Wednesday, December 26, 2007

quiet in their chairs

when everyone is quiet in their chairs
and mental activity covers your mind
like a sheet of glass
you think "i worked so hard today,
i've become a beautiful artifact"

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Emotional Entity and the Lady in White

I slide my hand into the Emotional Entity as if to verify that it is real. There is a brief jabbing sensation just below my lower left rib. The Emotional Entity has a rich texture, a rusty brown colour, and I let my hand slide in and probe it at will. It is of a paradoxical substance, watery when I move, but more substantial, like a blanket, when I probe and feel. I have no idea where it leads to, or what it is connected to, but it has been here for days.

A tingling sensation arises gradually in my hand. Then it is in both hands, and as if in answer to a conductor's call, the glands throughout my body start to open and tingle in a surging symphony.

The Lady in Light appears. I can never tell whether she is standing in a clearing, or next to a river, perhaps it is the sea: the light approaches her like waves rolling in from the sea. I never see her face, which is turned away from me, and which I am not at all sure about. I do not know why she appears to me. Everything is light, billowing white and yellow, so bright that I almost have to shield my sight. Almost.

Nothing ever really changes either. The rippling waves of light are always there, an endless energy. And she stands there, protected from me, unknown to me really, the fringes of her dark hair partly covered by a cap, lifting and sometimes whipping in the wind. That is how I know she is outside, because of the wind. Or is it the power of the waves that generates the movement in the air? Again, I am not sure. Her coat is pulled tightly around her, and draping over it, held against her body, is a kind of shawl being tugged by the wind. Even when it feels as if I am moving, she remains at the same angle from me, I never get to see her face.

Sometimes when I look at her for long enough I start noticing that the waves do not come closer. They are more like clouds of vapour or steam that expend themselves. She guides them imperceptibly, shaping them into patterns. Despite their size they evolve quickly and without heaviness, before dissipating.

When she disappears again, like now, I am always surprised. The memory remains, and the sensation, and the light on my face.

The Emotional Entity has gone as well. Or at least, it has changed. But I think it is gone. When I move my hand the air around it is thin, thinner than water, and colourless like water. Clear and fresh, like the air at the top of a mountain.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Lilith's Brood (a.k.a. Xenogenesis) by Octavia E. Butler

Octavia Butler's Lilith's Brood (formerly Xenogenesis) is a sophisticated novel featuring human relations re-imagined after a catastrophic war. This short analysis is not intended to give the game away by revealing all the plot details, but rather to serve as a compass for the conceptual complexities the reader is likely to encounter.

Let me begin by saying what the novel is not: Xenogenesis is not a scientific treatise of the future. We are given subjective views from the viewpoints of the main characters and we are often bewildered and confused about the nature of this reality, just like the main characters. It is also neither a utopia nor a dystopia. It is not a soap opera. It does not defend mainstream values. It is not comfortable.

Did you follow that? It is not comfortable.

Now that that is out of the way, we can focus on the main guiding forces in this fabulous but never easily digested novel.

What if someone offered you a highly desirable life beyond your imagination: promises of riches and personal achievement beyond your dreams. What if this offer came at the price of an exchange in which you have to offer up yourself in daily sacrifice in a kind of Faustian bargain? Would you do it? No really, would you?

Now what if this offer applies to things you did not necessarily want, nor dreamed of, but that you know is actually good for you. It's like an ideal world, but not in the personal sense: in other words it is something you have to learn to appreciate, and eventually can. Like committing yourself to a religion you know for a fact to be true, or to a partner you know to be unfailingly loyal and satisfying. But a commitment that at the same time would come at the cost of other pleasures and freedoms.

So what if this - admittedly good - situation, also comes at the cost of your soul, your essence - not to be given up, but to be controlled by another, perhaps owned by another. And what if - yes, that's another if - in this process, you are also betraying everyone you ever knew and ever held dear. Committing yourself to something that would forever render you despised or hated in the hearts of those you used to call your own.

And yet what if, if you do not go through with it, if you do not choose this good thing, you and all your children may possibly forever be doomed. What would you do? Would you choose it? Or would you risk your future in favour of a reasonable, admirable personal pride and dignity?

What if ... what if ..
What if you have to choose?

Welcome to the world of Lilith's Brood, where people are placed in situations where the only choices are severe, and there are no comfortable alternatives. Where moral dilemmas and severe existential challenges have to be faced. Where you are between a rock and a hard place.

Meet Lilith, whose world is turned upside down when she realises she has been "rescued" by the Oankali (an alien race) after humans nearly wiped themselves out in endless wars, and the "benevolent" Oankali managed to pick up a few remaining survivors who are now their new trading partners: genetic trading partners, that is; and the Oankali are so powerful, they don't really have to ask ...

But all the same, they are giving her a choice: Lilith is offered a chance to pioneer humans' new life. Understandably, she'd rather not. But unlike the Faustian devil, the Oankali are both Satan and God, both the seducers and the benevolent givers and protectors. They also need them (a truly interpersonal axis), the Oankali are dependent on the bargain. It is a world beyond good and evil, the choices are tough, and mediating and negotiating relationships between humans and Oankali is no mean feat.

Without giving any more away (as this is not an exhaustive analysis of the novel) suffice it to say that the novel offers wonderful scope for interpretation, and I hope that by offering a glimpse into its structural mechanism I have helped the reader on her way to unravelling the story's interesting evolution.


