Reverse-Engineering Persona

January 24, 2010

If you’ve ever had to write an essay about something seemingly meaningless, you probably know how this works. You pick a thought (the more unlikely the better), connect everything to it (the less obvious the connections the better), and make sure to overlook anything that goes against your “theory.” Does this projection of meaning onto chaos sound like what art critics do?

All is well until you start believing your own words. That is what happened to me, and I am open-sourcing some of them here, for the whole world to point and laugh and maybe even plagiarize. This story is about Bergman’s Persona and a certain Andalusian Dog, so if you haven’t seen those species yet, come back later.

Persona: the metafilm

An unwanted child, an insecure man, an arrogant genius, Ingmar Bergman directed what could very well be the most cryptic movie ever made. Persona is painted in two layers: a foreground that makes sense on a background that mystifies. The upper stratum is Alma’s story of self-acceptance, of coming to terms with her dark side. The backdrop is Bergman’s meditation on cinematography.

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The Singularity Is Near

January 17, 2010

I first stumbled upon Ray Kurzweil’s website some years ago. It immediately turned me off with words like “Fantastic Voyage: Live Long Enough to Live Forever.” It sounded like one of those “How to be happy and get everything you want” books, which rarely accomplish anything but big bucks for the author, and disappointment for the suckers who buy them.

I’ve read The Singularity Is Near now, and my opinion about the book is mixed. I don’t remember what made me look it up in the first place — but I certainly don’t regret reading it.

Kurzweil argues that evolution is an exponential process, and that each new paradigm opens the door towards a faster development of the next one. As evidence, he shows logarithmic plots such as this:

singularity countdown

If this were plotted linearly, most of the “interesting” events (like Homo Sapiens, cities, and the Internet) would be grouped together in a small chunk of recent time, compared to the time it took for life before that to evolve.

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Chemversation

December 27, 2009

Since the dawn of self-reflection, I have been an inert gas,
Other atoms’ interactions mocking me, as I flew past.
Every time I saw two bonding, I would quickly look away,
My full outer shell reminding, solitude is here to stay.

Looking at those lucky ions, never did I see the facts,
Never did I grasp the science, one who gives, and one who takes.
Can the atoms both be merry if their dipole is so charged?
Or do their nuclei carry hearts that shattered into shards?

I have circled a few atoms, now that I can speak their tongue:
Those with brains looked unimpressive; those with good looks sounded dumb.
Those with both were cold and distant, their electrons long since shared,
Atoms much stronger than this one waiting for their chance with her.

Now you beckon me with riddles, and all of this is so new —
Our polarity is brittle, and I don’t know what to do.
But regardless of what happens, Heisenberg remains unkind:
One of two forever present: thirst of flesh, and thirst of mind.


Fără titlu

September 13, 2009

Pe cer plutesc vise ca frunze albastre.
În aer dansează, se împletesc,
Devin prea grele şi cad.
Curg pe ferestre ca tăceri sărate,
Dau de pământ şi fac rădăcini
Care foşnesc cu frustrări verzi abia ascunse,
Reflectate în două scântei care au uitat să doară,
Şi au durut să se uite
Cum de pe cer cad visele ca frunzele.


Perspectives

September 2, 2009

Today I saw a crow on a white birch. The tree had no leaves, and the sun fell on its top branches. I wondered if crows can see colors and if they feel the warmth of the sun.

Today I felt cold and I digged in my closet for a sweater. I looked at the thermometer and saw summer pack its things and leave. I dreamed about living in a place where it is always warm and cloudy.

Today I saw a high school couple kissing. They held each other like they were the most precious, fragile thing. I smiled and turned away and hoped they were happy.

Today I watched a maple samara dance in the wind. It soared and swirled for minutes, as if the life it carried inside had somehow found a way to express its joy.

day-and-night

Today I saw a black crow on a white birch. The tree was dead, bereft of leaves. The sun fell on its top branches, suspending the morning up high where I couldn’t reach it. I wondered if crows ever have nightmares in which they are falling and they can’t  move their wings.

Today I felt cold and I remembered fear. I looked at the thermometer and saw summer betray me. I told myself that when the sun is tired, it lets the cold burn us instead.

Today I saw a high school couple kissing. Checkered tights and a buzz cut were imitating what they thought they should be feeling. I smirked and turned away and wondered why some people even bother.

Today I watched a maple samara swirl madly in the wind, and I wondered if the seed inside felt nausea.


Why Open Source Rocks (and the music industry does not)

August 9, 2009

If you ever looked for song lyrics online, you know how most lyrics sites are. Plenty of ads, popups, silly scrolling flash gadgets, bad punctuation, and no easy way to send in corrections. Why not apply to lyrics the same community-driven editing model that has made Wikipedia so successful?

LyricWiki.org has done exactly that, and more. They have provided an API, making it easy for media players to query the database and fetch the lyrics for a specific song. To get an idea of this project’s success, check out these stats. At the time of this writing, LyricWiki is the fifth largest MediaWiki in existence, and the largest wiki that is not a Wikipedia or Wiktionary. What an inspiring example of a community built around the ideals of improving content and making information available. What could go wrong?

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Meaning by Surprise

August 2, 2009

I think people are color-blind in the morning. When I wake up and look out the window, I can’t tell if the sky is blue or gray. Likewise, I can’t tell which way this day is going to take me. And sometimes a bit of grogginess is all it takes for a thought to take me by surprise. Read the rest of this entry »