May 31st, 2011

the simian hunch

The European Space Agency has some insights into the unglamorous practical details of daily life as an astronaut. Snip:

Once stirred, the astronauts tend to adopt a foetus-like posture as they move weightlessly about the station. Sometimes referred to unflatteringly as the “simian hunch”, it seems to be the natural human attitude in microgravity; perhaps it really is an echo of the weightless months that every growing embryo spends floating in its mother’s womb.

The crew dress as quickly as they can: no easy task when your limbs float out at odd angles. They wear disposable clothes, replacing them once every three days: there are no washing machines in space. But the ISS does have a shower. Water squirts out of the “top” to be sucked down by an air fan at the “bottom”. The shower has to be used sparingly to conserve water, but it is a luxury item that earlier space pioneers would have envied. and today’s astronauts cherish.

More on the ESA website (via reddit)

May 28th, 2011

in the form of a loop

(via kottke)

May 26th, 2011

there’s no theatre like noh theatre

Fascinating stuff. Especially Noh’s use of masks. Youtube.

Posted in Past, Video | No Comments »
May 26th, 2011

the polyphonic truth

Michail Bakhtin’s ideas on the individual, via wiki:

First, is the concept of the unfinalizable self: individual people cannot be finalized, completely understood, known, or labeled. Though it is possible to understand people and to treat them as if they are completely known, Bakhtin’s conception of unfinalizability respects the possibility that a person can change, and that a person is never fully revealed or fully known in the world. Readers may find that this conception reflects the idea of the “soul”; Bakhtin had strong roots in Christianity and in the Neo-Kantian school led by Hermann Cohen, both of which emphasized the importance of an individual’s potentially infinite capability, worth, and the hidden soul.

Second, is the idea of the relationship between the self and others, or other groups. According to Bakhtin, every person is influenced by others in an inescapably intertwined way, and consequently no voice can be said to be isolated. In an interview, Bakhtin once explained that,

In order to understand, it is immensely important for the person who understands to be located outside the object of his or her creative understanding—in time, in space, in culture. For one cannot even really see one’s own exterior and comprehend it as a whole, and no mirrors or photographs can help; our real exterior can be seen and understood only by other people, because they are located outside us in space, and because they are others. ~New York Review of Books, June 10, 1993.

As such, Bakhtin’s philosophy greatly respected the influences of others on the self, not merely in terms of how a person comes to be, but also in how a person thinks and how a person sees him- or herself truthfully.

Third, Bakhtin found in Dostoevsky’s work a true representation of “polyphony”, that is, many voices. Each character in Dostoevsky’s work represents a voice that speaks for an individual self, distinct from others. This idea of polyphony is related to the concepts of unfinalizability and self-and-others, since it is the unfinalizability of individuals that creates true polyphony.

Bakhtin briefly outlined the polyphonic concept of truth. He criticized the assumption that, if two people disagree, at least one of them must be in error. He challenged philosophers for whom plurality of minds is accidental and superfluous. For Bakhtin, truth is not a statement, a sentence or a phrase. Instead, truth is a number of mutually addressed, albeit contradictory and logically inconsistent, statements. Truth needs a multitude of carrying voices. It cannot be held within a single mind, it also cannot be expressed by “a single mouth”. The polyphonic truth requires many simultaneous voices. Bakhtin does not mean to say that many voices carry partial truths that complement each other. A number of different voices do not make the truth if simply “averaged” or “synthesized”. It is the fact of mutual addressivity, of engagement, and of commitment to the context of a real-life event, that distinguishes truth from untruth.

When, in subsequent years, Problems of Dostoyevsky’s Art was translated into English and published in the West, Bakhtin added a chapter on the concept of “carnival” and the book was published with the slightly different title, Problems of Dostoyevsky’s Poetics. According to Bakhtin, carnival is the context in which distinct individual voices are heard, flourish and interact together. The carnival creates the “threshold” situations where regular conventions are broken or reversed and genuine dialogue becomes possible. The notion of a carnival was Bakhtin’s way of describing Dostoevsky’s polyphonic style: each individual character is strongly defined, and at the same time the reader witnesses the critical influence of each character upon the other. That is to say, the voices of others are heard by each individual, and each inescapably shapes the character of the other.

Thanks Levi, who referred me to Bakhtin in response to the D. H. Lawrence text I posted.

May 24th, 2011

pop pop pop pop pop pop pop pop

Pop Pop Boats are toy boats that run on a very simple heat engine. Instructions for how to make a copper coil (as opposed to boiler tank) pop pop boat here.

May 24th, 2011

hey the engine’s running again

A stirling engine made out of a tin can.

May 24th, 2011

the workings of the yeasty soul

I’ve wanted to share this text for a while, but I couldn’t find it online anywhere. I thought about just quoting the parts I like, but I felt like quoting most of it. So now I’ve typed out the whole text, a chapter out of the book The Use of Imagination by William Walsh (Chatto & Windus, 1959).

Even if you don’t agree with all Lawrence’s ideas (and in the latter part there is admittedly a rather questionable proposition for the realization of his philosophies), you can still even just appreciate the elegance of his expression, his clarity of vision, and the poetry of his words.

