Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Polymorphous Perversity, whatever that means . . .

I am writing this now, perversely indeed, on a very obsolete, but very tiny and with a really nice keyboard, laptop. It took seemingly forever to master the intricacies of that new and highly touted Linux - Jaunty Jackalope. What a cool name. An animal which doesn't really exist. Reminds me vaguely of jalopy! I wonder what's under its covers?

The laptop has a hardware limit to 128 MB of RAM, which is nowhere near enough. I've had to really puzzle over getting things to work. Disabling Flash seemed to do the final trick, but then there are the interminable and automatic updates. And before that, I'd had to reassemble the machine from a basket full of parts. From my memory now maybe three years old, from when I first took it apart to cannibalize its display. Which in the event fried the system board on the machine it was to be transplanted into. Same dimensions, same controller, but some little bitty diode on the one with the slightly downgraded screen couldn't take the heat and went all super nova.

The processor is only 333MHz or so, which is way way way below current count spec for transistors and their frequency for changing state down in the overheating CPU. Will this serpent eating tale never end? The code or the hardware, which spurs which? And what level of cool will be enough, so that we can wear our technology on our very sleeve and be here while being there.

I am that sort of perverse. Even though I could buy a fully competent brand new "netbook" for about $300 including tax, I hate to throw out what once must have cost $3,000 though it was gifted to me as surplus junk so many years ago. Did I mention that it has a really nice keyboard?

Words at the remove of distance - time or space will do - have a special magic, don't they? Like radio once did, words leave so much room for imagination. So many people fall in love with someone they know only from written words, so impossible sometimes with someone right in front of them. Just like polymorphous perversity must have some function to stimulate those imortant border crossings which keep life in motion.

Even television according to Marshall McLuhan, was some kind of cool in comparison to movies. He thought it drew us in from our detachment, rigtht?

I wonder what he would have said about HDTV or virtual reality. I remember reading studies about how it was the brightness of the little dots which made the moving figures look that much more alive, composed of little reds and greens and violets, I think. That range of brightness is more important than fidelity for what the mind constructs as real.

I confess also that this little laptop, a SONY, impressed me for the sharpness and the brightness of its screen. Still does, though either it or my eyes grow dimmer than my memory.

I wonder where these developments can end, building ever faster hardware to contain ever more complex code. The $250 or so I saved is worth far less than the time I've blown puzzling and waiting and reading on-line, trying to gauge the truthfulness of amateurs who must translate down those gurus whose intelligence gets construed by how few can speak their language. Perhaps I can make up the lost time in tuition some day. But hell, I'm unemployed, and so $250 is almost like real money.

The basic problem as I see it (and I'm no guru on these things, I'm just pretty good at fixing them when they break - the grease monkey who gets the engineer's car going) is that when there isn't enough RAM, which can move the bits in and out pretty quickly, the stuff - the code - which must be stored gets swapped out to the much more slowly accessed spinning disk. And meanwhile, if the processor can't interpret the code quickly enough, then the timing gets all thrown off to where the thrashing in and out from disk becomes quite literally infinite and you can't get your keystrokes in.

I couldn't find the lever which would calibrate all those moves, so I just disabled the parts I thought I wouldn't need. I won't be watching movies on this machine.

Once upon a time, at a Rainbow Homecoming,

I learned of a Hopi Indian prophecy that the world would soon be covered in a vast web. The image was then ominous, of power grids and entanglements leading inevitably to being devoured by some kind of great Beast. We did a lot of anti-nuke and anti-war and anti-establishment protesting back in those days. Now I think we all take that attitude which you can see on the face of any college professor staring down his screen. Jaw slack, neck craned forward, seeming somehow brain damaged or deranged.

One sex-addicted salesman I know once told me about his sister who was disabled and in a wheelchair. She'd fallen in love and married off the Internet, I think to someone similarly stuck. He marveled then at the freedom just to be so disembodied. And then again that they would sit, each at his own console, facing away from each other, though hopefully tapping away nice love messages in the spaces between.

That was way before blogging, when people made friends by newsgroupings. When pornography had to be decoded. When color made its splash.

