A & M Reading Group: Grimm – The Two Brothers

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The Aya and Meredith Reading Group continues. Now we are embarking upon the Brother’s Grimm. Growing up I was really into mythology – all different types of mythology. I was not into folk tales. They did not make sense to me. I am not sure why mythology made more sense, but it did. But there is some deep wisdom in these tales, they are the history of the inner life of Western Europe and western civilization. We began with the two brothers.

I have a very beautiful hardback copy of the Grimm Fairy Tales but in this book, there is no tale of two brothers. Instead, there are 12 brothers and three brothers. Two is the dyad, the twin, polarity: the yin/yang, heaven/earth, animus/anima, eros/Thanatos – and as it turns out 2 is very important.

The Story

I loved this story but I have no idea where to begin. It is long and dense – so stay with me here.

This story feels like 4 stories in one:childhood, adolescence, bachelorhood, and marriage. I teach film and I always teach 2001 a space odyssey. My students sometimes say that this film does not make sense. I say, it is not supposed to make rational sense, it is supposed to make emotional sense – so you feel something. Cinematic sense perhaps, or imaginal sense. This story reminds me of that .

Wha happened?

Part One

  • two brothers. Ok the dyad – the polarity,
  • one is rich one is poor. The rich brother. is evil-hearted. What does money mean? Is it about generocity? False value?
  • the poor brother finds a gold bird and is a bit brutal in trying to kill it and then gives it to his rich brother (why?). This makes me think of ethics and also of nonduality. The poor brother seems like a jerk and an idiot. Why does he try to hurt the bird at all and why give the bird to his brother? But there is sense in the story that the poor brother is acting naturally and so perhaps poor really means simple and rich means cunning.
  • the poor one has two sons that through adventure involving their uncle produce gold while sleeping. We have another duality but they do not become differentiated until later in the story. These boys accidentally eat the heart and liver of the golden bird while the uncle roasts it and ths lets them produce gold every night under their pillow. Liver is the life force heart is love – but why does this matter?
  • The rich brother tells the poor brother his children are evil and the poor brother puts his children out of his home.
  • The brothers are adopted by a HUNTSMAN who teaches them how to hunt and keeps their coins (which keep coming) safe. This makes me think of the idea of stewardship.

Part 2

  • The brothers pass a hunting test and leave the foster-father gives them a magic knife that will rust on one side if one of he brothers dies.
  • The brothers go into the world. They are hungry and want to kill a rabbit to eat but do not instead they get two little rabbits – the same thing happens with a bear, wolf, fox, and lion. What is up with these animals? Totem animals? I mean its not astrology. Maybe the 5 centers of human design.
  • The brothers split up.

Part 3

  • the younger brother comes to a town covered in black cloth. I though oh no – black plague. But no.
  • everything is black because the princess is going to be sacrificed to a dragon. I recently read a book that discussed dragons. Most world myths involve killing. adragon. Sometimes the dragon or dragons blood gives birth to life (or humans). Dragons are also associated with sulfuric caves – that many cultures associate with healing and prophecy.
  • the brother defeats the dragon. He first has to drink liquid with a cup and that allows him to pick up a heavy sword and with. thehelp of his animals kills the dragon. The cup is very tarot – emotions. I am always interested in tools – the sword is a great one. The dragon has 7 heads ( the planets?).
  • There is giftgiving between the brother and the princess – everyone naps and then the evil marshal beheads the huntsman and forces the process to marry him. The gifts are coral – I wonder about this. It seems strange for a german story. Also headleness comes up again, this is a big theme in magic (the headless rite) and astronomy/myth (orion and solstice)
  • the animals get a magic root that brings the other back to life although his head is on backward (temporarily it seems) and then for a year and a day they travel around carnivals – the brother thinks he was abandoned not killed
  • He comes back makes a bunch a bets with an innkeeper thanks. to the gold from part 1 of the story and discovers the princess still loves him. She comes. toclaim his hand in marriage and the evil marshall is beheaded.

