Friday, December 19, 2008

still the copyright issue

My 2 cents in "how to share and maintain the artist at the same time". I posted this on the isohunt forum today (let's put it here too, in case isohunt is closed!)

«I think we must open up to a concept that is already being explored with great success by projects like SETI Home, or Folding at Home (FAH). These are projects that depend on just the goodwill of the people. Now many people would expect for these projects to have failed miserably! In fact we are asking for people to donate without giving them anything back except being able to do "the right thing".

In fact, if you look at the forums of FAH, you will see that people are very aware of the extra money it costs them to have FAH running on their systems. Current PCs draw *much* more electricity when their CPUs or GPUs are running at 100%. FAH users have made detailed calculations of how much you spend with each particular kind of hardware, just in electricity costs, over a year. It is a lot of money actually, sometimes more than the hardware. And, nevertheless people still donate, many of them keep their PCs on 24/7! Just look at the sheer number of processor hours per week, it's incredible! Why do people do it?

Because, in the end, there are many, many of us, who are just good Samaritans. We like to do good, we want to do good, and sometimes, when the occasion is right, when we think the cause is fair, we are willing to take from what we got to give to the needy or a just cause. We are like that. And when we see a lot of people giving, that reinforces our ability to give away too! There are perhaps many exceptions out there, or many moments in which we feel differently, but in general we will support what we think is fair, even with personal sacrifice.

So my idea was to provide the same kind of logic that has given FAH, Seti and many other projects their success. We would ask for donations, for donors, to help in a very noble cause: to help those artists that gave you something, that perhaps changed your life or kept you happy in the winter, or helped you getting that special friend, etc. Artists that gave you something, now you have the opportunity to give something back. And you can give to starving artists what they need the most: money to buy food, to pay the bills, etc.

Now this for me is an interesting idea, I would be very happy to give some of my money to the artists who have given me so much over the years. Of course I would not feel very likely to do that with established and rich artists (like Paul Simon, towards whom I feel very indebted), but to those that are starting out (like Damien Rice, Regina Spektor, or the former Azure Ray), to them and others I would like to give something. Now, perhaps some of these authors have "donate buttons" on their websites (I personally have not come across that yet) but even if they do, it would be much more enthusiastic to have a single page where lots of donations were recorded and a kind of "chart" was maintained with the donors and their rankings (top donors, or groups of donors, top receivers, etc, just like in FAH).

I mean wouldn't it be fun to search for how your favorite artist was doing in the charts? how much and how many people have given to him? And wouldn't it be inspiring to see how many other people have already given and how *you*, the donor, was fairing in the general "competition" to see who gives more? I mean seeing others donate is a great incentive for us to donate too. Seeing how others have donated X and Y will probably be an incentive for us to donate something. I mean if they are doing it, why can't we?? We want to do it all along, but it sounded so weird, now we have this general page, and we can see who needs it the most (who as received less) and our contribution will be there, for all to see.

Of course, since this would be a thing involving money, the all process would have to be fully transparent. Every penny anyone would give would be publicly accessible for anyone to see (including, most importantly, the person that has made the contribution). And the sum of it would also be available for everyone to see, especially the artist that was receiving the money. The whole process would have to be exceedingly clear so that any possibility of fraud or error would be rapidly found out. The artists would have to sign some sort of receipt, better still, they could give a kind of "autograph" symbolizing their relation with their loving fans! (although if a forged signature or something would be provided it would be very rapidly found out - they would probably say so themselves if they didn't get the money!!).

In my opinion it would be also very important for the entire money to go to the artist (perhaps deducting a very small tax for operating purposes, but it would have to be really small, or perhaps voluntary for the donors - perhaps a tick box kind of - «I want 1% or 5% of this money to go to isohunt» - let the donors decide). We need to change into a culture of gratitude for this sharing culture to work out and flourish. So the providers of this page should be the first to give the example!!

If a particular artist could not receive the money for some reason, that money could go into a fund that would include the "poorest" artists that are more downloaded or more selected by donors, etc. Some kind of list would be created so that money that for some reason was not allocated to a particular artist would be divided into this "fund".

I also think payments should be made in several coins, I for once use the euro and some of the artist I would like to give money to are from my own country, so no need to convert to dollar and then back to the euro. (Besides we might be seeing some currency volatility over the coming years, so...)

I think this is a great idea. Obviously it serves to complement other ways to sustain the artist. Concerts, t-shirts and all that, taxing the internet service providers, all these things should also guarantee that the artist is able to live sustained by the quality of his art. But the "donor project" should also be an important part of it. I mean, let's face it, ART CHANGES OUR LIVES! In my time it was Simon and Garfunkel with their "The Sounds of Silence", or before that it was "I did it my way" with Frank Sinatra, songs that change the way we see life, the way we interact with the world. How much money would people have given to The Beatles or to Pink Floyd if they could? Can you really imagine how big a model like this could get!?

Perhaps this "donor" thing will not solve every problem of the technological revolution we are facing, but it will certainly help, and, especially, it might give us the opportunity to replace the stigma of "pirates" by showing that we are really "art lovers" and are willing and even anxious to strongly support the artists we love in our own way. Only then will they be able to leave the grip of the record companies.

Technology has changed, now, we need a change of paradigm, we need to change the way people see file sharing - we are not pirates, we are music lovers, and we are willing to prove it in the hardest way - by giving our hard earned money, what really counts to pay the bills. If we want to take the middle man out of the way, we must go forward and connect to the artist directly so that he may continue to give directly back to us!

(PS - perhaps this is an old idea, I'm not very literate on these matters, only yesterday did I read the "Death of Oink" article!! Great stuff, amazing! So... sorry if I am just repeating something that someone has already said far better than me!! In any case we need to DO something. Don't let the old corporations win without a fight!! Now we're the heirs of Pink Floyd, lets show them what we're worth!!)»

Thursday, December 18, 2008


A masterpiece about online sharing:

When Pigs Fly: The Death of Oink, the Birth of Dissent, and a Brief History of Record Industry Suicide

There are also many others interesting discussions in the net, I joined one on isohunt:
Join the Copyfight!

see also:
Ramblings on Creative Commons

In short: the advance of digital technology, including the internet, has allowed the distribution, organization and discovery of art in new and highly efficient ways for almost zero cost. Since byg corporations seem unable to sail the new digital winds we need an alternative method to pay directly to the artists, not by physical copy, but by virtual copy. A simple method is to tax the internet service providers with an extra tax that is then distributed to the artists. The more shared an artist is, the greater his share of the tax. It is quite simple actually, so why isn't it implemented? Because it would cut to zero the billionaire profits of the companies that represent the artists and that take the greatest part of their profits.

Although for music, books and paintings we just need an alternative way to pay the artists directly, for movies things may be different. Regarding the movie industry the story is a bit different because movies cost a lot to make, they generally involve hundreds of people with different areas of expertise, etc. So the best way to pay all of the involved is to pay to the company directly. It might happen that the cost of making movies will be greatly reduced by future technology, regarding animated movies for instance, but presently movies cost a lot to make and their revenue must match the (in this case) real expenses of the studios.

Implementing this model with music will also take a long time, because distribution companies (like Sony, EMI, etc) have amassed large quantities of money in the past century. And even though they didn't created the works of art that gave them profit they got used to two things: 1) having the copyright of the works of art; 2) having the largest part of the profit. Therefore it will be exceedingly difficult to get these companies to agree to pay directly to artists, for they will obviously disappear in the process. Moreover they are also considered the legal owners of the music created by artists (so it's not The Beatles that own the music that they have created, but the record company). So, even if we convince present and future artists to get paid directly, the songs they have made in the past, because they don't legally belong to them, will likely remain difficult to obtain legally. From this it seems clear that the old methods of distributing works of art will gradually be replaced by the internet, because they are better and inexpensive, but it will be a change slowed by the old technology owners.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


There was this collector, he had all these paintings of renowned artists, each of them filled with wisdom beyond frontiers, and he was piling them up to the ceiling. He created a vast catalog so that he could find always the one he wanted among the thousand collected. He divided them into different rooms, he reorganized them several times, by topics, by quality, by author, by size and weight and material. He made a vast list and talked about them to all his friends.

He died without ever seeing any one of them... detail.

Sometimes I wonder, if it would have been better if he had just one,
because by looking into just one
, attentively,
he would perhaps have gone farther
than collecting the thousands
he would never know.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Damien Rice

A new discovery:

The Blower's Daughter

Saturday, December 6, 2008

About life after death

(I wrote this to this forum)

I just wanted to say two things: first, regarding the meaning of life, it really doesn't matter if there is life after death, if God exists, etc., whatever is out there, each one of us must give it value or not. It doesn't matter that we are immortals created by God if we have to live according to principles with which we do not agree. Being slaves for eternity is not our only possibility. Instead we might wake up and question: "what do I think is valuable?" "what do I think is worth the trouble?" "what do I want to do, really?". This ability to be authentic is, in my experience, what gives life its ecstatic colors, without it, even if we were to live billions of years, surrounded by loving pears, everything would look like a kind of prison, or a dream. If we're not authentic, nothing around us will seem authentic.

