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Music of Miami Vice

The glory days of 80s retro have come and gone with the oughts. For me it may have peaked as a nineteen-year-old at Club Beat It, but lord knows a lot of fratty/finance-y 80s parties went down much farther into the decade. And it’s clear the nineties are back.

One show worth revisiting, however, is Miami Vice. It had some fantastic music!

Devo – Going Under

Taken from Devo’s fourth album, New Traditionalists, Going Under could be about humans sucking (as a species), fascism, or any other major theme in Devo’s philosophy. But I’m putting my money on cunnilingus. This album is as filled with synth power anthems and as it is rife with sexual undertones. Seriously, almost every song on the album is about sex, just not as overt as other tunes.

Brian Ferry – Slave to Love

Living up to his namesake, Brian Ferry is a mythical man who is known to play a hand-synth and not fear repeated, long-standing camera closeups. His music gives men and women the strength to organize and speak at weddings, providing the unattached, isolated professionalism that inevitably attracts all singles at the event.

Phil Collins – In the Air Tonight

The drama! Can we see those streetlights reflecting on the hood one more time. Yet this is not even close to the drama that unfolds in this performance, the seppuku of dad-rock.

U2 – In the Name of Love

You know an LV marketing exec had that clip stuck in the back of their head when they gave birth to this tragedy.

bono - louis

Godley and Creme – Cry

I don’t know much about Godley and Creme except that the one guy’s name is Lol Creme. lol No, seriously.

And fucking Ted Nugent! The man who came up with the best album name of all time.

CRYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY!!!

the nuge

Unevenings

Tuesday, early evening, Coney Island.

 

Wednesday, early evening, Midtown Manhattan.

Synchronicity and an Umbrella

magritte's galconde

I bought a book this week called Hopscotch. A strange sequence of events surrounded purchasing the book, an experience that is not foreign to me, and that has kept me up many nights thinking about the nature of the universe and reality.

I first encountered this book in a coffee shop. It stood out, and I had an intuition about it. This is detailed somewhat in my previous post. I decided to purchase the book, and later that day set out to The Strand book store. The clerk was oddly excited about the book, and came over to talk about the writer after she had directed me towards the correct section. Afterwards, I walked out into a ferocious thunder storm, probably the best of the summer. Lightning was firing off in the distance every five seconds or so.

As I neared Astor Place it suddenly began to really pour, the kind of rain that soaks you completely in one minute. Some people started screaming as they ran for cover. I saw an umbrella on sidewalk in front of me. I ran a few steps forward and grabbed it. It was half-broken, but provided enough protection for me to seek refuge in an office building lobby.  I remember thinking how it odd it was that the moment it started raining, I found a half-broken umbrella one step in front of me. It felt a little like a scene from a movie.

A few days later, I finally got around to reading Hopscotch. I was surprised to see this on page two.

Oh, Maga, whenever I saw a woman who looked like you a clear, sharp pause would close in like a deafening silence, collapsing like a wet umbrella being closed. An umbrella, precisely. Maybe you remember, Maga, that old umbrella we sacrificed in a gully in Montsouris Park one sunset on a cold March day. We threw it away because you had found it half-broken in the Place de la Concorde and you had got a lot of use from it, especially for digging into people’s ribs on the Metro or on a bus as you lethargically thought about the design the flies on the ceiling made.

Odd. Jung wrote about this, a phenomenon which he dubbed synchronicity. Jung, explorer of dreams and intuition, knew that there was something special about these coincidences. When one reads his piece on the subject, it’s clear that he’s struggling to establish some sort of clinical/scientific basis. He knows it’s important, but can’t get people to see past it’s appearance as magical thinking.

Jung was inspired by the work of a more obscure academic named Paul Kammerer. Kammerer mainly studied toads, but he also studied synchronicity, or what he called seriality. Coincidentally, while reading about Kammerer yesterday, the umbrella surfaced again. This is one of the only notes on his studies from Wikipedia.

Kammerer was known to, for example, make notes in public parks of what numbers of people were passing by, how many carried umbrellas etc.

Kammerer would observe that the time interval between observations of people with umbrellas would increase and decrease in waves, which formed the basis for his idea of seriality. Both Einstein and Jung praised his work. Sadly, Kammerer committed suicide at the early age of 46.

Despite being backed by a heavyweight like Einstein, when Jung took Kammerer’s theory and expounded on it, he was met with criticism and resistance. Critics attacked Jung’s theory on the grounds that it was magical/supernatural thinking. They pointed to, among other things, confirmation bias and illusory correlations.