Part 4

  • The brother is now king and is happy and just and merciful. He goes on a hunt in the enchanted forest against the wishes of his wife.
  • He gets lost in the magic forest, makes a fire, finds an old woman in a tree. He invites her to warm by his fire she refuses unless he takes her wand and touches each of his animals. Which he does. They turn to stone and then the witch turns him to stone and carts him away to a cellar or something. why does the brother touch his animals with the wand ??
  • The other brother meanwhile, the older one, has just been doing carnie work – no kingdoms for him. He sees the knife from part 2 half rusted and determines to save his brother.
  • He ends up in the kingdom – everyone things he is the king. He plays along but sleeps next to his ‘wife’ with his sword between them.
  • He researches the enchanted forest and then goes to find his brother. The same thing happens with the witch – but the brother does not touch his animals with the wand. He makes the witch turn his brother back – and then throws her in the fire.
  • The brothers reunite. The younger brother chops off his brother’s head when he learns he had been impersonating him and sleeping in the same bed as his wife. He then has remorse and saves his brother with the same magic root vegetable that saved him. They both return to the kingdom, the younger brother resumes the throne, and learns about the sword in bed – and realizes his older brother did not betray him after all. There is a test – the queen has to guess which brother is her husband – she does it successfully because of the coral gifts she bestoyed to the brother’s animals.

Motifs to track

As we read more fairytales I want to track characters and motifs. In this I have identified

  • language: parts that sound like songs or enchantments, usually involving repetition and rhyming.
  • marriage
  • fire
  • food (and different animals wine lions, bear sweets)
  • roles: huntsman, innkeeper, king, marshal, princess
  • brothers, fathers, uncles, daughters
  • cups
  • words
  • tongues, livers, hearts
  • numbers: 2,5
  • an enchanted forest
  • evil: brother, marshal, witch
  • a witch
  • animals: dragon, golden bird, hart/deer, lion, bear, rabbit, wolf, bumblebee, fox
  • colors (black and red and gold)
  • headlessness
  • gifts
  • money/wagers/tests
  • root vegetables (what is up with this – very promenant in Japanese folk lore too)

What is the esoteric knowledge hidden in this work? What is the ancient wisdom? Lions like to drink.

Tool Building: Becoming a Better Writer

art, programming

When I studied art, I would copy the drawings of the great Renaissance masters like Michaelangelo and Da Vinci.

When I work on my writing, sometimes imitate the style of certain writers like Hemingway or Byron.

Around 13 years ago I had the idea to create an application that would record how people copy a piece of writing.

The application would let you:

– access a work of literature (via Gutenberg)

– see that work in one pane of the application

– in another pane, you type whatever you are copying

– record the timestamp and keystroke and this becomes a “score”

With the score we can:

– playback the writing as the person wrote it (animated) not only the static end product

– interpret as a musical score and map letters or times to notes

– create a film or animation maybe using stable diffusion

– compare how different people type the same manuscript

– understand our writing habits

– other things ? ideas wanted

How quickly do I write certain words or letters? How often do I mistype the letter ‘y’?

We lose these gestures when we only look at the finished piece. Lets treat writing as a performance.

Writing as Gesture is alive for me today so I went back to rebuild the application

The Design and Architecture

There are two modes: writing and playback. Writing mode captures the user, the piece, the keystroke, and the timestamp of the keystroke. I want to capture the data as a log file, but I am using a database for now.

I do not have the concept of an ending. A piece of writing never ends. Each user only has one version of a piece: you can only copy Moby Dick once or recopy it over and over in the same document.

Anyone can write a playback mode since the protocol is public: user, piece, keystroke, timestamp. My first playback mode will probably be straightforward playback, but I may change the colors of the letters depending on how many times they were erased or how long it took the user to write them.

The Stack

I am using preact (typescript) and the front end and python on the backend since they are both languages I am familiar with. Preact is new for me, but react is old for me.

