes before all the weird "space opera" (sic).

Scientologists, seem to like to get to grips with all the things that they do not like to get to grips with! That is to say, that usually there are a lot of things that we do not like to remember, and as a consequence we do not remember. Things that we are embarrassed about, things that we are ashamed of, things that make us cringe, things that make us well up with emotion. We have, in common parlance, hang-ups. We have things about which we have been criticised, actions that we do not like to admit, desires that do no like to admit to, desires that we do not know why we have, fears that we do not face, etc. From what little I know about scientology, in the early stages, initiates are encouraged to confront and examine this hidden things. They use skin conductivity as a measure of stressful hidden-ness. In other words, if I hook you up to a conductivity measuring device and ask you "We did you last hate your father" or "When did you last masturbate" or "What is your shame" or I have no idea but there are things that we don't like to talk about. We don't even know what they are ourselves. But if you are hooked up to a skin conductivity meter then there will sometimes be an indication of when the question has hit a nerve. That is to say that the meter will show when the question is one that we have difficulty facing up to. And why the hell not? Why don't we face up to everything? Why can't we speak about all these things and confess them, describe them, and leave them behind? When one faces ones fears and shames and complexes, they tend to turn to dust. Scientologists, I believe, encourage people to face up to everything. And to, in common parlance, "get over it". When I went for a personality test in Edinburgh about 22 years ago one of their members told me that they adress the fears and complexes of their members in pairs at a distances of a few inches. Imagine if someone got right in your face and talked, criticised, asked for answers to all your complexes at a distance of only a few inches. "So you have a small penis, what of it?" "you are a bald ageing twat", "You write drivel on the internet," "You are a filanderer, why?" etc.
 Perhaps that is all there is to scientology in a way? I have no idea. Perhaps all they do is to un-supress people? Free people, force people to confront, all their sweaty emotions, experiences, complexes, hang-ups. Is there a person that you have ever met that can confront themselves fully? I am not that person. I am not sure whether or not such a procedure would benefit myself or not, but I have sympathy with the endeavour. To be honest, I tend to "audit" people that I meet. I am in love with self-revelation. I like that sweaty feeling in myself and others, because I believe that it can be overcome.

 Leaving that aside. I am not sure if Scientologist really do address their "complexes" or not, what of the space opera? This is really weird. There are places on the internet where one can hear of a sort of "mythology" about Xenu, about aliens being blown up, and then attachig themselves to others. And about how we live in a world where peole are infested with aliens. I am not a expert on Scientoogy but the concept that we have been invaded by aliens is one that my sciency mind does not object to quite as much as it is common to do so.

  Okay so that was a long preamble. What I really meant to write about is the Xenu, aliens bit. I see the story as a sort of mythology. L Ron Hubbard was, or may have been, a modern mythologist.

  I want to add some more preamble. What scientology needs, its seems to me, or indeed what any religion with a mythology needs, is a theory of mythology, or a theory about language. A semiotics? Not sure. Anyway, on the face of it mythologies are generally whacked, crazy, stupid. "So a giant guy made the world in 6 days?" "So a primal couple gave birth to the world?!" Yada yada. It sounds really silly. People, like me, of a sciency persuasion, are of course inclined to think that these stories, mythologies are so much primitive trash. So, is there any way of saving mythologies? Well, I have a couple of ideas. One is more wishwashy than the other.

The first, the wishy washier one, is to say that there is a problem with language: that language is not up to describing the way the world is. Saying that is easy. But when saying that in the language which you are trying to say is limited leads to enevitable contradictions. These contradictions are enough to make readers tell you to take a hike. But Wittgenstien in one of his coloured books used some good metaphors. He talked about simplified languages, more simple than the one he, and I, are using. Imagine if you are a soldier. Soldiers, according to the films I see on TV, use hand signals such as fist to say things like "advance" or "whatch out to your left" or "try and out-flank the enemy." Now imagine that there are a group of soldiers in a war, say Vietnam, and they are advancing on what they believe to be a group of Vietcong. Then one of the hand-signalling soldiers realises that that are in fact advancing upon a group of Belgian tourists who have got lost in the jungle. That hand-signalling soldier does not have the hand-signals to say what is going on. He only has the signals for "advance,(a fist)" "crawl,(a level palm)," "out-flank(a two fingered pointing motion, say)." But then one of the soldiers realises that he is walking towards a group of Belgian holiday makers, who are trying to  light a barbeque. How does he signal this fact to his comrades? Well, I guess he might try and use really strange signals. Signals, like a three fingered pointing, punching, palming, wave that his comrades would say "Hey, this guy is, from the point of view of our code, making no sense." Perhaps mythologies, such as people rising from the dead, or a couple of gods giving birth to the world, or a Xenu space opera, are all similarly the result of someone trying to use a language that is limited to describe a situation that goes beyong the limits of that language.

Secondly, I have thought about parables. "Parables" as in the ones that prophets in the Bible like to use. One time there was a prophet that met a king that was stealing someones wife. Instead of saying "You are stealing someones wife and that is bad," instead he told a story about a sheperd that had a lot of sheep but all the same stole sheep from another shepard that only had a few. The story he told, the parable he told, was an irreality. There was no sheperd stealing sheep. But in order to convey what he wanted to convey he had to use a irreal story. Why is that sometimes a parable, a metaphoric story, works better than a straight forward explanation of things? It seems to me that when you are trying to explain NOT what is, but what is not, what the listener has not seen, a mistake on the part of the listener, it helps to use a NON real story. If the prophet had said "You are taking someone else's wife" then the king may have said "Yeah, sure. What of it?" and his REAL story would have had no effect.  But by talking about a story that is not real, he managed to get the king to see the mistake that he king was making. I wonder if mythologies may be like parables. Stories that are about IRREALITIES that make us see the mistakes that we are making. Normal stories are about the world. Parable stories (parabolic stories?) are about the mistakes, the world that we are not seeing.


