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Intersections

Intersections

Walking the narrow edges of fractal pathways requires an ethics of compassion, footsteps chosen or constructed with kindness and care.  Yet I am frustrated in all directions, still scenting the air for those elusive golden threads, the sweet spots of thriving that are at once so fragile and strong. I cannot help but believe in them, although I trip over them so seldom now.

I wonder how I can sometimes be so discouraged by contexts that show little tolerance of complexity and nuance; and yet so yearn to express provocative bluntness.

My intellectual hubby sent this comment to me today in a slightly different context, but it resonated with these deeper concerns of priority, discernment, focus, and compassion for myself as well as others. The uncharacteristic mushiness of it is tempered beautifully by the hint of menace at the end.

 Embrace the intersecting circles that connect in geometries of love and friendship; the vicious circles only connect random impulses with the ever possible insanity of thought. ~ John Johnston

Embrace the intersecting circles that connect in geometries of love and friendship; the vicious circles only connect random impulses with the ever possible insanity of thought. ~ John Johnston

Always returning again to Kierkegaard, trying to swim beyond resignation into courage.

Strange Dalí

Strange Dalí

Hubby is giving his amazing paper on Dalí and delirium RIGHT NOW.

All the other speakers are friends, especially Freddie.

It looks like a crazy lineup, but all of this is fascinating and real and stimulating and fun.

Dali Workshop

Me? I have to stay home. Sometimes I feel as though I need a wife. Do I even count as an intellectual anymore? Wahhhh

Of course, I did get to experience the Molly reunion. Maybe that’s more important.

Voices Through the Whirlwind

Voices Through the Whirlwind

Just when I had loads and loads to blog about, I got knocked down by oak pollen. I just knew those trees were hostile. There is too far too much to tell, so here’s just a very quick summary.

  • Equinox Weekend – Inconsolably depressed, and for no good, acceptable (rational) reason.

    Spiraling outside my will. Surrounded by a wall. Falling down a well.

    But then… the thunder quieted a little and – between the soundcracks of the whirlwind – I began to hear multiple voices in my spirit.

    … wake up… wake up… wake up, love… look who’s here to see you

    Friends. Light. Comfort….

    Take heart…. open your eyes… Arise!

    And then the gifts arrived, one after another…

  • 3/24 – Dinner at the fantastic Rathbun’s Restaurant with Joseph and Marie-Claude and David. Friend vibes overwhelming – like an angel rescue. Readers of this blog will already know how much I admire Joseph and his work. I hadn’t seen him since I was last in Paris, and if anything, we’re more simpático now than we were then. It was totally lovely to meet Marie-Claude at last, and so fun to sneak out for a smoke with David. Even our waiter was fun. Oh! The food! They had yummy Wellfleet clams, and the Lamb Scaloppini was to die for. Oh! The conversation. I was totally relaxed and free. I haven’t had so much fun in ages. Just what I needed – thank you, cosmos.
    Heidi, Joseph, David, Marie-Claude
    Heidi, Joseph, David, Marie-Claude

    John, Heidi and Joseph
    John, Heidi and Joseph
  • 3/26 – The big event – Joseph’s terra incOgnitO gallery opening at David’s beautiful Wm. Turner Gallery in Atlanta.

    Take a look at the art! I’m writing an essay on the artwork (stay tuned), but meanwhile listen to this interview. Since Joseph’s art was on the cover, they also had a copy of John’s book there. Very nice.

    J Trinity -Joseph, Jerry, John

    Friends turned up! Jerry was embroiled in conversations brilliant. Robert and Sloane (who appeared with a baby! how did they hide that little gem from us?!?!?) dropped in and on such as day as that there is much hugging. Geoff and Curzio got in some good conversations with Joseph and John, and I drank champagne and reveled in my happiness level. We went out for snackies afterwards and I got to meet David’s wife – a very cool woman who is – unfortunately – allergic to Facebook. Wah. I was able to speak at greater length with Marie-Claude, and hear all about their impressions of Atlanta. There were foot rubs! Perfect evening.

  • 3/27 – Jeff and Ann made a very brief swoop-in visit to Atlanta for an occasion, and we arranged to meet them with some of their friends at Manuel’s Tavern (prior to having dinner at Cafe di Sol). Manuel’s is the hangout of Atlanta liberals – yes, we exist! John and I showed up at the appointed hour, and it was hilarious because we wandered all around seeking but not finding. I had never actually met Jeff or Ann. I adore all of Jeff’s fiction (read him – he’s top notch – really, maybe the best living American writer) and we had all become friends via online interconnections, but I wasn’t completely confident about picking them out at a crowded bar/restaurant. John and I did several circuits around the place, garnering some curious looks, but didn’t see them anywhere. We saw a young woman standing outside, also looking around and waiting, but we didn’t think to ask her if she was looking for them, too. Finally, we walked down the street to see if they had decided just to go straight to Cafe di Sol – which turned out to be the old Cafe Diem where I spent far too much time as a graduate student. Nope.

