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Showing posts from January, 2010

Neuro Sartorial Programming

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On Friday I went through a graduation ceremony for the first time. It was just for my creative writing certificate, but I figured that seeing as back in the day (when I first graduated) I was so full of anti-establishment attitude that I didn't bother attending, I might as well go along and enjoy it this time round. And I got to wear the silly gear. Expensive enough to hire from Ede and Ravenscroft, but worth doing (so I told myself) just the once. Being "gowned" was an odd experience. They're just clothes after all - if anything all you should feel is a slight sense of discomfort and embarrassment. I didn't feel either of those but was disconcerted to feel a change in demeanor sneaking over me. I started to feel pompous, arrogant and self important. Why would a change of clothes make me feel this way? Luckily my "real" self was still overseeing everything and found this funny. I was able to laugh at the idea of me shouting " You! Boy! " or

I Question That Emotion

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"Analogies prove nothing, that is quite true, but they can make one feel more at home." Freud How can you ever really know what someone else is feeling? Claiming empathy is all very well, but how can you know that what they call "sad" is the same as what you call "sad"? At first glance this might seem to be the same problem discussed in the last entry , in which I concluded that qualia , the basic thingness of stuff, didn't actually exist, our experience of, say, red being linked to the wavelength of light hitting our retinas, our brains' processing of that data and any associations we have linked to it. There is no ur- red of which our experience of the skin of a tomato is but a pale reflection. The reality of emotions may be a different facet of the same problem, albeit one with a different conclusion. It's much more difficult to put your finger on an emotion. Whilst Patient A can say to Patient B "That's red" and point at

Seeing Red

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There is an old philosophical chestnut about seeing the colour red. How do we know that what I see as red is what you see as red? We may both call it red, and may be referring to the colour of tomatoes, blood and pillar boxes, but how do I know that what you call red isn't what I call green? This is a simplified version of John Locke's Inverted Spectrum (I'm talking about the philosopher rather than the erstwhile passenger of Oceanic 815), a thought experiment in which we wake up one morning and find that all the colours in our sensorium have inexplicably reversed. Aside from providing the inspiration for a potentially interesting blues number (" Woke up this mornin'... Everythin' red had gone green / Yeah I woke up this mornin'... Everythin' green had gone red / Had green strawberry jam on toast for breakfast... Think someone's messing with my head... ") there's no real reason why this should occur other than to introduce the re

Does Not Compute

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There are some things I just can't get my head around. One of them is talking about myself in the third person. Oh sure, I can do it if I have to (although I am at a loss to think of a situation in which I might "have to") but it makes me very uncomfortable and just feels wrong . I have no idea why this might be - some error of the wiring in my brain or bad learning? It certainly doesn't seem to bother some people. If anything they seem to rather enjoy it. I can see how it might be useful as a way of dis-identifying with the past in order to learn from ones mistakes, but I'd find it uncomfortable doing even that. As for the "Old John's really looking forward to supper" said John syndrome... I just can't fathom it . I would be an interesting subject for study, to see what kind of people do this a lot and what proportion of the population is happy (or at least not uncomfortable) doing so. I'd hate to think it was just me. However, there

Sleepworking

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One day I hope to be asked " Where do you get your ideas from? " as it will mean that I have written a work of fiction that has impressed someone and is original enough for them to wonder how I managed to think it up. At the moment the only person likely to ask me that is myself and unfortunately I don't yet have an answer. Any regular readers may recall that I previously wrote about different types of writers, the architects and archaelogists , and identified myself as a member of the latter camp. I discover the story as I go along; in many ways I don't "get" the ideas from anywhere, the ideas come to me. As I mentioned before it can be difficult to write short stories as an archaeologist; it can be even more difficult to write a synopsis. This is a problem, because I need to write a synopsis, a summary for a piece of short fiction I am planning to write. At the moment it's not important what this actually is, suffice to say there's a deadline

Spoiler Alert!