So, however one understands mythology, whatever theory of mythology that one takes, it seems to me that really weird stories, i.e. mythologies, such as the story of Xemu, may be communicative even if they sound like BS.

Finally, returning to the weird mythology of Scientology. L Ron Hubbard said (1) that we are infested with aliens from the deep distant past. And (2) that we need to get rid of these aliens. Well, it seems to me that a lot of "scientists" also say that we, humans, are infested with aliens. That is to say that several psychologists argue that have 'others' within the self. Freud says that we have created a "super ego," based in some way upon our father or our idea or fatherhood, within ourselves. Jung says that we have an animus, that is somehow like a group of elders, guys, that populate our heads. Jamese Herbert Mead says that we create within ourselves a "generalised other" from an amalgam of the view points of ourselves that other people have. Hermans and Kempen (in their book "the dialogical self") argue taht this other is a multi-faceted, that we have relationships with a variety of others, fathers, mothers, friends, that we model within ourselves. All these so called "scientific" theories, by more-or-less respected scientists say that there are others within the self. Also, all these scientists do not recommend that we get rid of the others. Why not? They argue that the self, the self that we have, is dependent upon the internalisation of these others.

Buddhists recommend that people get rid of their "selves." Alas Buddhists do not talk too much about what is required of getting rid of the self. As far as I am aware, there is not all that much talk within Buddhism of "in order to get rid of your (false) self you must get rid of the others." But again afaik there is some talk within Buddhism of this sort of "other-ridding" endeavour.

I listened to a L Ron Hubbard speech about Xenu on the Internet. Towards the end he spoke about how he did not (seem to)approve of Christianity in a way, in that it perpetuated fractured, or "crucified" veiws of the self. All of the "Scientists" mentioned above, (not the Buddhists though) are from the Christian tradition. It seems to me that within Christendom, it is seen as normal and preferable to remain fractured, to keep those others in the self. (BTW I am conscious of the fact that I am using the word "self" to refer to two very different things). 

Anyway, I can see sense in the call to "get rid of aliens within the self," from a Buddhist perspective at least. In that respect, the space opera, the mythology of Scientology makes a little bit of sense to me.

Finally, okay, why not just use Freud, Mead, Lacan, Hermans and Kempen, to talk about the others that are within the self? I am not sure. But perhaps the stories that these "scientists" tell do not make the situation sound weird enough. Reading Mead (Mead is pretty down to earth sort of guy) it sounds all so common place and normal and rational that one should have a "generalised other" inside oneself. Perhaps the advantage of telling people that they are infested with aliens is that (like a parable) it drives home the idea that we, the listeners, should be doing something about it: we should be trying to get rid of them.

Posted by timtak at 06:42 PM | Comments (0)

The Mystery of the Mirror

I am reading a book in Japanese by Takano Youtarou called something like "The mystery of the mirror." In the book the author attempts to explain why reflections in mirros are right left reversed, and not up down reversed. He starts by summarising a lot of other explanations of why this phenomena occurs.

Then he says that there are two things going on. But before I say what he says is going on I will mention my own take, because I want to be able to say "I have told you so", and because I think that my take will be similar, and I want to see how similar it is, and because I think that I will say something a little different. I do think that mirrors are mysterious in a way, but more because I think that humans are mysterious or rather in error about themselves, ourselves. I am a sort of Buddhist. I think that there is a mistake going on in human consciousness, and perhaps mirrors are one way of getting to the nub of the human error.

Anway.... What about images in mirrors? Are they right left reversed, but not up and down reversed? Takano stress that mirrors are mysterious because they are right left, but not up down, reversed. First of all... 1) I have trouble ditinguishing my right and my left. When I am told to turn left or right, the first thing I do is look at my wrists, and see which side my watch is on and I know that is the left side, so I know which way to turn. I am not sure why I find it so difficult to tell which is right and left but I know I do. 2) I don't find the right left thing in mirrors very notable. It is almost like I feel it is obvious (even though I am sure that the author is right, it is mysterious). 3) I think that we don't really feel a "reversal" all the time. If I were to ask a hundred people, what appears strangely right left reversed in mirrors, then I think that there would be two answers that come up a lot. 3.1) The guy in the mirror (me) is wearing his watch on the other hand. 3.2) Writing is reversed in the mirror - mirror writing. at the same time, (3 continued) when I look at other things (other than myself and writing), e.g. a mirror showing what is behind me, I don't really feel that it is reversed. It looks quite normal, and unreversed. If it were displayed the other way around I would be inclined to think it strange.

The reversal feeling seems particularly strong for myself and writing but not for other things. So, it seems to me that writing and me body are particularly similar in having a reversal feeling about them. Going back to Takano Youtarou's book, I was surprised to find that he says that the secret to unravelling the mystery of the mirror is to realise that there are two things going on: one is when viewing oneself, another is when view letters (or rather these are the two examples that he uses). "Eh?" I thought. I have read a little bit futher, where he goes on to explain the first of the two mysteries, regarding viewing onself, and here I agree...He says that when viewing oneself ones right hand is on ones right in the mirror, and ones left hand is on ones left in the mirror but from the point of view of the "the guy in the mirror" it is reversed. This reversal he calls a bodily frame of reference. If we take the bodily frame of reference of the "guy in the mirror" then things might be assumed to be reversed, but they are not. Hmm...To be honest I thought that was the important point, and in a sense the only point. So I am not sure how he is going to say that letters are different. On the contrary it seems to me that letters and oneself are very simlar, as mentioned above. Letters and oneself are similar in that it is particularly these things that appear reversed. He says further, that unlike our bodies, letters are *really* reversed in the mirror. A "[" in a mirror looks like "]" so this is a more real reversal, than the right-left reversal that we feel occurs because we take the frame of reference of "the guy in the mirror." Okay the above is really as far as I have got in his book. First of all, with regard to myself in mirrors, It seems to me that I am up down reversed too.