I am hosting with Replit. I use Replit when I teach Python (last at CUNY). I also use Replit with my kids for superhi classes. They have great templates, integration with git, and free hosting, and it takes zero time to set up.

Maybe I’ll move it over to a cloud service provider eventually. I do have some shame that I am not using a CPS, Docker, k8 etc – but not much.

The Hardest Thing

Sometimes the hardest part is just getting started and putting up a blank screen – so I did that https://timewriter.hackerm0m.repl.co/.

Hopefully, I can move on to the next steps soon.

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Squaring the Circle: Humans and Technology

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Last weekend, I attended an herbalism lecture where the excellent Sam Perry spoke about Chinese medicine.

Sam focused on the relationship between culture and medicine. Medicine is a product of culture, like clothing, vases, and frescos.

He spoke about Chinese symbols, yin and yang, the tai chi symbol, the sinusoidal shape of the yellow river in china, and the color yellow, and then he offhandedly mentioned the circle in the square.

Squaring the Circle is an ancient paradox and hermetic symbol.

The problem is this:

Can we create a circle and a square with the SAME AREA with only a straight edge and a compass and use a limited number of steps?

The answer is NO. This was finally proved mathematically in 1882, so the mystery existed for a long time.

This problem had mystical dimensions. The circle in the square was used as a symbol for alchemy: transforming lead into gold. The circle in the square was also used to describe the relationship between spirit and matter.

Discrete Steps and Devices

The structure of this problem reminds me of computation. A universal turning machine, a type of computer, reads and writes symbols on a tape.

The theory of computation asks what we can solve and in what period with what physical limitations.

I wonder what is different between the computational engine of a hammer and nail and what is the computational engine of a straight edge and compass.

The Solution!

As it turns out, you can create a circle and a square with the same area, but just not with these tools and a discrete number of steps.

We can use new tools like the Quadratrix of Hippas (which I do not entirely understand), infinite steps, or non-euclidian geometry.

Can a circle turn into a square? What is the relationship between the shape of a thing and what the form contains?

Transformation

How does the circle shape become the square without losing anything?

This is the mystery of transformation. Ancient myths like Ovid’s Metamorphoses tell how gods turn into trees and humans turn into animals. In China, the 64 hexagrams of the I-Ching describe different types of transformation. Alchemy is about transformation, lead into gold, the individuation of a person from a Jungian perspective.

Squaring the Circle is about tools and processes, about creating a machine for transformation. But there is a limit to the transformative power of a machine. What is this limit? The natural world, life, quantum physics, chance, or just more transformation?

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Read this post and more on my Typeshare Social Blog

Book Review: Queering Philosophy

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Two weeks ago, I binge-listened to the New Books podcasts: film, anthropology, and philosophy.

Sometimes I like to be quiet and feel the ideas come from within me, but it also feels good to get a drink from an idea firehose and see what sticks.

One of the conversations that stuck with me was with Kim Q Hall on her book Queering Philosophy.

Why should you be interested in this topic? Read on…

The meaning crisis

Fake news is news that is not factually correct. Deep fakes are photorealistic images and videos of real people, made by AI, of fake scenarios and events. What is real, what is fake, what is important, and what is not important?

John Vervaeke, an assistant professor at the University of Toronto, says the root of the crises we face: mental health, economic and political turmoil, and environmental degradation is a crisis meaning.

We do not know how to reason anymore. We do not know how to decide what is meaningful.

Reason is broken

Socrates was a gay shaman. Socrates and his “frens” like Aristotle and Parmenides, created new ways to make meaning from their world – and from this, we got western philosophy. And maybe a lot of other things like inequality and war, but also perhaps things like science and this fantastic computer.

Our world is different from the world of the ancient Greeks. I am less interested in how a boat disappears beyond the horizon and more interested in why the algorithm suggested that I buy baby formula.

One way to support a new way to reason is to Queer it.

