The Great Combining…

…is still in progress. But everything now sits here under this one banner, at least. All of “me”, from the various special-purpose sites I (very) sporadically updated over the past decade.

It seems fitting to do this now, at the end of the year. End of the decade. Also the end of this particular ‘era’ (at least for me).

Now… to Work.

the eagle in wonderland…

Merc, Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune AND Pluto all retro, with Old Jove crossing my Sun while Kronos and the Lord of the Underworld tag-team teabag my Mars-in-Cap? Well, what better way to celebrate such Chaos… than by merging a few pre-2013 posts from the old place into this blog (backdated to the original publication dates)! I’ll pull those in over the next few days, and then likely pull in the few entries from the long-abandoned the bell mechanical blog(s) (‡).

Here’s the chart for “Now” (I’ll spare you my Synastry):

Sky_2019JUL20

(Terrible time to be trying to sell one’s house, BTW…)

Meanwhile, Mars minds his own business, hangs out with my Moon over in Leo. They make nervous, quiet smalltalk.  “Fifty years ago today.” sighs Moon wistfully.  “What’s taking these monkeys so long?” says Mars, somewhat annoyed. (Behind them, napping Leo perks up an ear, then his whole head, yawns and stretches. “Merc retro, ‘cross Venus over the USA’s Natal Sun. (Yawns). Too busy hating on each other at the moment” he mutters, then rolls over to briefly expose his belly to the nearby Sun before falling back to sleep).

(So… that’s my current mood & mindset. How is Your day?)

With the Apollo anniversary, so many of us have been marinating in Space Nostalgia for at least a couple of weeks.  Enough so that I don’t feel the need to comment on it very much.  I did acquire the remaster of Tom Hanks’ From the Earth to the Moon miniseries from 1998 (which I hadn’t watched, myself, until about 2005 or so). It can be strange to watch something from 20 years ago (“the pre 9/11 era”, as we call it now), itself making what is essentially a worshipful hagiography(†) for something from 30 years prior to that. (Also: Strangely uplifting).

ToTheMoonAlice
Alice/America, Dreaming of Happier Times…

‘Mythologized America’, I’ve taken to calling it: You start with the 1776 musical, watch a Lincoln movie, take a quick tour through Tara or Beula-Land before heading out to the Old West (Deadwood? Hell on Wheels? Or perhaps you prefer the old classics? Doesn’t much matter here). You may or may not spend a little time with Al Capone and Depression-Era Jimmy Stewart before landing yourself on the Beaches of Normandy (by way of Rick’s Café, of course).

And, from there? To the Moon, Alice. We go to the moon.

After that? Well, that’s right about when the whole damned Culture split off into multiple, often adversarial public fragments, isn’t it? All the Stories turned… Different, All the Dreams got Broken. And (apparently) all at once.

I do intend to spend some more time looking into that. (Among other things).

Be seeing you.


(‡) Too many little shards of me, scattered across too many wide little open spaces. Time to consolidate.

(†) Not necessarily saying this disparagingly, BTW: Worshipful hagiography can be quite therapeutic!

 

dryades

Been awhile…

Made a release:

Some of the sounds used are re-purposed sounds made awhile back.  Other sources are (layered) guitar, processed through (variants of) an Audiomulch patch, from the same timeframe.

Lots of retrograde in the Air. Seems appropriate to have appropriated these past sounds, just about now.

Also ironic: It was known, then, at the time of the creation of these sounds, that they would be re-purposed, sometime, eventually…

…enjoy.

on the artiface of intelligence…

Had one of those early-morning, overly vivid dreams: Two pairs of perfectly human-looking robots (they were ‘robots’ in the dream, not ‘androids’, so let’s use that word here). And these were Manichaean robots, apparently: One pair felt ‘good’– or at least I was supposed to feel more sympathetic towards them– and the other pair were ‘bad’.  No particular reason for the distinction was given, it was Just So.

Actions took place in an old house that was also, somehow, a laboratory environment. Right down to a few old white grey-haired men in white lab coats wandering around the periphery, clipboards and all. Something was ‘out in the car’, and the two robot-teams were ordered to compete, Hunger Games style, to retrieve the item (again, never specified– though I vaguely remember thinking it was a book or a scroll, locked in a car out in the parking lot).

The end was inevitable: The ‘good’ robots dutifully started running towards the open door. The ‘bad’ robots just grabbed them from behind, picked them up over their heads, and smashed the ‘good’ robots all-too-human faces into bits up against the top of the door frame.