So, freedom and authenticity is what gives life its meaning, the more awake we are, the more authentic and open to the World we are, the more we will enjoy life. And that is quite enough for me. If someone has a better motive to keep on living, I am happy for them and I would like to know it.

Secondly, regarding the lack of evidence for an after life:

What lack of evidence? Obviously, if you don't have legs you can't run. If you don't have a brain you can't memorize, add numbers, use your senses, etc. But the fact that I can't express myself in this world is no proof that I don't want to run, that I don't exist. I may be all about running although my body is in a wheelchair. I may dream of running, desire to run, think about running all the seconds of my life. No one will see it, but I will experience all these things about running anyway. The same may happen with the brain, although we might not be able to express ourselves without a working brain, although we cannot record memories or knowledge about things that didn't come through the senses, we might still be there even when the brain is not. All that we know about the brain is that it is an essential part of our body for us to interact intelligently with the world, there is no proved link that proves that brains generate consciousnesses.

I've lost my father and mother recently and my dad slowly lost his mental faculties. However, in my eyes at least, he did not loose his "spirit". By the contrary, my admiration for him just grew and grew in the final weeks I spent with him. He was becoming more giving, more abnegated, there was a happiness about him that illuminated me, a light in his eyes, a music about him, it was increasingly difficult to hear it, more subtle and filled with interferences, but it was ever more beautiful... And yet, towards the end, he couldn't even play a simple game of dominoes.

It's like if you hear Mozart on a cheap radio, it might look bad, there might be interferences, cuts in the audio, high distortion, etc. But that does not mean that there was something wrong with what Mozart's was attempting ot say. There is a big difference between what we experience, what we are, and what we can express. In some circumstances we can listen beyond the static and the distortion, we can listen to what the music means, how it was meant to be played, and then you understand, not so much what you hear, but what Mozart is trying to tell you, what was at the source of his creativity. This is certainly a much more intense experience than any high-end audiophile system can provide.

The brain is certainly a tool to express feelings, thoughts, to make plans, to interact with others. If that fails, the expression of who we are and what we want fails abysmally. But that says nothing about who we really are.

My father was in a coma, when we "came back" he was different, his eyes shone with greater joy, a joy that shone through is decaying body.

Now, I am not saying that we should believe that there is life after death, but when we look at scientific facts, they really don't tell much. If you check the studies made by Delanoy, Hutts and Hyman, you will see that there is pretty consistent evidence to show that some people at least have ESP (extrasensory perception). This is not wishful thinking, these are the results of more than a hundred years of closely monitored studies, in many parts of the world by many different teams of researchers. The apparent ability of plants to feel what goes around them (studied by Cleve Backster), or the claim by Masaru Emoto that good and bad vibes may influence reality at atomic levels, were never really addressed by the scientific community. MacDougall's assertion that the human soul weighted 21 grams also passed unscrutinized, although when Lewiss Holander made a similar experiment using cows he found out that the weight actually increased in the moment of death.

But the largest obstacle that a reductive explanation of consciousness faces (that is asserting that consciousness is solely the result of brain functions) is that no conceivable explanation has been offered for "how does a material substance generates conscious experiences?". Although there have been immense efforts in this area, and many hypothesys have been raised to serve as "neural correlates of consciousness", neuroscientists, philosophers, or any person for that matter, as failed to come up with a conceivable device that creates conscious states.

So, as a matter of fact, conscious states, conscious experience is a mystery, and scientific evidence is by far not conclusive on whether or not the brain produces, by itself, conscious states. In other words, taking into account all the scientific evidence we have available, we cannot reach a strong position on whether or not there is life after life.

On a more personal note I would have to say that I have experiences many times the ability to sync-up with friends and relatives, even if I don't have empirical contact with them for months. I cannot know what they are thinking, but most of the time I can know a part of what they are feeling if I focus on them with a clear mind (no emotional hurdles may be present - stillness is required, it's a very subtle sensation). I have met many people in my life that have that ability, and, as far as I can say, it works pretty well. Also, many people have experienced "Life after Life": Raymond Moody made an interesting documentary with interviews on some of these people, studies that have been replicated sometimes, including by a recent study by nurse working with dying people. This all falls in the category of "personal experiences" because we have no technological detector of out of the body experiences (or any kind of conscious experiences, by the way - how can I know for sure that there is anyone else that is (not) conscious in the universe?).

So, although I cannot commit to any thesis regarding life after death from a scientific point of view (the data is not enough and not studied enough), from a personal point of view, I sincerely have no doubt that the reality we capture with our senses is just a small fragment of what there is. My homo sapiens brain can't make much sense of all of this, so I just have to live with uncertainty, but living the mystery, I find, is not such a bad thing.

Now, what science is really adamant about is regarding it's scientific method and the expulsion of every kind of magical thinking. We must realize that science was strangled by religious thinkers, both in Europe and the Muslim world. Galileo and others were able to shut off the religious, dogmatic, magical way of thinking, and, in its stead, they have placed critical thinking, freedom of speech, experience as a way to test our theories. The "supernatural" had to be taken out of respectable intelligent discourse, if we had any hope of deciphering the mysteries of the world. We had to replace fear with careful vision.

Unfortunately all this criticism and testing fails when the foundations of the current scientific method are at stake. Because many scientists believe that if we let a mysterious and unanalyzable thing like consciousness into the midst of respectable, authoritative thinking, we will be inviting all the superstitions and the supernatural that was the basis of the Dark Ages to go back in again. It is like if we had spent hundreds of years saying to people «you don't have to be scared, you can look at the world without the spectacles of religion and question, really, what is this all about, with no preconceived ideas, phantoms or fears» and now we will let in again the ghosts of fear, rewards and punishments of the after-life, etc, all the magical way of thinking threatening to destroy all the clarity that man as accomplished in the last four centuries. Besides, it would be a terrible blow to any view of science as completable endeavour. For things like consciousness or free will seem to be beyond the scope of logical analysis. The idea of freedom for instance, is something that has no cause, but is also not random. How do we create a logical notion of something that does not have a cause but is also not random? Regarding consciousness, we cannot even begin to describe it. No theory we know of could describe to a blind man what color feels like. Experiences don't fit into words, although a star like the sun or the whole Milky Way could fit quite easily there, with all their detailed physical properties.

Conclusion - the problem of consciousness, or the problem of the after-life, is not so much decided on the basis of empirical evidence, for we have no concluding evidence for either side; it is generally decided on the basis of our position regarding science and religion. Unfortunately, in the name of clear thinking and critical reasoning, we are now under the pressure of the same dogmatic attitude that Galileo, Giordano Bruno and many others had to face. Many research areas are simply ignored, many scientific results are discredit just because they are "too absurd". Today, we are given the following choice: either we trust science and became "smart and skeptical", or we trust the "inner self" and go towards religion to become superstitious and confused. Alternatively we may just leave behind the orthodox choice and accept that we are just too little and limited to understand the big picture. I for one, prefer to live the mystery rather than to pretend that I know what I do not know.

In any case, the joy of life is just to "be yourself"... it is completely irrelevant if there is life after death or not, and, in any case, even if God himself came upon you and told you, you could not be absolutely sure about it. We don't even "know" for sure if we're just part of a simulation!!!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Speed Racer - culture and conter culture

I saw this movie, Speed Racer, intermingled with some images from Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut. Somehow they seemed similar, both presented lustful images, arresting images, both subtly seemed to imply that all of that is not enough. You need to remain free in all this ballet of masks, you cannot forget who you are, your inner hearing, the ability to see behind appearances. In Speed Racer the hero uses this ability to magically know that the car will start if he engages the fifth gear. But the marvellous aspect of that motion picture, is the way it exposes, in luscurious detail, all the sins in which we give in to the Devil. (the movie actually employs this word, and "religion" too)

The plentiful colors, the vibrant technology, the loving lover, the adoration of fans, the chance to save your family, the deep relation with the brother, being loved by all the family... everything, from peanut sandwiches, to amazing cars and cities, imense racing tracks, amazing abilities, notorious feats, villains easy to win, etc. Everything appears as perfect as we could wish with only one fault: the perfection seems to ruin everything. Usually we want to improve things, we fight against excess cold, warmth, we want water, food, money, a spouse, all the things that we blame on our not being entirely and utterly happy.

But here you are immersed by an avalanche of goods. There is too much of everything, and then you realize: they are not really that happy! They are just the same, with their dreams and aspirations and illusions, ups and downs... The Matrix is exposed again. This time with no obvious solution in the horizon (as it should be - because no one grows following footsteps).

