Friday, 9 March 2012

Failing to post

Again, it is too late to write a proper post. I will just mention that Nine Stories by J. D. Salinger, which I’ve recently seen as For Esmé – with Love and Squalor in bookshops, is an excellent book.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Consuming entertainment

Not enough time for a full post. I will just say that I've yet to find a writer to match Michael Crichton in his ability to construct such solidly entertaining novels. Eaters of the Dead and The Great Train Robbery are my favourites; currenty I'm reading Jurassic Park, the film of which I've of course seen ages ago.

I will also say that Mad Men has been pretty enjoyable these first two episodes.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Waiting for the bus, part 2

T minus two minutes—T minus one minute

As his gaze takes in his fellow citizens, it settles to linger on one particular figure. It is a young woman with black hair in an elaborate fur coat. His attention is caught by her beautiful features; he is even more struck by the expression on her face, which has an aspect of wistful contemplation. The effect is particularly strong due to its juxtaposition against the other people waiting at the bus stop – they are wearing the most worldly and downright urban facial expressions one has come to expect.

As a result, our hero is quite distracted and even energised for several seconds. He wonders whether she will take the same bus as him, and takes a look at his watch. One minute to go till the bus arrives. It’s recently been punctual.

Monday, 5 March 2012

Art forms

What decides which art forms have mass appeal and which do not? Probably, some work better than others. But it seems to me that there is quite a continuum of possible art forms, only some of which is explored, and with some sweet spots getting all the attention.

What forms of art are unexplored? (And I mean art in a broad sense that includes popular entertainment.) A few ideas:
  • Still life with actors. We have plays; we have statues; we have still lives. One could arrange dramatic scenes, full of dramatic lighting, velvet draperies, and actors in remarkable poses. Admittedly the actors would have to take frequent breaks, or would have to be replaced periodically. Why not?
  • The sense of smell is entirely neglected by art. Granted, it is perhaps the least glamorous of our five senses, but why is it entirely overlooked?
  • Abstract films. Of course there are “abstract” films, but I mean films that are as abstract as abstract paintings. Only animated. Perhaps with weird music. It might not be very pleasant, but why not, if we have so many abstract paintings?
  • Photo stories. Here we have an example of a deservedly niche art form which thrives only in teenage magazines. What is it about them that makes these so awful? Could they perhaps be less awful, if someone talented put their mind to it?
Hmmm. As I think about this, the vast space of possible art forms suddenly seems a lot more limited by what can speak to us humans.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Sweet nothingnesses

If physical vacuum is in fact a biotope teeming with quantum life, does that mean that the mathematical zero is also an illusion? Are we perhaps collectively insane in thinking it logically possible to define a quantity 0 with the property that a + 0 = a for all a?

Waiting for the bus, part 1

T minus four minutesT minus two minutes

The time: 19:12:03 on a balmy autumn night.
The place: a bus stop at a busy road in the city.

A man can be seen walking towards the bus stop. He fits in perfectly with the commuter crowd: grey flannel trousers, blue shirt, black leather jacket. Carrying a leather briefcase in one hand and a couple of plastic shopping bags in the other. His gait is determined, yet betrays a certain absent-mindedness. He seems deep in thought as he approaches the bus stop sign. As he arrives, he appears to be reading the timetable. This seems to be taking him a rather long time, probably because he is thinking about something else.

Luckily for the impatient and curious reader of these sentences, its narrator turns out to be of the omniscient kind, or at least to have direct insight into the man’s consciousness, to which we now duly turn our attention.

The man’s thoughts concern his work. He is willing his mind to connect a multitude of facts into a coherent whole. The facts relate to his current project, which has to do with analysing people’s typing habits on mobile phones in order to deduce statistical facts about their buying habits, particularly as relating to hair-care products and luxury package travel. When one puts it like that, the man knows, it sounds vaguely ridiculous; but the fact is that he is enjoying his work, particularly the purely intellectual challenges it provides of trying to remember and apply theorems from elementary probability theory to the data they have gathered, while keeping in mind the likely constraints in computing power which will limit what can be done, never forgetting to balance the accuracy of the predictions with the constraints of schedule. Also, the input data from the mobile phones has some suspicious anomalies which may have to be corrected, if indeed a reasonable way of correcting them automatically can be found; or maybe the intern can be put to use in working through them manually.

These are the matters that have been occupying his mind ever since he has left work twenty-four minutes ago, including on his detour to the supermarket to shop for some groceries.

One and a half minute after the man has entered the invisible frame that leads into the cosy confines of our story, the man now realises that he has arrived at an impasse in his thoughts which can only be resolved by referring to some documents, which he resolves to do tomorrow morning. Having eased his iron grip on his mind, he now relaxes, lets out a small sigh, and starts to look around himself. The people around him are a mix of white and Indian-looking businessmen in suits, and youngsters of varying ethnicities and attire. His glance sweeps across each of them, taking in clothes, stance, features and expression – passing a quick and vague pre-judgement, to be revised instantaneously and minutely with each action, movement or blink of the subject.

As our hero is engaged in this pleasant and mundane activity, we must now leave him, shock-freezing his stream of consciousness until the spring of the next instalment.

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Global trade

Passed a shop today called “FEELINGS” with “IMPORTS ‌– EXPORTS” underneath it. Found that funny. (It was a pretty run-down clothes shop.)

Friday, 2 March 2012

Off day, the fourth

No update again today due to coming home way too late after a late dinner.

I will just say that Morgan Freeman as a movie good guy is getting a bit old. I will additionally say that Polish people seem to form a fundamental part of this country’s economy.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Off day again, for no good reason

No update again today due to late alcohol-infused dinner with work colleagues.

I will just say that the modern tendency to totally deny meaning leads to great boredom.