Takano makes it clear that the mystery of the mirror is that we are right left reversed but not up down reversed. This was the first thing that I objected to in his book. The cover of his book shows a picture of someone standing on a mirror. The feet of the person standing on the mirror are toward the top of the book. Especially bearing that in mind, it seems strange to me that he should say that we are not up down reversed. It seems to me that whether I am standing on a mirror or not, when I look down toward my feet, at my torso and legs, my feet are toward the top of my visual field and my chest is towards the top of my visual field. I see a "Y" shape. When I look at at my torso and legs in a mirror, I see an upside down "Y" shape. This may not at first be obvious. This is the Y shape that I see when I look down at myself.
Y shape
And this is the reverse Y shape that I see when I look at myself in a mirror. I am not quite this fat. The width at the top is due to perspective (in the previous image)!
Y shape
When I look down at myself, I see something branching out toward the top of my visual field.

When I look in the mirror toward my legs, I see my legs branching out at the bottom of my visual field. Hence it seems to me that my view of myself in the mirror is reversed in the up-down axis as well as the right left axis. Having said that, I do not feel myself to be up-down reversed in a mirror. But then again, I do not feel myself to be right left reversed in a mirror either (perhaps because of my inability to tell left from right). Anyway, it seems to me that mirrors reverse me at least in the updown direction too.

Then when Takno says that letters are really reversed in the mirror I also have a problem. What does Takano mean by a letter? if you think of a letter on a page, then yes, letters in a mirror do seem reversed. But I have a three year old son that plays with plastic letter shapes. It seems to me that if you put plastic letter shapes in front of a mirror then they are not reversed at all. This is because one sees the rear of the plastic letters. An interesting thing about letters is that the usually, apart from the three year old's letter toys, usually only exist on planar surfaces of an opaque page. In order to make normal, written on a page, letters appear in a mirror, one has to turn the opaque surface around to point at the mirror. In turning the opaque surface around, one is reversing the letters. If on the other hand you write the letters on a piece of glass, or on the mirror itself then the letters are not reversed. A mirror is usually a piece of glass in front of a thin film of reflective surface (the "tain" of the mirror).

If you write on a mirror, the letters are not reversed. If you write on a page and then turn the page around then the letters are going to appear reversed because you have turned them around. Perhaps this is what Takano means by the assertion that the mystery of the mirror is different when applied to letters and ourselves. Perhaps he is right. All the same, it seems to me that the reason why we feel mirror letters are reversed is for the same reason that we feel our bodies are reversed: that we are positing a guy in the mirror. That is as about as far as I have got in my observations.

Posted by timtak at 06:41 PM | Comments (0)

Bataille, sex and truth

I would like to write about sex and truth, but since I don't think that my ideas would be interesting enough to capture the attention of even an imaginary reader, I will attempt first of all to explain Bataille.

George Bataille was an unsual fellow. He studied ancient literature or something hard-nosed-academic but he wrote books about, among other things, sex. Sex? What does that mean? Before I attempt to explain Bataille's answer, there is a more mundane question as to whether "sex," refers to the act or the nouns: the male sex and the female sex. Alas, while the question appears mundane, and the two meanings of sex very different, in my limited understanding of Bataille, a French man, he does not make it clear which of these two meanings he is referring to. I am English. I like to be plain speaking, unlike those Frenchies. But in the following explanation of sex according to, my understanding of, Bataille these two meanings are not clearly separated.

Bataille says something like this...

An amoeba, or other non-sexual existence, can reproduce by division and has no clear beginning or end. On the other hand, sexual beings die. Our cells reproduce, but as sexed beings, we are individuated; we cannot just keep on going like an amoeba. Death and individuation is a product of sex. If we were not sexed, we would live forever, reproducing our selves, giving birth to ourselves, regenerating our cells and our being, ad infinitum.

The existence of sex is the basis of our individuation. However, Bataille claims, the act of sex allows us to return to our unindividuated state, and experience our 'death' as an individual.  As mentioned above, this argument seems to confuse the state with the act of sex. Even if our sexual state is responsible for our individuation, it does not necessarily follow that the sex act should result its dissolution. At the same time it is persuasive. It seems reasonable to admit that "sexual union" is more than a metaphor, and that in humans at least (with all that intertwining, banging, bonking and penetrating) something unifying is going on. Moreover, drawing on the French word for "orgasm" "le petit mort" or little death, Bataille argues that in sex we experience our death, the dissolution of our individuality. Less that we unite with our partner, more that it is not only the desire, but the very existence of both partners which is extinguish at sexual climax.

To sum, sex is a glittle," or a little like, death. It is a return to an unindividuated state. I find myself very persuaded by this argument and what little I have to say is only a footnote.

I was reading a book, which is very popular in Japan about evolution and love. The author was trying to persuade readers that humans are attracted to those members of the opposite sex who seem most likely to be able to ensure the continuation of ones genes. There is nothing new in this theory and there is quite a lot of research to support it. I hear of studies purporting to show that men are on average more interested in young fertile women with broad fertile child-bearing hips and big fertile breasts, and women fancy men with strong protective bodies and big baby backing bank balances. So at first glance, those evolutionary psychologists are right: mojo merges with Darwin, our libido jives with our genes.

Perhaps it is because I am in Japan, the land of sleek, slender ladies, or because I am not heterosexual enough to appreciate the buxom, that I am not entirely convinced. Here in Japan, the ladies even go so far as to wrap themselves in layers of stiff fabric, called kimono that accentuates their sexy hipless-ness, and small, or at least non-bovine, bosoms. Japanese sex is sexier precisely because the procreative aspect is hidden. Wherefore Darwin-san?

