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Monthly Archives: June 2011

Pressure Group Politics

“Apparently, a democracy is a place where numerous elections are held at great cost without issues and with interchangeable candidates.” —Gore Vidal

Political parties seek the power of government whereas pressure groups merely seek to influence the exercise of that power. Is this still true or are pressure groups more powerful than that?

Since Thatcher’s depature as Prime Minister British Politics has shifted strongly towards a system based on pressure groups rather than party loyalty. There is evidence that the country was moving in this direction anyway, for example the poll tax riots, but as a charismatic leader Thatcher united the party and the voters in two consecutive elections behind her.

With the demise of the charasmatic leader and the Conservative party in such disarray that Major recently described himself as the “head of a coalition government” the opportunity for pressure groups to increase their support as political party membership declines are only just beginning to open up.

Pressure groups are also known as cause groups and it is important to remember that publicly minded individuals are not the only ones stalking the halls of Westminster. Companies exist with the sole purpose of lobbying MPs. If you want to stop a bill getting passed that would harm you or your company, usually financialy, then you can hire one of these lobbying companies to work on your behalf.

Not all of these companies are above board as demonstrated by recent scandals involving “cash for questions” and two public enquiries. There are still individuals, such as the Sultan of Brunai, who have the power to buy off individual politicians. Allegations about the sultan himself are false and his integrity is not in question but it is clear from a series of resignations that whoever is doing the purchasing – there are MPs who can be bought.

While we appear to have sidestepped the question here it is important to demonstrate that individuals now hold more power in British politics. This is a direct result of the lack of a unified strategy at the top. While many analysts lamented the passing of cabinet government in the 1980s it must be said that it did mean that individuals had to toe the line. The main result of this was funds going directly into Conservative Party coffers instead of to individuals but it kept the image of the party a little cleaner.

Labour of course is as corruptible as the Conservatives. Until the rejection of everythiung the party stood for by the Blair contingent the Unions had the power to control individual MPs although this was done through patronage rather than cash. A similar situation existed with the Democrats in the US in the ’70s who owed their dues to Big Labor and when McGovern became the Democratic nominee for President in the campaign of ’72 at one point it looked as if they would let him lose to Nixon to regain control of the party in time for ’76.

After a second detour we now return to the main question. There are two kinds of pressure groups often defined as Insider and Outsider. However we are at an intersting point where some of the Outsider groups are on the verge of becoming insider groups. I will elaborate. Insider groups are those accepted by the establishment, they may even have been set up by the establishment such as the RSPCA. These insider groups will generally be called to advise select committees and to give their views on new policy affecting their area of interest. They are respected by the establishment and their views are thought to correspond to the general populace.

On the other side of the fence are the outsider groups who are not recognised by the establishment. They me be proscribed (illegal) groups such as the IRA or animal rights terrorists such as the ALF but there are also groups whos views are considered too eccentric or out of kilter with the views of Joe Public to matter – The Hunnt Sabatoeurs Association a few years ago for example. What is interesting is that groups like the IRA have apparently abandoned their form of lobbying – para-military activities, because it was not effective and are moving into the political process while other groups are moving away from the party system and directly into lobbying.

Public pressure groups need not be affiliated to an indivdual party, usually they are not. But they work with the parties to find sympathetic MPs who will argue their cause in Parliament. Only insider groups can be successful in doing this but a recent list of active pressure groups included over 400 groups in areas as diverse as Community Action, Animal Welfare, Farming, Ethnic Minorities, Unemployed, Drugs/Addiction, Education, Families, Aged, Wildlife, Environment, Health, Disability, Counselling, Housing, Sexuality, Religious, and Women’s groups.

