All posts for December 2015

From The Top Down Dept.

"I did it, why can't you?" dissected.

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2015/12/30 17:00

There's this attitude, one I'm seeing a lot more of these days (or maybe I'm just more attuned to it than I used to be), that if someone can do something, what's to stop anyone else from doing it? It's a pernicious attitude, in big part because the truth in the statement is ruined by the way it's framed.

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Tags: Buddhism belief religion society sociology

Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned: The End Of The Year's Road Dept.

Looking back, looking forward.

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2015/12/28 10:00

Like many of the rest of you, the last few days for me have been one long whirlwind of holidaze [sic]. Now that the wave has crested and broken, a few bits and pieces of what's behind and in front of me.

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Tags: Always Outnumbered Never Outgunned MeTal Robotron: 2084 Welcome to the Fold programming projects real life writing

Rough Unwanted Diamonds Dept.

On the act of feeding your head.

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2015/12/23 10:00

Most of you Constant Readers know by now my whole spiel about how would-be creators need to not merely expose themselves to other examples of the kind of work they want to produce. This crosses disciplines and fandoms, meaning an aspiring comic artist is likely to gain perspective from getting out of his reading bubble in the same way an aspiring novelist will be enriched by a trip to a museum they normally would never go to.

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Tags: creativity creators

Music: The Disintegration Loops (William Basinski)

If there is an award for The Saddest Music In The World, I present it now and forever to William Basinski's Disintegration Loops.

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2015/12/21 10:00
Buy at Amazon

If there is an award for The Saddest Music In The World, I present it now and forever to William Basinski's Disintegration Loops. This isn't music that makes you weep; this is music-as-weeping, the sound of the lament of the universe itself, sorrow on the order of Miles Davis's "He Loved Him Madly". Some of the impact stems from the concept, both in its scope and execution, but at the end of the day (or the end of days, ha ha), it's the sound itself here that causes the tears to be shed. Anything more lachrymose than this wouldn't leave an audience behind to appreciate it.

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Tags: William Basinski ambient music reviews

Wake Up, Force! Dept.

It's 1977 all over again, sort of.

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2015/12/20 10:00

Saw The Force Awakens last night -- no spoilers in this discussion, so no worries. On the whole, it was good-to-very-good, if not quite the sheer jolt of electricity that we got back in 1977 (but really, nothing is ever going to be -- not in the same way, certainly).

A couple of things come to mind:

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Tags: Science Fiction Repair Shop Star Wars movie science fiction

Music: Soliloquy for Lilith (Nurse With Wound)

Those purveyors of sinister whimsy went headfirst into the abyss with this undulating black mirror of a record.

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2015/12/19 11:00
Buy at Amazon

Among my favorite records are the happy accidents. Out of some mistake, some fluke in the studio or some miscalculation, emerges an unduplicatable miracle. It happened with William Basinski's The Disintegration Loops (that's worth a discussion all its own), and it happened with Nurse With Wound's Soliloquy for Lilith, an album far, far out of gamut even for those purveyors of the cheekily strange. Steve Stapleton and his revolving crew of merry pranksters had long been making bunny ears and funny faces behind the heads of noise, experimental music and prog-rock. Now they ventured into a dreamtime with no sky above, no floor below, just an abyss unrolling without end in all directions.

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Tags: Nurse With Wound ambient music noise review

I'm (Sort Of) A Believer Dept.

Me and my, uh, belief system, whatever you wanna call it.

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2015/12/09 10:00

” is advertising | David Chapman at WordPress

“Buddhist” in Berkeley means the same thing as “Christian” in Foley. Most Foley Christians may be ignorant of basic Christian doctrines, and rarely if ever go to church, but that’s not the point. Most Berkeley Buddhists may be ignorant of basic Buddhist doctrines, and rarely if ever go to a meditation group, but that’s not the point. That’s not what Buddhism is for. It’s a way of saying what sort of person you are. At least, that’s one thing it is for! What is “I am a Buddhist” supposed to say about you? The rest of this page suggests that it is a statement of allegiance to the monist-leftist side of the American culture-war tribal split; it is a sign of moral piety; it is a claim for high status within the middle class; and it signifies particular personality traits such as openness and agreeableness. This used to work well, because it was a “costly signal.” However, the strategy’s effectiveness has declined over time. Saying “I am a Buddhist” may now be heard as “I’m cowardly, disorganized, boring, and dumb.”