Why should I keep going, now that I know that I will not change the nature of the game, that friends and foes are driven by the same principles?

"Sorry. That's for you to figure out. I just hope, when you do, I'm there to see it."

There are no easy replies in the movie for the ultimate question it asks: "why should I go one to live in a Matrix?" - but it beautifully shows the Matrix we live in, without criticizing it, loving it, caring for it, but at the same time showing it is just baloney, fake, it can never give us what we are searching for. But all these more complex quibbles stay away, unrepresented.

I feel this movie is in line, not only with Kubrick's movies, but also with the "Chronicles of Riddick" all of them opposing the repressive power of the system (society, desires, prisons, concepts) hinting to the hidden world of what lies beyond the mind, not exactly at our fingertips, but in the realm of our consciousness. All we have to do is trust the inner soul and let the world (both inner and outer) happen.

It is interesting to notice how our mainstream culture keeps us engaged, while the "counter" culture (although part of the same) tries to disengage us from culture to engage us at a deeper level. But, in almost every case, we are always wanting for the same, greater contact with the biggest Lover, we want to Understand, to be one with, Existence...

Deeper and deeper..., the rabit hole goes...

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Raymond Kurzweil

This guy is a genius with probably a little nuttiness in between (probably the good kind of nutiness, in a Ratatoille (the rat) way). He enriches our thoughts about the short term future (less than a thousand years from now), raising very interesting and thought provoking hypothesis. However he has a view of death which is quite peculiar:

"...death is a tragedy. That is our instinctive reaction and that reaction is correct. In my view it is not death that gives life meaning. Life gives life meaning. The creation of knowledge in all its forms (art, music, science, etc.) and relationships gives life meaning. And death is disruptive of that." (source found on wikipedia)
He praises immortality as if it is a good thing. Well, I wonder how much time he takes to get bored of a particular state of mind. But if he his talking about maintaining abilities and memories, well, we've already done it to a large extent: it's called language and it's main result - culture!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Regarding copyright

(this was posted on isohunt, a p2p forum currently being prosecuted by the MPAA and RIA)

I think that there are two things everyone agrees with:

1) Man is distinct from animals because he has the ability to think;

2) Thinkers and people who promote that ability should be rewarded in a prosperous human society.

Now for this reason it seems abundantly clear that scientists, artists and researchers of every sort should be well rewarded in today's society, especially those who go further, who discover something new, something that works. In the case of artists: those that create "quality" art. The kind of art that leads us to new places, that makes us evolve and see life in a new way.

Now, with scientists and other thinkers we have no problems today, after the second world war governments and enterprises all over the world get their services and pay them accordingly.

But artists are not getting the same feedback from their creativity. For two different reasons:

- the problem of paying more to the "fast-food" artists: most artists are sold through advertising, the ones that get more money are usually not the best, but the ones that are more promoted, those who get more publicity. Some of them sound awful and we would not take notice of their art if we didn't know it was made by them. Truly good works of art should be appealing and rewarding even if they had no "brand"" on them. they should speak for themselves.

- the problem of "where did the money go?": most money goes into the pockets of people who just copy and distribute what the artist made (the companies and labels). This is reinforced by the fact that current copyright laws do not make the artist the owner of what he has made. The company is the legal owner in spite of generally not having had any creative part in its birth.

These two aspects end up by economically strangling the "good" artists, those that just don't follow a formula, but are creating something new (I am speaking particularly about independent and alternative artists).

Now the net released the grip of the companies over the artistic production. It has more or less implicitly provided an alternative source of incoming for all artists which is direct donation. A band or person puts his works of art on display on the net for billions of users to see and enjoy. Some of them will want to contribute back through economic donations, showing the approval of the work and the want to have more.

This new model of financing the artists is much more efficient: it almost completely eliminates the "middle man", it provides access to much more artists, it provides a much better way of assessing who "deserves" the more money: those that have really "touched" us.

Now this does not apply to big hollywood productions, but then, with the development of cheaper technology, it will be gradually easier to produce stunning motion pictures without much money. Music studios can be generally replaced by a cheap pc, perhaps something like that will happen with movies in two or three decades.

Now, to me it seems clear, that the well-to-do people who made millions or billions in the music, tv and movie industry, are the ones that have something to loose. What they are seeing is a completely new model of refinancing the artist in which they are completely excluded. There is no need for a music industry anymore, or for book publishers. As musicians or writers can simply put their works on the web for the general consumption.

Now, to societies, it is of the utmost interest that many, good-quality, artistic creations be available to the widest audience. Art is what helps to guide the values of society. There is nothing more important to the evolution of a human society than to be clear about what is valuable and worth pursuing. Art makes us go deep into our hearts, to discover new ways of feeling and seeing the world. It helps us to heal our sores, to become more tolerant and wise, to see more and with more detail the inner recesses of the human soul. Art is no less important than technology or science. It should be well protected and developed.

Today's corporations are interested in profits, they put a sail on the winds of artistic creation, and try to get some profit from it. The best for their profit is to create a culture of scarcity so that we will be "hungry" for what they got to give, and we will be ready to pay them big time. But the scarcity is very damaging to our societies, especially when we now have an alternative which can reward the artist directly. we should not forget that it is the ability to think that distinguishes us from other species, we should take the greatest care that we maintain this ability as clear, sharp and wide as possible.

The future:
We should create a society in which we are taught to donate, to give back to those that have given us. Without this, if we are all "greedy", big corporations will continue to flourish. Ultimately, they rely on our own selfishness. Our economy relies on balancing selfish actions and desires, we must create a niche of gratitude and donation. If we are able to do this, then the corporations will crumble for the artists themselves will prefer the free web. It is the gratitude of consumers who will make a difference (or fail to do so).

This change of attitude can be done by giving the example, by talking about it, etc, but it is also necessary to create a practical way of materially rewarding the artists. To give just one example, I love Regina Spektor, her music has changed my life. Yet I have no way of donating to her, I can buy some of her musics on her "MySpace" page, but half of the money will go to other people, and if I buy one of her CDs, then even less will go to her. But I don't feel indebted to any of those distributors, I don't even remember how I got in touch with her music in the first place. I would like to pay her, only! So... as long as the artists don't provide ways for us to make direct donations, someone should build a page with a bank account into which we can make deposits or paypal payments addressed to a particular artist. And then that someone would take like 0,1% or something and give the rest to the artist in question. Everything should be very transparent and public. One could make a living just by redistributing money to the artist in this fashion. I think that there are a lot of people like me, who feel grateful and would like to retribute in some way what was given to them.

On a final, personal note:
I don't feel like I have taken any money from any big corporation, I don't see tv and I don't listen to "mtv-music". I am a student with very limited financial resources at this time. I like reading and if every contemporary work of art was forbidden, as these rich guys would want to, I would simply read Plato and Plotino from the library, and would be even more distanced from all this consumerist society than what I already am. The free net is what connects me to this century.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

comment on Regina Spektor's "Buildings"

this was written to and appears in the context of the following page:

Wow, almost everything has been said (including lacrimosa's description of the tall buildings, but almost all comments have amazing insight and speak for themselves).

I'm just going to add what's different in my impression: I think it is difficult to understand this song as a direct description of a husband-wife relation. People are together for many reasons but it is mainly because they want to (it gives them pleasure or because they think they should), or getting out makes them afraid (of being alone, loosing social or economic status, etc). When one of us is alcoholic or getting into trouble the relation gets a complex change that is not reflected in this song (for instance good memories mix with present deception, a will to fly away mixes with wanting to cuddle, etc).

So it seems to me that this is the view of a son or a daughter, that is anxious to get out and live is life, he looks at his parents lives and sees them as getting stuck in the sift of time. He sees them as always repeating the same mistakes, going over and over again the same states of mind, giving time to each other, but just repeating the same things all over again.

The son (or daughter), looking at their parents miserable (to him) life realizes: time cannot be given. You cannot ask for time. No one can. You are waiting for your life to happen, but time is going on anyway and you are the one not being sifted in the sift of time. You are stopped, in the inner walls of your house and life, you can't move on, and everything else is around you, happening, evolving, etc.

So, the child realizes, time is not given, time is not taken, it is just passing along, sifting from the ones who want to change with it, who go along, and those who got caught in the past. This child then breaks away from what he/she sees as their parents circular (or even vicious) relation, and gets out.

The final words, disconnected, is like the child getting away, understanding his parent's life, and, because he understands it so well, at the very core, he can let it go. He has lived it, he has been through it, done that, so he can move on.

Of course, he really does not understand what is going on. Spouse relations may seem very dull and dry from the outside but, most of the time, they are full of light and freedom and adventure in the inside.