What was the question? Where do pressure groups end and parties begin in Britain today? Well something like that. The Green party is a one cause party – it aims to get elected to put together policy on one issue, its policy on everything except the environment is a curious mixture of Luddite/Communist thinking coupled with liberal values and harsh taxes. The two main one issue parties in Britain are Plaid Cymru and the SNP who want independence of some sort for Wales and Scotland respectively. None of these three parties ever get taken particularly seriously although the big three do steal policy from the Greens occasionaly. If they do get their MPs elected the only time they can influence the government is when it comes to cutting deals to get government policy passed. Therefore those who do not a have their own party have turned to lobbying.

One MP in reality holds much less power than a nationaly organised band of voters fanatically loyal to their cause. If exports of live animals are going to stop it is because of the attention that pressure groups have brought to the issue and this is where there power lies. Because they are not political party organisations they can dedicate their entire resources to accomplashing one goal and in turn this gives them a wider base of support htan the political parties. This explains why party membership is down and pressure group membership is up. There are only six parties in mainland Britain that have any chance of getting an MP into parliament and the Monster Raving “Liberal” Loonies are only on that list because people are eventually going to get so sick of politics that if they are going vote it will be for the anti-politicians.

So we have established that pressure groups have immense power, backed by numbers of people who, at least on a local level, vote on issues rather than party politics – except when expressing disgust with the national Tory government. How do they use that power? They mount massive media campaigns, hog air time by harranging decommisioned oil rigs in the North Sea, get beaten up by fox-hunters, appear on current affairs programs with inside views. Representing a body of experience and knowledge and with national and often international, sans frontiers, support they can direct the political agenda and the public policy making machine often with more success than the incumbent political party.

In summary pressure groups do not often seek to influence the excersise of power in Westminster, they represent that power themselves and in so doing have often knocked big business into a close second and the unions onto the back burner. This of course was made possible by Thatcher’s precision bombing of the unions’ foundations and giving business almost everything they wanted. Business will return to power when it comes to the crunch on the issue of a single currency for Europe – they wan’t it and they don’t care how they get it even if they have to support Labour. Until then pressure groups are the main-stay of British national politics and no media report on any political issue would be complete without the opinion of an analyst from the relevant group.

 
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Posted by on June 18, 2011 in Politics

 

Minds, Brains and Science

“It’s a lot easier to see, at least in some cases, what the long-term limits of the possible will be, because they depend on natural law. But it’s much harder to see just what path we will follow in heading toward those limits.” —K. Eric Drexler

“As computers become more and more complicated, it becomes harder and harder to understand what goes on inside them. With gigabytes of RAM and access to databases comprising almost the whole of human knowledge, it isn’t inconceivable that a research project could go berserk… a virus could blossom beyond its creator’s wildest imagination… a program designed to unify information might begin to learn from the information that it has compiled”

This view of machine intelligence has gained wide appeal in an audience unaware of the realities of technology, fed on cyberpunk science fiction and paranoid about computers taking over the world. In Minds, Brains & Science Searle is primarily concerned with disproving this notion of thinking digital computers (as apart from other types of computers, possibly yet to be invented). Part of the problem of deciding whether or not computers are capable of thought lies in our lack of understanding of what thought actually is. Thus his first theme is “how little we know of the functioning of the brain, and how much the pretension of certain theories depends on this ignorance.”

In a round about way Searle does in fact include other types of computers. He has asserted that a perfect copy of the brain that looks and works the same way is only a simulation. Searle admits that the minds of the title cannot very well be defined, that it is still not completely clear how brains work, and that any discipline with the word science in the name probably isn’t one. Notably one that to all intents and purposes is, is Computer Science.

Searle begins by defining the mind-body problem. Penrose defines it thus, “In discussions of the mind-body problem, there are two separate issues on which attention is commonly focused: ‘How is it that a material object (a brain) can actually evoke consciousness?’; and conversely; ‘How is it that a consciousness, by the action of its will, can actually influence the (apparently physically determined) motion of material objects?’” Searle adds the question, “How should we interpret recent work in computer science and artificial intelligence – work aimed at making intelligent machines? Specifically, does the digital computer give us the right picture of the human mind?”.

