Recent comments

  • Virge's Guestbook   16 years 5 days ago

    Virge: Just happened to stumble on your page, and note an Art Bates had penned a couple of lines, honestly, Virge, it wasn't me.
    art bates WE, Author 1295 (I think)

  • From the Book of Meaning   16 years 1 week ago

    Definitely. No matter which eternal aggredeity you worship:
    If you're a Regular, then the holy name of Reg must never be taken in vain (and must never be used to name teddy bears). Stoning would be a fitting punishment for a blasphemer.
    If you're a Pseuperlative, then a good stoning is always an acceptable pain offering, no matter who, no matter what for.

  • From the Book of Meaning   16 years 1 week ago

    Hah, brilliant! But... does this mean that all along we should have been stoning people who take the name Reg in vain?

  • From the Book of Meaning   16 years 2 weeks ago

    I'll probably follow the standard procedure:
    - write a book of strange stuff and claim it's inspired,
    - find a few real world coincidences that I can claim are unassailable proof of the truth of the book,
    - quote-mine some scientific papers that the general public won't understand,
    - construct an elaborate persecution scenario (one brave enlightened man against a cruel closed-minded society),
    - write some discipleship training material so I can run seminars and training camps,
    - find some gullible Hollywood types to train.

    Of course, the book will contain vague hints of prophesy. I must remember to put in the parable that suggests my bodily fluids are the ultimate source of anti-frustration...

    On second thoughts, that all sounds like too much hard work.

  • From the Book of Meaning   16 years 2 weeks ago

    Okay, so you've created a religion. Now for the important part: how are you going to capitalize on it?

  • Visualizing Music   16 years 3 weeks ago

    Don't trust introspection. You are the person who knows the most about how you feel and what you know, but that doesn't make introspection an infallible guide to how you know and why you feel. It was personal experience and introspection that convinced our ancestors that the human heart was the centre of emotion. (We look back now and realise how easy it would have been to make that mistake. Emotions trigger physiological changes in the whole body, and a person's heart rate is an easily detectable symptom.)

    Just because you don't notice how you're assimilating the cultural connotations of music doesn't mean they aren't seeping in, in lullabies your parents sang, in the songs you learned in pre-school, in every radio and TV advert, in the matching of lyrics to tonality within songs, in movie scores (which most people don't even notice while they concentrate on the attention-grabbing aspects of the movie). Music has a privileged path to your emotions. It doesn't need to be consciously parsed for meaning, so it usually escapes notice unless you've trained yourself to pay attention to it and analyze it and work out what it is about particular music that makes you feel as you do. An education in music sufficient to be able to do this is difficult to acquire before late teens, so most of one's musical culture is already in place before one can hope to understand how it got there.

    That said, I'm prepared to concede (as I did above in the discussion of perfect intervals vs major and minor thirds) that some parts of harmonic structure are tied to emotions in a pre-wired fashion. There are intervals (like a major 7th ) that grate when presented in the raw, without any other sounds, and would probably grate on any person from any culture unless they had been counter-programmed to associate that sound with something very desirable. (Even then, the major seventh can and has been featured in very easy listening songs through the 20th century--Burt Bacharach springs to mind. We totally ignore the dissonance of the interval. In earlier centuries that sound would have been chaos, strife, anger. Prior to the 15th century it would have been held to be demonic.) Since there are differences in the "smoothness" or "niceness" of harmonic intervals that are physically measurable and correlated with people's perceptions, I'll grant that there could be some natural bias to interpretation of modes like major and minor. But, having seen the way music has changed over the centuries and how our perceptions of what "sounds right" and what "sounds wrong" have changed, I'm going to give most of the credit to culture.

  • Visualizing Music   16 years 3 weeks ago

    Well, I've heard a bit of Arabic music, and I have to agree with you that culture does play a role in our musical aesthetic. On the other hand, when you infer that the relation between harmony and emotion is purely cultural, you pass over the possibility that there are many scales/harmonies that are not mutually exclusive. Different cultures have latched onto one or the other, but that doesn't mean that they create the emotional associations out of whole cloth.

    My main reason for believing that our associations with music are something intrinsic is empirical: from my own experience, I don't think that I've had nearly enough cultural saturation to hammer these associations into my mind from nothing. I don't think that I started with a blank slate, and I heard enough minor-key songs with external cues that told me "sad" that I finally just assimilated that notion into my consciousness without even realizing that I had done that. Heck, I've heard songs whose words did not fit the melody in the least, so I'm not even receiving one homogeneous impression from the "culture" around me.