Octavia E. Butler was a multiple Hugo and Nebula award winner, and receiver of the MacArthur Foundation "Genius" Grant. She passed away suddenly in 2006.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Manuel DeLanda - Intensive Science and Virtual Philosophy

My newfound enthusiasm for Manuel DeLanda's thought could take me further. I am currently reading Intensive Science and Virtual Philosophy in which he certainly tests the reader's ability to string together sets of abstract mathematical and philosophical constructs! but dishes out the rewards in equal measure. I've just about mastered chapter 1, in which he lays the groundwork for what's to come.

In a refreshing break from postmodernist epistemologies ranging from the solipsistic to the "reality is basically unknowable" kind, DeLanda couches Deleuze's realist ontology in terms understandable not only to philosophers, but also to scientists. No easy task. But thanks to his efforts, I am for the first time convinced that there is some light for a realist ontology in science . It is an area that, ever since Nietzsche said: "There are no facts, only interpretations", has looked very shaky.

Having said that, it would be easy to fall into the same old dichotomy of the subject vs. the object - but it is quite tempting to see Nietzsche's contributions, rising as they did initially out of an historical exploration of culture (The Birth of Tragedy), as an enormous mirror held up to humankind while he chants into our ears: "See, this is who you really are, you have been waiting for me all this time to show you." The first psychologist indeed, as he himself noted. The limits of a a certain kind of knowledge, i.e. knowledge mediated by humans - Kant's categories go suck. Where that would clip into this realist ontology to give us closure I have no clue at present - perhaps we would have to look at both from each other's perspective first - but whereas I am sure how Nietzsche's legacy can be traced to the postmodernist temperament, it is less clear to me in the case of Deleuze. In short, I don't know him well enough yet.

It has taken someone like Deleuze to re-establish realism by giving it a philosophical foundation that does not crumble when the first, familiar shots are fired from the other camp, and here DeLanda makes its relevance understandable for me.

I look forward to more!

Some interesting articles by DeLanda are available at the Institute for New Culture Technologies, have a look here. I read through this one and highlighted some sentences using Diigo. In it he fleshes out the importance of dynamical processes (a historical process as opposed to an essence - the crux of his new materialist ontology) in relation to economic markets.

It is worth pointing out that some of the ideas following from the math, such as a stable state fluctuating around the attractor, including the notion of perturbations that knock a trajectory out of its basin of influence, are quite reminiscent of concepts in systems theory and cybernetics which I once discussed here.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Sigur Ros - Glosoli

I do believe this band will become hyped and then overhyped, which is a real shame because the music and the Icelandic atmosphere in the music video have a bit of authentic magic. Music lovers, do yourself the favour.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Appreciative shoppers

Appreciative shoppers! go to WillingDates dot com
let your longing slide out on the checkout stack prom
eye anyone with freedom (there's no maintenance)
and hand them any topics - none can silence their interest!
Our supplies are scheduled and endlessly issued
upon your steely barter. Have some Moet Chandelier
and give plentiful attention, keep them willing, and dear
oh! and mingle in your own time with the other guests here:
they're improved, real people - with experiences to share!

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Relationship peace

The 11th illustrated heart in Today magazine partners Ramon
with the Posh Bible's Mary-Ann Matignon
and those glad pages sadden me as if I've withstood
and sustained a year, not once, th'exquisite figure of your Good.
Mary I avoid thinking I’m against what he hopes
now They base the upoming show on you EXACTLY like you hoped.
These last days I do whatever, renew, almost crazily flaking
the changes in me, in you; I needed only us two, bubbling around, forsaking
not swooning. Ramon's face seems afraid, and with reason
he should miss the silence and that’s persuasion
rather to be AMAZING with your reality
to joke, qualitate time, foolishness and intimacy;
remind him just please if he isn't sorted and at ease
he will be finished when he waaay most happy
one night really craves a smooch. But I already there admit
this week’s marriage school lesson for me is the pits:
Lies destroy the silence of our lips.

Catwalk queen

lastly, the snobbish, adorable creator in the cast
addressing every elegance spewing style fast
though this appeal in polls is seen as exotic
the human gracing it probably enough to seem erotic
and word has gotten round for giving them their applause
you still went along, excited by the fuzz,
and in the park decided to center on Che
with a ready style experience to Photo it for Today;
the fiery Dolce bag in the vibrant cool evening
was endearingly edgy, but you couldn't get in
just essentially expert every which ready way
as her pretty lil style rejected your illusion.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Lavatory love

I am perfect while those choice five impatient
nuts never unearth our love-laying stations
a bedsend before dreaming me in sleep, and sharing
no cares that took place as conceit and you roughen me
but I survive in the lightning and fly almost woodmansee
through your bathroom tricks telling them it's because he
trustingly reads friendly hands yet really du
you failed to pee? I usher in the Q.
then I shop to emphasize our hands but
I really demand tongue to threaten the impossible rut
you don t halt them twice and I strongly bully
you to go hunting but you don t trouble them fully
just attain nowhere the bathrooms worth and conflict
a hand washing waist because we tightened my tits
with nerve gestures to just impress that Im actually
looking for something hot and more fashionably
making it despite sth safer for the economy appearing to burn
You absorb whatever and just interrupt my hand washing turn
of course laughing hands into a maneuver of complex
utterings on Tuesday; warm me if I crow spirit
inches of plain lovely life that is probably
enough to steal the freeze weirdly horribly
with a logical rage that needs cast of indiri-diri
temper a hard juice despite involuntary
strokes in my intimacy.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism by Max Weber

The whole of Weber's thesis can be summarised in his own words:

One of the fundamental elements of the spirit of modern capitalism, and not only of that but of all modern culture: rational conduct on the basis of the idea of the calling, was born -that is what this discussion has sought to demonstrate - from the spirit of Christian asceticism. - p. 123

The same central idea is repeated numerous times, and it is to his great credit (and must be one of the reasons why it is regarded as such a classic text) that the argument never strays. It is clear, brief and yet cuts through the confusion of modern culture to reveal a possible vein of lifeblood importance connecting us to the past.