Searle rejects the dualist view of the physical world, governed by the laws of nature, being separate from the mental world, being governed by free will. He defines four mental phenomena that make up the processes of the brain as consciousness, intentionality, subjectivity, and causation. He says, “All mental phenomena… are caused by processes going on in the brain,” adding, “Pains and other mental phenomena are just features of the brain”. By this he means that all experience takes place in the mind as distinct from the external, physical message. He gives the example of a patient who undergoes an operation. He is under anaesthetic and hence in his view of reality he suffers no pain from the surgeon’s knife. The physical action is there but the mental consequence is suppressed.

Searle deals with the four requirements for an analysis of the mind in turn. He explains that consciousness involves “certain specific electro-chemical activities going on among neurons or neuron -modules” . He explains that intentionality, drives and desires, can to a degree be proven to exist (in the case of thirst for example). He shows that subjective mental states exist “because I am now in one and so are you”. And he shows that in mental causation thoughts give rise to actions. This brings us back to Penrose’s second question.

If the mind is software to the body’s hardware then it is not so difficult to see how mental causality works. Neither the mind nor computer software have a tangible presence. The mind is held in the matrix of the brain as software is held in the ‘memory’ of a computer. Yet, a thought can result in an action, such as raising an arm because physical signals are sent as software would send physical signals through a computer to raise the arm of a robot. An extension of this thinking gives rise to the notion of the possibility of computer intelligence.

The running theme of the book is Searle’s attempt to counter the claims of proponents of Strong Artificial Intelligence (AI) that computers can be taught to think. Strong AI can be easily refuted if you accept that humans are not taught to think, but advocates of machine intelligence say they are teaching computers to learn. AI is seen by them as the next step in the evolution of the computer towards the ultimate goal of consciousness. Searle says that the digital computer as we know it will never be able to think no matter how fast they get or how much ‘memory’ they have.

In the summer of 1956, a group of academics met at Dartmouth College to explore the conjecture that “every aspect of learning or any other feature of intelligence can in principle be so precisely described that a machine can be made to simulate it.” The conjecture was formulated by John McCarthy and the field of enquiry it engendered came to be known as artificial intelligence. The problem as Searle sees it is that the features of intelligence cannot be precisely defined by computer experts in the AI field who end up ignoring at least one of the four mental states in order to get their programs to work. These programs then gain credibility by psychology’s use of them to describe the behaviour as the human mind. Searle points out that when the telegraph was the latest technology it was thought that the brain worked like that.

“There are two ways of thinking about how a machine might approximate human intelligence. In the first model, the goal is to achieve the same result as a human would, although the process followed by a machine and man need not be the similar. (This model of shared result but distinct process describes how computers do arithmetic computation.) In the second model, the goal is not only for the computer to achieve the same result as a person but to do it following the same procedure.”

Advocates of Strong AI believe that given the same information as a human, a computer, following a set process, could derive the same meaning. However, Searle argues there is no distinct process in the human mind for a computer to simulate, and therefore a computer cannot have meaning, one of the five components of human language. “In the case of human beings, whenever we follow a rule we are being guided by the actual content or the meaning of the rule.”

“Language isn’t so much a thing as it is a relationship. It makes no sense to talk about words or sentences unless the words and sentences mean something, For sentences to mean something, their components must be linked together in an orderly way. A linguistic expression must be encoded in some medium—such as speech or writing—for us to know it is there. And there must be people involved in all this too produce and receive linguistic messages.

Thus there are five interrelated components that go to make up human language: meaning (or semantics), linkage (or syntax), medium, expression, and participants.” Searle argues that there can be no meaning in a computer’s understanding of language since it relies on some form of judgement or opinion. It could further be argued that what the computer receives is not in fact a linguistic message but an instruction on how to react.