    Your metaphor of "the bee's knees" only goes part-way. Sure, I know what "the bee's knees" means. It's part of my idiom; I might even use it. But my knowledge of it is clearly something assimilated. I know why I know what it means. In my brain, "the meaning of 'the bee's knees'" is filed under externally acquired knowledge. My associations with music are far more visceral. I'm not prepared to ascribe that (fully) to some sort of unconscious cultural indoctrination. I'm ready to meet you half-way, though, and agree that the cultural feedback loop plays a role in reinforcing these associations.

  • Visualizing Music   16 years 3 weeks ago

    It's an intriguing discussion too. Where does an arbitrary cultural convention start? The best explanations I've seen are in terms of memes.

    If there was some reason or function behind our western major=happy/minor=sad convention, then we'd expect to see it exhibited in other cultures. Take a listen to the scales employed in Indian or middle eastern music, and you'll begin to appreciate how much our western ears are culturally tuned.

    There are many aspects to harmony that have more than just cultural roots. The use of perfect fifths, octaves and unisons in medieval music were not arbitrary. When notes separated by these exact intervals are played/sung they sound like they belong together because there is a mathematical relationship between the frequencies (unison=frequency ratio 1:1, perfect fifth=3:2, octave=2:1), and there are no evident beat frequencies produced.
    ( )

    Moving further up the harmonic series to intervals of a major third (approx. 5:4) and minor third (approx. 6:5) we can see why these might sound good to the ear (because of their mathematical relationship), but not as consonant as unisons, fifths and octaves. The difference tones make them sound harsher.

    How good notes sound together can be traced back (mostly) to the mathematics of superposition of vibrations, but the connecting up of these recognizable harmonies to emotions I think is best explained as purely cultural, and probably has a coincidental start. Once a particular musical mode becomes, to some small extent, associated with an emotion, it is a convenient communication tool for a singer to use to help convey that emotion. This creates a feedback loop that locks in the association.

    I think musical modes emerge in similar ways to idiomatic expressions in language. Take an expression like "the bee's knees". Why has this come to be associated with something highly admired? There is no intrinsic meaning of the individual words or their combination that would connect them to the culturally accepted meaning. The origin is more or less accidental. Someone coins it. Other's use it (because it's fun/clever, not because of any logic). It either locks in or it fades depending on many factors, including luck.

  • Visualizing Music   16 years 3 weeks ago

    Thank you for that insightful response, Virge.

    I don't agree with your implication that our associations with things like major/minor keys are entirely an artifact of Western culture. At best, I think that's begging the question: if we associate minor with sad because our culture does, why does our culture make that association? It has to start somewhere. But that's a different discussion.

  • Sonnet off the cuff   16 years 3 weeks ago

    You're right on all three of those crits.
    But if I correct them, I've destroyed the premise of the work.
    *shrugs* I'll have to live with the flaws.

    The person who asked me for an impromptu sonnet was me. I set myself personal challenges. :)

  • Virge's Guestbook   16 years 3 weeks ago

    Great question, Judah. I started typing here but my answer was getting too long, so I've posted it as a blog entry:

  • Virge's Guestbook   16 years 3 weeks ago

    Hey, Virge, question for you: I was just listening to music and watching the visualizations on Windows Media Player, and they really seemed to flow with the music and mean something. It seemed like a strange thing that these randomly generated visualizations should have such a close bond with the music. I know that some of the input for the program comes from the music itself, but even so, how smart can the algorithm be? It doesn't know what's going on in my mind.

    I was interested in getting someone's opinion. When I thought about who I might ask, you seemed like the perfect person. A smart and very articulate guy, whose opinion I respect a great deal, with a background in computers and wide-ranging interests.

    So (now that I've buttered you up) what's your take on it? Is music able to convey relatively complex things through simple cues (volume, pitch, changes in pitch), and can those same cues be reflected in a visualization to the same effect? Or do the music and visualization convey only relatively simple things, which in turn are the cues for my mind to amplify on? Or is the whole thing a projection: what I hear in the music, I project onto the visualization, which in reality does not reflect the music except in a very simple way? What do you think?

  • Sonnet off the cuff   16 years 3 weeks ago

    Virge, you truly are amazing. It's a great sonnet. If I was wsing it, I would have some minor critiques, though. Should I bother? Probably not, but...

    I would prefer "the" to "this" for the start of line 9. "This" is too overtly self-referential for my taste. Of course it's not intended to be subtle, but you don't actually breach the 'fourth wall' until that word, "this".

