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  The Hotsy Totsy Club 2000-05-30. . . Cholly Kokonino reporting


"If I read a book and it makes my whole body so cold no fire can ever warm me, I know that is poetry. If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is a hangover." -- Anselm Dovetonsils

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Another poor shmuck discovers that doing a good job only protects you from office politics so long as you stay out of office politics, 'cause once that happens you've made office politics part of your job and it's probably not a part you'll be good at. The difference if you were doing a good job on Buffy the Vampire Slayer is that you get to spill backstage gossip after you're fired, like these quotes:

Along with an interesting acting note:
The thing I do like about her [Eliza Dushku] is that she came over to my place and practiced "action acting" with me. That means putting extra body movement and facial expressions into your shots. It edits with the stunt double better that way and adds to the illusion. It's hard for Sarah to do that though because it feels like overacting to a lot of actors. Some pick it up right away.
Which reasonably explains why I didn't start watching the show till Eliza Dushku showed up....

. . . 2000-05-31

Critics rave

"Much may be said on both sides." -- Hark! I hear
A well-known voice that murmurs in my ear:
The voice of Candour. Hail! most solemn sage,
Thou drivelling virtue of this moral age,
Candour, which soften's party's headlong rage.
Candour, which spares its foes, nor e'er descends
With bigot zeal to combat for its friends.
Candour, which loves in see-saw strain to tell
Of acting foolishly, but meaning well;
Too nice to praise by wholesale, or to blame,
Convinced that all men's motives are the same;
And finds, with keen discriminating sight,
Black's not so black; nor white so very white.

Give me the avowed, the erect, the manly foe,
Bold I can meet -- perhaps may turn -- his blow.
But of all plagues, good heaven, thy wrath can send,
Save, save, oh! save me from the Candid Friend!

-- George Canning, 1798

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For old school I-edit-the-web weblogging, the sensible pick is Mike's. In just one day, Mike's educated me as to the Skippy persecution, a salt mine enclosing three complete chapels carved out of salt, the Tasmanian tiger, and canine forensics. And there have been other days, too!

. . . 2000-06-03

An Introduction to Neuraesthetics

In their standard creation myths, philosophy and its natural child, science, assume that presentation can be separated from thought, form separated from meaning. Ideas and facts can be expressed baldly, blankly; with detached justice they can be put to the test, condemned to death, or exalted to eternal life.

Art has been the unwashable sin and bad conscience of both disciplines. Those expressions which most clearly are directed towards unreliable (if sometimes enticing) human beings, which most clearly do not stake claim on a winning slot in a truth table, are only "artistic" -- sometimes condescended to as weak but charming, sometimes attacked as a corrupting influence, sometimes glorified as transcendent, but never quite comprehended. You can't live with it and you can't live without it.

With Nietzsche, philosophers stopped trying to pluck this thorn from their side and instead began to cultivate it; nowadays even academics will admit that aesthetic considerations can't be left out, although they can demonstratedly be bungled. Most recently, the neo-rhetoricians of philosophy have attempted to advance the subjective offensive into "harder" disciplines under the oddly bland banner of "Science Studies" with mixed results.

Meanwhile, happily isolated from those poststructuralist battles, neurology, psychology, physiology, mathematics, and computer research have been mingling in the not-particularly-disciplined discipline of cognitive science, a mudpuddle with pretensions to primal soupdom, reviving along their way such tired philosophical issues as rationality, free will, the nature of consciousness, and, with less fanfare, the place of art.

One of the main lines of research in cognitive science models a "mind" as dynamic patterns of activity across groups of smaller units (brain cells, for example), with a single unit taking part in many different patterns. Depending on the home discipline, such a model might be referred to as a neural net, parallel distributed processing, or connectionism. Neural nets are self-organizing: the act of perception itself can generate an ability to match patterns and an ability to recreate them. Also, neural nets are biologically plausible and can be simulated by computers, both important points for research funding.

Fifty years ago, when the leading scientific model of mind was stimulus-response and the leading philosophic model of mind was mathematical logic, if you'd asked which discipline handled the interweaving of biological, psychological, and intellectual patterns, treating them all on more or less equal terms, the (reluctant) answer would've been aesthetics, since art would be (reluctantly) admitted to speak to all these "interconnections" in some mysteriously unified way by means of physical perception and mental context. But, being a matter of mysterious interconnections, art would also seem flimsily secondary....

In cognitive science, such mysteriously unified interconnections can be seen as the basic stuff of mind, and actually generated (in the combined senses of woven and powered) by physical perception and internal crosstalk. Logical reasoning derives from exactly the same source as sensual wallowing or recognizing a facial expression or geometric doodling or language acquisition or the illusion of consciousness: they all result from one mechanism, with no one outcome innately privileged as The Goal. And where do they all meet again?

So we might expect insights to pass fairly easily between the two disciplines, although -- perhaps due to the ultra-conservative tastes of most scientists, or perhaps due to those research funding issues -- cognitive science has shied away from emphasizing artistic problems until fairly recently.

. . . 2000-06-06

What Joseph Campbell Didn't Tell You: From 18th Century England's Long Meg ...