Another thing I would like to add is that there is a slight ambiguity in the song. It is clear that the explicit meaning is of an alcoholic wife, but there are also some hidden suggestions or hints at a sexually abusing husband:

"in the car he would lean her head gently against the side door window"

may be a subtle reference to sex in the back seat, and the following line

"And in the bathroom he would hold her hair back and hope"

Seems so close to "hold her hair back and forth"

I'm not saying the Regina though about this, but, you know, it's really easy to imagine this, and when you do the lyrics is complemented: you understand *why* the wife get's drunk all the time. She is not loved, she is simply used. The husband saying "Oh, oh it's okay" would now also have a double interpretation: he seems to tolerate her, or even to apparently support her in her role, but not really to *be" with her, to love her to her most inner core, to see her as the most beautiful thing ever (and without this "love" is just an empty shell).

This actually opens an interesting perspective on the song's meaning. What does "love" means? What is the difference between making love and using the person for sexual gratification?

I think what "true" love provides is what Kant said: we should treat others as ends in themselves. That means, not as a means to an end, but as an end in himself or herself. When we put the other above everything else and treat him/her as an end in himself/herself we are loving them.

In this perspective we are all turned into instruments (not loved) when we put success, economical development, technology, gadgets, etc, above what we want and who we are. Instead of being an end, we become just a means to get something (money, glory, friends, food, etc). We disrespect our inner being to get something outside of us. So the "they build building so tall these days" could also refer to the mesmerizing beauty of today's technology and scientific achievements. Some of us are so mesmerized by this beauty, that we follow, hypnotized as if we had no free will, the trends and fashions and best paying jobs. We become slaves to the system. And, because we become instruments to get the best place in it, we start begging for time, asking for time, time to be ourselves...

In this sense this song would apply to all of us. We are all asking for time, giving ourselves more time: perhaps tomorrow I'll do what I like, perhaps tomorrow I'll follow my dreams, perhaps tomorrow I'll break free from all this non-sense that interests me no more... perhaps... more time, more time...

But time is not given, time is not taken,

Time just sifts through its sift

And either you're with it, flowing with it, or you sit in its sift.

In a breaking moment.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Hell - a place where puppets are trying to find other puppets to play in their puppetry, all this and more on the inside of Paradise...

Whenever I open my eyes I see a beautiful world outside. Perhaps is just the place where I live, it has a wonderful view of the Cosmos. A few centuries ago and Galaxies would be unimaginable for the western mind. Now when I think of my body I know there's trillions of cells and stuff in it, all vibrating, living, meticulously articulated to create a moving body. Stars and mitochondria, feces, molecules, rivers, fur, eyes, brains, satellites, stars and black holes, this is certainly a very vast world where the homo sapiens has but a little role, almost invisible in the large spacio-temporal scale of the universe.

But sometimes I need to sleep. I need to close my eyes and just relax. Just absorb, pausing from all the travel into the beautifulness all around. There are two ways to stop: the first is the easy one, just enjoy being, stop, absorb, close your eyes, just be, let ecstasy flow in... enjoy ... stop ...

This is the first method, the second method usually happens to me when I'm feeling guilty, with all these things to do, and time, such a master, leaving us so little time to do them... and so I go on, with no inspiration, no nothing, just going on, insisting, banging my head against the wall... (kind of The Shining kind of thing). And then light slowly becomes this piercing hurting thing... I can stand it no more, beauty becomes hurtful, like a grin face despising your suffering... and so I look for some place that looks devilish... the problem with my finding such a place is that I already digested and integrated must evils of the world. Snakes and spiders just keep natures equilibrium, they allow for change and novelty, life continues. The same with lions and deers, death is just a door to life. Feces of a cow are certainly than gold, at the cosmological scale, so we should be proud of them. Disease is also a door into the new, a price we pay for such wonderfully crafted bodies, with billions of billions of pieces. From intruders to ADN failure, everything can happen... so, in such a marvelous world, where can I hide from the beauty and the mystery?

The answer is simple: in the place inhabited by those who love hate. Why? Because, apart from the things that are imposed on us, we are close to what we know and love, we might know something but if we disdain it, it does not stay in our mind, heart, etc. So the less we love the smaller the universe that is present to us in our heart. If we love hate then all that remains is us, the ego, the hating I, a machine of destruction. Everything else is reduced to shambles. A world like that is what is usually called a demon world, a world empty of everything but destruction, where only ugliness exists and feeds the spirit. It reminds me of the one dimension world described by Abbott in his Flatland, a vision so small that only the I remains, alone, separated from everything else. (The Lord of the Rings also has some accurate descriptions of this demon world.)

So when I experience this world where people love hate I finally have my eyes closed, a pause from all the beautifulness that surrounds us, instead I became entertained by thoughts of terror and destruction and "how can there be people like this, who actually like to think about this". But hey! I'm thinking about it, so... Happily for lovers of freedom there are such societies as ours in which laws forbid acts of destruction, slavery, torture (even towards prisoners of war) and other such acts that were frequent and sometimes the hallmark of many ancient civilizations. Mankind, although it represents itself as the culmination of rationality, was many if not most of the times, guided by despise, hatred and the gut feeling of feeling superior. There's a music by Regina Spektor which highlights a bit of this want of destruction: I've commented it on SongMeanings, so here it goes (music and commentary)

Regina Spektor - Belt

I know I say I'll go away
but then I don't, I come right back
and walk right smack into your lips and turn all black and blue
and though I've seen the light so many times before
I've also figured out the light is just a switch
that I can turn on, I can turn off
please, oh please
when it's off, you cannot see, you cannot hear
even in your ear, saying

yo girl, don't make me take off my belt
don't make me take off my belt and smack you upside the head
yo girl, don't make me take off my belt
don't make me take off my belt and smack you right side up

upside down a frown becomes a smile
and so he thinks I take it with a smile
double upside down a frown remains a frown
too bad he never checks the double upside down
when I'm doubled up on the floor and I see a double him
giving me a double wham bam

yo girl, don't make me take off my belt
don't make me take off my belt and smack you upside the head
yo girl, don't make me take off my belt
don't make me take off my belt(x2)

chicken soup, mashed potatoes, gravy, orange juice, milk shakes, pudding,
oatmeal, soft served ice cream
ain't it good that there's soft food cause I couldn't eat very much else right now
they ask me how well, haha, I bumped into a door
yeah, haha, I fell down some stairs
oh, I'm such a clutz
I say that very same thing to myself all the time
I say yo girl, can't you watch where you are?
you don't watch where the hell you're going, you're going to get yourself killed
you know, hey girl, can't you watch where you are?
you're going to get yourself killed(x2)
you're going to get yourself

I know I say I'll go away
but then I don't, I come right back
and walk right smack into your lips and turn all black and blue
and though I've seen the light so many times before
I've also figured out the light is just a switch
that I can turn on, I can turn off
please, oh please
when it's off, you cannot see shit, you cannot hear shit
even in your ear, saying
yo girl, don't make me take off my belt
don't make me take off my belt and smack you upside the head
yo girl, don't make me take off my belt
don't make me take off my belt(x2)

[comment] Upside down: sometimes we're happy someone is suffering, in the distance that separate us from her we appear in a better light. Poorer countries, dictatorial regimes, poor people on the street, prisoners in jails, mandmen in madhouses, all the lost and injured, the ones who got lost from civilization, all these people help us feel more comfortable, happier, in our lifestyle. In a world where everyone would be better off than we are, we would feel miserable, the worst of the world. But a King in the XVII century might not have plumbing, computers, vaccines, running water, tv... but a King is always a King because everyone else is worse.

Upside down, yes, I'm the king and you're the creepy who comes back for more. I'll be bigger by comparison, bigger the smaller you are. Look how gigantic.

"too bad he never checks the double upside down"

That's called compassion, a freak who wants to be big, but has compassion will want to be big by helping others instead of stepping on them. His self-regard will grow by identification instead of comparison.

"I say yo girl, can't you watch where you are?"

Wow! can't you watch where you are?

Where's the switch for the light?

You know? I feel a bit like this girl, I don't really know where I am, I mean, I know it's inside a galaxy, somewhere, but where's the galaxy any way, where are time and space tuck away? In some God's imagination? I don't really know, but I can't say I don't care.

Freaky? Perhaps it is better not even to think about, perhaps darkness is better, switching off the light, and it will then seem so simple, so "out of mystery", no questions asked...

just those lips, smacking against mine, once again and again... until they turn blue, until I really can't see anything really...

and all is so simple,

simple, simple, simple...

I can't see shit really...
This desire for nothingness, is it so bad? As I said lovers of freedom are lucky to live in an open society where cruelty is, at least officially and regarding humans, seen as something to be banned. But is the desire to punish and hurt really bad in itself or just the consequences of such a desire? Imagine for the argument's sake, that in a future society a new attempt to cure these horrid individuals would be to put them in a simulator, directly connected to their brains, in which they would feel, live and act in a simulated world, apparently so real that no difference could be noticed. In that world simulated victims - that could range from whole enslaved civilizations, prisoners of a single dictator, to a single slave - would be offered to the tortured minds of the sadists. Now, these persons would not in fact be hurting any one beyond themselves. All the tortures, humiliations, all the suffering would have only one spectator: themselves. All the rest was just bits and bytes running impassible on computer hardware. No one had to know what happened there, except the sadist.

