Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Have you seen the new Dodge D'art?

In accordance with this blog’s fundamental policy established for the objective and informative presentation of things, stuff, and odd bits, all commentary lacks thorough anything.

This is an art and language post sourced from the Guardian. If you’re not bored already, go find a mirror.

You don’t have to.

But read this bit:     

The Simon Lee Gallery in Mayfair is currently showing work by the veteran American artist Sherrie Levine. A dozen small pink skulls in glass cases face the door. A dozen small bronze mirrors, blandly framed but precisely arranged, wink from the walls. In the deep, quiet space of the London gallery, shut away from Mayfair's millionaire traffic jams, all is minimal, tasteful and oddly calming. 
Until you read the exhibition hand-out. "The artist brings the viewer face to face with their own preconceived hierarchy of cultural values and assumptions of artistic worth," it says. "Each mirror imaginatively propels its viewer forward into the seemingly infinite progression of possible reproductions that the artist's practice engenders, whilst simultaneously pulling them backwards in a quest for the 'original' source or referent that underlines Levine's oeuvre."
--Andy Beckett, The Guardian

It goes on to talk about the legitimization of International Art English (IAE), which is not unlike modern English, in the sense that you can read it sometimes. Otherwise it is largely impenetrable jargon. It’s spoken by the elite and if you ever want to break into the scene, be prepared to gush it yourself.

Although I relish in visiting museums and galleries, I rarely talk much, even if I’m going along with someone. What’s that bit about better to remain quiet and thought a fool? If you’re anywhere between 16 and 60, and non-historitative verbal critique is only as good as it’s convolution. I just don’t feel like making the effort. I’m getting married in April… so it’s getting to the point where I don’t care to wear clean clothes unless I’m with the rasion d’etre, let alone impress young birds from the Cleveland Institute of Art.

But the article touches on IAE’s influence as a language… as a medium for thought, for artists. So now, after complicating the language of art, the artists own motivations to push the limit of complication follows. In this age of blah, blah, blah, overwhelming sensory inputs, blah, blah, the speed of information, modernization, it’s just utterly exhausting that there must be so much more added complexity to something as profoundly simple as art: something that should speaks for itself.

Some bullshit painting my roommate did.
Figure 1. The transversal of the natural real and the perceived normality of the soul in the void, as the rapturous transmigration of the physical entity overcomes the maw of stereotyped rebirth imagery. Image most likely subject to copyright.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013


Okay, here's the deal.

I firmly believe that traditions, while interesting and sometimes useful for social cohesion or whatever, should not be followed or respected unless they show an observable benefit that cannot be achieved more efficiently or less harmfully (if harm also results) by some other means.  I have a mug from that states my case pretty well.  It has a picture of the Running of the Bulls on it, and says "Tradition, just because you've always done it that way doesn't mean it's not incredibly stupid."

See? That.

Notice, it doesn't say that all traditions are stupid, it just says that the fact that something is a tradition has nothing to do with its utility, practicality, etc.  Many traditions are, in fact, incredibly stupid. However, I do not take issue with their existence, only with people who are incapable of re-evaluating their views on tradition in light of an obvious case in which they are asked to make a decision between what is not stupid and what is traditional.  

Case in point, the story of Lazaro Dinh:

Personally, I don't think that I would change my name.  In fact, I would like my hypothetical future wife to take my name.  However, I don't consider it an ethical problem, and I wouldn't give up a relationship because my hypothetical fiance wanted to keep her name.  Though my last name is sweet, so I'm pretty sure no one would object to having it.  

I respect this man's reason for giving up his last name.  That is a very reasonable decision to make in light of his circumstances, so why the hell should there be any trouble?  Well, what we see is a beautifully monstrous instance of adherence to tradition falling on the wrong side of an ethical (and legal!) question.  Despite Florida having no laws which prevent this man from changing his name due to marriage, and despite having no problem initially obtaining  licenses etc.,"Following a DMV hearing, Dinh was issued a Final Order on January 14 confirming that his license had been properly suspended for fraud." And had been told "that only works for women".

A pretty selfless and harmless act by Mr. Dinh is resulting in him being prosecuted for fraud because some assholes can't get over the tradition of women taking their husband's last names.  Does that make sense to anyone? My only guess is that people have attached a moral significance to the act of a woman taking her husband's last name, so they view it as unacceptable (because it's immoral) for the opposite to occur.  As I see it, if you're willing to (il)legally prosecute someone because you prefer that they act a certain way even though when acting otherwise they are not hurting anyone, then YOU are the immoral one.

I get the sense that invoking "tradition" is like invoking the Nuremberg defense.  In the face of common human decency fly the twin flags of Preservation of Tradition for Tradition's Sake and "I was just following orders".  I should probably re-iterate that I don't think traditions are inherently bad, but damnit, people, listen to Confucious:  "Never let your sense of morals get in the way of doing what is right."