I don't know if I agree with the idea that "Buddhist" sends that kind of message (maybe I just hang with a crowd that isn't , but I do agree that it sends a message, and that the message isn't always a positive one. The more tuned-in Buddhist folks who have a soapbox to orate from (and an audience of more than a few dozen to hear it) are fond of saying things to the effect that being a Buddhist does not mean being a doormat. (Who was it that said, "Pacifism doesn't mean 'passive'-ism"?)

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Tags: Buddhism Zen religion spirituality

Treknology Dept.

Why 'Trek' continues to matter, or not matter.

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2015/12/08 10:00

The Displaced Utopia — Matthew Buscemi

... in 1960's America, a story about a spaceship that ferries an ethnically diverse yet socially functional group of humans from one planet to another so that they might learn and discover not just more about aliens, but more about themselves, and who would only use force as a means of self-defense, never as a means of conquering or pillaging–this was sf, even if it was on television, and even if had to be supplemented heavily with baser content to appeal to the masses.

I find it incredibly infuriating when Star Trek's achievements are referred to as "naive." ... A science fiction television show once challenged a deeply racist culture to believe that people of varying skin color and ethnic background could travel the stars together and leave not just their planet but their galaxy a little better than they found it.

Buscemi has some de-lovely points to make about the latter-day Treks that hint at why I might have fallen out of favor with the franchise. The later shows traded up their pulpy but visionary explorations for "gritty" realpolitik that you could get in a dozen other places . But the point cited here is the core of it. It's not "naïve" to suggest that we can do better, look further, try harder, inhabit the universe more charitably. Our survival might well depend on it. It doesn't mean that anything that comes our way with that message is immune from criticism, but naïve isn't a valid criticism for it.

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Tags: Star Trek futurism science fiction

Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned: Heard You Missed Us, Well, We're Back Dept.

The latest details about my recent adventures in overwork. Oh, and I get angry.

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2015/12/07 18:00

This is Rumor Control; here are the facts.

  • Work paused on blogging system MeTal for the month of December while I turn my attention back to another programming project I'd back-burnered temporarily. It's actually a rewrite of a much older C#./NET project that ended up rusting and growing moss, and since I'm no longer doing much on that side of the programming fence, the whole shebang is being reworked in Python/Django. (Some part of me regrets using Django -- it is a heavy-ass framework -- but I really didn't feel like rolling my own DB management, CSRF protection, etc., etc.)
  • In theory I was supposed to have an end-to-end outline for Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned (the next novel) by the end of November -- National Novel Plotting Month, ha ha -- but I'm barely at what I assume is the halfway point. Half of the plotting process has been pure Fibber's Closet -- open up the door, get pelted by ever manner of junk -- and the other half has been sitting there, burning a hole in a spot on the wall with my eyes and being unable to answer the simplest questions about the work. The last time I opened a 55-gallon drum of worms like this, I ended up needing an extra-large shipping container to stuff it all back into (see: Flight of the Vajra).
  • Still mulling over what I want to do with the stuff I love to do but have no time for. Come the new year, I'll be exploring some more aggressive time-management strategies. I have a bad habit of picking vague goals for a day's work and not

Side note: It strikes me as nothing less than TSK (Total Security Kabuki) to see encryption being outed as the new terrorism-enabling bugaboo.

Nothing I could say on this subject would be eloquent, so maybe I should not be eloquent. It's a stupid idea; it will not make anyone safer; encryption protects us from bad guys far more than it empowers them; and it is impossible to create encryption that "only good guys can use". A bucket with a hole in it isn't a bucket anymore; it's a sieve; and encryption with key escrow isn't encryption; it's an exploit waiting to happen. Weakening encryption empowers criminals.

(... breathe, Serdar)

I am sick and tired of living in a society where people seem all the more eager to throw away the very things that distinguish us from the people we claim to be arrayed against. The terrorist who wants us to live in fear and the despot who longs to live off of our fear are indistinguishable in the end; they are both parasites of the spirit. Freedom from fear is about more than being protected from things; it is also about being able to freely choose all the risks inherent in a life actually worth living in the first place.

OK, I'll take a drink and relax now. I promise.

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Tags: Always Outnumbered Never Outgunned programming projects real life work writing

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