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.

If you enjoyed this, you might also like the link to https://twitter.com/@hackerm0m or my newsletter at https://therewrite.substack.com/.

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

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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.

Last Ani*mystic post

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This post closes the 2022 edition of the M&A book club. The final chapter of ani*mystic recounts Gordon’s ayahuasca retreat. This was my favorite chapter because I love travelogues, descriptions, case studies, and journeys.

I read this chapter a month ago – and took a photo of some pages that I wanted to remember – but I am too lazy to pull them up. Aya introduced me to a new word in her last post – orans. It means a lifting up of the hands – like the JudeLaw in The New Pope (great show).

https://www.moviezine.se/series/the-new-pope

I am into mudras:

https://discover.hubpages.com/entertainment/KATHAKALI-The-Great-Indian-Classical-Dance-Part-II

Mudra means seal. When I do yoga, or meditate, I use different seals to activate or draw energy into different parts of the body. I have been looking also at planetary seals lately – that block different planetary energies. One of my favorite movies is The 7th Seal, by Ingmar Bergman. Similar to station 11 it features a traveling theater troupe during an apocalypse. What are the 7 seals? In the Book of revelation there are 7 seals that guard an apocalyptic book. And guess what there are 7 traditional planetary bodies.

But seals are everywhere – even Jesus used mudras:

https://www.bibhudevmisra.com/2017/11/yoga-mudras-in-orthodox-christian-art.html

Back to Ani*mystic – last chapter. In The Dawn of Everything Graeber and Wengrew say that people traveled and exchanged things in the past not for economic value but for entertainment, travel moments, and as relics from vision quests.

Gordon went on a vision quest – and the quest had a structure that the community shared in and then he brought back some new understandings, some momentos, AND this book – Ani*mystic.

Questions

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I am reading Designing Regenerative Cultures by Daniel Wahl and chapter one is about questions.

I am all about Questions…. Asking a question is an art. It is the art of machine learning, of the oracle, of the tarot, of the dissertation. Asking questions opens the world – it is the art of Socrates.

Here is what TS Eliot has to say on the matter from the book:

“Where is the Life we have lost in living?
Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information? […]
What life have you, if you have not life together?
There is no life that is not in community, […]
When the Stranger says: “What is the meaning of this city?
Do you huddle close together because you love each other?”
What will you answer? “We all dwell together
to make money from each other”? or “This is a community”?
Oh my soul, be prepared for the coming of the Stranger.
Be prepared for him who knows how to ask questions.
T.S. Eliot (1934)”

Excerpt From: Daniel Wahl. “DESIGNING REGENERATIVE CULTURES.” Apple Books.

M&A Bookclub: Space & Time & Knots

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I may write this like a Nietzsche book or Wittgenstein notebook – random fragments.

I was supposed to publish this last week I think or maybe two weeks ago. It is hard to keep time organized. Perhaps because I am reading ani*mystic or perhaps because I am moving – or perhaps it is florescent lighting which is definitely a mind control substance.

I was talking with Aya about what chapter I was on, and Aya told me that had missed a chapter. Boo Ka NA – this is Mandarin for NO! But maybe yes. I looked through my last posts and see that I blogged on chapter 2 twice and quite frankly I don’t care. Aya says glitches are ok -this is definitely a glitch. Some say that glitches are where spirit comes through – so this series of posts is about glitches.

I loved the end of the chapter: “Where animals really come from”.. It reminds me of the visionary experiences of Malidoma Some. And I can get behind animals coming from the invisible world – that certain forms take shape in water and wind and then are given bodies and blood. Dreaming creates animals – this is why bigfoot exists. Joking not joking.

Aya’s latest post made my heart stop because I love complexity theory. Complexity theory is about how there are different kinds of computational problems that can be solved in a certain amount of time. It is also about how different kinds of computational problems can be solved in a certain amount of space. Programmers like to say that we/you can do anything. Well, this is not true.

There is a structure to computation. Just like an oak cannot be an elm, P cannot be NP. AND the space I need to do both is different.

“Wednesday as a being beyond you and your limits. simultaneously now and eternal.”