I don't think it's any mistake that profit margins for Internet businesses can be measured by income, direct or indirect, from porn. I hear that much development of software was sparked in its origins that way. Twinkle in some eye indeed! I wonder how they will make any money over in China, blocking all that objectionable material we could all have in our mirrors. Or are we just not narcissistic enough for that? Ho ho, or bored with what we already find too familiar.

There is a quickening for certain, when the mediated particles leave just enough for the imagination. Or when they get lighted and airbrushed and angled to perfection, like so many naked girlies, so strangely willing to expose themselves now to all mankind for all eternity. I don't imagine they get paid very much, and some clearly do it just for the lark.

Or maybe that's the very draw. The danger which is not quite real. The making out of oneself as perfect, in that particular pose at that particular time. Just like those love letters to my sweetheart; though I try so hard for honesty, exposing all my flaws. The story that is real just might be the one you respond to, the rest so much Sarah Palin blah blah blah blah blah blah. Cute to some, but basically without, well, content. And what does that say about her audience?

What will happen then when we meet?

I confess (well now I suppose you do know that already, don't you) that I do indulge this narcissistic perversity of writing to the ether, exposing myself now for all who might be interested, for free. I'm sure I indulge the other kinds about as much or as little as whatever Kinsey said was normal (except that Kinsey was all about discrediting notions of norms and ideal types). He started by studying wasps and, like me, was more interested in the boundaries and how fuzzy they could be; where insects turned to other kinds and no one could be the perfect wasp.

I don't like looking at myself very much in the mirror. If you saw me naked, you'd know what I mean. Ancient hardware, which doesn't even require much thrashing around now to reach its infrequently punctuated conclusions. A look, a stray thought, and I'm good for a long long time.

Our human body is such a strange machine, betraying us in so very many ways. Each interval now in my heart's beating but merest promise of some other. Our eyes don't perceive the world either as that continuous picture in our minds. It's the movements which allow our mind to fill in all the gaps. You cannot see if your eyes stay still. You cannot see if you have the sensor eyeballs, but the brain has never learned. I guess that's all been proven.

We are not so much like camera obscura within our heads. And computers, my dearest friends, will never ever think. These are static dreams of domination, as though the world could be ours forever, given reach enough and time.

There is not time enough. Our airbrush must remain constantly in motion. Even our words are written but in sand, if for no reason than that there are so damned many of them piling on.

There's video on the Internet now, you'll forgive me for forgetting. I suppose that means this medium must run both hot and cool, or is it media all in one? Too bad that our gurus all have died before they could let us know. We have now only inane rants, where everything is just way too cool, dude.

For me, the music stopped at techno. There has to be some variation on the Turing test, where music is its object. There would be two embedded questions: The first is whether what gets returned is recorded, sampled or generated anew. The second is whether the machine has copied the actual intervals, intonations and inflections of the human played auditions before making its own new production. We must interpret, also, the re-productions. The camera obsura can only mock.

I am moved by techno beats and samplings, though I think it must be in a very different way from those live choral stirrings. The one leads me down in a tribal direction, to where my boundaries all disappear. The other seems to take me up to where my own true heart still longs.

These are the boundaries we play with now, striving still and always to be human. If it is only our response that counts, and not the music's maker, then it might be true that Turing's test could be won by a music machine.

If however, there's a two way street, well then it's a whole new game, right? The basic Turing test is dialogic, where music is mostly stimulus response. I think McLuhan traced media changes through arts of war and contention. I think we all get that there is a last war which looms out there.

There's no question that all war is both response and generation of all the new technologies we must grow into. Capitalism thought of in terms of evolutionary contesting has become our pastime after the last great wars. Every one knows that now the wars are all asymmetric, whether terrorist against superpower, or corporation against entrepreneur.

Our mythology indicates David can still beat Goliath. Our reality is that we're all encouraged to remain cowed indoors, protected by Goliath against all the lurking Davids.

I guess the world now turns on whether we construe this medium now as a one or two way street. Brand name versus amateur sleuth, there ought to be some way to render up the best of us. Well, it seems to work with the porno babes. Why not with the good stuff?

This will become my life's work, if only I could find a way to pay for it. Hey, I could recycle old garbage and sell it for a song!

Meanwhile, gentle reader, this one's for you. OK, OK, they're all for you. I suppose I should keep a journal? But where's the charge to that, dear diarist? Where's the charge to that?

1 comment:

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