In the light of the Japanese experience, is it really true that we want what our genes need to win the evolutionary baseball game?

Which brings me to the topic I wanted to write about: truth.

Truth is that which connects volition and action. When a person has the truth, then they are able to act in accordance with their volition. When they are deceived, and when they are in the dark, they are floundering.

One upshot of sex is that people want to be found attractive. This means that we want to behave in accordance with other peoplefs volition. Furthermore, since it is difficult to know what other people's volition is, it is very difficult to get to the truth. As the bangles song, "If he knew what she wants, he'd be giving it to her" highlights, it is very difficult to know what she/he wants. The existence of sex, the state, leads to a lot of untruth flying around. And that, it seems, may be its evolutionary advantage. The existance of sex brings untruth into the ball park of evolution.

To be continued.

Posted by timtak at 06:39 PM | Comments (0)

Susan Boyle

I cry when I watch Susan Boyle's audition for Briton's Got Talent. It was very well done. Her choice of song was excellent. The story of a woman who dreamed a dream only to find it torn apart  seemed to have been written by the lady herself.

The producers too set her up for a surprise. They filmed her stuffing sandwiches into her mouth. They gave her no advice on self presentation. While the two goons backstage acted out our better conscience, the audience and judges laughed derisively, and all but groaned at her self-introduction. They asked her questions designed to make a fool out of her aspiration, including, "Why hasn't it worked out so far, Susan?" as if to say, "Just look at yourself, granny, how do you expect to be a famous singer looking like that?"

And here lies the rub. <em>Susan Boyle does not look at her self</em>. Her friendly eyes look only outwards, at us the viewers. She is about as ego-involved in her body as my dog. She has a body, of course and she knows she has one, but she also knows it does not matter. For one reason or another, she has taken little interest in how it, her body, looks at all. Life she knows, 'is not a beauty contest.'

This is why I think we admire her so much. There are other not so beautiful singers. Mama Cass, of the Mamas and Papas, was big. Ella Fitzgerald was not all that hot to look at. Even that Canadian has a pretty weird nose. With a "workover" would Susan Boyle look all that different from her heroine, Elaine Page(58)? Truth be told, Ms. Boyle does not care.

I think that it is less the shock of "the fat lady sings," but the shock and awe at the disparity between the complete lack of narcissism -- the complete absense of visual self love -- and the depth of love, the longing, the hope that is expressed in Susan Boyle's voice. She sang a dream of being loved, of deserving to be loved, of being lovable. She sang that she still believed, even in the face of knowing that it is impossible.

We forgive this kind of, phono-vocal self love. We even approve of a one sided identification with only the phonological aspect of self -- indeed it only the voice that is deemed capable of being a self. Susan Boyle is not a fat lady singing, she is a song. It is as if her soul has arrived on stage, demanding, claiming her right to be loved and accepted.

A lot of commentators say that the message is "Don't judge the book the its cover!" I think that her message is a little more extreme; there is a book which has no cover. Ms. Boyd is living proof; soul exists. It is there for all to witness, the light and the life, the ressurection, on Youtube.

Posted by timtak at 06:39 PM | Comments (0)

Two types of reflection and Time Crimes Los Cronocrímenes

The little Prince travels the solar system to find that "adults" are all caught up in one thing or another. I guess I am caught up in a theory, that we think in words and images, and that we exist at their intersection. It is from that (Lacanian??!) perspective that I watched Los Cronocrimenes. It seemed to me that the film articulated the stages of Lacanian development of the ego. I believe that we have a self by virtue of the fact that we reflect upon ourselves, or represent ourselves in two ways - visually and linguistically.

Contra this claim, a Russian thinker, in common with many Western perspectives, claims that the animal mind is like a mirror, and as a mirror it can not reflect itself. Whereas the human mind, has another mirror, that of language, it is our ability to mirror ourselves, name ourselves in language that enables us to have self reflexivity, a self.

The Russian is drawing our attention to two types of self relection - that of a mirror and that of language, and yet encouraging us to forget one of them. The mirror of language, he argues, is powerful. It allows the looking glass mirror to function. The visual mirror is nothing on its own. Even animals have them. The ability to reflect visually is a given, something that requires no art, no culture. Visual reflectivity is a nothing, a blank sheet, a un-ploughed field, that must wait for the plough of language.

Is this fair? First of all, it is far from clear to me that animals do have the power of visual reflection. The metaphor of the mirror for animal consciousness has two prongs of meaning. Like a mirror, animal consciousness is something quintessentially and entirely visual; a vision is not the thing itself. Just as things reflected in mirrors are not really in the mirror, so the things in animal consciousness are not really in the animals mind. In other words, the mirror is a metaphor of the image. Not wishing to argue with Bishop Berkeley, let us say so far so good. Animal minds are not dark. Animals too have a visual field, a more or less multicoloured disk. Secondly however, a mirror is something that not only displays, but also bends light such that viewers can (if they have language at least) see themselves in mirrors. Is this something that animals can really do?

First of all let us consider the physical technology required for visual reflection. We have mirrors, things made of glass or polished metal. Animals too have at least the occasional water surfaces. In addition however, humans have the ability to draw to mind images from other perspectives than their own. Just as I can imagine what I would see were I to stand up and look down at the road below my 3rd floor window, I can also imagine what I would see were I to be in the position of the mirror and looking at my face. My consciousness can, as it were, bend light. Now it seems to me that, not only are animals not too good at making looking glasses, but also they may not be able to do the perspective taking required for visual reflection.

I am suggesting that a lot of animals do not "REflect" at all. The eflect;f they just see. When we put mirrors in front of them, something moves in the mirror that they are able to recognise as an animal of their kind. But it is at least not proven that they are able to take any perspective but their own so even if they had a "name" for themselves, they would be unable to realise that the name also applies to that other animal in the mirror.

