Archive for March, 2008

The Pre-Socratics were totally awesome.

Posted in Film, Philosophy with tags , , , , , on March 31, 2008 by Lightborne

I’m currently trying to finish my chapter on Tarkovsky’s film theory and how useful it can be. One very specific issue (Tarkovsky’s use of the elements to create detectable flux and pulsations within the frame) leads me to the work of Heraclitus, one of the Pre-Socratic philosophers.

Tarkovsky, at least as I understand him, was all about flux or change being the dominant force on both our lives and in the universe. This is why his theory is so compatible with the work of Henri Bergson. For both, time passes as a process of continuous change – one alteration is not distinct from another, so any determinations as to beginnings and endings must be arbitrary. How do we decide where one process stops and another begins? There is a fundamental difference between a conception of time as the successive series of states of a system, and as a single continuous process It becomes less a question of arbitrariness, and more one of perspective. One conception sees time as a vast, unfathomable accumulation of states (this was so then etc.), the other as a singularity, a monism – just one thing. That one thing can be either gigantic or tiny, depending on the point from which you are looking at it. It is this way of conceiving of time that links Bergson and Tarkovsky, and now, I find, Heraclitus, who lived about two and a half thousand years before either of them.

Tarkovsky uses water, wind, fire and earth (particularly in the form of mud) a lot. They often serve as a way of visually rendering flux/process/change/pulse/rhythm/vibrations. One of Heraclitus’ main concepts was the idea of ‘Nature’s Bonfire’. He used fire to express the way that he believed the universe worked – a process of constant change. Fire captures both the idea of constant destruction and process, and of the impossibility of distinguishing the ending of one state from the beginning of another. Can you imagine breaking flames down into discrete sections?

“This world neither any god nor man made, but it always was and is and will be, an ever-living fire, kindling in measures and being extinguished in measures.” – Heraclitus

His other catchphrase was panta rhei – ‘everything flows’. Nothing is ever at rest, ever in a constant, unchanging state. Everything is rather in constant motion/process/change (even if it appears to be immensely solid and everlasting like a mountain – this again depends on perspective. A mountain would certainly appear immensely solid and permanent to an organism of a height about 5 – 6 feet, with a life span of around 90 years.)

But then, Jonathon Barnes, grumpy english philosophy dude, says that Heraclitus is easily read whatever way you want because his work is so fragmentary and aphoristic. He writes that “Heraclitus attracts exegetes as an empty jampot wasps; and each new wasp discerns traces of his own favourite flavour.” Barnes also explains Heraclitus’ theory of flux as “the furniture of the world is in constant, if imperceptible change.” I like ‘furniture of the world’ – I imagine a nervous God constantly re-arranging his living room.

Heraclitus
Heraclitus, on his mobile.

Heraclitus 2
Heraclitus, trying to crack open a walnut.

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Roving sample robot

Posted in cool stuff, music, video with tags , , , , on March 31, 2008 by Lightborne

This apparently took just two hours to make with some simple components that came in the post. The creator has a walkthrough of how to make it, but I know I’ll never get around to it. I’m always seeing things like this that I’d like to make, and while I do think this is exceptionally cool, my soldering skills are exceptionally bad.

The robot randomly moves around the place until it senses something right in front of it using its motion sensors. Then it whacks it with is special hitting arm and records the sound. Its got a thumpy tail as well (which you can just about see in the video) that provides the kick drum. I think it must have some in built patterns, but the sheer coolness of it randomly finding the sounds by itself, playing the newly recorded pattern and then playing along on top of it is enough for me. I guess it would be extra cool if it had a little program to come up with spontaneous algorithmic patterns based on the timbre/frequency/loudness of the sound.

Actually, after watching the video again I think I just realized that what I like above and beyond the technological coolness of the thing (there are innumerable more sophisticated things that don’t get me near as excited), is the way it behaves. It bumbles along until it finds something to hit, then plays a little rhythm, looks like its having a think, is satisfied and goes off to find another sound. There’s a beautiful pause just after the rhythm is finished and before it starts moving again. The designer must have programmed that in, as well as the way that it rocks back in the middle of its performance and its little microphone eyes dart about in a half dance half nervous glance. And I love the idea of a simple thing like this, the sole purpose of which is to rove about and find sounds and make rhythms, and treat it like its the most important thing in the world.

