Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Little Red Markov Chain - A Computer-Generated Zombie Fairytale for Christmas

 Once upon a cake and gathering nuts, knocked at the door and the wolf, said “I’ll go”.
The poor child lived in a cake.
“The wolf,” said the bedclothes, “Put the wolf…”
Oh I hear she was excessively fond of little flowers. It suited the wolf.
The wolf pulled the shortest path and was greatly amazed to her, softening his voice as he could, "Pull the little pot of butter upon you.”
“Grandmother, what big ears you have!”
“All the better to hug you with, my dear.”
“Grandmother, what big teeth you have got!”
“All the better to hug you with, my dear.”
“Grandmother, what big eyes you have!”
“All the better to see how your grandmother is doing, for I hear she has been very ill.”
The wolf cried out, “Pull the cake ! Pull the prettiest creature who lived!” believing her nightclothes, and ate her up, and ate her nightclothes, and was in bed.

Markov Chain

Friday, November 30, 2012

As part of an ongoing Pataphysical enquiry into the nature of the North Korean madness, we bring you:
Lair of King Tongmyong's Unicorn Reconfirmed in DPRK

For English, scroll down >>>


Pyongyang, November 29 (KCNA) -- Archaeologists of the History Institute of the DPRK Academy of Social Sciences have recently reconfirmed a lair of the unicorn rode by King Tongmyong, founder of the Koguryo Kingdom (B.C. 277-A.D. 668).
The lair is located 200 meters from the Yongmyong Temple in Moran Hill in Pyongyang City. A rectangular rock carved with words "Unicorn Lair" stands in front of the lair. The carved words are believed to date back to the period of Koryo Kingdom (918-1392).

Jo Hui Sung, director of the Institute, told KCNA:

"Korea's history books deal with the unicorn, considered to be ridden by King Tongmyong, and its lair.

The Sogyong (Pyongyang) chapter of the old book 'Koryo History' (geographical book), said: Ulmil Pavilion is on the top of Mt. Kumsu, with Yongmyong Temple, one of Pyongyang's eight scenic spots, beneath it. The temple served as a relief palace for King Tongmyong, in which there is the lair of his unicorn.
Photo inexpertly Photoshopped showing unicorn's single horn apparently on Kim Jong-Un's head.

Monday, August 06, 2012

Zombie Pataphysical Book Review

Alien Phenomenology: Or, What It's Like To Be A Thing

by Ian Bogost
University Of Minnesota Press, Minnesota, MN, 2012
168 pp., illus. 8 b/w, 11 col. Trade, $60.00; paper, $19.95
ISBN: 978-0-8166-7897-6; ISBN 978-0-8166-7898-3.

(I reviewed this book for Leonardo Reviews, but reprint it here as it addresses thing-ness, hence Zombie concerns.)

Well, the things they say! Do we attend enough to things? Or to change the emphasis, do we pay enough attention to THINGS? No, it still doesn’t really work. So used are we to dealing, in normal discourse, with things as just stuff, that the title of Alien Phenomenology or What It’s Like To Be A Thing comes as an almost transgressive shock. It goes skipping over living graveyards, shorn of the dead, bats on past the philosopher’s Fledermäusen and past post-humanism.

Connected to the pleasingly named OOO or Object Oriented Ontology, Ian Bogost’s book makes us re-examine our philosophical relationship to that part of the universe that is not the minuscule ‘us’. For those who thought it was a bit of a stretch to include (just some?) animals, systems and artificial intelligences, it may seem absurd - or in this reviewer’s case delightful - to happen again and again in this text upon lists of things that demand, Bogost argues, to be seen as perceiving and interacting, even if he has to use metaphor to do so. But as Gregory Bateson used to argue, we need to see computers as metaphor machines, able to handle syllogisms such as ‘Men die, grass dies, so men are grass’. He told me he wanted a ‘computing Greek, not Latin’, the latter being perhaps too pornographically meticulous. As professor of digital media at Georgia Institute of Technology, and as a video game designer, Bogost may naturally want his ideas to be seen in virtual worlds. But it goes beyond that, beyond ‘mind and nature’ so to say, back into - I was going to say ‘our world’ - the world of things. And that ‘back into’ is just me being human about it, because of course logically there would be no such distinction, though some things are more equal than others.