To some degree you can play around with syntax: ‘Grammar rules break you can; understood still be will you.’ The ‘meaning’ is conveyed and perhaps a computer that looks at individual words could still derive the ‘meaning’. However if we change the sentence to: ‘Can you break grammar rules; will you still be understood?’ then the ‘meaning’ has changed. The words are the same but he order, and meaning, is different. The first is a statement, and there are languages which have this grammatical form such as Tuvan, while the second is clearly a question. How can a computer derive the ‘meaning’ if we do not include the ‘question mark’.

Searle has previously put this idea forward in his Chinese room argument. Chinese characters are passed into a room where an non Chinese speaker follows a set of rules and comes up with a response that is passed out. Searle argues there is no mind in the room. Advocates of strong AI claim the mind works like the room. This does not seem to be the case if we stick to Searle’s four mental states. If this were the case then Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engine (a mechanical computer) would, if constructed, have been capable of thought. The argument about the digital computer is that technology doesn’t matter, as in a car, you can change the engine, but it still works the same way.

This can be seen in William Gibson and Bruce Sterling’s novel The Difference Engine where the computer age arrives a century ahead of time. In this version of history Babbage perfects his Analytical Engine and the steam driven computers of the industrial revolution include “calculating-cannons, steam dreadnoughts, machine guns and information technology”.

As Searle points out, computers follow rules. We don’t have any rules that we follow. If we did then every human being would look and function the same. One brain would be a carbon copy of another. As all brains are unique (especially in the case of identical twins) it is clear that there is no hard and fast rule for building them. They grow. How can you grow a digital computer?

John McCarthy believes that his thermometer has feelings. If you look at the human body as a machine and the mind as part of that machine then it seems clear that machines cannot have feelings as they have no ‘sense receptors’. They may have input devices including audio, video, heat-spectrum or whatever. The point being that the data is converted into something usable at the point it is taken in. In the human brain input comes directly to the brain and is interpreted there. As Searle points out, if someone punches you in the eye then you ‘see stars’ it’s information processed in a visual way. No machine is rigged like us. Nor does Searle believe it ever will be. And, even if it was, he still believes it would be a simulation not a true consciousness. After all, someone has to tell the computer that if it bumps into a wall it hurts because actually when it bumps into a wall it doesn’t hurt it at all. However, you could conceivably build a mobile computer that would feel a ‘pain’ response if it suffered damage. We already have self analysing and repairing computers. This could logically be extended but self-awareness is only one aspect of consciousness.

Self-described postmodernist feminist author Kathy Acker says: “When reality—the meanings associated with reality—is up for grabs, which is certainly Wittgenstein’s main theme and one of the central problems in philosophy and art ever since the end of the nineteenth century, then the body itself becomes the only thing you can return to. You can talk about any intellectual concept and it is up for grabs, because anything can mean anything, any thought can lead into another thought and thus be completely perverted. But when you get to the actual physical act of sexuality, or of bodily disease, there’s an undeniable materiality which isn’t up for grabs. So it’s the body which finally can’t be touched by all our scepticism and ambiguous systems of belief. The body is the only place where any basis for real values exists anymore.”

Perhaps this is the summation of the mind-as-a-computer/body problem. In Japan a great deal of work has been done to achieve a fifth generation of computers with natural languages and heuristic learning capabilities. However, in the main they have been unsuccessful. “Japan has no advantage in software, and nothing short of a total change of national character on their part is going to change that significantly. One really remarkable thing about Japan is the achievement of its craftsmen, who are really artists, trying to produce perfect goods without concern for time or expense. This effect shows, too, in many large-scale Japanese computer programming projects, like their work on fifth-generation knowledge processing. The team becomes so involved in the grandeur of their concept that they never finish the program.”

This is not just the problem of Japan but of computer scientist in general who are approaching the problem from the wrong direction. You cannot craft a brain, children learn to walk and talk without being taught so any computer that computer scientists hope to bestow with intelligence must have a natural learning program. Unfortunately it is still not clear how the concepts of speech are learned and so the future of machine intelligence looks unpromising.