Now, we can imagine that he didn't even know that he was in a simulation. We might also imagine that the machine would only let him out of the simulation after he was put to the test and unknowingly revealed himself by his actions to be completely cured of his sick desires and afflictions. It could take many years, even decades, but could a person get completely tired of torturing and possessing by having too much of it, like one gets tired of chocolate by eating too much of it? Or does one get more and more addicted, while the chances for "cure" get further and further away?

Regarding chemical drugs we find mostly, but not always, that addiction increases with consumption. But with other addictive behaviors like sex, sports, dancing, doing the yo-yo and stuff, it seems more likely that the more we fully live the experience, the more it becomes just another part of our life. Impossible loves may remain obsessions for a life-time, but marriage soon wears out all obsessions replacing them with the crude reality that the daily life brings. (Is your lover really a good lover, are you really a good lover? Day-to-day life will certainly tell.)

Since sadomasochist acts are so extreme, and they have such a powerful influence even at the biochemical level, it is hard to say if a person could be freed of such obsessions by immersing himself / herself in this experience, in this simulated world of torture where he/she could play all the desired roles. (The machine would have to maintain some consistency to give "reality" to the simulation. So changing roles could be difficult sometimes for the sake of consistency.) In any case we might imagine the simulator to be applied to sadists anyway, for instance as a "last chance" treatment, or to respect a choice of the sadist that might enjoy the prospect of living the rest of his days in his own "paradise"; or, because we, normal people, should rightly call such a place "hell", perhaps we would imagine it as the ultimate punishment: giving the sadist the opportunity to live the rest of his days thinking about horror, death and suffering, his mind filled with the screams he himself inflicted on his seemingly real victims. In other words, he would be thinking he was getting a reward, but, in our eyes, it would be an awful punishment, to live in such a world of screams and pain, even if we were to be the grandest master of it.

So, either as a punishment, a treatment, or just to get rid of that nasty person for a few years at least, we might concede them the simulator and the simulated life, for as long as they want it, for as long as it takes for them to be cured, to be "over it".

Now all this was meant to ask a question, when these people were inside the simulator, doing these incredible horrible things, were they really being mean and cruel, or just... you know..., experimenting, exploring their inner worlds, doing some sort of catharsis?

My asking this has to do with the evilness of the act itself: obviously any act that invades the freedom of another being is wrong, at least from the perspective of the being that is being invaded (a free horse running in the wild, how can he forgive his master, unless he is utterly transformed?). We usually don't care much about primates, mammals, birds and all the others we enslave, use for medical experiments, sell, buy and butcher as if they were made of plastic. These certainly horrific acts for the creatures that suffer them, are seen by us as natural, but we have realized that it is wrong to do them if the animal we do it to is a homo sapiens, even if it isn't even born yet, or, due to his age, has lost practically all his rationality. I might be 90 years old, and dumber than a pig, a dog, a horse, but I have rights to medication, sleep, food, rest: they have the right to be our property, if I own a pig no one can kill it, except me.

So our acts that limit the freedom of other beings and inflict them pain, either we are conscious or not of their evilness, are in fact evil, at least in the eyes of the beings that we kill, emprision in stables and chicken farms, modify through hormones, artificial light, etc. But if we did those things, either to animals or to human beings, in a simulated world, would it be bad in a moral sense?

Let me give you a particular example (the following is a text attributed to an author reportedly named Towaco Takamura and a larger sample of his text can easily be found in a google search)
««‘You … Sir … Sir … expects me to serve … how you … how my Master … likes it…’ She offered with far too much respect for her to really mean it.

‘That was before, darling,’ I answered. ‘Now and first of all I want obedience. You will do everything I say. What it is, isn’t important. I will accept no excuses from the most blind and instant obedience. Rule number two is respect. My superiority to you as a person is evident and so you will only speak to me when I ask you and when I invite you to reply, and you will do it in the third person and always using my correct title: Sir. The rest of the time you will bark like the bitch you are. One bark means yes and two means no. You need no more to serve me. The third commandment is loyalty: you will never try to escape or hurt me or betray the confidence I may have shown in you. And last, but certainly not least, the fourth commandment is about surrender. You will do all I ask and you will enjoy it, you will do it pleasingly, complacently. I will not accept half measures, most of all when your master decides to cum, do you understand?’
Marianne barked. I wasn’t expecting it and I must admit that I liked it. I told you before that I used to call her ‘clever clogs’.

‘Let’s try it.’

I showed her the needle again.

‘Do you know what this is?’


I gave her a loud slap.

‘Don’t you know how to talk like a person, stupid?’

She swallowed…

‘Yes … Sir…’ She replied her cheeks aflame.

‘That’s better. And now I’m going to repeat the question … Do you know what this is?’

‘A nail, Sir.’

It surprised me that she called it a nail, in fact it was big and very thick.

‘You’re a clever little puppy…’ I congratulated her, ‘and as a prize you’ll ask your master to stick in your nipple. Don’t you think that’s great? It will be irrefutable proof of your obedience … Pain through discipline. Control of your own emotions…’

Marianne started to cry disconsolately. I love it when she cries, it’s … How can I put it? So womanly … So feminine…»»
Now this text is certainly the horrid creation of a mind dominated by pain, desiring slavery, blind to the inner beauty and sacredness of what is before him. Unprepared to deal with freedom and enormous beauty he chooses to destroy it and chain its vehicle, depriving it of expression. It is even more obvious that a person, who would actually do something even remotely similat to this, can have no place in a free and open society, for the basic tenet of such a society is that our freedom ends when another's freedom begins. We cannot be tolerant with intolerance, we cannot be kind to those who are cruel. Free and open societies can only be composed of people are willing to respect other people's freedom. Those who disrespect the basic freedoms cannot be tolerated. This is basically how our society works, by putting away, in prisons, etc, those who do not respect ways of life, properties, the space that everyone has to have to live their life in freedom. Because they don't respect that space then the offender's space is restricted in a way as not to interfere with anyone else.

The above text goes a long way in disrespecting everything we hold sacred in our civilization, body integrity, freedom of movements, individual choice, freedom of thought, etc. It is also the reversal of everything we hold in high esteem, like compassion, understanding, altruism, etc. It does this to describe what it would be like to achieve complete control and acceptance in another. Now, this is just a story, a person that writes these stories might not do a single harmful act, even in a simulator, even if he knew it was a simulator. Playing with the idea of making a robbery, going to the moon or sailing around the world does not mean one would search for these things, even in a simulated world. When one thinks about a robbery or writes a story about it, one might be comfortably tucked in a cozy sofa, listening to beautiful music, in the quietness and protective environment of his own home. He can stop whenever he wants, he can explore just a part of the story, just an aspect. He has total control on what he imagines. But in a simulator things could be quite different, other aspects would constantly show up, people, circumstances, events, not planned, fortuitous. Would this enhance our interest or cast it away? Well, that depends on our interest. If we just want to experience the feeling of having lots of money on our hands, all the rest of the context might be a distraction, but if we wanted to know what it is like to steal a bank, then we might even search for all the extras that the simulator may bring.

Another consideration is, as I said above, that most of us actually respect other people, even if we would like to have their money we will not take it away, and not just because of the consequences but because we respect the person who has it, her path and beauty.

So, to really understand the role of "Hell" (the desire of suffering - of others or oneself, does not matter) we need to distinguish it from other more general considerations that are at the base of our social life. It is not simply a question of disrespecting another's rights because we want something. This disrespect can happen for many reasons (money, status, etc). What characterizes Hell is that the one that experiences it desires for "slavery". He does not need to actually hurt anyone, he does not even need a simulator, or even to write a book, or short story, or a poem... all he needs is to desire slavery, that is Hell.

So the talk about simulators and books and all, was just to distinguish the immediate impulse that leads us to criminalize all sorts of actions that interfere with the freedom of persons in our free and open society (designed for humans only - kings and wannabe controllers of everything else). Because this kind of attitude applies to all sorts of acts, from money extortion, to stalking or political persecution. But to live in Hell is a very different kind of thing, and we should analyze it for what it is.

Notice that someone desiring slavery, either living in a simulated world, or in his imagination, or simply unconscious desires, is condemned to the worst of chastisements: to be eternally away from what he desires. There are many levels in which this is true: the most obvious is that he destroys the person he tries to conquer, the more he conquers the less the person exists, the less value his control over her will have. A truly controlled person is nothing more than a puppet, a toy, it is not a "one" it is merely a thing. Her allegiance has no value at all, it doesn't say anything about us. It does not show in the least love, admiration, or even true acceptance or even recognition. She his reduced to an object, a machine. Like a car or a sewing machine. It would obey anything and anyone, once it is properly trained. So, what attracts the sadist in the first place: the fact that she is free and can choose and feel and think, is what is destroyed when control is achieved.