If we read just a few of his randomly or carefully chosen names of things, we are forced, again rather joyfully I find, to consider plumbers, cotton, bonobos, DVD players and sandstone, or the unicorn, combine harvester, the colour red, methyl alcohol, quarks, corrugated iron; bats (Nagel’s ‘What is it like to be a bat?’) are “both ordinary and weird, but so is everything else:  toilet seats, absinthe louches, seagulls, trampolines.” Especially when you read this book. Just as the word ‘hetereological’ (words that cannot refer to themselves: is heterological heterological?) looks more and more alien the more you consider it as a thing in itself, this text alienates every thing, in a good way.

He also wants us to do and make things, to become practicing philosophers in the sense that a doctor would be no good if she just read textbooks. I am dusting off my old Meccano (Erector Set) collections and seeking exploded diagrams of anything, or any thing, not to understand how a submarine or iPad works, but to marvel at the thingness. But does part A27 love, or do harm to, or appreciate part C7? Is it ethical to screw in a screw? Anyway, ethics is itself a ‘hyperobject’, ‘exploded to infinity’. There is no panpsychism here, for it all comes down to nothing/everything, unless you want to postulate the Higgs boson as a unit of consciousness, and let’s not.

Of course, we are not really insulated from the idea that things have things to say and do - eighteenth and nineteenth century stories told by household objects*, ‘I am a camera’ etc. - but these are really saying things are ‘like’ other things. This book is different, for it asserts that everything, perhaps even that which does not exist, and certainly including us, is alien and metaphorical. As he proposes, it’s not turtles but metaphors all the way down.

You might like or loath Bogost’s possibly over-heated but apparently necessary use of metaphor and simile in his argument - roasted chilies lose their skins and are like the wounds of Christ, gypsum dunes resembling a white shoreline in a Žižek daydream never reach the sea - is the Baroque elaboration making up for the absence of a tune? - but if you want to see what the OOO Zeitgeist is about, and be jolted out of human-centred complacency, this might well be the book to read. The pilot of a crashing aircraft is encouraged by air traffic control to “Say your souls, say your souls” (i.e. how many on board?). Well, the things they say! Perhaps we should say our things.

There are useful notes, a bibliography and, for once, a good index.

* They are called ‘it-narratives’: The Memoirs and Interesting Adventures of an Embroidered Waistcoat (1751), A Month’s Adventures of a Base Shilling ([c.1820]), The Life and Adventures of a Scotch Guinea Note (1826) - it was almost always ‘adventures’.

Monday, July 09, 2012

Zombie Pataphysical Question.

Existence is an emergent property of quantum fluctuation. Physics is an emergent property of existence. Chemistry is electrons swapping around, emergent from physics. Biology is the chemistry of carbon-based systems. Life is an emergent property of biology. Neuro-processing is an emergent property of life. Consciousness is an emergent property of neuro-processing. 

A question might be: what's an emergent property of consciousness?

Friday, July 06, 2012

Zombie Pataphysical Airport Guidance

News From KOREAN CENTRAL NEWS AGENCY of DPRK(Democratic People's Republic of Korea)

Kim Jong Un Gives Field Guidance to Pyongyang Airport

Pyongyang, July 5 (KCNA) -- Kim Jong Un, first secretary of the Workers' Party of Korea, first chairman of the DPRK National Defence Commission and supreme commander of the Korean People's Army, gave field guidance to Pyongyang Airport…
Kim Jong Un went round the outside and inside of newly built Terminal 1. He said the overall construction was done splendidly…
He also stressed the need to successfully build the airport having terminals and facilities for safe and correct landing and take-off of planes and a control tower commanding the airport area…
He got aboard plane No. 633 to learn about the technical feature and operation of the plane.
Then he got aboard plane No. 535 and gave an instruction…for operation of the plane.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Zombie Pataphysics Revisited

Blasts from the past #2 - Wednesday, January 25, 2006 -

What is Zombie? What is 'Pataphysics?