People often ascribe an ‘intelligence’ to (mostly) inanimate objects. The car is a classic example but ships have been called ‘she’ for years. It is easy to see why when writing this essay, for instance, and suffering a ‘crash’ resulting in losing two pages, and many hours of work one is likely to consider the machine ‘evil’ or ‘out to get one’. This is clearly not the case. However, because people generally do not understand what happens inside the ‘box of tricks’ as with the Chinese Room, it is possible for them to ascribe an intelligence when there is not one there. It is also because mankind has become so dependent on technology that paranoia of machines taking over the world has come about.

It does not help the situation when it is fuelled by cyberpunk fiction. The classic text is Gibson’s Neuromancer where a network of computers achieves a single intelligence. This idea is purely fictional but the other public image is more interesting. It derives from the film Blade Runner, and it is of course based on the book Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? One of the themes of the book not wholly represented in the film is the idea of the importance of owning an animal. However, since it is a post apocalyptic society most of the animals are dead. While there is a prize on owning a real animal, most people make do with artificial ones. They happily simulate the actions of sheep, cats, frogs or whatever but that is all. They do not think.

An interesting question is raised by the film. At the end when the replicant Batty is dying he says, “I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe; attack ships on fire off the shores of Orion. I’ve watched sea beams glitter in the darkness at the ten house gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain.” This raises a philosophical question, “If an android with a computer brain can have ‘experiences’ that he can relate to others and yet is mortal then does he not have inalienable human rights?’

One area where computer simulations of intelligence consistently fail is in producing new creative data. In the area of humour for instance. It is probably impossible to program a computer to make random connections. This is, in part, because there is no such thing as randomness. Einstein’s theory of relativity can be seen to apply to every thought in the human brain as having derived in some way from a previous thought or external stimulus. Let us take an example where a computer would have difficulty; the sick joke. Computers do not know what is in poor taste because they do not have ‘taste’. A computer may be told that a joke about ethnic minorities is in poor taste but it would not be able to come up with a new joke of its own in similar poor taste. Socially this is a ‘good’ thing but in terms of simulating the human mind it is very ‘bad.’

Finally we return to Wittgenstein who sums up Searle’s overall argument when he says: “Meaning is not a process which accompanies a word. For no process could have the consequences of meaning.”

 
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Posted by on June 18, 2011 in Society, Technology

 

Stay

“Every heart sings a song, incomplete, until another heart whispers back. Those who wish to sing always find a song. At the touch of a lover, everyone becomes a poet.” —Plato

Here I present a critical analysis and discussion of the song Stay, describing its structure, use of rhythm and meter, exploring its ideas, images and themes, use symbolisms and what the work is about.

The author asserts that this work was written in a stream of consciousness, practically writing itself and needing only one revision. It may be for this reason that what at first appears broken and uneven in fact flows well over the music. The version of the recording provided, the only one currently available, is a demo and it is not always easy to follow where the lyrics would go. On their own the words scan well enough but with the addition of the music they take on added meaning through their tonality. This of course varies with the interpretation of the singer.

As a rough guide the music is composed as follows: Four chords of introduction; Main riff (instrumental only); First through to third verses. Instrumental (slowing near the end); Final three verses; Outro. The lyrics fit the music to the specific chords so that the first line fits with the first chord, the second line with its modulation. The same follows for the third and fourth line. This is the first pattern of the verse. The fifth line fits with the second chord and the sixth with its modulation. The seventh and eighth lines follow in the same way making the second pattern. The second pattern is played in the same way as the first pattern so that they complement each other and form a steady rhythm that underlies the melody. In this way the words and music go together to conjure up a rhythmic sensation of movement from the ‘smoke’, to the ‘train’, ‘going up to her room’.