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Ironically in this information-rich era it seems to have become something of an obsession for people to not know certain pieces of information. I am talking about the manic spoilerphobes who go postal at the mere whiff of foreknowledge of something that they're planning to enjoy. That's not to say I don't understand where they're coming from. Of course certain films are specifically designed to be enjoyed more if you don't realise that Bruce Willis is dead or that Kevin Spacey is in fact Keyser Soze. I just think that back in the day people didn't used to get nearly so wound up about accidentally finding out the minutiae. When I was a kid I was in the enviable position of being able to read Doctor Who scripts in advance ; in no way did I consider that I was ruining it for myself. The joy lay not in the details of the plot remaining hidden until the date of transmission but in the way in which the story was executed, in the acting, the direction and other

Going Viral

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I am currently confined to my bed by a particularly annoying cold. It seems somewhat unfair that I am suffering at all; as far as flu jabs were concerned, I've had both the Swine and the Regular. Surely that should be the medical equivalent of a Get Out Of Jail Free card? There's nothing that common about the cold. Sure, it's widespread, but there are so many different varieties that it should surely be considered as a family of diseases rather than just one. It may feel as if I've got yet another cold , but this is the first (and only) time I've ever come across this variety, hence it's virulence. Good word that, Virulence . From the same root as Virus of course, the Latin for poison. It's quite a perfect description for them really; in many ways they are more akin to a poison than a parasitic organism. Should they even be considered alive? I've always thought not. There's certainly no method to their mechanism, they just bumble about until

Evidence of Absence

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It is odd how sometimes we can get so wound up over nothing. Literally. How often have you heard someone say that they're afraid of the dark or hate the cold? A visitor from another reality whose only experience of this one is our communication could be forgiven for thinking that these qualities, along with their cousin silence, were active, sometimes malignant, presences in our universe. Even some primitive human philosophers used to think of cold and dark as distinct properties, yins to the yangs of heat and light. But of course they're not. They're not anything, because they don't exist. Far from being the opposite of heat and light, they are simply their absence. If anything heat and light are the interlopers, streams of subatomic particles (or waves depending upon which side of the quantum bed you got up this morning) bombarding matter, buffeting it. This constant assault is the price we pay for being warm and for being able to see. The natural state of the

Dimensionally Transcendental Confession 7: Change, My Dear

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University was a very different world. People there were, well, nice . After spending six years in the Arena of Bastards that constituted Highgate School, this was a revelation. My fellow students were now more interested in my opinions, in what I had to say than they were in making my life a living hell. Also there were girls there. It took some getting used to, but I felt I could live with it. And I no longer had to address anyone as "sir". The only real problem seemed to be getting to watch Doctor Who. There was a TV in the common room of each hall of residence, the trouble was though that you could end up running around campus only to find all the cool kids in each one watching the same show which needless to say wasn't Doctor Who. Due to the BBC's odd scheduling, at this time the programme was nearly always on opposite some alternative indie music slot on BBC2 or the new Channel Four - which of course was difficult to get bright young students to give up w

Stop Me If You Think That You've Heard This One Before

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Time for another metablog entry. I hope you don't mind. A major problem with writing this off the top of my head first thing in the morning is that I end up rambling. Not that there's anything wrong with rambling per se, but if I'm not careful I'll end up repeating myself as the themes, memes and mania that appeal to my mind push themselves to the fore. Plus there are now enough of these entries to make checking through them all a far from trivial affair. If I suspect that I might have mentioned something on a previous occasion do I really have the time to read back through 70,000 words in order to avoid repetition and the subsequent enraging of the over-sensitive? The other day I was convinced I'd already mentioned the popular meme that " every cell/atom in our bodies is replaced every seven years " more than once, but it took me ages to confirm this. And the practical upshot of all this tedious searching (and it was long-winded; the search function o

Confidence Trickster

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"The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt." Bertrand Russell Much as I find the above quote amusing and intellectually appealing, I'm not sure it's entirely true. Of course on one level I'd like it to be because it would appeal to my vanity. It would allow me to take one of my flaws - a lack of confidence and surfeit of doubt - and turn it into a virtue. I'm scared therefore I'm smart . But logically that's not acceptable. Even if it were true that the intelligent were full of doubt, it doesn't necessarily follow that those full of doubt are intelligent. All smurfs may be blue, but it doesn't follow that all blue creatures are smurfs. The funny thing is that if I accepted the quote to be true and used it for self validation as described above I'd be indulging in an intellectual vanity, which could of course be considered confidence of a sort. A paradox. And wherever we find a parado