To cut to the chase, it seems to me that the Russian is being unfair. He should recognise that there are two forms of reflection going on, and that humans are good at both of them. And it is the coexistence of both that allows humans to 'see' themselves. Both abilities are required, there is a double return, a double feedback loop.

The Spanish film Los Cronochrimes, is about a man that goes back one our in time twice to visit himself. The first time came a bit of a shock, to the protagonist and to the viewer, but when the hero demands to return to the past again so that there are two doubles of his original self, is this not excessive? On the contrary. It was the double return of Hector that made the film resonate for me as an allegory of growing up. There were other hints that made me think my interpretation was not merely capricious.

At the start of the film Hector is rather young, and visual. He likes to sit and watch, though his house is only partly decorated. Though he does not appear to work, his wife offers her body to him. He is like a baby. This is in sharp contrast to the more commanding Hector that the hero becomes by the end of the film.

Furthermore, the first  time-slip of Hector is so spatial. In both cases we presume Hector travels back in time the same amount, but in his first time-slip, Hector merely seems to jump accross space, to take a perspective looking back at himself, with the same binoculars from the other side of a divide. This first bandaged, cloaked Hector is only a pair of eyes outside of himself. He becomes a perspective upon himself from without. Using only his scary gaze he manages to force the second hector to follow the same path. But he makes a mistake. He attempts to return to his wife while still in swaddling, causing the woman to fall to her death. Utterly dissatisfied, Hector decides he must return to the past again. This time, he takes control. We learn that through the machinations of the time machine, the second double of Hector, or Hector #3, has scripted the actions of the first too. The volition powering the Hectors is no longer the gaze, but the voice of Hector #3. Hector #3 has determined what each of the other Hectors should do in advance. Finally, he manages to make another woman look like his wife, having her fall to her death, and ends the film very much older, less philandering and in charge, having returned to himself twice.  

My only disappointment is that rather than two travels in a time machine, the first doubling might have been achieved by more spatial means.

As Derrida points out however, we Westerners tend to see the possibly of doubling ourselves as a process of differance.

Posted by timtak at 06:37 PM | Comments (0)

Others in Self

There are several theories of the human psyche that posit the existences of an other with the self.
Sigmund Freud says that we have a superego that is an internalisation of out father.
Jacques Lacan says that we have an Other (capital "O") that is, somehow, language perhaps but evolves out of our (m)other. Mother? I find Lacan pretty opaque.
Mikhail Bakhtin writes about a super-addressee, a someone that is always addressed as even we communicate to others.
James Mead (by far the most common sensical of this bunch, but still not easy to grasp) says that we have, or I guess simulate, a general perspective on ourselves.
Christians believe that there is a God that is omnipresent even to our own minds I presume.
Hermans and Kempen are saying a similar thing to Mead except they feel that the various imaginary listeners that we internalise may not form a generalised other, but rather that we have dialogical encounters with a great many simulated friends.
Markus and Kitayama argue that the the self is interdependent, at least for the Japanese, with others, and our relationship with them, helping to form self.

I am not sure if it can be called a theory, but the founder of Scientology, LRH, spoke "Space Opera" about aliens invading the earth and human bodies. I have heard a recording of his jovial drawl, and amused approving sounds from his audience. I think that he must have been being allegorical. If so the notion that our bodies are in some sense invaded by aliens finds expression in the psychological theories above.

How about in fiction? In Star Trek there is a sort of pizza thing that attaches itself to people. I think that it attached itself to Dr. Spock. Dr. Spock was able to free himself of the parasitic, controlling, cranial pizza by flying towards a sun. In some episodes of Dr. Who there were some spiders that attached themselves to the backs of humans that they then controlled. Another "Dr. Who" book which starts at a point in time when the Daleks are in control the world. The Daleks add a sort of hat or collar to humans by which they can control them. The "Dr. Who" book starts by recounting how a particular  human kills himself in order that he is no longer a slave to the Daleks. In the Manga Paracyte (Kizeichuu), an alien rubber monster invades a young man's hand.

In Thus Spake Zarathustra, Nietzche speaks of a dwarf sitting on his shoulder. Numerous pirates have a parrot on their shoulder, for some reason. In Beyond the Pleasure Dome, the dwarf giant duo Master Blaster has the dwarf Master, sitting on the giant, Blaster's shoulders.

But I think that in most cases, stories can be out intra psychic others without specifically mentioning any penetration of the skull, or people sitting on other people's shoulders. The characters penetrate the story, and the story enters the viewers, and readers minds. In other words movies simply about people and their relationships can be re-enactments of the relationship that we have with ourselves.

Posted by timtak at 06:37 PM | Comments (0)

XGay, Spiritual Experience

The only time I have had a "spiritual" experience was when, about 20 years ago (or perhaps 15, I prefer to exaggerate) I found out that I was gay. Or rather that I was making myself gay.

The experience was in retrospect 'spiritual'. It certainly was not carnal: there was no sex act involved. It was certainly insane, crazy, out of this world. I 'lost my marbles'. At the time I said that sort of thing to myself; ' You have lost your marbles Tim'. But at the same time, like many people who are deemed 'insane' it seemed to me truer than the existance that I was supposed to live then, and indeed the one that I live now.

I was about 21 and entering society for the first time, working for a weapons manufacturer in the UK. I did not like my job. I read Nietzsche and Camus and wondered about 'the meaning of life.' I wrote a diary about my musings on the meaning of life and, generally, how meaningless life seemed to me.

And then one day when I was reading through my diary, it was as if the narrator caught up with him or herself (like "the drums in the deep" in scene in Balin's tomb of the "Lord of the Rings", or the end of "One Hundred Years of Solitude" By Gabriel Garcia Marquez).

And I had an experience where, it seemed to me, that the person that I always thought I am, indeed the person that I think I am now, was (is) but *a pupet made of words*. I found myself to be a ventriloquist that is identifying with his "dummy" (like "Magic" by William Goldman). I was (am) that "dummy" or puppet.