Queering Reason

Could we use a different word? No.

“Queer” is embedded in personal lived experiences, activism, and social convention.

Some ways to queer philosophy include:

  • Using methods of queer activism to change the discipline such as a focus on archives and personal stories. Even Hall’s book includes personal anecdotes which I consider queering.
  • Examining the “normative” (straight) habits in both the academy and in ideas.
  • Make philosophy more embodied. Thinking happens outside the mind as well – as Annie Murphy Paul writes. Queerness is often expressed in the body and in movement and action. And queer bodies are often treated differently than straight bodies.

Ideas and Experience

People say that Freud’s thought could only come from a neurotic.

I often say people don’t have ideas, ideas have people. But these people have lived experiences.

Queering philosophy is one way* we can oscellate bweeen the traditional (dominant) narrative and the personal story: between myth and psychology.

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*Others include feminist thought, critical race theory, and disability studies.

Advaita Vedanta and the Art of Painting

art

During the pandemic, I started painting with my kids. The kids lost interest, but my interest kept going.

This period coincided with a lot of personal exploration and inner work. I began a serious meditation practice, practiced yoga every morning at 4:45, and read widely in the history of consciousness.

I began to associate my painting with my inner work.

Art and Self

When I make a painting, it is a capsule of myself at that moment in time. In vedanta sometimes we talk about the self and the SELF. The universal and eternal Self and the self in the world, the ego. Experiencing the Self is to right-size the self.

Right-sizing the self is related to stilling the mind. A painting captures the movements of the artist but also the struggles, fears, the ideas in their head. When I paint, I want to remove all the mental chatter and act!

This is true for all paintings, and perhaps it is true for all art. But, the more art is mediated by symbolic language such as writing and technology, the more difficult it is to remove the mind and act as the Self.

Discernment

Painting, and drawing, are about decisions.

Each mark on the page is a decision the artist makes. These decisions are embodied decisions. The artist perceives the work through her senses, and moves her hand or body to create.

Contrary to logical decision-making, we do not predict anything when we make an artistic decision. We sense-make at the moment.

Projection

When we look at art, often we have a story about the art.

Sometimes we say the work is about power, freedom, or trauma. But this story is about the mind more than the work. It is a projection.

Projection is a psychoanalytic term that describes how we bring our own feelings and mental activity to work, situation, or individual. When we project, we experience our mental projection, which is an illusion.

I want to strip away the chatter and experience the work or the individual as it is, in its naked beingness.

Nonduality

Advaita Vedanta is a spiritual path to enlightenment. Enlightenment is pure awakening – to live without projection and strategy and experience each moment as radically new, shining with its own radiance and the godhead.

When I see a successful painting, I feel this sense, of radical acceptance of reality as it is. It is fully embodied and of the world. It is original and surprising without the constraints of the mind.

Abstraction and representation art can both create this feeling, but in abstraction, there is no scaffolding. We are performing without a net.

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The Art of Naming

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“Good software developers give their variables good names.”

A manager told me this many years ago. I assumed this showed attention to detail. For, me this statement went much deeper.

Good names build a bridge between the abstract world of symbols and the human world of meaning.

Cover Songs

I am obsessed with song covers. Creating a good cover of a song is like giving a variable a good name. It reflects an essential meaning of the song.

Jimi Hendrix’s version of “All Along the Watchtower” sounds how the words mean in a way the Dylan version does not.

Speech Acts

Language is not only a medium of communication, but it also acts. In our culture, specific phrases change the world. When a judge says, “I now pronounce you wife and wife,” a marriage is created- a new legal entity.

When we write software, we create a language that acts.

Genealogy

A name may start as a label for a part, like “I got new wheels” instead of “I got a new car.” But, over time, this part may grow symbolic power. One day, the word “wheel” may replace the word “car.”

Language can change the way it acts. It evolves.

A New Name

This week I created a new microservice at work. Creating a microservice is momentous, and I spent time discussing the name.