    Finally, we went back to Manuel’s and ordered a drink at the bar. That was fortuitous, since we then became involved in conversation with two very charming men – one who lived in a part of France that we’ve wanted to visit (John cornered him for details), and another that I clicked with right away – he works at GA Tech and is originally from New York. We were soon trading stock phrases in northern accents and having a grand time. We all exchanged contact information…. Then, I had a sensation on the back of my skull, looked toward the door, and there they were, just walking in!

    And yes, the beautiful young woman – Desirina – a talented writer in her own right- had also been waiting. Along with were more creative cool friends Will and Sara – but I hardly even got to talk with them at all! Why? Why? Because the restaurant was too darned noisy, that’s why! The old Cafe Diem was always more subdued – it was easier to talk then.

    Sara, Desirina, Heidi, Ann, John, Jeff
    Sara, Desirina, Heidi, Ann, John, Jeff

    John and Jeff huddled – it sounded like it was probably a fun conversation, but I only got little bits of it. I’m sorry for that, because I would have liked to talk more with Jeff, but I can’t complain because I had a fabulous time talking with Ann. She brought us issues of the magazine she edits – Weird Tales. Yes, that’s right – THE Weird Tales. Why I don’t already have a subscription to that, I have no idea (that’s been rectified). The magazine is on the ballot for a Hugo this year. Even against the steep competition, I think they’re going to take it. Ann is an amazing woman – I love her, and she is henceforth considered to be my sister, with all associated benefits.

    Ann with Digital Kitty
    Ann with Digital Kitty

    Click! Click-click – CLICK! Thank you, benevolent deities, inc.

  • 3/28 – Ok, now I’m officially over-socialled and crashing fast, but there’s more! Dear friends Mark and Marty threw a rock-climbing birthday party for their son – this was in addition to the new puppy, lucky kid. John wasn’t feeling well, so I packed up Ben and off we went.

    This is the second year they’ve done this, and there’s a confluence between me, the rock-climbing place, and the presence of pounding rain. As I approach this building, it’s pelting rain. Once I enter the building, the rain dies down and stops. Silly, you say?

    Yes, but oh, it goes further! I accompanied Mark to go fetch the pizza and ice-cream cake. Again, as we approached the building – RAIN! Once inside… no rain. It made me feel a little like Tyrone Slothrop in Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow. Sometimes even magical paranoia can be fun. We had a low-key and enjoyable afternoon. I got exactly three photos before my cellphone died. Great expression, Marty!

    Marty
    Marty

    Oh, Mark: Linen which?

  • Well, then it hit. The pollen. Pollen! Pollen! More Pollen! It knocked me out for most of last week, and I’m not quite recovered even yet. But how could I let a shining week like that go by without comment?

    Thank you to my beautiful lovely smart creative wonderful friends of the spirit. You make me remember.

Buy John’s Book

Buy John’s Book

I have been seriously remiss in my intellectual (and wifely) support! I haven’t even urged you to buy, read, and comment on hubby’s book – The Allure of Machinic Life: Cybernetics, Artificial Life, and the New AI (Bradford Books, MIT Press)!

Preview The Allure of Machinic Life at Google Books.

allurofmachinic

I’m a little annoyed about the title, since I preferred “The Lure of Machinic Life” to “The Allure of Machinic Life.” However, the absolutely wonderful bit on me me me in the acknowledgments almost makes up for it. The book cover is extra-special, too, because it features a suggestive artwork by our friend Joseph Nechvatal.

John Johnston
John Johnston
The book is a philosophically-minded constructive analysis that answers Heidegger’s critique of technology in subtle and completely unexpected ways. It builds on the understandings of such thinkers as Lacan, Foucault, Deleuze, Baudrillard and Kittler, but it’s also a very original tour through areas of research that haven’t been connected or critiqued from this kind of perspective. It’s worth the read if only for the interpretive history of research on (and ideas about) artificial life.

I’m biased, but I’m also a pretty good critical reader – and this book is fantastic. I think it’s been mislabeled by the marketing people, so I’m afraid that it won’t be read – and that would really be a shame.

Review
“John Johnston is to be applauded for his engaging and eminently readable assessment of the new, interdisciplinary sciences aimed at designing and building complex, life-like, intelligent machines. Cybernetics, information theory, chaos theory, artificial life, autopoiesis, connectionism, embodied autonomous agents—it’s all here!”
—Mark Bedau, Professor of Philosophy and Humanities, Reed College, and Editor-in-Chief, Artificial Life

In The Allure of Machinic Life, John Johnston examines new forms of nascent life that emerge through technical interactions within human-constructed environments—”machinic life”—in the sciences of cybernetics, artificial life, and artificial intelligence. With the development of such research initiatives as the evolution of digital organisms, computer immune systems, artificial protocells, evolutionary robotics, and swarm systems, Johnston argues, machinic life has achieved a complexity and autonomy worthy of study in its own right.

Drawing on the publications of scientists as well as a range of work in contemporary philosophy and cultural theory, but always with the primary focus on the “objects at hand”—the machines, programs, and processes that constitute machinic life—Johnston shows how they come about, how they operate, and how they are already changing. This understanding is a necessary first step, he further argues, that must precede speculation about the meaning and cultural implications of these new forms of life.