In a deeper level, the sadist, while a sadist, has no control over himself. He is not free but overwhelmed by his horrid desires. His obsessions make him a puppet, and he is like a puppet trying to transform others into puppets too. His gaining control over persons, sexual slaves, or entire populations (because dictators and those who have lust for power are these kinds of puppets too) will bring him nothing of value. He remains alone, fearful, a puppet in a puppet world, where all that is beautiful is removed from view.

By wanting to "control" the "other" he looses the chance of "being the other", he is condemned to live away from what he desires. Desiring slavery means also not seeing the sacredness of freedom in general. His own freedom succumbs to his impossible desires, that is truly hell.

We could expose many other levels, that express all kinds of insatisfactions at the emotional, sexual and personality level, and others. But the fact is, we have no control over the world, we don't even know what the world is (about). So this search for power and control is, at all levels, destined to failure.

If we want the world, we have to live the mystery, communicate with the mystery, try and be closer to existence in every way we can... But the desire to control is the desire of a puppet trying to live in a puppet world.

However, in the case of a puppet, this desire is also the desire for existence itself. Since a puppet cannot recognize himself simply by being free, (he is not his own) he cannot recognize himself, feel himself, unless he sees his mark on the world, on another. Seeing his actions reflected not only physically but emotionally, in the senses, in the mind, etc, only now does the puppet knows he is there, he exists, at least to the person with which he can interfere. It would be a cruel joke indeed if such a simulator came to exist and was used for the purposes we described above, for, in that case, the sadist would live all those things all to himself. No one would see him, or recognize him, no one would give him the reality he needs. In a simulated world the puppet would more easily see that no one can give him reality except himself.

How to save a puppet? Talk to the hand!


In sum: By trying to control we cast away our freedom, the only true bridge between us and infinity... The bridge that gives us ecstasy connects us all... in visions of sacredness, infinite beauty, and freedom.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

1408 (film) - the intention is certainly real

This movie has an implausible story, however it is somewhat familiar. Here we have a man with all the comforts of daily life, as if living for comfort, but somewhere buried in his mind is a small room where all the doubts, fears, anguishes, traumas, are well hidden away. He searches for haunted houses, ghosts, for they are not only the door to hell but also a signal of life after death. After all, he lost his daughter.

Well, all his searching for the supernatural goes awry, but suddenly he gets into this room, where repressed memories come alive. At first he does not want to hear them, but slowly he cames to face them, and he ends up holding his child in his arms, giving her the last hug he could not give in the past.

To me this resonates with the contrast between normal, day-to-day life, all tidy and right, with what we know: nothing! We don't even know if we're living a dream, if it is a shared dream or a lonely one, if we are a the dream in a world of rocks and stones, if time and space are real or just the structures of our perception... we don't know why we came, how we came, what it is this "I", what will follow, if anything, after death... and, in the middle of all this uncertainty, of all this endless thick mystery, we live our happy lives, paying for mp3 players and recorders, listening to tv shows, going to work, living our whole lives in ignorance as if we knew, or, more to the point, as if we don't care, as if it doesn't matter.

Well, it does matter, because, without knowing who we are, we don't know how important things outside of us really will become. It is this kind of mind state that the movie suggests, from a certain point onward we don't know what is real... but the thing is: it just doesn't matter! Because, although everything else might be doubtful, of one think we may be sure: the intention is real. Perhaps I don't exist, perhaps the world does not exist, but my intention is certainly real.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

To Thomas Paine - The Age of Evolving

Is God to be feared and obeyed or a wondrous mystery to be searched for?

This book, The Age of Reason, is well worth reading, at least due to its comical nature! ^_^ It's amazing how someone can be so bold by just saying things that are so plain to see, his analyzes of the Bible are clear cut and amusing because they throw away all the non-sense that has been fed to us for thousands of years. It's like going to church and start laughing at the strange clothes and hats that the men in the front are wearing, or tasting a bit of a consecrated host and leaving the rest saying: «I prefer cookies!». It's so plain everyone can see, it is just a piece of bread, but our fears transform the whole thing, it makes it something supernatural, which means: something that should be feared and obeyed and not in the least understood, even less criticized and not at all doubted. Or something baaaaad will happen!! ^_^

Thomas starts by looking at religious rituals and dogmas without the fear usually associated with them, obviously you get a somewhat comical image. It might certainly be offensive to people who identify with these dogmas and rituals, since they are thread to pieces, nothing survives except the utter ridicule of the whole thing. So, it is rather tragical for people who think they are Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, etc.

When you take all this trash from view you start seeing the real god. Now Thomas' main idea can appear: you can see God's existence and an infinitesimal part of his characteristics just by looking at the world, at creation, and trying to understand it. Nature is God's message, science is the true theology while the Bible and other "sacred" texts are just a reflection of man's fears and their consequent superstitions and fantasies. So true theology is indeed the fearless search for truth, every branch of science, for instance astronomy (today we'd say astrophysics) gives us a glimpse or an insight into the true nature of God, while the study of the Bible can only give us knowledge of man's vision of God, of the idea that man in some stage of his development made of God. From superstitions we can only learn either to be fearful or the nature of the people who have created them. By studying nature directly we can see much more directly the divine nature of everything. It is as if Thomas was saying: we live inside a giant Bible, the word of God is in every thing everywhere, we can study it by studying the world!

THE WORD OF GOD IS THE CREATION WE BEHOLD and it is in this word, which no human invention can counterfeit or alter, that God speaketh universally to man.

It is only in the CREATION that all our ideas and conceptions of a word of God can unite. The Creation speaketh an universal language, independently of human speech or human language, multiplied and various as they may be. It is an ever–existing original, which every man can read. It cannot be forged; it cannot be counterfeited; it cannot be lost; it cannot be altered; it cannot be suppressed. It does not depend upon the will of man whether it shall be published or not; it publishes itself from one end of the earth to the other. It preaches to all nations and to all worlds; and this word of God reveals to man all that is necessary for man to know of God.

Do we want to contemplate his power? We see it in the immensity of the Creation. Do we want to contemplate his wisdom? We see it in the unchangeable order by which the incomprehensible whole is governed! Do we want to contemplate his munificence? We see it in the abundance with which he fills the earth. Do we want to contemplate his mercy? We see it in his not withholding that abundance even from the unthankful. In fine, do we want to know what God is? Search not the book called the Scripture, which any human hand might make, but the Scripture called the Creation.

The only idea man can affix to the name of God is that of a first cause, the cause of all things. And incomprehensible and difficult as it is for a man to conceive what a first cause is, he arrives at the belief of it from the tenfold greater difficulty of disbelieving it. It is difficult beyond description to conceive that space can have no end; but it is more difficult to conceive an end. It is difficult beyond the power of man to conceive an eternal duration of what we call time; but it is more impossible to conceive a time when there shall be no time.

In like manner of reasoning, everything we behold carries in itself the internal evidence that it did not make itself.

I find this idea very appealing, it reminds me of Carl Sagan's wonder while contemplating the mystery of the Cosmos that surrounds us. Indeed... it is when we are before the mystery that true confidence is tested, do we feel fear and try to hide from what we do not know (and hence religion is born) or do we feel wonderment and try to explore it (and hence philosophy and/or science are born). In other words, we will either conceive God as a mystery which must be feared and obeyed, or we will conceive a God who is a mystery to be searched for in love and wonderment...

To me there is only one thing in which this book fails, and it fails tremendously, it fails to see that man, along with everything else, is part of creation, and therefore a part as beautiful and perfect as everything else. Religion, fear and superstitions, lies, the will to have power over others, all these things, are also part of creation, and they have their role too. So, every religion plays a role in the development of men. It cannot be vilified without vilifying part of nature. Religion serves many purposes, among which is the purpose of elevating man's eyes from man to the divine, this explains why the following sentence is so incomplete (my italics)
As to the Christian system of faith, it appears to me as a species of Atheism– a sort of religious denial of God. It professes to believe in a man rather than in God. ... It introduces between man and his Maker an opaque body, which it calls a Redeemer, ... . It has put the whole orbit of reason into shade.
Yes, to him and many others it does appear that way, but not to Saint Francis and millions of other people! I mean people are different and they relate to ideas around them in very different ways. When Thomas says, right in the beginning of his book that
I have always strenuously supported the Right of every Man to his own opinion, however different that opinion might be to mine.
Well if we want to communicate, tolerance if far from enough, we need to understand each other. And understand the Christian or Jew or the Buddhist is not to see him only as a blind, terrified creature, turned away from the splendor of Creation by feelings of guilt and shame and unworthiness and blinded by fantasies... it is also to tell the story of the aspiration, the evolution of that person from becoming less attached to money and all sorts of material possessions, of having more regards towards others, etc. If people were already capable of contemplating the Universe and feel marveled at the existence of a single drop of water, well then there would be no need for organized religions and all those fantasies, but the fact is, we are not ready, we need these steps, we need religions and Santa Claus, and Christ, and Buddha, and Brahman, and all sorts of beliefs just to go on a little more, just to step up the ladder a little bit.