Should we use a similar name as the service this was replacing? Should we use the word security or instrument?

The name and the service co-created each other. When we created this name, we created boundaries.

Did our ancestors name things?

Our ancestors named their children and their livestock, but that was about it. We live in a time of rapid innovation and name things all the time: new products, new variables, new websites, new microservices.

Names come from nothing. An object has a name because someone gives a name to something. It is a gift.

Identity, Pseudonymity, and the Metaverse

Names refer to groups, individuals, containers, and bits and pieces of all of these. Digital technology allows everything to be combined and mixed.

Naming remains one of our most primal psychotechnologies of sensemaking. Good names make sense.

Worldbuilding poetry and ai

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From Song of Myself by whitman – 1 & 2 I used my worldbuilding engine (http://ex-worlding.herokuapp.com/ to make this. Then I used midjourney to create some AI visuals. I am doing some diffusion engine visuals for another project:


  Atoms whisper
        soul spears stir
eddies of wind beds as 
tongues  buzz'd whispers of night

dark-color'd sea-rocks  bank
          spectres in books 
                  filter  millions of suns
              belch’d words 
      original energy

                        
            look through!
                 learn to read!
      take things!
                    delight alone!


                        Smoke ripples blood and air and
          embraces, a reaching  third hand:
                 myself 
                 parents
                 green leaves 
                 wood soil 
                 me 

rising from bed  
       crowded with perfumes 
                       mouth forever play
                             shine and shade sound
beating vines &
supple 
                           boughs




Exercise: The First 10 Minutes of Star Wars

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Back before the pandemic, when I taught a class called Computers, Robots and Film, we would watch clips of a movie and then use a phenomenological approach. Forget narrative and story, what do the sounds and sights of the film say?

I could write a book on the first 10 minutes of Star Wars, or any film. Here is an example.

The Face

In the first few minutes of Star Wars we see closeups of the faces and expressions of the rebels, but the Storm Troopers all wear masks.

We can talk about the face and humanity, expression, or feeling. We can talk about the storm trooper mask as the commodification of an individual. Unlike theater, we can talk about film, a medium that allows nuanced facial expressions. We can even talk about philosopher Emmanual Levinas and the notion of infinity and the face of the other.

The importance of the face continues throughout Star Wars, but no spoiler alerts.

Color

The most colorful creature in the first 10 minutes of Star Wars is C3PO – the robot.

C3PO is gold. Everything and everyone else is black, white or grey. There is the occasional red Phaser shot or smoke and flash from an explosion. The other color is blue on R2D2.

Color matters in any visual form. It creates a feeling and a mood and communicates to us in a pre-conscious way. We can call this a correspondence – what do the colors correspond to?

No Life Forms Detected

Towards the end of the 10 minutes, the two robots leave on an escape pod with Princess Leia. Two Imperial Troopers see the pod and note that no life forms are aboard. They leave it alone.

Life form was not a good test of value. What does it mean to be alive? Is this even a useful distinction? In our world, with rapidly advancing AI, we may soon be asking the same question. But perhaps we should be asking something else.

Perhaps it is the Storm Trooper that is not alive.

By experiencing a part, we can understand the whole

In philosophy, the relationship between the parts to the whole is called mereology.

What meaning do senses give us? Often, it is more than we know with our rational minds. Focusing on what we perceive through our senses is an exercise that I use a lot. It is a form of grounding ourselves in the current, something we don’t know enough – but if we open up to our senses, we know more than we think.

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Teaching Mediums

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Teaching college classes on zoom during the pandemic was unpleasant for me. I would feel drained by zoom and eventually burnt out.

All my classes were discussion classes, Computers, Robots and Film, Cyberspace Issues and Ethics, and even learning python was a discussion class.

But zoom and the pandemic highlighted all the different places education happens: online zoom, online software cohort-based classes, online asynchronous classes, youtube lectures, discussion groups, in-person classes and meetings, and the home.