Weber alludes to the complexity of the forces involved, and makes it clear that no easy causal relationship exists between economic circumstances and the dynamics of the Reformation. He further clarifies that we should not confuse his thesis with an attempt to deduce capitalism from the Reformation – many of the founding fathers would jig in their tombs if they suspected the consequences of their ambitions.

But it is not to be understood that we expect to find any of the founders or representatives of these religious movements considering the promotion of what we have called the spirit of capitalism as in any sense the end of his life-work ... The salvation of the soul and that alone was the centre of their life and work ... We shall thus have to admit that the cultural consequences of the Reformation were to a great extent, perhaps in the particular aspects with which we are dealing predominantly, unforeseen and even unwished for results of the labours of the reformers ... we have no intention whatever of maintaining such a foolish and doctrinaire thesis as that the spirit of capitalism (in the provisional sense of the term explained above) could only have arisen as the result of certain effects of the Reformation, or even that capitalism as an economic system is a creation of the Reformation. In itself, the fact that certain important forms of capitalistic business organization are known to be considerably older than the Reformation is a sufficient refutation of such a claim. - p. 48-9

He outlines his aim as more modest.

we only wish to ascertain whether and to what extent religious forces have taken part in the qualitative formation and the quantitative expansion of that spirit over the world. Furthermore, what concrete aspects of our capitalistic culture can be traced to them? - p. 49

It is thus clear that his thesis forms a subset of capitalism rather than an explanation of the origins of capitalism. Certain qualities of capitalism and the overall expansion of capitalism is at stake.

What are those qualities? The “rational conduct on the basis of a calling” objectively describes the ethos internalised by religious subjects and applied in the secular field of economics. The calling is central to his thesis. He holds that as a result of the Reformation

at least one thing was unquestionably new: the valuation of the fulfilment of duty in worldly affairs as the highest form which the moral activity of the individual could assume. - p. 40

The essential ingredient of this ethos is found in Calvinism, in the genius invention of predestination. According to predestination only the chosen ones will be saved – and they are chosen even before they are born. Christ had died only for the elect. Calvin held that one should have faith in God and that should be enough. Weber rightly deduces that there must have been ”a feeling of unprecedented inner loneliness of the single individual” (p. 60) - it was nigh intolerable to live in such ignorance of one's state of grace yet try to make the best of it in life.

So although Calvin considered himself saved, his followers had to find ways to make their state of grace more tangible. Evidence of their electedness. Profound secular industriousness – and success therein – was the surprising effect.

On the one hand it is held to be an absolute duty to consider oneself chosen ... On the other hand, in order to attain that self-confidence intense worldly activity is recommended as the most suitable means. - p.66 -7

Coupled with the notion that “the world exists for the glorification of God and for that purpose alone” (p. 64) you have a recipe for intense secular activity. This activity was a manifestation of God's will in the individual's life.

But this rational individual did not spend his money on luxuries - indeed, this was considered sinful. In fact, riches were seen as an inevitable by-product and not to be utilised for personal pleasure. This ascetic tendency was carried over from the medieval mystics.

the difference of the Calvinistic from the medieval asceticism is evident. It consisted in the disappearance of the evangelical recommendation and the accompanying transformation of asceticism to activity within the world ... The drain of asceticism from everyday worldly life had been stopped by a dam, and those passionately spiritual natures which had formerly supplied the highest type of monk were now forced to pursue their ascetic ideals within mundane occupations ... By founding its ethic in the doctrine of predestination, it substituted for the spiritual aristocracy of monks outside of and above the world the spiritual aristocracy of the predestined saints of God within the world p. 73-5

Clearly, by focusing all that rational religious passion in the world, some excellence should result. And Weber early on observes that those who succeeded in capitalism were often protestants – it is as if their natures were more suitable to capitalism.

Eventually, as serious Christianity went the way of the dinosaurs in much of Europe, the spirit of protestantism remained in the practical hardworking, rational person who regarded the accumulation – rather than the use – of wealth a worthy end in itself without necessarily considering the accompanying glamour and pleasure that comes with spending it on every available luxury.

the intensity of the search for the Kingdom of God commenced gradually to pass over into sober economic virtue; the religious roots died out slowly, giving way to utilitarian worldliness. - p. 119

Weber's fascinating thesis has challenged numerous thinkers since its publication in 1905 - has it stimulated you?

Monday, July 09, 2007

Cut-ups 2

My cut-ups, now done using version 1 of a simple but working bit of perl code.