It seemed to me in a flash, that the person that I normally think is me, is nothing more than the hero of a novel. The heros of novels do not exist. I think that I exist. But all the while I am only the presumed subject of a narrative that 'I' speak 'to myself.'

But *not* to myself. Normally, when I say "What the heck are you doing posting this to your blog?" I think that I am talking to the same person that I think is doing the speaking - myself.

I am under the illusion not only that the enunciator is the enunciated (I am the one who speaks,
rather than something else is speak of me), but also that the listener is the same as as the
speaker (enuciator) and spoken of (enunciated). 

In that flash I realised that I was "talking off", that is to say that I was talking deliberately to be
overheard. Any what a thing I was overheard by...I was in the presence of something far bigger than little puppet me, a giant, a vast, true-me of immesurable proportions. That true me was (is!) male. But I was speaking "off" to it, itself, *as if it were a woman*. Particularly as if it were my own 'pet mother'.

When a child is lonely what does it do? Children often play with dolls or teddy bears. They cuddle their teddy bear, their doll. That is a strange behaviour in a sense because they are not asking teddy to cuddle them. One never or rarely sees a child trying to get the doll or teddy bear to hold it, the child, in its arms.Instead they hold the bear. They hug the bear to their chest and comfort it, even though it is they, the comforter that needs to be comforted. It is strange, in a sense, that there is not much of a demand for giant teddy bears. (Sort of "dutch mothers"?)

It seemed to me that I am a lonely child that has made a teddy bear, that is myself. I cuddle it. Or rather it myself I speak, and speaks, and demands to be cuddled. In that empty space of my consciousness a puppet or teddy bear made of words, creates itself or is created, so that it can be comforted. And creates a or permiates an atmosphere of a mother to comfort it. And all the while a faceless giant looks and listens on.

The realisation was sparked off by the realisation of my homosexuality. The puppet made of words insisted upon speaking 'off' to someone that would love it unconditionally, like a mother. I realised in that flash that I was making my giant, true-self into a woman. I was speaking 'off' to my true self as if that true self were a woman. In that realisation, I realised the game I was playing. I realised that I was making a woman of my giant self.

That this was why I was (am) homosexual. It was also the end of my homosexuality.

I realised that my giant self wanted a sort of obliteration. It wanted to end the charade.It wanted to stop having to listen to these moans and wimperings of a perpetual mummys boy and be, to put it politely, 'made love to.'

I am not sure if women want that. I am not sure if there is a "little death" (petit mort) for men or women at all. But that is what I felt I&#12288;wanted.

There is a tripartite relationship.

A giant man in drag holding a puppet made of words.
The woman that giant man is (by being in drag) pretending to be
The person that I am, the puppet, that thinks he speaks, and by speaking in a whining, way creates the woman, the veneer of "drag" (make up?! a wig?) on the giant.

All there "really" is, is the 'giant man-in-drag-holding-a-puppet-made-of-words'. But in my day to day life I am the puppet. I wonder if I still speak in such a way as to make the giant listen with a mother' ear, and make the giant wear womens clothes. I don't know.

I don't do homosexuality but, the experience, it was as true to me as the screen I see. It was truer than me as I still am. 


Posted by timtak at 06:32 PM | Comments (0)

Dreams Stranger than Fiction

"Stranger than Fiction" (2006) is an okay film. At one level it is a love story about a nerdy tax inspector and a coffee shop owner. The tax inspector that lives for numbers and punctuality, that lives his life in a fastidious, perfectionist, a-sensual fashion wakes up to the world of cakes and kisses and he dives, into the sensual world. In this movement he is aided by the was-once-a-bit-of-a-nerd, coffee shop owner that dived herself, many years before, out of law school in the sensual-world-more-important.

At this level "Stranger than fiction" has the hallmarks of many a love story, where the impediment to love lies in the character of one or more of the protagonists. Love stories with nerdy heroes and heroines are not few in number. I enjoyed "A New Leaf"(1971) starring botanist-nerd Elaine May, and cynic Walter Matthau, athough this film tracked the movement towards love of a cynic rather than a nerd. There are perhaps even more love stories about cynics meeting their match and taking the plunge, such as "When Harry met Sally"(1989) and "Wedding Crashers"(2005). Cynics and nerds have this in common: they both don't know how to do that loving stuff. Other love stories feature a Briton, who in Hollywood are all both cynical and nerdy, such as "Four Weddings and a Funeral" and "Nottinghill," which feature Hugh Grant becoming aware of his mojo. Upping the brow-level perhaps there are love stories about idealists taking the plunge, such as "Wings of Desire (Himmel Uber Berlin)", its naff remake "City of Angels," and "The Legend of Nineteen Hundred," although in the latter case the idealist sticks with ideals rather than love.

At the same time however, "Stranger than Fiction" crosses genres, and adds a irreal, crazy, almost Matrixical alterity; the hero of "Stranger than Fiction" finds that he is the hero of a woman's novel. We see the (female) novelist fretting over ways to kill him off.

The hero eventually tracks down and meets the novelist but reading her book, he decides to run with the story, and in front of a bus to his nemisis, at which point the novelist decides to make the accident, no longer accidental, non-fatal. At this point, in her words, the love story takes that sensual realistic dive into the world of the little things. The taste of coffee and lipstick, the brush of someones eyelashes accross your cheek. Rather than the grand design, rather than the objectives, and conclusions of works of great fiction, the hero and his novelist choose the everyday.

Dead interesing.  But what of dreams?

At the same time I was watching a program on Japanese television about a lady that gave up the everyday to pursue her dreams. At 50 or thereabouts she says that we all have dreams but usually we give up on them and opt for life. She describes dreams (by that she means goals) as a bomb that we carry with us, and that most people, caught up with the everyday allow it not to explode.