In this chapter, Gordon talks about space and threads and knots and making. That space is constructed from everything that happened in it and everything that will happen. Aristotle’s politics begins in the home – the oikos. The home is a microcosm of the polity – the city state. The home is also the origin of economics – oikonomics. The science of homes. When I think about economics and ecology (the logic of homes) -I now thing about these knots and timelines – what are the patterns of the home like so many different types of complexity of computer algorithms.

As Tolstoy said every family is unique (or many every unhappy family – wink wink).

I once had a vision of a weave. The weave of the universe. I was the space between the warp and the weft. Nothing. Darkness. The Void. Was I dead? I was NOTHING. But I thought I am a mother, and my mother is someone so I am also someone. This is not to say that parenthood is the only way to verify existence, but for me I guess it is important. We are the (w)holes in the fabric.

Right Relations

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“i want to know what a number is to a sparrow, to a lizard, to a monkey” – so writes Aya in her latest blog post about Ani*mystc. She also includes a beautiful image of mud that cracks in threes.

This chapter to me was a story about what it feels like to live in relation with the spirits. I was going to say numenous, but to me that has a disembodied quality. Gordon in this chapter is in relation to embodied spirits that most people do not see, like the dragons of the nakshakras (the lunar mansions).

https://www.nesdis.noaa.gov/news/hunga-tonga-hunga-haapai-erupts-again

What is it to look at a cloud and to see a dragon? An image is worth more than 1000 words because we can always look closer. Imagines have infinite depth, infinite associations, and infinite scales.

Gordon talks about the difference between true and real. This struck me as profound. It is the difference between epistemology and metaphysics OR logic and metaphysics. The true is something that is internally correct for its system. The real is something that works for us. Who cares if something is true if the system it is not correct for is not the ecosystem.

To everything there is a season. So says Ecclesiastes. A time of water dragons and a time of fire dragons. In my last post I wrote about number and cycles. But time is not just number, time is not clock time, time is a feeling. We could say time is an emotion, or a moment in the emotional wave.

I will highlight a few choice passages

Hard and Easy Angles

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Over the past two years I began to use the language hard and easy to refer to experiences and interactions.

This is language from astrology. A hard angle is something like a square or opposition and indicates struggle and growth. An easy angle is a trine or a sextile and indicates something that is easy and natural.

There are many astrological traditions, Hellenistic, Vedic, Egyptian, Renaissance, to name a few. Hellenistic astrology thinks about aspects in terms of vision: the planets see one another. What is it like to look at someone directly, to look at someone with the side-eye to look at someone next to you. There are 5 traditional “Ptolemaic” aspects that describe these: the square, the conjunct, the opposition, the sextile and the trine.

There is also a measurement aspect to angles. I first read about this in Dane Rudhyar – so perhaps this is a modern analysis, but I am not sure. I can take an astrological chart, a circle, and create arbitrary divisions and draw lines between them. If I divide the chart into 36 slices of 10 degrees and then draw angels between these I will come up with a different set of angles, I can do this with 5 slices of 72, and so forth.

A number of the non-ptolemaic aspects seem to arise from this sort of division. Some people even think trines are not actually about planets seeing one another, but about dividing the wheel in to thirds (120 degree angles). (My opinion is that it is about something else – elemental relationships but lets not talk about that now) .

So this is interesting right – in one case we have how planets see one another, and in another case we have an analysis of the world holding the planets (we could also say this is an analysis of a model – so perhaps substituting the map for the geography.

Does number have meaning? Does “2” have a meaning apart from our linguistic use of “2”. If it does than the measurement method takes on more weight because the meaning of the number of division then relates to what angles arise from this division.

But why did I start this blog post in the first place?

What does it mean to see someone, what does it mean to be seen, what does it mean to be oriented in space? Our struggles and triumphs can sometimes we considered in these terms. A discussion of angles, regardless of whether or not you believe in astrology, is a language for parsing visibility and orientation.

Historically astrologers controlled, and still control, the angles people can use – but what does this really mean about society – about mobility and visibility. It means rigidity and restriction.

I say be aquarian – make your own frickin angles.