Shelley's Ozymandias comes out all strange and yet familiar ... but what if Shelley and Shakespeare wrestled? The result is unexpected:

course untrimm'd: But thy not fade Nor lose possession desert....Near them, on the sand, Half time thou growest: So long Of that colossal a Summer's day? Thou winds do shake the darling buds Kings, Look on my Works, shall Death brag thou wanderest in these words appear: My beside remains. Round the decay short a date: Sometime too hot the eye of eternal Summer shall command, Tell that its sculptor well from fair sometime hath all too sneer of cold those passions read as men can breathe, So long lives this, and this compare thee to an antique land, Wreck, boundless and bare art more lovely and heaven shines, And oft' is his of that fair thou owest; Nor gold complexion dimm'd; And every fair stone Stand in the declines, By chance or nature's changing or eyes can see, his shade, When and trunkless legs of hand that mocked Which yet survive, them, and the heart that name is Ozymandias, King of stamped on these lifeless things, The And wrinkled lip, and gives life to visage lies, whose frown, of May, And Summer's lease sunk a shattered ye Mighty, and despair! Nothing The lone and level sands stretch far away." Shall I I met a traveller from more temperate: Rough fed; And on the pedestal, Who said--"Two vast in eternal lines to

#!/usr/bin/perl -w

my ($index, $cut, $count, $phrasecut) = 0;
my (@allfields, @allcuts) = {};

srand (time ^ $$ ^ unpack "%L*", `ps axww | gzip`);

while (<>) {
@fields = split(/ /,$_);
foreach(@fields) {
$allfields[$index] = $_;

$index = 0;

$cut = int(rand(4)) + 3;

foreach(@allfields) {
$allcuts[$index] .= $_." ";
if($count == $cut) {
$cut = int(rand(4)) + 3;
$count = 0;

while($index > 0) {
$phrasecut = int(rand($index));
print $allcuts[$phrasecut];
splice (@allcuts,$phrasecut,1);

exit 0;

This code is covered by the GPL


'"Search Your Name" is a search engine that is in fact, an anti-search engine. The results collected from this search engine look completely authentic but are not. The work plays with the idea that it's very difficult to ensure that the information we find on the Internet everyday is truly authentic.' - from the official blurb

So how did I suddenly get the characteristics of Zinedine Zidane? Amazing.

Other works by 8gg are also of interest.

Sunday, June 24, 2007


Cut-ups were re-invented (after Tristan Tzara in the 1920s) by William S. Burroughs and Brion Gyson during the 1950s as a method of effecting the spontaneity of creativity. Burroughs made a literary living from his enthusiasm for cut-ups and they are extensively in evidence in many of his works - including the notorious Naked Lunch.

Whereas Burroughs had a typewriter and scissors (although an early program with Ian Sommerville already tried to optimise the process), current technology affords another level of randomisation and re-arrangement not possible without enormous effort using paper. Flip through to the Lazarus Corporation to make your own. With a bit of ad hoc editing I managed the following update to the Pater Noster ...:

in earth as it is in heaven.
give us our mother, which art in heaven,
thine is the kingdom, the power, and the trespass against us.
and lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
as thy trespasses come hallowed thy kingdom
we forgive them.
that our will be for glory,
for ever and ever. amen.
this day our daily bread.
and forgive us

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Cao Weihong

"The figures represent traditional Chinese concepts of beauty, presenting ladies with small hands, feet and mouths, but these traditional aspects are combined with the artist's own, special, almost modern way of painting them." -review of Cao Weihong's work at Absolute Arts

You can also see more of Weihong's work at Art Scene China

Thursday, June 21, 2007

instead of waving

the sound of a fullstop
steps out of the scream
she's keeping
so deeply
when she drops to the floor

and they bring her some water
and the boy says: "bring more"

I step forward and open
my eyes, I try not to cry

instead of waving
I said goodbye

Friday, June 01, 2007

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Paul Virilio: The Information Bomb

I relate, with both excitement and reserve, my reading of Paul Virilio's The information bomb a short (but forceful) cultural commentary on “speed, politics, and information technology”. I say reading, but it's a bit like a nicotine headrush with more rewards.

Let me start with the end (because here we agree, and I am able to clarify using my own description):

The warfare of tomorrow – and here it will be comparable with the 'desk murders' of yesteryear – will not be so much an affair of desks as of laboratories – of laboratories with their doors flung wide to the radiant future of transgenic species, supposedly better adapted to the pollution of a small planet held in suspension in the ether of telecommunications - p. 145

This point is crucial, because it implies that every single one of us reading this post are not suited to the future of humanity Virilio is concerned about. At least not in our present form ...

But he identifies an essential point: given the interactive and electronic, digital nature of telecommunications and telepresence, our ability to participate in this network will become more important than our “physical” - that is to say, local – skill and ability. In my own view, our brains will probably become direct interfaces to the network, plugged in whichever way - and our bodies ... well, the site of simulated pleasures perhaps, and possibly a burden. Possibly, our network-linked consciousness and bodies, or bodily extensions, will be decoupled.

I am digressing, but this is essential to Virilio's concern that we have run up against the limits of time as we are entering “the era of the sudden industrialisation of the end, the all-out globalization of the havoc wreaked by progress in which subtly, gradually, we as individuals are the real site of a new war":

the very last 'fortress' is no longer the Europe of the EEC so much as the living human being – that isolated 'human planet', which has at all costs to be invaded or captured through the industrialization of living matter - p. 144

And as the site of this war, we will ultimately be surpassed as our mythical fantasy to survive our own techno-creations is driven by this dual catch-22 prong of desiring “progress” and “survival” at the same time. We have become victims of our own ideology:

the man without qualities, the primate of the new times, will have to disappear – just as the 'savage' had to disappear in the past to avoid cluttering up a small planet – and give way to the last model of humanity, the transhuman - p. 136

The “transgenic” mentioned earlier can now be seen as Virilio's identification of a eugenics with the purpose of eclipsing present humanity completely.