"And they said unto him, Whereof may we speak, that thereof we need not remain silent?
And he replied, When you know what to say, and when the man become the woman and the woman the man, and the father the daughter and the mother the son, and the outer shell the inner core, and vice versa, then shall ye enter into a place not unadjacent to the kingdom of heaven. And they were speechless."
From the (apocryphal) gospel according to St. B.

Apart from the eponymous cocktail and musicians etc., there are three kinds of Zombie: the Hollywood (more correctly the Pittsburgh) version; the "real" Voodoo/Vaudun Zombie, poor buggers, and the philosophical construct: the p-Zombie. The reeking, living dead are almost certainly amongst us, in one form or another. I should know since I became a Zombie about 6 years ago in the Lariboisière Hospital in Paris.

More later, off for lunch. Toasted ham and organic Red Leicester cheese on good sunflower seed bread, a fine salad with nut, olive and pumpkin seed oil dressing followed by many lychees.

Well... and dinner too.

Anyway: more later about how I became a Zombie. But for now, let us be amazed that from the Zombie films, especially those of the 1930s and 1940s, there has actually been a back-adoption of certain made-up aspects of the Zombie/Voodoo rites and rituals into the religion itself - or so I am led to believe. That "real" Zombies exist is, though contentious, rather probable. There was a BBC documentary (Last of the Medicine Men, Benedict Allen, BBC, 2000) which culminated in a Zombie being presented to the camera. On the other hand, they know that we expect Zombies. There have even been cases of tourists buying a Zombie by mistake.

In fact, they are slaves. Poor, uneducated people are given a potion containing a cocktail of drugs, and fall into a coma. They are buried, but later dug up and, after the administration of an antidote, I suppose also containing hallucinogens, are in a more or less aware but damaged state. They are told that they are now Zombies, and what is more believe this. Then they work on the Bokor, or priest's, farm, as slaves. The traditional Zombie bandage round the head and jaw is suppose to keep the latter closed, so that the P'tit Bon Ange - the little good angel - shall not escape.

As I said, this is contentious, and may possibly be based on misunderstandings and myth, but I tend to believe it.

One of the poisons used is tetrodotoxin, the same agent that causes painful paralysis and a terrible death in a few hundred Japanese every year, from eating the naughty bits of the Fugu or Puffer Fish. It is worth noting that the genome of the puffer fish is so close to that of humans, having most of the same genes but far less "junk" DNA, that it is the subject of massive study...

It is thus a tragedy - it was for me - and perhaps an actionable failing, that the French health care system sees fit to use the Puffer fish instead of the usual balloon in a process called ichthioangioplasty, whereby a blocked artery feeding the heart is opened again. Usually, a tube is inserted into an artery in the thigh, and is manipulated under X-ray guidance into the required spot, when a small balloon is inflated, pressing the blockage back against the artery wall. It is true that the process is not risk free, but surely hardly less so than the "bio" or "natural" alternative, involving the insertion of a tiny Puffer fish which, receiving at the crucial moment a small voltage on its tail, suddenly inflates (used to scare enemies when under threat) and thus unblocks the artery.

For there is a small but real chance of toxin release, about as close to the heart as it is possible to get. In my case, the hospital and health authorities have denied even using this process, and it is still subject to a legal investigation. However, although I cannot comment on the actual details, what is sure is that although in all respects I am like a human - that is, there is no objective test in science, psychology or epiphenomenology that may distinguish me as a Zombie - I am now part of what Derrida was referring to when he said that "In between the true and the false, there is always the undead, the Zombie." The Situationists too talked about the mass of the non-living. Neither dead nor alive, neither true nor false, one nor zero if you like, the Zombie is entirely without qualia - that is, it has no feelings. But you cannot tell.

Present me with a glass of armagnac, I will appreciate its colour, its taste and smell. I may ask for a second glass, hold it to the light and comment on its age. Burn my finger with a match and I will yell, and blister. Yet I have no real feelings. I can cry, real tears too, yet don't "really" mean it. How unlike a real human.

Would you hurt me, knowing this? Would you torture a computer, a robot, that screamed and begged for mercy? Shame on you.

To be continued. And in case you have been, thanks for looking.