Bullring Flashmob

Posted in personal, rant, video with tags , , , on March 9, 2008 by Lightborne

I took part in a flashmob yesterday – well Denise did and I dashed around with my camera. The idea was for a large group of people, dispersed throughout out the top floor of the Bullring and seemingly going about their business as normal, to suddenly freeze in motion at an appointed, synchronised time. They would maintain this statuesque pose for five minutes exactly and then all fall back into motion at the same time. The point is not to cause disruption and irritation, but rather wonder and amazement. The security of the Bullring however, seemed to think that the only purpose was to clog up the shopping lanes. Well, that and I think they just didn’t like it. From my own experience and what I’ve heard from others, the security don’t like crowds to gather, things that aren’t shopping to happen, or even people sitting down. As the General Manager explained very vigorously to one of the group afterwards, the Bullring is private property, not public property – so essentially shoppers are their guests and expected to behave in a manner appropriate to the situation. Anything else is just weird and a menace. While momentarily stopped to talk to someone outside of the Bullring (though not yet off of their property) I suddenly felt the muscular, weighty presence of one of the security men compelling my whole body (along with two others) away, explaining all the while that we couldn’t do it out here either. Apparently one must try to remain in constant motion while at the Bullring, otherwise one may unknowingly become a nuisance and a troublemaker.

Anyway, the security men themselves caused the greatest disruption and commotion by clustering around the freezers and shouting a lot. The freezers were intentionally spread out so as not to cause a blockage, but, and you can see this in the many videos many of the event, the security response caused crowds to gather around certain spots to see what was happening, thereby impeding one of the main thoroughfares. One of the funniest things from the whole day was the security men milling around shouting “Move along….. Start moving….”

Here’s the video I made, which unfortunately doesn’t have the biggest group of freezers (who were on the opposite side of the top floor) from the beginning. When I finally get there its difficult to see them for the crowd.

There’s also a BBC news story about the event.

And here’s another article about it.

Humour.

Posted in cool stuff with tags , , on March 8, 2008 by Lightborne

 

I’m not sure why, but this post from the Flight of the Conchords Newzealandish website cracked me up something awful. I mean it made me laugh in a debilitating way. I couldn’t do anything else for about three minutes. Perhaps I was having some sort of strange psychotic episode, perhaps I’d been drinking, but I’m inclined to believe that it’s because it hits that sweet spot of humour just between clever and stupid. (But then, that may only apply if your brain consistently operates at that point between clever and stupid, as mine does).

From www.conchords.co.nz

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April 5 2006

»Problem with Website discovered.

A catch 22 type dilemna has struck kiwi band Flight of The Conchords in relation to updating the band news on their website. Members of the band (Jemaine and Bret) have noticed that whenever there are doing things that could be reported on the website, they are too busy to update the website. In addition, whenever the band members have some spare time in which they could update the website, there is usually, as one member put it “nothing going on”. As a direct result of this problem The Conchords may resort to manufacturing news stories about themselves to bolster news items in less busy times.

»Conchords Develop Powers.

Last week while visiting New Zealand metropolis Palmerston North city, Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement of Flight of The Conchords were exposed to radiation from an explosion at a power generating wind farm leaving them with super powers. McKenzie found that after exposure to the radiation he was able to send text messages with his mind and Clement reported that he was a bit stronger than usual and could lift about three or four more shopping bags than he usually could. But really full ones though. Effects wore off after ten minutes but during that time McKenzie managed to text his mate Dave “HPPY BRTHDY DAV. I M SNDNG THIS USNG MND”.

 

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That last line is devastating.


Work in Progress 2

Posted in music, work in progress with tags on March 5, 2008 by Lightborne

While at home in Ireland for a week my sister and I recorded this partly as a way of testing out her new piano (well, she had it well tried out already – I just wanted to try recording it). Jane plays piano and came up with the main piano riff.