Let me say here that I have no problem with this criticism and a rigorous scientific questioning of any new hypothesis, particularly those that appear “magical.” Without this tendency, we would be still be running around burning witches and believing that illnesses are caused by evil spirits.*

But actually  I do have a problem with this criticism of Jung’s theory. It feels, again intuitively, to be the kind of scientific dismissal that is made because we can’t yet understand or describe the meaning behind a phenomenon. I wish I knew more about physics, cosmology, and advanced math. Then I might have the ability to articulate my feelings as facts, or at least unknown areas of science.

Something is going on with synchronicity that is non-linear, that deals with symbols, the ‘real’ objects that represent, language, and metaphor. I’m also reminded of chaos theory and massive information systems, possible recursive functions. Just throwing some things out there. I do feel that something is behind it, but I am too stupid to understand the complexities, or perhaps if I did understand the complexities and math, there would be nothing behind it but statistics and probability. Maybe it’s something that ultimately cannot be approached through rationality.

Hopscotch is a unique novel in that it’s completely non-linear. It can be read front to (almost) back, but also can be read without numerical order, the reader “hopping” back and forth between chapters, forming a new narrative, or at least a slightly different version. I feel like there’s significance there, that my umbrella experience is pointing at the book and it’s structure.

There’s of course another writer that comes to my mind when I think of non-linear narrative: David Foster Wallace. I’m 99% certain that, late one night, I read a quote by DFW that spoke about strange events, or possibly he said coincidences, that have meaning to the individual who experiences them but may also have larger meaning. I Googled and Googled today for that quote, but I couldn’t find it any where. DFW–another genius who left us at the early age of 46. I’ll never forget the day I heard the news.

 

* No doubt if one explores Shamanic practices, particularly those that have produced the beginnings of pharmaceutical breakthroughs (the profits from which, of course, never made it back to the Amazonian communities), it’s clear that perhaps the evil spirits thing has some grounding, and that indigenous communities have paradigms that are just as worthy of respect as modern science.

A Mind for the Bicycle

Man rides a bike in New York while listening to an iPhone

If you are at all interested in the history of technology, it’s worth checking out Steve Jobs: The Lost Interview. It offers a candid look into the origins of Apple and the tumultuous time around Jobs’ departure. It also gives Jobs an opportunity to offer predictions for the industry and wax philosophical a bit. He mentions a new technique called ‘object-oriented programming’ that he’s developing at NEXT, which is almost humorous given the current ubiquity of OOP. He also talks about the creation of the PC and it’s place within human history, using an example from an article he once read in Scientific American:

“I think one of the things that really separates us from the high primates is that we’re tool builders. I read a study that measured the efficiency of locomotion for various species on the planet. The condor used the least energy to move a kilometer. And, humans came in with a rather unimpressive showing, about a third of the way down the list. It was not too proud a showing for the crown of creation. So, that didn’t look so good. But, then somebody at Scientific American had the insight to test the efficiency of locomotion for a man on a bicycle. And, a man on a bicycle, a human on a bicycle, blew the condor away, completely off the top of the charts.

And that’s what a computer is to me. What a computer is to me is it’s the most remarkable tool that we’ve ever come up with, and it’s the equivalent of a bicycle for our minds.”

‘A bicycle for our minds’ might sound a little corny, but it raises some interesting questions. I had never really thought about the PC in terms of human evolution. It is, in many ways, a direct descendant of stone tools and fire. Stone turning into integrated circuits and fire turning into electricity. Those stone tools and fire separated us from other species. There are other toolmakers in the animal kingdom, but it can be argued that humans are unique in that we have been significantly shaped or transformed by technology, as highlighted in this article. Fire in particular allowed for cooked food and warmth, which helped us keep our brains growing while also shedding excess hair. In short, they made modern humans.

So what does this mean for modern technology like the PC? Jobs ‘bicycle for the mind’ analogy evokes a version of transhumanism where we our bodies and abilities our amplified by modern technology, in the vein of human enhancement. This is indeed true–one recent development that comes to mind is Google Glass, which acts a perfect example. As we move through our daily life, our vision will be ‘enhanced’ by data. We’ll now know how to best pick up on that guy or girl based on the social networking interests that appear next to him or her.

However, we also have to shift our perspective a bit and recognize the other side. Modern technology is shaping us, as well. In fact, it’s hard to really distinguish between ‘us’ and ‘it.’ It has evolved right along side us, from stone tools to fire to the wheel and onward to the PC and iPhone. Jobs bicycle for the mind puts the human behind the handlebars. But we have to ask ourselves if we are really in control, and if we still hold dominion over technology. A good portion of the population sits behind computers for 8+ hours a day advancing technology, whether directly as coders and engineers or indirectly through countless other fields and industries. So as we lose our physical fitness slumped over our desks and our brains shrink, we have to wonder if we’re actually a stepping stone for technology’s evolution. Or maybe it’s one and the same. Where do you draw the line between humans and the technology they create? Only time will tell.