That said:  Neural networks, like mini-skirts, sideburns and bell-bottoms, come in and out of fashion roughly every twenty years or so. The cycle is thus:

  1. It’s been a period of algorithmic stagnation, but damn… the hardware’s gotten a lot faster. What shall we do with it?
  2. Hey! Neural Networks! (Though maybe we should call it something else…)
  3. Great early successes. Even a few new applications. Wonder why these work so well on these problems?
  4. Clever people study the why, discover new algorithms, perhaps even new classes of algorithms…
  5. …which end up proving the old quip about “the second-best solution to any problem, once you know the first-best”.
  6. Hey, look: The hardware folks have been busy… We can run these new algorithms we’ve found much faster… let’s optimize!
  7. Possible optimizations eventually all get found. The field begins to stagnate…

Rinse, lather, repeat. But at least some interesting papers get generated.

Elon Musk went from warning us against AI in an open letter to becoming a co-founder of the OPENAI initiative in less than half a year. Obviously, his thoughts are his own, but I suspect he’s decided that the Rise of AI is inevitable, and that rather than warn against or try to prevent it, he can at least help ensure that the forefront of the research take place out in public (as it used to in bygone ages), and not in the shadowy halls of some Deep Private research lab (i.e. companies: some known, some unknown, but None To Be Named).

No one would ever accuse me of optimism, but I don’t worry much about rampant AIs taking over the planet through Terminator-style military force, or converting Earth’s surface into a puddle of grey goo. The thermodynamics of it just don’t work out: Our meat-brains are highly energy-efficient when compared to our current (and near future) computers. Yes, a computer can now beat you at Go. But it consumed several orders of magnitude more energy than you did to do so. And yes: it can also recognize your grandmother’s face, but it consumed tens of watts over a few billion instructions to do so. Your brain did it in less than 100 steps, consuming a few thousandths of a watt in the 1/2 second it took (while doing innumerable other things at the same time, I might add).

So: All dramatic competition aside, Thermodynamics Always Wins. Always. (Though that of course doesn’t preclude nasty things happening on the way to local optimum). So IMO we are ‘safe’ from that scenario, for now.

People should be more worried about the potential abuse of AI by Those Who Know Better. For now, the PTB are satisfied with using AI models to anticipate our desires  for monetization. But social media companies are already using AI to ‘shepherd’ mass opinion towards a certain flavor of bland, corporate centrism (sometimes at the behest of governments, sometimes on their own). How soon before each one of us has a virtual ‘minder’, that will watch our every move to form a complex model of our psychological internals so accurate that it could not only anticipate our responses, not only control our responses– but eventually the man-in-the-loop becomes… unnecessary. Or at least atrophies into nothing more than the slimy rock or rotted tree stump upon which something else lives and grows.

Once you’ve been successfully modeled, you can be successfully replaced. Think of it that way.

So no, giant killer robots aren’t going to autonomously slaughter us en masse, (unless of course they were ordered to by other humans– in which case, the problem was us, not them).  I worry more about (what’s left of) the Human melting away into a dank little whimper of a world that eventually dies of boredom from watching itself, like some mad self-feeding, world-sucking Silicon Ouroboros.

Here’s the tl;dr version: Your brain is not a fucking computer… Please stop acting like it is.

Mayday Memories: (Candles in the Dark).

First of May (though you wouldn’t know it from the dull, cold grey outside). Most cultures, ancient and modern, have some sort of Springtime/rebirth holiday today: Beltane, Mayday, Walpurgis Night. The Egyptians, Greeks and Romans each had their variants, too, all with much the same general intent: As agricultural societies, they wanted a good growing season, safe livestock, and general fertility.  Making ritual offerings to any nature spirits and/or nature goddesses seen as potentially active in the area does make a great deal of practical sense.

I remember the ornate BVM crowning ceremonies from my days in Catholic school, almost certainly descended from those same fertility rituals (though of course I had no way of knowing this at the time). A statue of Mary, roughly the same size as one you’d find in some families’ front lawns (i.e. the famous ‘Bathtub Madonna’, sans bathtub) was placed on a litter. The statue and litter were garlanded with flowers, and ‘hidden’ inside the school while we adorably precious little Catholic children were forcibly marched outside onto the church steps to sing some adorably precious little Catholic songs.

Prayers were said. A priest gave a sermon. Nuns were dispatched to police the crowd of children (who of course tended to get unruly when exposed to sunlight during school hours). Eventually, it was deemed time and four of the older boys would carry the BVM out to us astride her litter. Additional flowers were thrown, the appropriate number of Hail Marys were recited, and the statue was finally ‘crowned’ with a garland of flowers by one of the younger, prettier girls.

