Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Black and White is the New Grey

First off, since the beginning of the year, the cafeteria food services at the college was privatized. It was turned to a company called Sodexho, which, if you recall two years ago, was the company at the heart of the horse meat scandal in Great Britain. Sodexho also is in the incarceration business over there in France. There was a protest, or actually a petition, which I signed, to object to the closing of the in-house food services. The food was perfectly fine, and, in fact, some dishes, served on china, would have been indistinguishable from meals at finer restaurants in downtown Chicago. One recipe, a fish dish fusion of blackened cajun and ala Mexicana, was so damned good that you had to get there early at lunch to get some before they sold out.

But the administration had made up their mind, the cafeteria was a money losing proposition, not part of the college's core business functions, and privatization was what was going to happen. There was some worry that, when Sodexho took over, they would fire the existing staff. But they were kept on, although they no longer prepared the meals according to the in-house recipes. They cook what comes from the supply chain.

As one staffer told me "We just feel lucky to keep our jobs". I'm sorry, but that is... that's just completely fucked. An economy where you have to suck it up and take it up the ass and feel lucky about it is not an economy that works for us.

So, anyway, as a consumer, what I've noticed from the transition is this: smaller portions, lesser quality, higher prices. That's privatization for you.


Other things. I bought myself a present. I bought a Korg Kaossilator 2, which is a dynamic phrase synthesizer about the size of a mobile. I let my nephew mess with it the day after I bought it, and practically had to steal it back from him. It is, I am finding out, an instrument with an immediate playability, but a very steep learning curve to master it. It is a powerful little fucker. I have literally played myself to sleep with the thing.

So, I recorded some of the stuff I did on late night drunken jam sessions, and, listening back, discovered all of my kaossilator compositions to be wretchedly horrid. They are, all of them, a messy assault upon the ear drums.

As whoever it was said it, it's not the notes you play, it's ones you don't play that count.

So, I decided to see what other people were doing with it, and just through random chance, came across a piece by Magical Power Mako, which you can listen to here: https://soundcloud.com/korg/magical-power-mako-kaossilator-2

Magical Power Mako? I'd completely forgotten about him, and so went asearchin', and found this:

and a short:

Ah, yes, from my psychedelic daze days, now long gone.

Anyway, In a previous essay, I mentioned how grey was just little fractal pieces of black and white, meaning good and evil. I was looking for an appropriate visual metaphor to add to the essay, found a nice little video on the Mandelbrot set, but decided not to use it. Here it is:

You know, back in the late '80s, I had an old IBM PC that I  programmed to generate Mandelbrot and Julia sets on, and then I would print them off in black and white. Many people enjoyed them and they could be found on the walls of cubicles throughout the corporation I worked for.

The thing about the picture generation is what you see is not the set itself, but rather the approximation of the set.

(Briefly, it goes like this: an iteration of the function z = z2 + C, ( where z is a complex number, like a + ib, or  the variables x + iy, and C is a constant), and the value of z is substituted back into the z squared plus a constant part, and so on, until you get tired of doing it. So what happens is, in lot of cases z goes to infinity. And sometimes it goes to infinity quickly, and sometimes it doesn't, and so the Mandelbrot set is the visualization of how fast or slow this iteration goes. You might have see colored versions like this:

In the case of black and white visualization, some arbitrary small number eta is picked that determines the cut between how fast or slow it all goes, Clear?)

So, anyway, I played around with fractal generation for awhile, but only for a while because it got boring. Seen one, seen 'em all. And not real life with it's constant change and variety. Now some say, "How can you call this kind of math boring? It goes to infinity. Does that not just make you swoon?"

And I say, no. See, the problem I have with maths and mathematical platonists is the same problem I have with so many other things, which is, it doesn't change. You can wait an eternity and come back and examine a mathematical function theorem or number or graph, and it never changes.

And some say, well, see? It's eternal, not transient, and so superior to this crude matter and ephemeral reality we see around us. And to that I say, no, what unchangingness means is it is at all not alive, but dead as hell, and therefore ultimately incapable of growth or novelty or, anything fun, and therefore, over the long run, boring. And since all it has going for it is over the long run, that's a sad state of affairs.

Because once you've been exposed to it, gotten over the delight and surprise, it will always be the same, never new or different, like TV reruns in Hell.

So, the question is, how does this dead zombie math get confused with real life? Because it approximates life. But it is not life, Jim, not life as we would know it, or want it.  

Oh, and, by the way...

the giraffe ate his head

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