An introduction, an article, an exhortation.

Hello and welcome! My friend Will and I have a bad habit of finding interesting articles online and sending them to each other while at work.  This is generally accomplished over Facebook, but we figured that if anyone found us as witty and insightful as we find ourselves, it would be irresponsible to keep our thoughts to ourselves.  But fear not, gentle reader, for this blog is not mere stroking of egos, for we rely on you, yes you, to contribute and criticize, as we will be doing to each other.  So please join us on this journey as we delve into topics as mind-bending as quantum mechanics and philosophy, as esoteric as Trollmetal and Nightcore, and as deeply engrossing to the point of kind of ruining your life as The Elder Scrolls games...

I don't know what Will is going to do, but I'm hoping to have most of my posts take this form: I'll post an article, and give my thoughts on it.  Bam. In the words of a man pointing out Stephen King's killer clown, "That's it." I assume anyway, I've never read that book or seen the movie.

Anyway, here's my first article.

Since you probably skipped reading it, here's my very brief summary:
This article is called

Quantum biology: Do weird physics effects abound in nature?

For years now, we who follow science with an avid but almost entirely non-professional interest have been hearing about all the cool, new, and often theoretical claims coming out of the field of quantum mechanics.  As a  philosophy Teaching Assistant for UF for two years, it was a miracle if one or two students per semester didn't try to bring quantum mechanics into every argument we discussed.  In a way, I think they are validated in this pursuit, because quantum mechanics is supposed to describe some of the most basic workings of reality.  Even in intro philosophy classes we addressed the fundamentals of reality, so it's natural that they would attempt to use QM to derail or support certain philosophical arguments. Given their generally poor understanding of the arguments in the first place (and quantum mechanics) I often had to settle for furiously punching them in my head while gently explaining that they had no idea what they were talking about.

That being said, many of QM's predictions are being confirmed, which speaks volumes for any theory.  My students' suspicions about QM's applicability were not necessarily wrong (let's not get into reasons they may be wrong), just too misinformed or speculative about what they were attempting to apply.

In this article we have some pretty solid examples of those predictions being borne out.  Quantum superposition, the idea that a particle exists in all of the possible potential spatial positions and states, for example.  If that sounds awesome/weird/unlikely, go look it up! Fly fly!  I recommend looking up double-slit experiments as a decent starting point. This is discussed as a reason why photosynthesis is so efficient. Next, quantum entanglement, the idea that some particles, no matter how far apart, communicate their states instantaneously (so, you know, faster than the speed of a lot) to other particles. That's hella crazy! And not only is it hella crazy, but this article claims that it helps explain how birds navigate using magnetic fields.  Finally, it talks about quantum tunneling. Quantum tunneling has to do with the ability of electrons to disappear from one location and reappear in another without seeming to traverse the space in between.  My understanding is that this is usually between energy states, which I've always seen presented as physically distinct areas relative to an atom's nucleus, or between multiple atoms' "electron shell".  The point is that it seems to science that these electrons are giving the finger to space-time and just sort of being at point A, then  being at point B without ever being at one of the (possibly) infinite points in between.  It doesn't move, just pops between the points.  Anyway, according to the article this possibly plays a role in how the sense of smell works. Whoa.

If you're interested, read the article.  Here are my thoughts:

Frankly, if we grant that quantum mechanics is true (or at least that the experiments supporting the theory are accurate, even if the theory is wrong), then I say "Of course quantum mechanics influences biology!" Consider this, dear reader: Quantum mechanics attempts to describe and predict the actions of sub-atomic particles.  Sub-atomic particles (electrons, protons, neutrinos, blah blah blah) make up or interact with each individual atom of each element (hydrogen, helium, molybdenum, blah blah blah), the elements make up all composite physical structures (bodies, planets, viruses, blah blah blah), and the action of physical laws (quantum mechanical laws, thermodynamic laws, physical laws, blah blah blah) on physical structures results in systems that convert energy from one form to another (suns, metabolisms, power plants, blah blah blah).  Does nature consist of anything else (and I say nature specifically to exclude supernatural considerations)? Maybe, but if these laws are specifying the way that building blocks of matter interact with each other, then all of matter is affected by them.  So yeah, quantum mechanics affects biology.  That's not to say it isn't super cool and awesome to find out how it does this, or the mechanisms involved, I'm just saying it doesn't seem like a controversial claim.  It's as obvious as a Secret Service agent at a county fair.  I mean...right?

So I guess I didn't have much to say about it after vaguely describing it.  Next article, I'm going to attempt to analyze something less science-y. Ambiguity always makes it easier to bull-shit!