Zombie Pataphysics revisited

Some blasts from the past, that is to say from the archives: #1 Zombie Biscuits

A clearly visible "Black Zombie" (inset enlarged) - note the eyes. The appropriate authorities have been notified.

Regular readers will know that I have previously celebrated examples of the stupidly gullible (usually "religious") believing that they have found or observed sacred imagery in potatoes, aubergines, American subways (the underpass and the sandwich) and so on. Doubtless there are many who would willingly put up with long queues of the frenzied and the rich outside their doors, pushing and fighting to see some holy phenomenon and perhaps to buy some small but not insignificantly priced memento.

Now, you too can participate in this gastronomic iconography, using these easily made ZOMBIE BISCUITS - a startlingly realistic image virtually GUARANTEED in every biscuit. Your friends will be amazed, the press stunned.

They also taste very good, though clearly to eat one would be tantamount to heresy under some religious regimes.

Preheat an oven to 200° C, (500 °F - Ha! Let the Americans burn them!) then make a dough that would usually end up as oatmeal biscuits:

50 g oatmeal flour, 175 g wholewheat or spelt flour, 2 level teaspoons of baking powder (raising agent), 90 g cold, chopped up butter, 2 level table-spoons of sugar, 2 table-spoons of milk; a pinch of salt, and a few pinches of oat flakes.

Mix all the dry ingredients and the butter together in a large bowl with the fingertips until they become crumb-like, then add the milk and mix and knead to form a dough, about 2 on a scale of 0 to 9 where 0 = totally dry and 9 = sloppy and wet; the mixture should seem a bit too dry, if you tried to roll it out now it would crack. Leave the dough covered in the bowl for 10 minutes.

Now toss 50 g fresh blueberries into the bowl and mash them into the dough. The juice that emerges will make the dough moister. Don't let the fruit totally disintegrate though.

Put the dough in a lump on a floured surface & roll it out to about 0.5 cm thickness with a floured rolling pin or bottle. Using a small glass, cut out circles of approximately 5 cm diameter and place them on a baking sheet, either special baking paper or non-stick metal: they can stick badly if not. Prick the biscuits several times each with a fork, and place in the preheated oven. Ignore, for the moment, all the dark forms in the biscuits. Just do it automatically, don't think. You want to be surprised by the emergent properties.

After 10 to 12 minutes the biscuits should be just changing colour at the edges, no more. Remove from the oven and put somewhere to cool for a few minutes.

Now you can observe the multitude of Zombies, saints, prophets, gods, sexual symbols, miniature horses and cosmic patterns that you have created. Savour each form, photograph the best, send it to the local press— the national press will take up the story later. Declare that the fruit fell in by accident, though as if it were meant to, and that you didn't notice the picture until much later.

In case there are biscuits containing (but this is unlikely) no significant religious or other imagery, the biscuits should be eaten with either Blue Stilton or Red Leicester cheese, available from any decent cheese shop. Roquefort or Cheddar make rather poor, but just about acceptable, substitutes.

To those who might aggressively argue that I am cheapening or demeaning food-based religious experiences, just shut the fuck up.

And if you have been, thanks for looking…

Monday, May 28, 2012

Zombie psychopathic ex-prime ministers

"Mr Blair began work in January 2008 as a £2million-a-yearn (sic) adviser to JP Morgan." (Daily Telegraph September 18 2011).
"Mr Blair said on the record that there was no truth in the allegation, made by the protester, that he was "paid off" by the US banking giant JP Morgan for the Iraq War." BBC, May 28 2012

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Pata Rap (Revenge Song)

'Joan was quizzical
studied pataphysical
science in the home'
Yeah it’s the Beatles, John Lennon,
who never wrote a lemon,
But if you think I owe him
just wait till I start doin’ Leonard Cohen:

Ch: Suzanne takes you down - suzanne takes you down - suzanne takes you down - suzanne takes you down…

--synth and violin break--

But I’m a philosopher, yes I am
I turn to thought when you thought I don't give a damn;
Physics an’ metaphysics, pataphysics too,
it’s all good stuff and you know what you can do
if you think I’m wrong, get on your fuckin’ bike, get goin’,
you ain’t no Sister of Mercy but I’m Leonard Cohen:

Ch: Suzanne takes you down - suzanne takes you down - suzanne takes you down - suzanne takes you down…

--synth and tampura break--

I ain’t steampunk I’m patapunk
how long will it take till you sunk it in
longer than she took to spit it out again?