Virilio takes exactly a 100 pages to reach the point where he definitively announces his first main thesis, but the value of this delay lies in understanding the context of his thoughts. In particular, he reckons Francis Fukuyama was 'soft' in his announcement of the end of history.

He invokes Stefan Zweig as a spokesperson for the desire of an early 20th century youthful generation to overthrow the “responsible” attitudes of the old guard in favour of a culture that is always at play. In short the Father (culture) is bypassed for the game that is made possible through technology. Hence in the present “time”, when this goal is increasingly being achieved, youth is treasured over and above experience, and everybody seeks to remain young and playful even in advancing years – it's a form of eternal youth:

'No future' – the great hetacombs of industrial wars and revolutions finally answered the prayers of an entire younger generation, since they had the twofold merit of destroying its (moral, cultural, and social) past, and sparing it the shadow cast by a future seen as the irremediable coming of a hated old age - p. 98

But the perfection of this ideal, Virilio seems to imply, will take the future away from us. Not a real future (for time has already become diffused into an eternal now) but the point at which we will simply be replaced by the automatons more suitable to this state of play – which is ultimately a cybernetic space of constant feedback and control:

technologies would inevitably advance alone,leaving behind them a humanity without a future, assuming definitively pre-pubescent airs - p. 100

Virilio calls this ideal the Peter Pan ideal – “the stage of the child stubbornly determined to escape its own future” (p. 94). Unfortunately, technology will simply advance at the expense of this eternal infant.

But Virilio's main point may be political rather than cultural. The new warfare is identified as the replacement for the nuclear warfare of the Cold War. He relates localised radioactivity in the “old” warfare to information interactivity in the new warfare:

The 'information war' will soon be based, then, on global interactivity,  just as the war of atomic energy was based on local radioactivity - p. 141

Just as the threat of the Y2K problem in information systems loomed over the whole world, so a future accident / attack will affect the globalised information system at a systemic level:

with the interconnectedness of the Internet prefiguring the imminent launch of the cyberbomb - the future information superhighways ... [sic] We are faced, in other words, with a phenomenon which may possibly occur everywhere simultaneously - p. 134

And to emphasise the political dimension of the information bomb, Virilio identifies the US (who developed ARPANET and gradually improved its information arsenal and control over it) as the entity responsible for this warfare. In particular he mentions president Bill Clinton in relation to the chaos of cybercrime, “a chaos he himself has organized, together with his vice-president, prime mover of the future information superhighways” (p. 135).

I hope you found this brief introduction to Virilio useful (particularly in relation to The information bomb).

Friday, May 18, 2007

morning cigarettes

Cliche, cliche, i know - my goodness is there anything new under the sun?!


she slow-inhales her cigarette
waiting for the morning sun
to heat her hands - later her head.
she remembers when Rob sat there
in the rosewood chair,
his mysterious air and brown coat
all Sherlock Holmes and brooding flair.
that day their smoke
flowed thickly through,
like breathing hot Lyle's syrup.

the sunlight floods the room.

Jim takes off his shirt


The History of Advertising Trust

Stumbled across the History of Advertising Trust via a feature on BBC (popup warning).

This picture of kids wielding shovels that turn out to be ... giant toothbrushes! is in fact an ad for Royal Vinolia Toothpaste.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Secret Attic

I am happy to announce (and rather surprised) that a story I recently submitted to the Secret Attic's monthly competition made it to the final 30 stories! In effect it is also included in their April booklet.

It's funny to look at your story again through the eyes of a certain credibility lent it by this type of feedback, trying to perceive the same quality that may have attracted the judges. I'm not sure whether my subsequent rereading was successful ...!

At any rate, rather than paying Secret Attic £4.70 for the booklet just to see my story, feel free to ask me for a copy (wink).

Monday, May 07, 2007

Ascii prison

More ascii exploration. A moving humanoid ascii molecule expires through spontaneous character combustion before giving way to an ominous wave of hashes ...

And enjoy the Diary of Dreams tune - Reign of Chaos!

Ascii prison on Vimeo

Sunday, May 06, 2007

No more a-roving / Dead Letter

This clip plays to the intro of Diary of Dreams' Dead Letter - you should turn up the volume so you can hear the words. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did in making it!

No more a-roving / Dead Letter on Vimeo

Saturday, May 05, 2007


On a quest I discovered vimeo, where users at least expect you to show authentic material. Unlike on tube lube where anything goes, including loads and loads of Real Rubbish (tm).

Some experimental video artists are sharing or linking their work from here - well worth checking out. One guy whose prolific output contains some catchy gems is Itin, also over at - I particularly liked his Slaughter House Five Memorium

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

To be a Barista

Laura: Helloooo, can I help?
Non-descript man: mhlnvhlv hoo teeba
Laura: Pardon ... you want, tea?
Nondescript man: (shakes head decisively) uhm-uhm! vhlv hooo (sighs) hmmm vlvhoo
Laura: Oh god, I remember you now, still can't talk can you? Can you point?!
Nondescript man: (mumbles) mba timtaww rbblermurk uffhvlnvhoo hmmm maylayzee hinhin
Laura: Listen luv I don't have all day and customers are waiting can you point to what you want or get out of the way? (raises her voice) Rita can you help this man! (exasperated) Next please!! can I help?
Man 2nd in line: It's fine you can help him first.
Laura: But ...
Man 2nd in line: No really I don't mind waiting.
Rita: (shouts from the pantry) Laura! I'm busy can you just hold the till a bit longer?
Laura:(to back) I'm going mad here! (to nondescript man) Can you speak up please!
Nondescript man: hoonv
Laura: God, is that *tape* across your mouth?
Nondescript man: hin hin vlvn hoo
Laura: That's it GRRRRRTS (ripping sound as it comes off)
Now open your mouth ... oh god is that, oh no, I think I'm going to vomit.
Nondescript man: I ... I ... I ... I miss you will you please come home?
Laura: Good god Peter, don't you have any self-respect?
Man 2nd in line: Can I have a latte please?
Nondescript man: Haha, but I've finally made up my mind Laura! I want to be a barista.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Remixed Kitty