The Financial District, Symbolic Core of America

I grew up bicoastal—born in so-cal, raised during early childhood in NYC, then back to so-cal, and then back to NYC. I loved downtown as a kid, mainly because I was enthralled with the twin towers. This is definitely not post-9/11 nostalgia at work. I was really into the trade center, researching it’s ranking among the world’s tallest buildings and always asking my mom to take me down there to go to the top. That they would be destroyed one day was unimaginable. It would have been like Mike Tyson losing a fight.

When I moved here three years ago, I stayed with a relative in the financial district. It was the first time I had been in the neighborhood since 9/11. At night, sleeping on the couch in an apartment directly above Wall St., I had nightmares. One in particular involved swimming in an estuary, wading in the dark and somewhat muddy water as I watched slowly move towards me. I pulled my legs in and curled up in a ball, preparing for the attack, and then I awoke. “Swimming with sharks”–the neighborhood transformed into metaphor transformed into dream. Jung was right about symbolism, I guess. My girlfriend fared less well during the nights. Her nightmares were not metaphoric but literal—planes crashing and chaos.

The energy is the financial district is strange. Dense and dark, it definitely feels like an epicenter, like Ground Zero. The symbolism of my dream may have been pointing at a larger truth. Really the financial district is the symbolic (or perhaps subconscious) core of America.

You have the well-known sites: Wall St. and the NY Stock Exchange, the center of global capitalism and a boisterous mainframe turning the world’s goods into pure abstractions; Ground Zero, where endless construction offers hope but also serves as a decade-long open wound, with the impressive Freedom Tower rising out of the ashes but sadly not living up to the architectural prowess of the twin towers. Admittedly tough shoes to fill.

There are the less well-known spots, though, that really add some gravity to the ‘core.’ Most people don’t realize that the best place to get deals on all kinds of clothing and goods—Century 21—sits directly across from Ground Zero, with people from around the world digging through piles of second-hand European clothing in a store whose name is oddly fitting and unsettling. There is the Museum of the American Indian sitting a few blocks away from the stock exchange—a proximity which is, well, strange. At the border of TriBeCa, 33 Thomas Street looms over the million-dollar loft space and expensive spinning classes, brutalizing the neighborhood in a much-needed way (excuse the pun), as best expressed by Jonathan Franzen in Freedom:

“Away to the southwest of where they were standing stood the massive Eisenhower-era utility building that marred the nineteenth-century architectural vistas of almost every Tribecan loft-dweller. Once upon a time, the building had offended Katz’s urban aesthetic, but now it pleased him by offending the urban aesthetic of the millionaires who’d taken over the neighborhood. It loomed like death over the excellent lives being lived down here; it had become something of a friend of his.”

And finally, and perhaps most importantly, is the hidden African Burial Ground National Monument. In the eighteenth century, over 400 free and enslaved African Americans were buried underneath what is now the center of local government bureaucracy. Skeletal remains, as well as wood-carved coffins from Ghana and other hand-made adornments, were discovered in as construction began on the Ted Weiss Federal Building. That the center of capitalism sat for hundreds of years on top of the remains of slaves is symbolic indeed.

Origins of the Internet: Berners-Lee. Borges?

Borges with groupies

Most people involved in technology are familiar with Tim Berners-Lee and his role in pioneering the internet. But what about another three name genius: Jorge Luis Borges?

I first heard of Borges as a Latin American literary juggernaut, which prompted me to purchase the Penguin anthology. Inside the cover I noticed a quote by Umberto Eco.

Though so different in style, two writers have offered us an image for the next millenium: Joyce and Borges. The first designed with words what the second designed with ideas: the original, the one and only World Wide Web. The Real Thing. The rest will remain simply virtual.

(distraction)…

I think Borges would be grinning tonight. Instead of writing a well-structured piece on his various works and how prophetic they were, I instead thought I would be productive and begin to hyperlink ‘Tim Berners-Lee’ to his Wikipedia page, which led me to read about the internet, internet founders, ‘internet vigilantism,’ back to internet pioneers, and the Berners-Lee salute at the 2012 Olympics. Then I thought I would be clever and hyperlink ‘The Real Thing’ from Eco’s quote above to a Faith No More YouTube video. But then I couldn’t find the real music video, so I watched a performance from the 1990 MTV music awards, then a clip of the band performing ‘Midlife Crisis,’ then I decided I needed to listen to them of Spotify, and then I was too tired to write a quality post.

Summer was drawing to a close, and I realized that the book was monstrous. It was cold consolation to think that I, who looked upon it with my eyes and fondled it with my flesh-and-bone fingers, was no less monstrous than the book. I felt it was a nightmare thing, an obscene thing, and that it defiled and corrupted reality.

—Borges, from The Book of Sand