Movement is in fact one of the main themes of the song. However the title is Stay. From this we may gather that the song is about the desire to resist going ‘with the flow’ but finding the struggle hopeless. While the music in Stay has a standard rhythm, the lyrics do not. The rhyme pattern varies from verse to verse and though the verses flow smoothly there is no clear syllabic breakdown. In the first verse the rhyme pattern is ABCBDBEB but in the others it is ABCBDEFE. This is perhaps because the first verse sets the tone for the rest of the song. It is the background and within eight lines we have moved from the very real, the girl waiting, to the imaginary, her being ten feet tall. Thus when verse two comes the listener is taken into the motion of the song.

The recording was made on a four-track in the summer of 1992. Steve King plays an improvised lead guitar over Owen’s rhythm. The piano is played by Owen. One track was left empty for the vocals but they were never recorded. The problem is that the main melody is provided by the singer. If a ‘da’ is higher than the last note, and a ‘dum’ is lower and the first ‘da’ is the root note of the chord and all the notes are within the scale of the chord then the lyrics go: da da da— dum dum da da— (As she waits by the window…). The next problem is that the first line of the first and fourth verses begin two words before the music gets on to the next verse. However it is possible to get the gist of the song. The benefit of removing the lyrics is that you can sing the them yourself to see how you would fit them.

Why were the instruments chosen? Though usually it is due to the composition of the performing group it can be seen how the two electric guitars, lead and rhythm, and a piano, without any drums or a bass, can portray a different set of musical qualities than say a single acoustic guitar. Pianos can be synonymous with rain or other things falling, or emotions and memories falling away. Ideally, in the author’s opinion, it should be performed on an round-back acoustic guitar accompanied by an archtop, f-hole, jazz guitar, a double-bass, a piano, and drums played with brushes. A comparison can be made between this song and George Michael’s Cowboys and Angels. They both share a similar theme and a musical modality.

A consideration of the work should include a synopses of the story told in the song. The author remembers why the song was written but the listener receives their own message. For instance, the title of the song is taken from the last word and is also a counterpoint to the theme of motion.. The last line summarises the view of the singer of the song. The power of the song is that it is telling a story in that will continue to happen wherever anyone feels powerless. This is the basis of mass appeal. One possible received meaning of the song is that a girl is waiting for a man to come and see her. She lives in a world of dreams, out of touch with reality. She is in not in love with the man but someone else who does not love her. He embraces her knowing that she is using him as a substitute for emotional support that she cannot get elsewhere. The man, having done his best to sort out the situation then leaves her, to get on with his life, but feels regret that he cannot stay with her. He knows, however, that it could not work.

Imagery is a very important part of this song. Why for instance does the smoke loom by the wall, not drift or hang. It could be that the smoke is a representation of something that she is scared of which could be a part of herself, like a shadow, which does loom as the light strays from the area it hits. The smoke could be casting an unusually dark shadow on the wall. To do this it would have to be late at night. She is sitting by the window so there must be a light source other than that such as a lamp. She is waiting for the man, though it could be a woman as interpretation is subjective, to arrive so she is watching for him. Thus in four lines Owen has already painted a strong picture that sets the scene.

There is also the divide between the real and the surreal or perceived. This first manifests itself in the second half of the first verse. She can’t see him, although she is looking. She can’t hear him, although she is listening. The reason is that she is in a dream like state and she is listening to a side of her self. We are told she is in her own world, just to make sure we understood, and then told that she is ‘ten feet tall’. This cliché is generally used in association with euphoria, but under the circumstances can take on a darker tone, perhaps meaning that her inner self has power over her.

The momentum of the story continues as the girl is sitting by a window, then she is on a train. But then is it a window on the train and could the room at the end of the passage be, in fact, a train carriage. Because the train is going ‘nowhere’ we don’t even know if it is real and it could all be an illusion in her mind or in his. She doesn’t know where the train is going but when she gets there the man will be waiting. She could be thinking of someone else (she always is). This verse is completely surreal. The significance of the ‘midnight train’ could be said to be the journey of dream time. She is still physically located in her room as we learn later. She cannot tell where her thoughts will take her, hence the second line of the second verse. However, when she recovers from this dream like state she knows the man will be there. She looks out of a window, we do not know if it is the real window or her mind’s window but she sees the world in motion while she is in stasis. It is the lack of will or power to act that is being driven at. She then goes back into her past and feels regret in the last two lines of the second verse.