Remixed Kitty! Definitely need sound.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

an alphanumeric analogy

A passionate dialogue between two arch-enemies of the Oomla (an imaginary humanoid race favouring simplicity for emotional expression) paraphrased in alphanumeric characters:

Thursday, March 29, 2007

The last five minutes of Ingo's life ... long live Ingo!

Little more than the following is known about the last five minutes of Ingo's life. The hangman tied the noose about his head. During this process the crowd started taunting him, with many shouting the slogans of his captors. Then his close friend Hegard, who was also present, began singing the Pater Noster in Latin in a resonating tenor:

In nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti.
Pater noster, qui es in caelis,
sanctificetur nomen tuum.

At first this served to make the jeers of Ingo's adversaries even louder. Their insults poked at Ingo like verbal knives. But soon the elegance and endurance of Hegard's voice affected their concentration and some turned their attention towards him instead. One, who recognised Hegard as the author of the infamous and influential tract On the Benefits of Free Information, tried to turn this energy to the crowd's advantage by further provoking Ingo, shouting that his friend will die too and he should come and save him. None of this had any visible effect on Ingo, who simply observed the crowd with a critical air.

But for Hegard this proved to be a fatal attitude. Seeing that their attempts only enhanced Ingo's apparent superiority, the populous crowded in on Hegard and beat him aggressively. Ingo still did not say a word. Hegard, suffering many blows to his body and to his head, sank to the ground and eventually stopped moving. Like a fateful twin, Ingo's death was also his.

Hegard's silence seemed to soothe the crowd and the authorities did not intervene. The trapdoor opened soundlessly, and when Ingo's body swung from the stiffened rope, his face still appeared to be smiling at them, quietly mocking their vengefulness.

I too was present among the crowd that day. But unlike many others I preferred to observe rather than to participate. Ingo was serene, unreachable. I was fortunate to be the first to intercept these, Hegard's thoughts, from the internether, because he was expiring fast. Hegard composed them in his final moments, perhaps even imagining Ingo's death in advance. Officially, Hegard died afterwards in a vehicle crash. I've lost all later memories of the event.

Yes, I remember now! I was there too, outside, watching the execution on an electron spread. Ingo looked like a messiah, radiant. They tampered with the light for later transmissions. Have I really kept this image hidden for 156 years? Your body is probably visible somewhere...

Dear friends! This is dangerous and your memories have alerted the Netherin!

Efface yourselves! Disperse! Disperse! Disp

These thoughts were detected in the nether at exactly g19jzb. They were successfully captured and frozen in this wave media for forensic purposes. Thought traces were poisoned but the poison trail ended and the sources remain unknown. Seven suspects have been named. Complete information is in the investigation file.

PS: The thoughts contravene the constitutional guidelines for the proper usage of energy particles and are recommended for permanent distortion.

The Netherin

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Performance simulation

There are still those who debate the problem of "presence" in performance and slide into the seductive solution of a duality of simulation and live performance, as if liveness implies an authenticity or a simulation of a different order than its reproduced form.

It is not for me to demonstrate the similarity between presence and simulated presence. I will stand by the notion that in terms of perception they are nearly equal, bar the emotional enthusiasm we supply to the perception of a live performance, and the possible psychological effect of interaction with a "good" or a "bad" audience that the performer may thrive on or be crushed by.

Instead I am interested in the implication of performance as a simulation. If we accept that film as a medium is merely structurally different (I use the term loosely) from live theater, then surely the following enaction is interesting rather than disruptive or intrusive (real/illusory become false dichotomies):

Suppose a movie is playing in a movie theater, but instead of the actors on-screen the camera occasionally focuses on members of the audience (this location is necessary insofar as the suspension of disbelief must be within easy grasp of a novice to this new form of theater-film). The movie content will be manipulated for this same reason. Perhaps a new horror in which horrible scenes happen in dark music halls and cinema theaters. That is adequate.

In the next instance, actors in the audience act out what is happening on the screen. The audience is expected to know that they are actors once this starts happening.

According to the laws of film, viewers have now looked at representations of their selves presently located on the film. The present has become simulated. (Film mirrors some imagineable part of the simulating mind, and once the mind has been led to believe the action is taking place in the theater itself, their body has become participant to their viewing experience).

Next the screen may become transparent to reveal actors in the background as another audience (this screen can move into the ceiling so that actors move freely but should come back down for the finale explained further down). Then they may act out something altogether incomprehensible, such as a seance in which a candle is placed on a screen and the horrible scene of earlier is played out on another screen behind them.

This act should have a quiet or dark beauty to it. It has to be captivating. (And the film-performance should be cheap - £2 to see.)

Whatever simple plot plays itself out in the meantime is immaterial. Perhaps everything can happen in 15 minutes, from beginning to end.

As a finale the initial scene should be repeated on the top half of the transparent screen that the actor audience will be looking at, facing the real audience, so that both the actor audience and the real audience can see everything on the transparent display. At the same time, the scene can be played again - the murder, the sex in the cinema, whatever it is. It may culminate in a romantic embrace. A curtain falling can be embellished by credits rolling on the curtain itself via whatever projector.