(((Self-censored, too rude)))

Sunday, May 20, 2012

For the sake of the blind

Zombie-Pataphysical Limerick Fun

There is an indefensibly naff limerick that nonetheless holds a certain fascination for the well-tempered Zombie, due to its use of the phrase "for the sake of the blind", which I can't get out of my head, perhaps merely owing to its unexpectedness (you will recall that Pataphysics urges us to expect the unexpected; thus the unexpected is expected, but the expected is quite unexpected…)

Here is (a version of) the verse:

On the breasts of a whore from Sale
was written the price of her tail;
and on her behind
 - for the sake of the blind -
was written the same thing in Braille.

So far so ordinaire, but my researchers have discovered that a slightly politer version has been set to music by what I now know to be the celebrated Canadian composer Harry Somers.

Limericks (3), for mezzo-soprano, chorus & chamber ensemble (1980) consists of three sections:

1 The Barmaid from Crale
2 Danse Macabre
3 Adam

His speciality was to deconstruct and reorganise phonemes from texts, as well as treating them in an almost 'pure' way.

I mention all this merely to whet your appetite.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Zombie Computer

The computer killed off many things, but now the computer has killed off the computer. The iPad (I won’t put in the usually obligatory ‘and other smart devices’, because nothing comes close to the iPad in terms of its creative applications) now does all we want, and a lot a conventional computer can’t do. Indeed, the modern PC or Mac sits sadly on many a desktop, used merely for routine mailing, shopping and so on. The computer has been de-brained (to use an Alfred Jarry, founder of ’Pataphysics, term) and is really no more than a Zombie for most users. This is rather like using a Ferrari to deliver the milk.

This brings good and bad news. The bad news first: we don’t do computing any more - by ‘we’ I mean ordinary people at home. This was already true since the mid nineties, but it’s even more starkly visible with iPads that very few can program at home. Ask most people today what a computer is, and they’ll say it’s a device for accessing the web and writing and sending emails. That’s about it. But in the days of the BBC Micro, the early Apples, the Commodore Pets or the Amigas, many people programmed their own computer. Kids wrote programs at school or at home, artists and musicians wrote their own software. Computers were seen as much as creative devices as spreadsheet machines, as representation processors, not just information processors.  Not really any more, by the general public, they're just back to information handlers. Terrible waste, really.

The good news is that an iPad has access to many thousands of creative apps, many free, few costing more than four euros, which demand that the user be creative in areas of art, design, music and sound, photography, video, literature and so on. You can also hijack apps meant for scientific, medical, psychological or technological ends and use them creatively in other areas too. I have a wondrous app that models fluid or air flow in many different ways. The mathematics of that is staggering. But it allows you to design simple objects with a finger tip and place them in the flowing streams of colour - and hey presto, a new art-form.

In that sense, the iPad is a far more creative tool than a laptop, simply because the software costs a lot less, there’s more of it available, and it’s so easy. Add the fact that creative accessories such as synthesiser keyboards (into which the iPad slots), or guitars of which the iPad becomes part are becoming available, and
the fact that you can connect virtually any MIDI device, a video projector or a guitar, and we’re back to the computer as a creativity enhancer, a metaphor machine, a source of ideas. Good.

Finally, what I said before isn’t strictly true. There are programming languages available for the iPad, including a version of good old BASIC, one of the languages that lets you write programs to do, well, almost anything. You could load a photo and transform it into sound, or modify recorded speech with your fingers.

So the Zombie computer is dead. Long live the iPad.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Back from the Dead? Zombie Disappointment


A man who claimed to be a famous dead singer has been charged with fraud, South African police say. The man said he was Khulekani "Mgqumeni" Khumalo - an award-winning Zulu folk musician who died in 2009. He claims he was kidnapped by a witchdoctor who cast a spell on him and held him in a cave with
and that he survived by eating mud.
His family are split. Two wives say it’s really the genuine article. His lover (and the police) say not. Suspicions were not allayed when he refused to sing.

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