Reality comes back as we are introduced to the idea of habit in verse three. She drinks to get away from her problems and this dream like state is one of alcohol driven euphoria of alternate heights and depths of this state. She is plagued by ‘demons’ who are an aspect of herself. Slowly Owen peels back the layers of reality until a universal truth is at least in sight if it is not quite reached. Verses four to six propel the listener back into real time and close the story as described earlier but Owen hints at further meanings. ‘Is there a tomorrow? Should I wait just to be sure?’ is clearly another reference to the desire for action but the lack of power, which as we now know is due to drunkenness and loss of self respect. However the man still respects her. He holds her knowing that she can never be his. He too is trapped in an existence in limbo.

The final verse is the only awkward one in the song. However, if unintentionally, this emphasises the state of confusion in the mind of the man in the song who may or may not be the author or the listener. The story is told through various narrative techniques, descriptive at first, then suggestive, then recollective, and finally direct communication with the receiver – the listener.

 
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Posted by on June 18, 2011 in Literature

 

Hungarian-Americans

“In Hungary acting is a profession. In America it is a decision.” —Bela Lugosi

The Martians. John von Neumann, Edward Teller, Eugene Paul Wigner, Leó Szilárd, Theodore von Kármán, John George Kemeny.

The Pleasure of Finding Things Out by Richard Feynman.

I’m convinced there is a Feynman quote about an early meeting of scientists working on the Manhattan Project where they realized they were all Hungarian speakers and switched to their native language. However, I can’t find it. If you can find it, please post a comment.

 
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Posted by on June 18, 2011 in Society

 

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Grams

“I wanted Hitchhiker’s to sound like a rock album. I wanted the voices and the effects and the music to be so seamlessly orchestrated as to create a coherent picture of a whole other world – and I said this and many similar sorts of things and waved my hands around a lot, while people nodded patiently and said ‘Yes, Douglas, but what’s it actually about?’” —Douglas Adams

Sound Tracks listing – the Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy

Journey of the Sorcerer (One of these Nights, The Eagles)
Lonato (A Modern Mass for the Dead, Ligeti)
Melodien (Ligeti)
Volumina (Ligeti)
A Rainbow in Curved Air (Terence Riley)
Poppy No-good and the Phantom Band (Terry Riley)
Another Green World
Over Fire Island
Wind on Water (Evening Star, Fripp and Eno)
Cachaca (Patrick Moraz)
Kotakomben (Einsteig, Gruppe Between)
Volkstanz (Einsteig, Gruppe Between)
Space Theme (Yamashta, Stomu Yamashta)
Oxygene (Jean Michel Jarre)
That’s Entertainment
Miracles of the Gods (In Search of Ancient Gods, Absolute Everywhere)
Mikrophoniet (Stockhausen)
The Engulfed Cathedral (Snowflakes are Dancing, Iso Tomita)

Artist(s) Title Album/Source
The Eagles Journey of the Sorcerer
Terry Riley Poppy Nogood and the Phantom Band A Rainbow in Curved Air
György Ligeti Lontano
Melodien
Volumina

A Modern Mass for the Dead
Robert Fripp & Brian Eno Over Fire Island
Wind on Water Another Green World
Evening Star
Patrick Moraz Cachaca
Gruppe Between Kotakomben
Volkstanz Einstieg (LP)

Stomu Yamashta Space Theme Yamashta
Jean Michel Jarre Oxygene
That’s Entertainment The Band Wagon (1953, MGM)
Absolute Everywhere Miracles of the Gods In Search of Ancient Gods (LP release from TV special)
Stockhausen Mikrophoniet
Iso Tomita The Engulfed Cathedral Snowflakes are Dancing

 
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Posted by on June 18, 2011 in Entertainment

 

Citizen Wayne

“Much is written about the Batman because he is publicly exposed in print. Very little is known personally about his creator, because I haven’t given out that many interviews.” —Bob Kane

Tim Burton’s Batman has many parallels to Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane, so many in fact that it’s surprising no-one has made the comparison before.