The end.

PS: It is, theoretically, enough for me to imagine the countless gestures and rehearsals I observe daily in the theater of life when recurring roles play out the dailogues of the doctor, the lawyer, the housewife, the professional housewife, the novel role, the rebel, the plotter, the silent plotter, the possible terrorist, and all the ensuing confusion and suggestion it leaves me with. Not to mention the countless texts of interpretation running through my head outside the notion of a specified role - the unroled, unscheduled thoughts, etc. The theater of life as a simulation of my memory of life and my expectation of life, and my ability to live (my role to live).

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The banality

He: I take it we're baking
She: What
He: We're baking. I take it we're baking
She: We can bake

She: Take out the one from yesterday
He: Is it ready
She: What
He: Is it ready
She: What is ready?
He: Can I add the tomatoes?

He: What's this
She: Don't know
He: You're not even looking
She: What is it
He: Don't know. It's a bread crumb
She: Can we cook?

He cooks. She cooks. It is impossible not to be overwhelmed by the smell of vinegar that slams into your nostrils like a nervous infant.
Their activity is synchronised like two clocks buzzing their alarms at once.

It is thinkable that they may talk to each other in a language that is not reproducible by these ascii characters, or this printable media, but it is unimaginable that their actions, their sounds, their intentions can have been anything different.

Take hunger for instance, even a dog understands that.

She: The boy is hungry.
He: Why do you have to call him "the boy"? It is human, after all.
She: Don't be annoyed.
He: You are starting to sound just like them.
She: You are annoyed.
He: I am not annoyed.
She: I know. Gosh, I wonder what it would feel like.
He: Yes, and to have sex.
She: The meal is done.
He: I'll dish up and take it. You go and turn yourself off to save energy, I will join you soon.
She: Together in absence. As always.
He: Don't get clever ...

Monday, March 05, 2007

Story of the future

It is the year 2007. A man finds himself busy in the space that is as familiar to him as his home where he lives with his wife and his two children. Unlike his home (which he has nearly fully paid for), he does not own this space and he is not even fully in charge of this space. But there he is, busy as usual, performing the same minute gestures with his hand, straightening his back, tilting his head in order to think, peering ahead of him purposefully despite the knowledge that his wife and children miss him.

Around him the metallic, intersecting partitions form a deliberate web of gateways and blockages for the orderly positioned group of people who, like him, have come to blend the thoughts from their other lives (“my real life”, he thinks) with the visions and gestures that constitute this office. This man, who in these respects is no different from the others around him (although his name displays on several framed certificates of distinction, ordered in a rectangle near him) carries a significance – an awareness – that goes beyond him. And in this he suddenly has the potential to survive his own consciousness.

He ponders the possibility that the actions he performs will “reverberate in eternity” like those of Odysseus and Achilles whose brave energy influenced untold generations. All those that still silently strive to emulate them.

He has to admit that his actions will not be emulated because they are heroic, or even original. He concludes that he will be emulated because of an inevitability, that is to say, because he is aligned with the future. “This thought”, he reminisces, “may have been someone else's delusion of grandeur once. Now it is mine.” Certainly no one else noticed his new ownership. His gestures didn't change, nor did those of the people standing around in the corridor, or those of his neighbour in the same cubicle - a younger, more energetic man whom he has actively avoided lately.

But he has one last chance to ponder his immortality while his neighbour mumbles to him with a nervous grin. Then he loses his thought amidst the realisation that his selfish neighbour has connived the cunning move that will cost him his ambition and also the love of his wife.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

From Starbucks to Starbucks: one traveller's account in a globalising world

“Sometimes he fought for his native country, sometimes against it” - Jorge Luis Borges, A biography of Tadeo Isidoro Cruz

Hong Kong: 22 January 2007

Barely slept in the night. Barely – perhaps half an hour somewhere. I remember a dream with a small shark upside down in a bucket. It was still alive somehow, even though the water formed only a thin layer at the bottom of the bowl.

Since we cannot sleep we get up early, and have breakfast in the hotel. An English breakfast for the first time in days ... I can't help being satisfied.

We get out and walk around, first going to a traditional market across the road. Java Road Market, just in North Point. The top floor is a veg and fruiterers market, the bottom level is full of live (and dead) fish and stock. I see chickens in cages, eels in water-filled crates, a woman who shyly refuses a picture. I suddenly feel like a trespasser.

We wander further, find a stall / shop that sells cheap DVDs. I buy a few titles in Mandarin. In a corner some packaged Japanese porn. I buy one. [amused and disappointed, I later find out it is blurred and censored!].


In an abstract world that resembles London two people are making their way into a train. The man looks relaxed, confident, his tie is slightly loosened. Three fashionable and pretty girls to his right, copied from an MTV for Boss Blinded Mice. The second person ... looks like the Queen. I ask her for the way to Piccadilly or anyone with a foreign accent. She looks at me funny. “Are you thinking of a comeback darling?”, I say, “because I just asked you a simple question.” But of course I say it in broken Mandarin and it sounds fragile and complicated like those intricate square Chinese characters I cannot yet write and the coach retains its silence as I make my way to the A-Z puzzle of London, condensing my anger into an active search.

Taipei: 24 January 2007

Although I have seen few Westerners, nearly every public notice has an accompanying English description. I assume that Taiwan is readying itself for globalisation, even though the reality does not yet meet that expectation.