Imaginary Friends

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For some reason I never kept in touch with anyone from school - bunch of sadistic bastards the lot of them ( and that was just the teachers... aah ). An unusual side effect of this state of affairs is that the people I've known the longest aside from my family are fictional. My oldest friends don't exist. Well not in this reality. I'm not talking about characters in books - they're frozen in aspic going through the same motions again and again every time you thumb their pages. Even characters in long running series of books can't really be counted, partly due to the nature of the medium. Any recurring characters in an author's works (such as the Vampire Lestat who somehow contrives to become even more irritating every single time Anne Rice churns one out) are going to be central to the story and therefore we're almost always privy to their thoughts. Real friends are always seen from the outside and we have to guess what they're thinking. Characters

Number Unobtainium

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I don't go to the cinema as often as I'd like, but did manage to go and see Avatar 3D on New Year's Eve. This was only the second of the new wave of 3D films I'd seen, and the first one that was "live action" (in the loosest sense of the term as I'm assuming those big blue guys weren't real). 3D on this scale is certainly a spectacle. The first ten minutes or so I was constantly ducking the things flying out of the screen at me and marveling at the display, but after a while I settled down and got used to it - if anything it seemed to me that this is how all films should always have been, the screen a giant window into another world at the front of the hall. Although it may be true that 3D wouldn't be particularly essential to the plot of a romcom. However when it comes down to it once the 3D, the comprehensive world building and the fantastic special effects are stripped away, the plot of Avatar itself is fairly basic (spoiler alert I guess)

Dimensionally Transcendental Confession 6: The New Wave

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He'd been the definitive Doctor for what seemed like forever and a whole new generation of fans had been growing up with him in the role. Then all of a sudden he'd changed and there was someone else in his clothes. Someone who looked far too young. Would the programme survive such a drastic metamorphosis? No, I'm not talking about 1 January 2010. This was on 21 March 1981. A Saturday. I was a teenager, and the incoming Doctor was Peter Davison. In theory we'd have to wait until January 1982 to find out what this new incarnation was going be like. Back then a ten month wait such as this was an eternity - just what was I going to occupy myself with in the meantime? Well, there was always music. That was rather interesting in 1981. I'd become obsessed with Toyah , and there were any number of other fascinating bands around, such as Soft Cell , The Human League , Ultravox , Visage , Department S , Classix Nouveaux and countless other combos who, years later, woul

Don't Give Up The Day Job

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"If work were so pleasant, the rich would keep it for themselves." Mark Twain Somehow I find myself already sitting here by the window at home with the daylight fading on the final twenty four hours of my precious time off. It doesn't seem fair somehow. It's almost as if I've hardly had any time off at all and yet simultaneously it manages to seem quite a while since I was last at work. It's always the same at this time of year. One of my main problems is that the maximum time I can take off in one chunk is around two weeks which, what with the weekends, amounts to sixteen days in total. This might sound like a lot but in reality it's only just about enough time for my mind and body to recover and for me to start feeling even remotely human again. But then of course I only get to experience this refreshed feeling for one day at most before having to restart the whole cycle of running myself into the ground again. That's the trouble with having a so

Fiddler on the Loose

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All that talk of the Rockwell 8R that I indulged in last time reminded me of something I discovered way back then but never really shared with anyone until now. The next model of calculator up from mine was the Rockwell 18R which was a very similar device except that it had the benefit of a memory . Imagine that. Only the rich kids in school had calculators with memories . You'd have thought that what with my four function calculator being my proudest possession (aside from my clunky LED digital watch) I'd have treated it with kid gloves, but far from it. I was always obsessed with taking things to pieces. I'm not sure why - it's not as if prying the back of most machinery would have given me any insight into how it worked, but I used to do it anyway. Once I was convinced that if I swapped the connections for the aerial and the loudspeaker on an old valve radio I'd have built myself a radio transmitter. Anyway, I pulled the front off my calculator and was sur