You were being a little crazy there my friend, it is like running towards a football field in the middle of a championship and shouting to everyone: «this game is absolutely futile, who cares which team might won if we're not even playing in the field?» Eh eh!! ^_^ It just doesn't make any sense. If we are engaged in a thing, be it a game, a political party, a religion, let us be, let us grow, let us grow out of it when we're ripe for something else. We will know, we know when we get tired... judging people like this is, from a Cosmical point a view, like criticizing willow trees for being so sad and praising pine trees for being so majestic. It doesn't make sense. There are both immensely and incomparably beautiful! Each has its own beauty. The beauty of the confession, of self-mutilation, of praying for salvation, etc... all these things are beautiful, if you were in another planet, observing this planet and all our customs, you would see this Beauty my friend. But you are too attached to see it: like St. Paul you'd like for everyone to be like you, in this case, not chaste, but clear in the mind. Well, lions are beautiful, religious people are beautiful and we must understand their beauty.

The only thing that is really wrong is when people interfere with our way. We must maintain the "right distance". If someone tried to convince me to be in some way or another, well, that would be like entertaining a war... but in religious communities you just have to maintain an outward appearance, what you really think or desire is irrelevant to others as long as it doesn't interfere with their goals!

Another think that amazed me was your belief in one God! Now that is to me truly amazing! Knowing there is an infinitely complex Cosmos we are inspired to think that there must be something more than pure chance that brought it into being, but what gives us the authority, the basis for saying exactly what this "first (set of) cause(s)" looks like? How do we know that this something resembles a God and that it is only One? Well that beats me, I don't profess to know any such things. In the rest, I think I agree with you and I hope you don't mind (being dead and all won't make much of a difference) if I call you my friend!

In any case I 'd like to develop an idea that I like a lot, in the above quote you said that we only need to look at nature to see God's traditional attributes, allow me to repeat once again what uou said my friend:
Do we want to contemplate his power? We see it in the immensity of the Creation. Do we want to contemplate his wisdom? We see it in the unchangeable order by which the incomprehensible whole is governed! Do we want to contemplate his munificence? We see it in the abundance with which he fills the earth. Do we want to contemplate his mercy? We see it in his not withholding that abundance even from the unthankful.
This is all very beautiful but we must not forget that after you came Darwin and that changed our perception of the world a little bit. It doesn't affect much this passage, but when we look at another one we see that something must be revised, at least in the wording:

The Almighty Lecturer, by displaying the principles of science in the structure of the universe, has invited man to study and to imitation. It is as if He had said to the inhabitants of this globe, that we call ours, “I have made an earth for man to dwell upon, and I have rendered the starry heavens visible, to teach him science and the arts. He can now provide for his own comfort, AND LEARN FROM MY MUNIFICENCE TO ALL, TO BE KIND TO EACH OTHER.”

Of what use is it, unless it be to teach man something, that his eye is endowed with the power of beholding to an incomprehensible distance, an immensity of worlds revolving in the ocean of space? Or of what use is it that this immensity of worlds is visible to man? What has man to do with the Pleiades, with Orion, with Sirius, with the star he calls the North Star, with the moving orbs he has named Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Venus, and Mercury, if no uses are to follow from their being visible?
Now, my friend, it seems that you were not able to completely dispel the comical but tragical vision that the universe and what happens in it somehow revolve around men and its wishes. I find this idea as ridicule as the hats priests use in church or in the belief that Christ died for our sins (therefore denying free will, the people who fought for him, the people that condemn him, all had to do what they did!). When we look around and see the profusion of things that exist we easily understand that the pencil has its own story, that the cupboard has its own story, like me, like a star, like a planet. The Cosmos is also the encounter of these stories, each point of space time is an occasion for such a conversation. Nobody has to win, preferably we would all be transformed and enriched by one another. I can use my cupboard to create a certain aesthetic harmony in my house for instance. The different pieces of the cupboard were influenced by my history as I was by them.

Darwin has discovered this: that the world is huge, much, much bigger than it was ever imagined (except by the Hindus, as Carl Sagan as said: "The Hindu religion is the only one of the world's great faiths dedicated to the idea that the Cosmos itself undergoes an immense, indeed an infinite, number of deaths and rebirths. It is the only religion in which the time scales correspond, to those of modern scientific cosmology. Its cycles run from our ordinary day and night to a day and night of Brahma, 8.64 billion years long. Longer than the age of the Earth or the Sun and about half the time since the Big Bang. And there are much longer time scales still." Cosmos, chp.10). Moreover not only was the universe huge in time and space, human beings had almost never existed in it. In the long period of time in which our planet provided the stage for countless adventures and exciting events, man was not here, not even close. Lots of things were being determined, wars, births and deaths, fights, and all this was happening without man! More than that, our own appearance at the scene was not determined by no one of our species, and most likely not by any intelligent creature at all. We, human beings, are just a continuation of other species, we were born from human vaginas, but our ancestors were not. Some had primates as mothers and fathers and sons and daughters, and they were our ancestors. Some had even smaller mammals, and, in the end, we all come from the same primordial cosmic soup, we are all star dust". Well, this Darwin did not know, but he realized that we are not the product of some intelligent design, we were not designed at all, we are just the product of random change and the survival of the fittest. (A statistical principle valid over very long periods of time - over short periods it's mostly chance, for instance, the turtles that are eaten after leaving their eggs are probably not the less fit nor the surviving ones the more fit. Probably it has more to do with luck, but over the eons the more adapted have a statistical advantage. Every action has consequences.)

So, the fact that our eyes can see the stars have nothing to do with our having been "designed" to look at the stars and be so inspired by them. Probably most of the animals with eyes can see the stars and owls and most birds should see them much better than we can. The fact is, if having a good eyesight gives you a better chance of reproducing, then over millions of years, your species will have more numbers of elements with good sight. It is simple. So, where does this God, this designer ends up after Darwin?

Well, I must say I have no proof that God exists, nor do I have a concept of what that word means. Thomas gets the old argument of God as the first cause. Obviously we must ask: then what caused God? And if nothing did, then why not "save a step" (as Sagan said) and suppose that Existence simply existed since always. Nevertheless, the fact remains: the world around us, the Cosmos, has surprised us with its grandeur and complexity. It was certainly not made for man, but it was made for us, parts of Existence. Each of us, each part, can be grateful for Being. So we must reformulate the above sentence that Thomas puts in the mouth of God:

“I have made an earth for man to dwell upon, and I have rendered the starry heavens visible, to teach him science and the arts. He can now provide for his own comfort, AND LEARN FROM MY MUNIFICENCE TO ALL, TO BE KIND TO EACH OTHER.”

It should state: "You have a time and space to be creative, and I have rendered diversity, so that you might evolve through it. Each thing has eternity at its door, is surrounded by eternity, and to reach another part of it, all it needs is to try. Each thing can learn from my creation what beauty and ecstasy and infinite bliss is."

Obviously, this applies to photons and electrons and atoms, and dogs and cats, even stray ones, and elephants and swordfish. We are surrounded by a beautiful world, a gorgeous world, to reduce it to an instrument for men to use or administer or step on, is like reducing a beautiful princess to a whore. It might be interesting, but only for a while...

Hey friend, I hope you're in Heaven! (I am!) ;)

Wikileaks - Bin Laden and a Texas court

Wikileaks is indeed great: checked out two stories, one about a corrupt court in Texas, another containing a selection of interviews and declarations from Osama Bin Laden from 1994 to 2004. Very interesting.

The first is a clear-cut case of good versus bad: innocent people are convicted by criminals who occupy chief positions in the court and the police . Example: a person convicted of drug traffic has in fact never trafficked drugs while the policemen that indicted her on false evidence are in fact drug dealers. Well this is what is described in this apparently accurate book! Is it true? I'm not entirely sure, but, if it is, it is a clear case of good guys vs bad guys.

Now, what makes this so clear to us is a set of shared beliefs about what constitutes good and evil. Inflicting a punishment on someone for an action that he or her did not commit is, we all believe, something evil. And when someone gets away with something (such a dealing drugs) that is correctly prohibited, we also generally believe this to be wrong.