The book is a collection of essays exploring what some of the biggest names in literature have to teach us about imagination. The book is written for educators, but the insights are universal. This chapter is on D. H. Lawrence’s insights. The chapter is called The Writer as Teacher

Read the rest of this entry »

May 23rd, 2011

like finding that one elusive lego block

Graphene has been touted as the “miracle material” of the 21st Century.

Said to be the strongest material ever measured, an improvement upon and a replacement for silicon and the most conductive material known to man, its properties have sent the science world – and subsequently the media – into a spin.

Graphene sounds like the one wildcard solution to everybody’s metaphorical lego constructions. Exciting stuff to read about.

May 23rd, 2011

intelligent communication

Interesting insights into the scope of words as language versus other ways of interacting with meaning and environment. Thanks Esther for the tip.

May 22nd, 2011

life drawing

Yesterday I drew naked people all day.


May 22nd, 2011

what the degraded soul unworthily admires

From Wordsworth’s Ruth, or The Influences of Nature:

But ill he lived, much evil saw,
With men to whom no better law
Nor better life was known;
Deliberately and undeceived
Those wild men’s vices he received,
And gave them back his own.

His genius and his moral frame
Were thus impair’d, and he became
The slave of low desires—
A man who without self-control
Would seek what the degraded soul
Unworthily admires.

The entire poem is on bartleby.

May 22nd, 2011

riving sail and cord and plank

From Written among the Euganean Hills by P. B. Shelley

MANY a green isle needs must be
In the deep wide sea of Misery,
Or the mariner, worn and wan,
Never thus could voyage on
Day and night, and night and day,
Drifting on his dreary way,
With the solid darkness black
Closing round his vessel’s track;
Whilst above, the sunless sky
Big with clouds, hangs heavily,
And behind the tempest fleet
Hurries on with lightning feet,
Riving sail, and cord, and plank,
Till the ship has almost drank
Death from the o’er-brimming deep,
And sinks down, down, like that sleep
When the dreamer seems to be
Weltering through eternity;
And the dim low line before
Of a dark and distant shore
Still recedes, as ever still
Longing with divided will,
But no power to seek or shun,
He is ever drifted on
O’er the unreposing wave,
To the haven of the grave.

Continue reading…

May 15th, 2011

die toten seelen

I like especially 01:34 to 04:40.

From Wim Wenders’ Falsche Bewegung (1975).

May 14th, 2011

people and places

Photo by Jasper James

May 14th, 2011

bike chain wall clock

By Andreas Dober (via designsquish).

May 13th, 2011


Shakespeare’s Sonnet 147:

My love is as a fever longing still,
For that which longer nurseth the disease;
Feeding on that which doth preserve the ill,
The uncertain sickly appetite to please.
My reason, the physician to my love,
Angry that his prescriptions are not kept,
Hath left me, and I desperate now approve
Desire is death, which physic did except.
Past cure I am, now Reason is past care,
And frantic-mad with evermore unrest;
My thoughts and my discourse as madmen’s are,
At random from the truth vainly expressed;
For I have sworn thee fair, and thought thee bright,
Who art as black as hell, as dark as night.


Canst thou, O cruel! say I love thee not,
When I against myself with thee partake?
Do I not think on thee, when I forgot
Am of my self, all tyrant, for thy sake?
Who hateth thee that I do call my friend,
On whom frown’st thou that I do fawn upon,
Nay, if thou lour’st on me, do I not spend
Revenge upon myself with present moan?
What merit do I in my self respect,
That is so proud thy service to despise,
When all my best doth worship thy defect,
Commanded by the motion of thine eyes?
But, love, hate on, for now I know thy mind,
Those that can see thou lov’st, and I am blind.


O! from what power hast thou this powerful might,
With insufficiency my heart to sway?
To make me give the lie to my true sight,
And swear that brightness doth not grace the day?
Whence hast thou this becoming of things ill,
That in the very refuse of thy deeds
There is such strength and warrantise of skill,
That, in my mind, thy worst all best exceeds?
Who taught thee how to make me love thee more,
The more I hear and see just cause of hate?
O! though I love what others do abhor,
With others thou shouldst not abhor my state:
If thy unworthiness raised love in me,
More worthy I to be beloved of thee.

May 3rd, 2011

hymn to the spirit of nature

P.b. Shelley:

LIFE of Life! thy lips enkindle
With their love the breath between them;
And thy smiles before they dwindle
Make the cold air fire: then screen them
In those locks, where whoso gazes
Faints, entangled in their mazes.

Child of Light! thy limbs are burning
Through the veil which seems to hide them,
As the radiant lines of morning
Through thin clouds, ere they divide them;
And this atmosphere divinest
Shrouds thee wheresoe’er thou shinest.

Fair are others: none beholds thee;
But thy voice sounds low and tender
Like the fairest, for it folds thee
From the sight, that liquid splendour;
And all feel, yet see thee never,
As I feel now, lost for ever!

Lamp of Earth! where’er thou movest
Its dim shapes are clad with brightness,
And the souls of whom thou lovest
Walk upon the winds with lightness
Till they fail, as I am failing,
Dizzy, lost, yet unbewailing!

May 3rd, 2011

to the moon

p. b. shelley:

Art thou pale for weariness
Of climbing heaven, and gazing on the earth,
Wandering companionless
Among the stars that have a different birth,—
And ever-changing, like a joyless eye
That finds no object worth its constancy?

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