Long Meg
It was their misfortune at St. James's Corner to meet with two thieves who were waiting there for them and took an hundred marks from Willis the Carrier, and from the two wenches their gowns and purses. — Meg came up immediately after, and then the thieves, seeing her also in a female habit, thought to take her purse also; but she behaved herself so well that they began to give ground. Then said Meg, Our gowns and purses against your hundred marks; win all and wear all Content, quoth they. — Now, lasses, pray for me, said Meg — With that she buckled with these two knaves, beat one and so hurt the other, that they entreated her to spare their lives — I will, said she, upon conditions. — Upon any condition, said they — Then, said she, it shall be thus :
  1. That you never hurt a woman, nor any company she is in.
  2. That you never hurt lame or impotent men.
  3. That you never hurt any Children or innocents.
  4. That you rob no carrier of his money.
  5. That you rob no manner of poor or distressed.
Are you content with these conditions? We are, said they. I have no book about me, said she, but will you swear on my smock tail? which they accordingly did, and then she returned the wenches their gowns and purses, and old Father Willis the Carrier an hundred marks.

The men desiring to know who it was had so lustily be-swinged them, said, To alleviate our sorrow pray tell us your name? She smiling, replied, If any one asks you who banged your bones, say Long Meg of Westminster once met with you.

. . . .
The Wars in France being over, Meg came to Westminister, and married a soldier, who, hearing of her exploits, took her into a room and making her strip to her petticoat, took one staff, and gave her another, saying, As he had heard of her manhood, he was determined to try her — But Meg held down her head, whereupon he gave her three or four blows, and she in submission fell down upon her knees desiring him to pardon her — For, said she, whatever I do to others, it behoves me to be obedient to you; and it shall never be said, If I cudgel a knave that injures me, Long Meg is her husband's master; and there use me as you please — So they grew friends, and never quarrelled after.

... To 20th Century Hong Kong's Mom of Fong Sai Yuk

. . . 2000-06-07

Earl Jackson, Jr., sends these addenda to our notes on English as a tonal language:

I like the link to tone languages a lot but they are misleading when they turn to Japanese. They should be making a clear consistent distinction between tone and pitch. Japanese has relative pitch contours. Chinese and other actual tone languages have absolute pitch. So in Japanese the difference between hasi desu "it's chopsticks" and hasi desu "it's a bridge" is clear because of the different relative pitch between the first and second word. If you were to walk into a room and say an unaccented Japanese word and walk out, there would be no way of determining whether you meant the fully unaccented word or a homonym that has its accent fall on the last syllable. Without a following word, they would sound identical. But if a Chinese person walked into a room, said "ma," and walked out, native speakers would instantly know whether it meant "horse," "hemp," or "mother."

I used to do the following test to my classes. I would write something on the board but cover it up and then say when I reveal the line on the board I will call on people at random and I want that person to read it aloud without thinking about it. I always called one woman and one boy. What was written on the board was the following line:

boys like me

This is a Gary Newman song. I deliberately write without a period or caps so that there is nothing determining the choice. I found that generally speaking women read this line as a sentence and boys as a noun phrase.

. . . 2000-06-08

Headlines for a New Society

While indexing articles at the Pacific Film Archive library, Juliet Clark came across this rather racy item from the San Francisco Sunday ChronEx of February 10, 1985:


Kurosawa Makes 'Ran' Atop Mr. Fuji

. . . 2000-06-09

Gosh Darn the Pusher

One of the few things I don't like about MP3-mania is the way that the big software concerns have positioned it as a way to pirate CDs. I mean, what I love about MP3 is that it's a convenient cheap durable way to preserve and play audio that's otherwise available only on inconvenient or not-so-durable media: cassette-only recordings, old 45s and 78s, very out-of-print LPs.... But Real and Microsoft and concentrate solely on making it easy for moving CD tracks to the computer, and since CDs are already pretty convenient and durable and are less likely to be out of print, it's hard not to see that as encitement to piracy.

In fact, one of the first free pieces of software that did convert non-CD-audio to MP3 files, BladeEnc, was hassled right out of binary distribution by big business monkeys. Conspiracy theory, anyone?

For alternatives, go to The Sonic Spot and Transferring LPs to CDR. My current toolkit: Wave Repair for recording and LAME for compressing.

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And for results, we're proud to announce the acquisition and sharing of:

Why? Because I (and David Pille and Jack C Stalnaker and TFUL282) am (are) a river to my (our) people!

. . . 2000-06-10

Our motto

"That is what he liked, what most of us really like: to eat and drink in disorder and endlessly in continuous ingestion, alternating a little bite here and a little swallow there, all day long."
-- Chromos by Felipe Alfau

. . . 2000-06-13

Presenting the first episode of a new serial from Juliet Clark....


King Kong (1933)

We were in the Islands. Fay Wray had her photo taken in front of a biplane, with a jaunty white scarf around her neck and a featureless pilot beside her. Then the plane took off and disappeared over the summit of a distant mountain. A few minutes later, aged some 60 years by her terrible adventure, bloated and with her hair all disarranged, Fay Wray came running back down the mountain, carrying a sack of grapefruits. The grapefruits were spilling out of the sack and rolling down the mountain. I thought, "pamplemousses."

... an' anotha thing ...... then again ...

Copyright to contributed work and quoted correspondence remains with the original authors.
All other material: Copyright 2000 Ray Davis.