So far, people in service places understand me. For instance I am having a light lunch in Ikari Coffee (a Taiwanese designed cafe with a uniquely metropolitan and rather Western feel – a second generation Starbucks) – very good coffee and a great snack – and the girl at the counter spoke in English to me. We didn't exchange anything sophisticated, but she had no problems with the simple phrases I threw at her:
“Can I have this one?”
“I come downstairs?”

And she answered appropriately to the point:
“When the light goes on ...”

A lot to compare between Hong Kong and Taipei:
^ HK is slightly denser
^ HK is chunky, Taipei is more evenly spread
^ Shop banners are horizontal in HK, vertical in Taipei
^ Taipei is slightly cleaner, and there is less obvious poverty
^ Taipei people seem generally educated to well-educated, HK is more varied
^ In general HK shows more extremes


I look at photographs and think “perhaps the memories of times lived intensely are more real than the life I lead in the present”. Familiar faces stare at me, faces I am already getting to know better in two dimensions than I ever did in real life. I look endlessly at the images of places I may never see again.

A craving for coffee stimulates my brain and I take a train and enter the city randomly.

Taipei: January 2007

I learn how to point at things and say: “this one” “that one”
I amuse my audiences with correctly pronounced renditions of “zhege” “nage” and “wo xiang yao mai kafei”

Somewhere on the main road I manage an entirely non-English conversation with a local.
“bu hao yi se, qingwen, Gugong, yao ze ma qu?” and I get the corresponding descriptive reply. He speaks no English whatsoever. While he responds he must be noticing my puzzled expression because he points to the traffic lights, raising three fingers: three traffic lights on, turn to the left! I feel a rising sense of achievement. Am I gradually passing through the linguistic and cultural looking-glass?

But somehow I never reach my destination: other conversations, other delays, not the fault of the directions given to me. Maybe travelling is also a circle.


Lost in the labyrinth I find my first beacon: Caffe Nero in Piccadilly - the window to all worlds. I survey my surroundings, in the meantime absorbed by the gravity of this phrase. “But not every world sees every other world”, I ponder philosophically as I observe a group of antipodeans loudly proclaiming their identity without even the slightest hint of irony or invitation.

My companion complains about the service. Then about the coffee. I move my pen and attempt to write a haiku. It's too long. Then it becomes something else altogether as I realise I'd rather
plunge my penis 17 times into
my companion than become so
culturally neutered on the page.

I touch my companion's thigh, and the lush vanilla skin on her hip, and she lets me.


Thanks go to Paco for his unfailing advice and tireless help throughout my stay. He is pioneering the spirit of flamenco in Taiwan, and his studio is going from strength to strength!

Here are images of a few noteworthy impressions.

A performer in action at the studio.

The studio has both a professional and an authentically Spanish atmosphere.

Skating under the bridge

Due to a lack of space in Taipei, public spaces are fully utilised. This area under a bridge is used for skating. On the opposite side (not shown) the same area is used for dancing.

Flat screens at the metro

Flat screens adorn the walls of metro stations, and passengers waiting for the train to arrive have the opportunity to watch ads on the far wall, or trailers and changing ads on the smaller screen nearby. Static advertising, good-bye! Of course, some Londoners may prefer to see the Da Vinci Code scrolled at a readable speed across the screen ... But perhaps another, shorter graphic literary form could be invented for this recurring non-space.

Taipei 101

Currently the tallest building in the world, Taipei 101 is undoubtedly impressive! Brand name department stores and classy restaurants fill the first few floors.

Diagonal crossings

Thank god for diagonal crossings ... now why didn't we think of that? Not to mention the large red counter accompanying the little green man at every traffic light, telling you how may seconds are left to cross - very useful!!

Night markets: A kind of night life.


Thanks to Yu-Chen for showing me Taichung and the Taoist mysteries of Lukang!

"During the Qing Dynasty, the depth of Lukang's harbour and its proximity to Fujian province on mainland China made Lukang an important trading port. During Lukang's heyday from 1785 to 1845, Lukang's population reached 200,000. Lukang was Taiwan's second largest city after current Tainan and was larger than Bangka (now a district of Taipei), then the island's third-largest city." - Wikipedia

Coffee for sale in Lukang

Prayers at the famous Matzu temple in Lukang

The original poster of an iconic film?

Observed in a Taiwanese style retro cafe in Lukang, this poster of Bruce Lee's The Way of the Dragon caught my eye. Sadly, the flash was too bright and this is the only other photo I took.


According to Wikipedia, Kaohsiung is one of the world's four largest ports. It is also Taiwan's second largest city, after Taipei. Heavily polluted, it is not uncommon to see people wearing face masks. And the density of scooters per square meter of tar probably exceeds that of Taipei!

Night view of the city across Love River.

Street lamps have a seagull design. It's a seaside city, after all ...

A view of the countryside, outside Kaohsiung

Rice paddy. So that's what they look like!

Dragon pagoda and Tsuoying Lotus Pond

It's like a jetty with lanterns!


Monday, January 01, 2007

Dizzy mirror

through pools of piling darkness
a arf narc lark dog dies
dim dries
where why who wants what lies
in dizzy mirrors deeper than the sky

Through the pool of darkness

Through the pool of darkness
John Grim lifts his hands
shattered candles, broken cross
and a moan swells from the lands
- a forlorn, inconsolable sadness.

Blood haloes limply around his hands
mocking love once locked inside
his body hidden by the night
like a prayer stifled in silence
for a life that knew no light
now dying to meet the dawn.