    The tense of "I'd inserted" doesn't seem to fit, since you're presumably still writing when the well dries.

    "This" isn't pulling lines out of your bum--you are.

    So who's the sonnet dedicated to?

  • On Communication   16 years 5 weeks ago

    No, it was my bad. I pasted too hastily. I'll edit the post to make it clear that they are from different entries.

  • On Communication   16 years 5 weeks ago

    Thanks for the tip... although the contextless and non-sequiteurial quotes almost put me off following the link, as it made the writing seem so obtuse. But maybe that was the point?

  • Boing Boing Blindness   16 years 30 weeks ago

    Aside from issues of owning or not owning numbers, DMCA is obviously bad public policy. Fortunately, it is also bad policy from the perspective of the producers of copyrighted information. The biggest problem creative people have is not that everyone is stealing their material, it is that no one even knows it is there. Locking away the material just reduces the audience of people who will hear of you in the first place, and in the long run results in even lower sales.

    (Note that this argument applies very effectively to writing or music; it applies less well to something requiring a huge investment, and which has an associated marketing campaign. From a market perspective, the only place DMCA might make sense is for motion picture blockbusters.... but even in that field, all the little independent productions who have no marketing budget should run screaming from the very thought of encrypting their material).

  • Boing Boing Blindness   16 years 30 weeks ago

    A simpler approach is just to take DMCA out of it.

    You can't own or copyright a single english word (e.g. cardboard). If, however, you publish that word along with the information that it is the password for all of John Wellington Wells accounts online...

    Now having established that, we can add the DMCA back in. You are at the very least being rude to publish a password/encryption key. DMCA says it is not only rude, it is illegal. DMCA doesn't say anything about other random text that contains the word cardboard, however.

  • Boing Boing Blindness   16 years 30 weeks ago


    Please don't argue about what I haven't said.

    You're missing the point. What is "it" in your phrase "*knowing it*"? The "it" is not the number. "It" is the piece of information I described in the post. This is a huge distance from owning a number.

    I'm in full agreement with you that the actions of the AACS are despicable and that they make foolish claims to "own" a piece of information that is now irrevocably public information, but my main point is that the information they claim is not the number. You do yourself a disservice by conflating the pure number with a chunk of information that happens to include that number.

    Leave the spin doctoring to the bad guys.

  • Boing Boing Blindness   16 years 30 weeks ago

    You're attacking a straw-man. I've never said that the number is copyrighted. I've said that they claim to own it, that they claim that it's illegal to propagate it, that you're not allowed to know it.

    I've said that they put this forward several months after the information was widely disseminated online, long after any kind of legal action could have prevented a single act of copying. They aren't protecting themselves from copying -- indeed, they've already REVOKED that key -- they're attacking people for *knowing it*.

    If you don't think that's "owning" a number, I don't know what is.

  • Running scared of copyright laws   16 years 34 weeks ago

    Thanks for this post. I think I will e-mail the copyright pages to YouTube and see if they won't put the Igudesman and Joo video back up.

  • Running scared of copyright laws   16 years 35 weeks ago


  • Searle's Pointless Room   16 years 36 weeks ago

    Interesting the comparison to creationism. While Searle is clearly a monist, he seems to hold onto some magical thoughts to keep some distinction between machines and human minds, maintaining that intentionality and causal powers emerge in human minds, but that these can't be reduced to any mechanical simulation. He's happy to allow biological machines to be of sufficient complexity to exhibit properties that can't be understood by reduction, but he denies computing machines the same privilege. (I find it amusing that his Chinese Room posits the existence of a procedural intelligence that is completely indistinguishable from a human mind.)

  • Searle's Pointless Room   16 years 36 weeks ago

    It's frustrating when someone says absolutely nothing of interest, and yet is taken seriously, isn't it. ("In his seminal paper, 'Minds, Brains and Programs,'[1] John Searle..." How can that possibly be described as seminal? Why are people even talking about it, other than to dismiss it as bogus? Is this philosophy's version of that great American bugaboo, creationism?)

  • Virge's Guestbook   16 years 43 weeks ago

    Hello Virge
    Sorry to be contacting you first with a complaint, when for months I've been marvelling at the amazing OEDILF website, and what a brilliant job you do there. However, it's not playing this morning...
    Best wishes, Dottie.

  • Silver Celebration   16 years 45 weeks ago

    Thanks Socar. We had a quiet holiday break and a casual new year with some friends.