So yes… pagan rituals were alive and well in the blue-collar parts of Cambridge, Massachusetts, circa 1976 (give or take). Just in case any of you were wondering.

But even at the age of 9 or 10, I knew well enough not to mention that she had visited me once, when I was two years old.

I know that I was two because I remember the house and room exactly, and we only lived there a year or so (the building was Condemned so we had to move). This would place the timing at late 1969-1970. In any case, I was young enough that I was still sleeping in a crib. The morning sun had woken me, my mother and everyone else in the house still asleep. I heard a woman’s voice, calling my name in a sing-songy tone.  She sounded far away. I didn’t so much as ‘see’ her with my eyes but did get the distinct, strong impression that a young-but-motherly woman, beautiful, surrounded by light was in the room with me. The features were indistinct (as in ‘no distinct face was presented to me’), but the image was strong. An almost cliché sense of ‘being safe’ came upon me.  I was looked after. I was protected. And then she was gone.

At the time I had no idea who she was: We weren’t a weekly church-going family: So it wasn’t until a few months later, when I saw a statue of Mary in a church for the first time, that I somehow recognized the woman. (And yes, even at three years old, I kind of knew that this was something best kept to myself).

Fast forward to May 1st, 1996: The little Catholic boy has by now long since mutated into an engineer in his late 20s. He’s sitting alone in a candlelit room in front of the coffee table he’s chosen to use as a makeshift ‘altar’.  Above this is hung a tapestry bought at a Tibetan store (chosen to represent ‘the gateway’). Even though he still only half believes what he’s up to, he’s still trembling a little as he puts drops of oil on the four corners of the altar, four more drops of oil on the four corners of the tapestry… And lights a candle.

“Dedicate” he says. Lights the candle. “Activate.” He sits there and meditates as best he can until midnight passes, then has to sleep (it was a work night). Once in bed, he goes to sleep thinking “What have I done? This is fucking nuts”. But it was official: He’d just improvised a little ritual to formally announce himself to… something. As a ‘witch’ of some kind. (He didn’t even know for certain what word to use.  Still doesn’t, actually).

And he had chosen this of all days to do it. Quite on purpose.

It took him awhile to get here: He’d ‘come out’ as an atheist one Ash Wednesday when he was 17– back when that was still a very hard and potentially socially-damaging thing to do (especially while still attending a Catholic school). Some Nietzsche (he was young). He stumbled onto Joseph Campbell a few weeks before he graduated college, thanks to Bill Moyers. Read (and felt he understood) some Campbell, then read (and barely understood) some Jung. Stumbled onto a Certain zen book that was trendy at the time (but still appealing) and tried to be Buddhist for awhile. Not really a ‘Joiner’, so back to Jung. Jung led to I Ching. I Ching –along with a sudden coincidental stream of ‘witchy’ women showing up in his life, as either lovers or friends– led to tarot. Tarot led to candle-magick: This of course reminded him of his altar boy days. Then, this being the 1990s, he’d stumbled onto and had surprising early successes with sigils: And by then, knew it/there was… ‘Something’.  That he wanted to do. That he had always wanted to do. And in some ways, always had been.

And so (nearly two decades after the last of those Coronations of Mary) here he was, lighting a candle in the dark. Wondering if anything would ever answer.

Of course, he had dreams that night.

That was two decades (and two moves) ago, to the day. Here I sit at that very same altar (it doubles as an asian-style desk), beneath that very same tapestry, with a little candle burning next to me. Twenty years of books and other research later. Twenty years of actual ‘experiments’ and ‘experiences’, both good and bad, later. I’ve come to ‘know’ (or at least believe) many things that I would have found utterly ridiculous back then. (And vice versa, for that matter).

And yet: I still just barely have a mental framework with which to process something that happened to me when I was two years old. If anything, it’s more obscure: I by now ‘know’ that BVM is actually just one tip of an ancient, submerged iceberg. One both very deep and very old. So… What? Why?

I still don’t know. Maybe I never will.

Here’s to the next two decades. I should probably try and document them better than the previous two.

“Dedicate. Activate.”

a christmas ‘carol’…

Ok well, no human voices were used, only synths, so technically not a ‘carol’. But Christmas ghosts were on the mind while putting this one together:

Three tracks, all sound synths (Logic Pro and/or Ableton Live).  Live was used for the final arrange and mix down.

Happy Merry, all…