What does it mean to teach a class?

I recently read bell hooks’ Teaching To Transgress, which helped me think through what it means to teach within a university.

I taught my film class, and I thought, why film instead of short stories? When I taught on zoom, I thought, why take a college class and not join an online discussion or listen to @FilmCritHULK?

The internet and pandemic have expanded the places where education happens. For example, Game Studies Study Buddies Podcast by @rangedtouch is a conversation between two academics. There is an associated discord, and I would think about the difference between this and a class.

Situations and Experiences

Today I am exploring a constellation of feelings. I can reduce this to a situation – why teach a class at a university instead of having a podcast?

I find myself in a situation where sometimes I have the opportunity to teach at a university. I do not have a podcast.

I enjoy teaching and learning – discussion and transformation. I have the experience of being a filmmaker and a computer scientist and thinking and reading deeply on topics I teach.

Life offers opportunities for us to engage with the world. Some opportunities feel more demanding and out of reach, and some options feel close to being realized. It feels more accessible TO ME to teach a class at a university than offering a Teachable online Teachable course.

What I feel Today

Why teach a class? Why take a class? Why listen to a youtube tutorial? Because we all have a constellation of options available to us to satisfy our desires and we pick those that feel the most accessible and that most fully satisfy our desires.

If you are interested in more work like this, please check out my newsletter, The Rewrite: https://therewrite.substack.com/

And here is a piece I wrote on learning and containers: https://medium.com/@hackerm0m/spaces-and-containers-9227f2d9b840

Fasting in the Woods

art

My friend @technekai and I always go on crazy adventures.

She suggested we go on a “vision quest” in the New Jersey Pine Barrens this year. I did not read the fine print and ended up spending 108 hours in a 10-foot circle surrounded by shrubby oaks, blueberry bushes, and pitch pines with no food and 4 gallons of water.

I logged my experience in 70 journal pages and counting, but I find it challenging to articulate what I did and how I changed.

Here are some reflections:

I don’t want a frappuccino

Our first stop after the ques was a Starbucks in Ocean Township New Jersey.

I looked at the pictures of frappuccinos and thought how delicious it would be to have a crushedwith sugar and – and with caffegone I had done without sugar and caffeine for at least two weeks.

Suddenly I felt this not for me. The frappuccino is not for me. I was offered all these options that look so appealing, but I didn’t want any of them.

The world gives us many options and tries to sell us them. But these options are not for us. We don’t want them.

Seeing with my heart

I would sit in the morning and watch the birds as they drifted down from the top of the pitch pines like leaves on the wind.

In my nonduality practice, I observe without labeling. For example, I watch a bird but do not label it a bird, or watch a leaf without calling it a leaf. I want to label and analyze everything, so this practice is hard.

To shift out of an analytic mode, I look with my heart. I set my intention in my chest and feel out – not look out. To feel with the heart. It to feel it is not to think. What does it feel like to be with a lover, a child, or an old friend?

Listening to nature is relational not analytic.

Mirrors

“Mirror mirror on the wall who’s the fairest one of all.’ said the evil queen in the Snow White fairy tYou cannot escape yourself when

You cannot escape yourself when you are in a 10-foot circle in the woods. All of nature is a mirror and just like in the fairy tale, the mirror does not always show you what you expect.

I had a hand mirror that I used for my twice-a-day tick check. One day I looked in the mirror and found a tick on my upper thigh. I should not have needed a mirror to see the tick – it was in plain sight. But I could only see the tick in the mirror.

If we see with our eyes, tools help reorient us.

What does it mean?

I will not spend my life on a vision quest in the woods. I have a family, a job, an artistic practice, and a community. But I wonder, what is my relationship with nature and with technology? The dichotomy seems bright to me; maybe everything is natural, but not everything is nature.

Right now, I have more questions than answers, but I have an open space inside that I don’t feel compelled to fill with false desires.