At the same time again I found myself watching the concluding song to "Joseph and the Technicolour Dreamcoat" wherein we are told, "Any Dream Will Do." This recently the title of a reality TV series to find the next incarnation of Joseph on stage.

All very confusing. Is love a dream? Or does it present us with the real world? Is choosing love a cop-out or a higher ideal?

A recent survey by a student I know found that there is a strong correlation between honesty and romanticism. An unexpected result?

Posted by timtak at 06:30 PM | Comments (0)

Waking Life

Waking Life gets good reviews from "the nation's critics" at rottentomatoes.com. I confess that I fell asleep in the middle.

The film is a sort of animated sequence of interviews. Animated in the sense that the interviews which were shot with a video camera have been overpainted so that they have become the filmic equivalent of overpainted photographs. And animated in the sense that the interviews consist of someone waxing philosophical to a young, decidedly inanimate guy with a floppy centre parting.

Most of the philosophy I had heard before. These days it seems to me that the whole of Western philosophy boils down to the liars paradox. For instance Satre, as explained in an early part of the film, seems to be saying that one can not denate ones responsibility or choice because to do so would be to make a choice and thus be cretan.

However, Nathan Hawke, in a rare bed scence propounded the one theory that fired my imagination. Nathan and his girlfriend are in bed and at least one of them has been dreaming. They note how little time it takes, in waking life seconds, to dream a dream that can seem to have lasted for days. One can wake up, look at ones alarm clock, fall back asleep and to experience a dream of epic proportions, only to wake up to find that merely a few seconds have passed. They also claim that brain activity continues for between 6 and 12 minutes after - one presumes resperatory - death. They then surmise that in this time a dead man or woman would have the ability to dream, or relive all their waking life. And furthermore, the surmise, that perhaps waking life is indeed the dream that they are having on their death bed.

This theme has occured before as noted in reviews (I think I have written reviews) of Sixth Sense, Others (a sort of Sixth Sense for women) and American Beauty. These latter films suggest that the dead do go on to experience life, either believing that they are still alive (the first two) or aware that they are dead and free to ponder over their life as a whole. Waking life goes a little further to suggest that this life that we are experiencing is that dream we experience falling down through the clouds to dwell with worms and clay.

Jacques Lacan once claimed that the ego is dead. But I think that he was referring to the fact that it is a construction, a dead thing, an artifice, an sort of prosthesis to use Macluhans phrasiology.

So are we really dead already?

This notion at first blush seems merely a flight of fantasy. Even if the thesis were tenable, like the existance of an invisible odourless pink elephant walking down the street avoiding cars, there is nothing in its favour. Occam's razor would chop it right off.

However, this theory may have an advantage in that it may explain why there should be a self or consciousness.

The self and consciousness are perhaps two different problems. I am not sure. As a sort of Buddhist, I am inclined to think that they are very much intertwined. All there is is consciousness, but we posit permanence in the form of a self on this side (watching consciousness) and a world of things on the far side (that we presume gives rise to the light).

In order to link Nathan Hawke's theory to philosophy, however, I will concentrate on consciouness or the "qualia," the stuff of experience that seems to be private. There seems to be an experience of redness for instance. This experience is uterly unspeakable. I have already fallen foul of the liars paradox by attempting to mention it. I might attempt to say that where I see redess, in my consciousness, you see green in yours. But that would be unfair because redness is something that we agree on. We can not speak of our 'qualia' but it does seem that they are in some sense 'there'. It is also clear that we dream and have the ability to imagine things that are not external but have nonetheless a form of existance (under erasure).

There are some folk that would like to persuade us that all there is is the physical world. These people are called physicalists by philosophers, and behaviourists in psychology.

At the same time, a contemporary American philosopher called Chalmers wrote a paper positing the possibility of "Zombies." Zombies consciousness-less humans, in the sense of being machines that react to their environment, like a mechanical device, and live and eat and avoid danger without ever having sense perception, or experiencing this "o'erhanging firmament." The mind of a zombie or robot is, we presume, empty. Zombies just react. Thus, those that would try to convince us of the lack of a need for internality, or spirit, or a non physical world, are wrong. The physical world can not provide an explanation for the difference between us and zombies. Or something like that.

I find Western philosophy rather tedious. Responses to Chalmers concentrate upon whether zombies are concievable and whether concievablity entails that possibility. I have no idea whether Zombies could exist. I have no idea whether the ability to concieve of something entails that it could possibly exist. I think that probably, in both cases the answer is no. All the same however, I do feel that there is a problem. What is this stuff? What is are these lights, this circle of light that I am experiencing? Why is it there? Why I am I not a "dark" (not even dark, since darkness is visible as a black visual field).

Returning to "Waking Life".

The Nathan Hawke theory, that really *this* that we are now experiencing is really the reliving of a life by a dead person  provides a reason why there should be an "o'erhanging firmament," a "fish bowl," consciousness.

There seems to be some difference or distance between what we experience and "the real world". Enough at least to persuade a lot of people that there is a "veil of perception" or "qualia." While I am sympathetic to all those hard like non-Cretans, that point out I am being inconsistant and self-contradictory to speak of this the stuff of my life, I am equally sympathetic with those that say that there stuff of experience. What the heck is it doing there? Why is there something, like a dream, between me and reality?

Herein lies the utility, or explicative power of Nathan's theory. Get your hands off Occam! The postulation that we are a dead woman dreaming is not only concievable (like a pink elephant) but it is also useful in explaining the duality that many of us seem to feel.

Hold on! What am I suggesting? I guess am suggesting that a zombie, without consciousness in normal waking life, may have the ability to replay or dream waking life, and when replayed the original darker than dark reality may take on stuffness, "qualia," "consciousness". Of course on the the other hand, a life lived dark need not become any brighter when relived. But this, perhaps I should write to Chalmers, raises the question, how do Zombies dream? Do they not dream at all? Do they merely report dreams?