Now in the case of the jihad that Bin Laden and others proposed in 1996, we are looking at very different sets of assumptions which are not shared by the different cultures that have to share this region (Muslims, Jews, Christians, Scientists / Atheists). Not only about what to dress, but how to behave, values, who to obey, what to obey, and why to obey. When I read Bin Laden's words I can't stop feeling a great compassion towards him, I do understand his pain and the ways he has available to deal with it. Basically he is saying that the bads that have occurred to Muslims all over the world are due to the fact that they had been to permissive regarding their involvement with the sinfulness of rest of the world. "Infidels" should not have influence in "holy" lands. Well... you can't really reason with someone like that.

When I knew that Bin Laden's texts were on the net I thought, great, now I will see the other side, but seeing it made it very clear that there is really no way of communicating (communion) with someone like that. If I am an infidel and he is a saint, well, what can an infidel say to a saint? What can he possibly bring except disgrace, sin, shame, etc. Bin Laden's position is like an Iron Wall made of feelings of what is proper and useful and what should be neglected and dispised. All that are on the outside of the Muslim faith must be despised, all that are inside must try to remain pure.

Only in this context of "remaining pure" does it make sense to talk about the military, economic and political issues also at stake. Ironically, the recent military interventions by the US on the Middle East will indeed provide an excellent background where the ideas of these crazy radicals can flourish. I am not saying that the military, political and economical issues are not real. Governments in the Middle East are indeed corrupt, and there are many issues between the arabs and israelis, including the lands taken in the aftermath of the 1948 war. But this kind of problems also exists in Europe and many other parts of the world. What makes the situation almost impossible to solve here is the disregard for the other side. The hard line of both Jew and Muslim orthodoxy (along with most Western religions) consider themselves superior and, the Jews at least, entitled to reign over the other tribes of Israel. As long as this craziness from religious fanatics continue there will be no other choice but to let them all kill one another until only reasonable people are left. These, I think are the people that don't alienate themselves with images or notions of God that they themselves have created as a group. The God that we were able to create is, by far, very different from the God who would be able to create us.

Let me just reinforce the idea: I've read Chomsky and I understand that colonialism just changes it's appearance. But the question here is how we deal with the influences of other countries and cultures. If there is no communication, and instead just despise and disgust and the attempt to "remain pure"... well, what can you expect?

There are here two different problems, the first is that this region has resources that have high economical value to western societies. This leads to heavy interference in the region based not on a human interest (in the art or human qualities of a people for instance), but on exploitation of resources, which leaves indigenous people rightly mad. The second problem is that some of these Muslim guys do not want contact with the outside world. Even if there was no exploitation, it wouldn't matter. It's our own way of life, we are disbelievers and non-obedient. We praise difference, diversity, authenticity. We are certainly infidels.

Conversely guys like Bin Laden are quite happy in their frame of mind of "obedience to God and the scriptures". They are happy if they can spend most of their day praying to God and trying to clean themselves. They don't care about pornography, expensive clothes and lipstick; they don't want to know about science and galaxies and dinosaurs, they just want to live by the words of the prophet. We should just let them be... just let them be... Let them stay with their lives, they wont search for weapons of mass destruction, they'll just... well, persecute the infidels among them and the infidel inside them... they'll be quite happy that way.

But of course... we can't, because of oil... We are joining a 21st century society, which fuels its high technology with something that can be found in a civilization similar to ours more than four centuries ago. It just wont work... There are just two options, either an increase in military operations until one of the sides decisively wins, or some other form of energy is found that completely replaces oil turning it into something with no value at all.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


This is simply an amazing page and everyone should know about it:

(based in Sweden and has nothing to do with wikipedia, which, by the way, is becoming more and more controlled - just watch out the "overpopulation" article!!)

18 years working with computers

I've been working with PC's since 1990, around this time of the year. At the same time I also was introduced to the the Mac, at work I would play on them both: although MS-DOS was a nightmare difficult to get out of and the Mac did bring lots of playful features. The difference was the PC allowed you to see its interstices, the Mac seemed more like a sophisticated video player, you could use it but you could not understand it. Finally I had my own first PC in the Christmas of 1991, a gift from my parents, a shining 386SX AMD processor running at 25 MHz with a co-processor by Cyrix. It ran fine although the Cyrix co-processor was underused, only when a magazine called PC Format brought, in a shining diskette, the software "Persistence of Vision" (POV-raytracer), did the math co-processor shine in its performance, easily outrunning my girlfriend's 386 DX at 40 MHz. It would only take a day or so to render some transparent spheres! Although I created some experimental pov-ray files in which a single image took several weeks to render.

The decision to buy an AMD cpu had to do with price but it rapidly become a matter of principle. For years I would accompany the highs and lows of Cyrix and AMD always hoping that their technological prowess (especially by Cyrix) would finally translate into a significant market share; I was incredible disappointed when Cyrix was bought over and literally destroyed. For me Intel represented the "bad guys", the monopoly, the high price and low productivity, the closed market, sacrificing global evolution to get selfish profits, etc.

From 1997 onwards things have slowly changed and, today, I don't think there is much of a difference between most brands in the way they deal with costumers. The first impact on my understanding of AMD was when they blocked the clock of CPU's that were being artificially underclocked, that is, a good product was being changed into a lesser product just to create different categories and higher prices for "luxury" products. More recently I made the mistake of buying a laptop with an Intel Celeron cpu, to realize only later that this kind cpu has its energy saving parts burned of at the factory so other cpus can be sold more expensively. Intel, of course, as not only created chagrin for the customer but also another cross for the environment. But the style was the same for both companies. ATI also had been making a gigantic effort to make lesser products investing large sums of money to make sure no one could transform their artificial downgraded products into their full version originals (remember the radeon 9500 and its bios' hacks). This for me was a clear sign that AMD, Intel, ATI and many other companies had made profit their highest goal, rather than helping technological evolution, building a better world or simply respecting the people that buy their products. It was therefore without surprise that I've learned that several motherboard makers had use faulty capacitors to provide for planned obsolescence of their products, a practice that continues today. The perfect plan would be for a product to fail right after the guarantee expires. Perhaps we'll get there!

AMD and Intel are like Yahoo and MS Search engines. Their main concern is with profit. Yahoo did not want Google's engine when it was offered to them because their main interest is to get us to see their links, their paid links! Why would they make links accessible if they do not pay anything to them? It may seem absurd, to provide good information for free disregarding the ones who actually pay us, but that absurdity is what Google did! It put consumers first, and look how that craziness got them!

But, obviously there is no Google-like company on the CPU front. Another example is this: I have a relatively outdated desktop PC, which runs pretty well in my daily needs. It has 2 gb of ram, a +3000 cpu, a 2400 pro radeon graphics card and the motherboard can be highly overclocked. All well and dandy. But sometimes I would really like to have more cpu power, so, well I thought about upgrading the cpu. Well, surprise, surprise, since my current motherboard uses an old 939 socket, AMD is selling outdated cpus for more than 150 euros, something that would cost only about 60 euros for the most recent AM2 socket.

So I am given the following choice, either pay a huge amount for an outdated CPU or buy a whole new system (ram memory and motherboard are not compatible). Economically the rational choice would be to buy a new system and put everything in the trash bin, but that has a huge environmental cost. So I decided to just stay with the current system. I know people who are happy with their ten year old PC's running windows xp on a 198MB ram machine, reading and writing and surfing the web. If it works great why change it? If you just write and browse and listen to music and see movies, etc, then nothing else is needed. Perhaps you'd just like to get Vista? Wow, well we are actually thinking about getting rid of vista in the new laptop we bought, so that can't be it. XP is by far a better OS, as are many Linux distros. Vista is a huge drawback! So, although as a teenager I've wasted almost all of the money I gained working in the summer vacations by buying new motherboards, cpus, CD-ROMs, and ram memory, now, it seems to me that to be computer-wise is simply to maintain the current hardware (until the capacitors fail !!) and look for better software, which means, software that makes a better use of current resources. This means most of the time going for free software like, irfanview, etc.

For more processor demanding tasks, we'll just have to wait for software that uses the new GPGPUs out there (my lowly 2400 pro included). They are the new technological equivalent to the Cyrix mathematical co-processor I had 17 years ago. I've only used it in a short attempt to keep up with folding@home deadlines, but it was fun to see this 30 euro graphics card performing better that any top of the line cpu. That is certainly the future as most intensive applications can use mass parallel processing, from artificial intelligence to converting audio and video.

It's time to slow down on the hardware and investigate the software more and more... GPL here we come!

PS - have been thinking that the main reason for "the hardware is dead, long live the software" is probably due to the stagnation in software development. In the last five years mainstream software, with the exception of games, has known no real advances. Microsoft Office and Windows OS have reached their peak in 2003, all there has been since are small cosmetic differences, sometimes arguably for the worse. On the side of free software, by the contrary, there has been a steady evolution. But the new hardware (mainly GPGPUs) could have been used by Artificial Intelligence software. Somehow the investment did not went into this sphere, perhaps through games AI will grow. More and more we live to be entertained which might actually be a good sign, provided it's not alienating.