The story and original screenplay were written by Sam Hamm who had previously written the screenplay for Never Cry Wolf. Warren Skaaren, who had previously written the screenplay for Fire With Fire, Beverly Hills Cop II, and Beetlejuice, was brought in to work on later revisions of the screenplay.

The Batman first appeared in Detective Comics #27 in May 1939. Two years later on May 1st, Citizen Kane had its premier at the Palace Theatre in New York City.

opening logo is a close up sculpture

camera at jaunty angles

the news conference (Harvey Dent)

Knox (the reporter) and the news room

pan up the building (to the crime boss conference)

use of mirrors

the room full of armour (xanadu)

dinner (the long table)

newspaper headlines (spin outs)

belfry scene (gargoyles + down stairwell view)

long single tracking shots

 
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Posted by on June 18, 2011 in Entertainment

 

Form and Content

“A little learning is a dangerous thing; Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring.” —Alexander Pope

In Pope’s Essay on Man the content and form are both distinct. He conveys a strong and compelling message but he does so in poetry, specifically rhyming couplets. He could equally have used prose or essay form. These methods could be considered more suitable by someone else seeking to make the same argument but Pope is very effective.

He is arguing that mankind should value reason above passion, and explore science, not the supernatural (e.g. line 1, “Know then thyself, presume not God to scan”). He wrote during the age of Enlightenment and Reason and it is of this age that the idea of man’s power over nature was first formed.

Pope says that man is “darkly wise, and rudely great” (line 4) and he is referring to both man’s knowledge and awesome power. However, he contrasts this view of man with one of weakness and fallibility, man is “born but to die, and reasoning but to err” (line 10). While man may understand the forces of nature there are still things that he is powerless to control, most notably his own death.

The value of man’s knowledge is also put into question. Hume, writing at the time, says that unless we can show how the mind works then how can we rely on any of man’s knowledge. This is echoed by Pope. Man, he says, has “too much knowledge for the sceptic side” (line 4). Man is aware that what he knows may be worthless because it cannot be explained. Pope carries this theme through to line 18.

In line 19 Pope calls man a “wondrous creature” and tells him to follow science. This was the age when it seemed that man would uncover all the secrets of the world through reason and understanding. Already there had been great progress in a wide variety of fields. Pope suggests man “measure earth, weigh air, state tides; Instruct the planets in what orbs to run, Correct old Time, and regulate the sun” while he is really alluding to what man has already achieved.

Under the guidance of eminent scientists, Newton in particular, the false science of alchemy was disposed of. Though Newton himself believed in astrology, the idea was that man had understanding of all things natural. Pope reflects this view when he writes “As Eastern priests in giddy circles run, And turn their heads to imitate the sun” (lines 27-28).

Pope continues “Superior beings, when of late they saw, A mortal man unfold all Nature’s law, Admired such wisdom in an earthly shape, And show’d a Newton as we show an ape.” Here he does two things; he demonstrates that man has understanding of nature. He also says that man’s knowledge is confined to the natural. Newton is to God what ape is to man.

In lines 35 to 38 Pope again demonstrates mans position. To paraphrase him; ‘Can man, who can chart the course of a comet, similarly map the course of his brain?’ If man cannot “explain his own beginning, or his end” then he must be careful what he believes.

In lines 41 and 42 Pope says, “But when his own great work is begun, What reason weaves, by passion is undone.” Pope’s last comment in this extract is that man should “Trace Science then, with modesty thy guide.” His argument then is that mans knowledge, a worthwhile pursuit, is limited by his ability to reason and so he must proceed aware of his own passions.

 
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Posted by on June 18, 2011 in Literature