Well, I don't think that I am a zombie on its deathbed reliving its life. But I do think that there is something in this line of explanation. That the duality we seem to percieve may be explained in other ways than posititing a seperate realm of spirit.

Perhaps I will have another look at Waking Life. It was not that bad.

Posted by timtak at 06:29 PM | Comments (0)

Sin City

Sin City is an interesting film. I am not particularly keen on violence but I am a long time fan of Mickey Rourke and I have an interest in hard boiled, film-noir. Another thing that appeals to my structuralist mind is that is that Sin-City is in three or four parts and these parts repeat, share a commonality of structure and device. One of the minority of damning reviews of Sin City - damning of the gratuitous violence - points to one common theme: "See a pattern? Women in this movie are all whores and strippers..." That is not the only common theme.

The most interesting one for me is that all the men in the movie are talking to themselves. The three lead charters Hartigan (Bruce Willis), Dwight (Clive Owen) and Marv (Mickey Rourke) in true hard boiled film noir style spend the whole film nurdling on to themselves cynically, explaining what is going on, and making up for the lack of light. Who are they speaking to?

They are speaking to themselves and the audience and perhaps also to the woman that they love. The women that all these men willingly sacrifice themselves for (two dying in the process) are not only prostitutes, they are

(1) the targets of an enduring and powerful love that tears the heroes to pieces

(2) unobtainable in one way or another (dead, too young, past tense),

(3) the reason why the heroes die

(4) generally silent but often imagined and in one case an avid letter writer,

 (5) violent, sexually preditorial, hermaphrodite

(6) and as we have seen, perhaps the superaddressee of the film noir narration.

Why do heroes mumble themselves into oblivion for a whore-goddess of love? Why is it that, and this is what makes it so tragi-dense, the heroes half know they will never get the the whore-goddess get? Recently I have been born of a son, born on the 30th May 2006. He is called Ray Takemoto. He cries quite a lot, a plaintiff warbling cry that cannot be predicted and seems at times to know no satisfaction. Sometimes the solution is simple: Ray needs his nappy (diaper) changed or more often some of his mother's milk. Often at the same time the reason seems to be general malaise or dissatisfaction with the fact of being born to a world where he has desire but almost no power to achieve their ends. He must have quite a frustrating time. We all must have quite a frustrating time, since we are born "foetalised," weirdly incapable of even the ability to stand.

Our only defense, is our lovability and the volume and mesmeric persistence of our cries. Here in Japan they say that "crying is a babies occupation". To cut a long story short, looking at baby Ray I see Hartigan, Dwight, Marv and myself. The wail has become less of a whimper now and has taken on the pretension of gravelly, 'hard-boiled,' machismo. But it is still a long drawn out moan about how tough things are. Most importantly it seems that perhaps in all cases the hard boiled whimper is a whimper of love. But only Ray - thank you Ray - has anyone listening. Are our heroes doomed to sacrifice themselves selves speaking to the him-her fantasy forever? It is not so bad, since there is beauty in it.

Sin City was, from a certain angle, a beautiful movie. Self-sacrificing, self-narrating men, such as Fabrizio Quattrocchi (a baker from Sicily who wanted to save up to buy a house for his family but ends up narrating his own death) are indeed heroes. But who are all these violent, whoring, silent, hermaphrodite goddesses that the sniveling super-hunks of Sin City die for? I suggest, I guess, that these women are the protagonists themselves.

Posted by timtak at 06:28 PM | Comments (0)

Happiness tends to Zero

This post was inspired by the short film "Happiness Tends to Infinity," (recommended) by Yinka Selley.

I met an engineer in a design room in the Stanmore branch of Marconi Defence systems, a missile company at which I worked. The design room was a Porta Cabin and the interior decor rather bleak. The engineer sat behind one of those drawing boards equipped with a mechanical set-square-come-ruler-thing.

He moved it adroitly, across plans for missiles, I presume. Prior to working for Marconi, he had been in the Navy and had travelled the world. He had a different equation of happiness, which was based on one of Newtonfsf laws, the second I think. Newton's second law is often expressed as


or force equals mass times acceleration.

Of these the engineer equated force with happiness and velocity with materialistic states of being including health, and acceleration with changes in these states. I am not sure if how mass figured in the equation but perhaps it has something to do with attachment - the number of people with whom one shares things being a major, but not determining factor. The above equation can be rewritten as

Force = mass x (velocity2 - velocity1)/time

Which may be substituted for

Happiness = attachment x (state1 - state2)/time

In other words people feel happiness when they are ggetting thereh, but not when they have got there. Or that that states - such as being rich, being healthy, or whatever - do not himself or herself cause happiness or unhappiness. Happiness cannot be stored or accumulated. The engineerfs equation seemed quite plausible, at the time.

Bearing in mind that life tends to draw an arc, which ends in death, while on the rise our achievements bring us happiness as long as we do not achieve them, and in the longer term at least for the second part the general trend is down. Given a steady state, or one which is not changing much,

Happiness/Sadness = attachment * (state1 - state2)/time

If state1 = state2 then Happiness = 0

The engineer recommended marriage (this was the topic of our conversation, and how he had ended up in Stanmore) as a way of introducing waves (up and downs) into ones life, without which there would be no happiness, so he claimed.

Interestingly, this equation is almost the reverse of that proposed by Yinka Selley.

This does not mean that either is incorrect.

On the contrary, perhaps zero and infinity meet! In my limited experience of Buddhism the reduction of attachment is said to result in being ultimately free from suffering. This is pretty darn good. And sometimes accompanied by rapture. And, attachment and anticipation are clearly linked. I am not sure how.... perhaps attachment is anticipation frozen, or the attempt.

Posted by timtak at 06:26 PM | Comments (0)