Developing the concept of the “computational assemblage” (a machine and its associated discourse) as a framework to identify both resemblances and differences in form and function, Johnston offers a conceptual history of each of the three sciences. He considers the new theory of machines proposed by cybernetics from several perspectives, including Lacanian psychoanalysis and “machinic philosophy.” He examines the history of the new science of artificial life and its relation to theories of evolution, emergence, and complex adaptive systems (as illustrated by a series of experiments carried out on various software platforms). He describes the history of artificial intelligence as a series of unfolding conceptual conflicts—decodings and recodings—leading to a “new AI” that is strongly influenced by artificial life. Finally, in examining the role played by neuroscience in several contemporary research initiatives, he shows how further success in the building of intelligent machines will most likely result from progress in our understanding of how the human brain actually works.

Language is not only a virus (grin) but also an essential bit of the block of the discourse network that co-evolves with technological change and human action to give rise to the computational assemblage; or, machinic life is always already within you (and without you) but here are some of the details.

Now – go forth and buy many copies, and tell all thine friends (and thine enemies as well) to read and discuss.

Try these too!

Scanner Darkly, Reading, Hubby Blog, Pondlife

Scanner Darkly, Reading, Hubby Blog, Pondlife

We went to see “A Scanner Darkly” last night, since Ben had an unexpected sleepover with a neighborhood buddy.

A Scanner Darkly I liked the fascinating graphic effects and the chill, yet weirdly comical, mood. I couldn’t have guessed where it was going, and I won’t spoil it for you – I’ll just say that I haven’t yet seen the synopsis that accurately described the movie. I love Philip K. Dick.

As usual, Keanu Reeves was the weak point of the film. I wish they would stop casting him in otherwise compelling movies. He just plays the same vapid creature in every movie. Winona Ryder was good, Woody Harrelson and Rory Cochrane were great, and (surprisingly) Morton Robert Downey Jr. was outstanding. They might have done more with the theme of right brain/left brain competition, and there were a few things that didn’t add up, such as the transformation of the Ryder character into another woman – a hallucination? but also reality? From what I remember of Philip K. Dick novels, it’s a bit unlikely for there to be a scene in which the Ryder character expresses remorse. The dark-haired woman is a kind of recurring character. The ending also seemed wrong, or at least the information it conveyed shouldn’t have been quite at the end. This is one novel of his that I haven’t read, though, so I could be mistaken. A film is always different from the book, but it’s interesting to notice the things they feel obliged to change. Now I have to read the book.

The movie is worth seeing, but don’t bring the kids. I put it in my mental file next to Naked Lunch, Requiem for a Dream, and Trainspotting.

Naked Lunch - Criterion Collection Requiem for a Dream (Director's Cut) Trainspotting - Director's Cut (Collector's Edition)

Finished Reading:

Looking for Jake: Stories China Miéville, Looking for Jake: Stories – Stellar, top-notch, one of the best visionary writers I’ve seen since Borges. I wonder what it would take for China Miéville and Jeff Vandermeer to collaborate on some project or other. They must have run into each other by now.

Danse Macabre (Anita Blake Vampire Hunter) Laurell K. Hamilton, Danse Macabre (Anita Blake Vampire Hunter) – I was disappointed. I’ve read everything of hers now, and this is the weakest book she’s published. There is nothing driving the book. She’s lost the plot. As a consequence, even the sexy scenes have lost their punch. What’s going on? This is inferior to the rest of the series – it needed a rethink. I prefer the fae books to the vampire books anyway, but I feel cheated. I bought the hardback, and it was still missing a spine.

Still Reading:

Robert Baer, Blow the House Down

Po Bronson, The Nudist on the Late Shift and Other True Tales of Silicon Valley

In other news:

I set up the Machinic Life blog for my hubby John. The options are limited when you use the free blog from WordPress, but it will be enough to get him started. I added his curriculum vitae information as pages, although they need updating, and I’ll make a new header image in the next few days.

The little pond has finally formed an actual ecosystem. The fish are happy, a frog has adopted us, and I even saw a little brown scorpion scuttle across the rocks yesterday. There are arrowhead plants, and grasses, and a fountain of yellow irises past their bloom, and a lotus – and some kind of green plant that I threw in the water for the fish to nibble on has reproduced and sprouted tiny white flowers above the water. Unfortunately, the rest of the yard isn’t doing so well. I think I have to resign myself to the loss of the impatiens unless it starts raining a lot more. The hydrangeas didn’t produce flowers this year, and neither did my out-of-zone experimental lilacs. If I get ambitious this week, I’ll plant the rest of the monkeygrass (lariope) and go up and down the front hillside with my weed whacker. It’s difficult to force myself to do physical labor, however. The air itself seems stiflingly unclean in the hot humid lazy Atlanta summer. One of the hazards of living here is the mind-fog that hits at high summer. I don’t feel much like doing anything at all.