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Bomber's Moon

April 6th 2015 02:12
So here's a painting, Bomber's Moon by Alan Moore:

Bomber's Moon by Alan Moore

One of the things that surely anyone notices is the shapes -- the streaks of lights, the brighter diamonds formed where the lights intersect, and the way the planes line up with these diamonds.

But, given the context of the piece and the title, you can't not bear in mind what it must have been like to be there -- the exploding bombs, the screaming, the terror, the chaos.

So, on the one hand, an observational, cold stance, seeing just the shapes and the play of light and dark. On the other hand, an affected, human stance, with an imagination spelling out the realities behind the depiction.

Thoughts about this combination:

-- It could be seen as a strange moment of beauty, even enlightenment -- a moment of order amongst the chaos. With panic and confusion around you, you look up to the sky and you see... this...

-- Human drama is sometimes made more poignant when contained, or when its complexity is reduced to simpler forms. The emotion is more concentrated, more suggestive.

-- Human drama is sometimes more poignant when seen from afar -- the hopelessness, the "in vain" of our efforts, when viewed against the indifference of the universe from a God's-eye perspective. Called back to dust despite it all, called back to inert matter.


Computer vs human

March 4th 2015 20:35
Now, it's quite possible for me to be walking in the park, to hear a song, and for that song to remind me of x, which reminds me of y, which reminds me of z, which in turn provides inspiration for solving a maths problem.

One difference between the human brain and a CPU: we react to stimuli differently. A stimulus can echo along webs of association, so that you end up somewhere apparently quite distant from where you started. Our gift for seeing similarity is greater than a computer's. Our gift for this kind of pattern recognition is greater.

Or, to put it another way: as organic things, we're bundles of action and reaction, stimulus and response. We form habits, we condition our reflexes. It may be better to conceive of what's going on when we interact with the world as "cause and effect" rather than "storing ones and zeroes".


Job creation

February 7th 2015 00:44
Anything the government does is at a cost. If it spends more on universities, presumably it’s spending less on the arts. Or else it’s raising the money somehow (through increasing taxes or borrowing).

So, when a government promises 290,000 new jobs if re-elected, you should be at least a little cautious.

The first reason to be cautious -- “What is the cost?” They can’t magic those jobs out of nowhere. Either they’re spending less elsewhere (fewer hospital beds, or fewer government jobs elsewhere), or they’re borrowing money, or they’re reducing revenue somewhere to make investment more attractive, or they’re raising taxes on people or corporations. If they’re raising taxes on corporations, the corporations will themselves raise prices, or will cut jobs to maintain profit margin. If they’re raising taxes on people, people will spend less, meaning economic activity is reduced, and retailers will cut jobs to maintain profit margin.

The second reason to be cautious -- “What are the negative effects of increased employment?” There are too many positive effects to list (“dignity in work”, whatever that means, less crime, reduced drain on welfare, more trained people, more infrastructure built, etc). But there are potentially negative effects also.

Put it this way…

If there’s high unemployment, then, in terms of the happiness of the community, the government might well be doing the right thing by spending on job creation.

But if there’s already high employment, then where do the workers come from? Either they’re imported from outside Australia, in which case there’s potentially flow of money out of Australia. Or they already had jobs, in which case the government has to offer high wages to make it attractive to change jobs. But offering higher wages in turn means the market’s wage expectations rise, companies’ profits are reduced, companies start raising prices to maintain profit margin.

A final reason to be cautious -- “What happens when the party is over?” What happens when the highway is built, or the coal is all mined, or the shoe factory wants to get cheaper labour in a different country? You might have mass unemployment, with concomitant social problems, you might have problems to do with high wages and inflation, you might have useless infrastructure. Consider Michael Moore's home town:

In 1908, William Crapo Durant formed General Motors in Flint… However, by the late 1980s the city sank into a deep economic depression after GM closed and demolished several factories in the area, the effects of which remain today.

In the mid-2000s, it became known for its high crime rates. Since this time, Flint has been ranked among the "Most Dangerous Cities in the United States", with a per capita violent crime rate seven times higher than the national average. It has also been in a state of financial emergency since 2011, the second in a decade.

-- Wikipedia




January 28th 2015 20:54
I know nothing at all about economics, but wanted to note down some ideas anyway.

* It’s possible for someone to be wealthy but unhappy, and it’s possible for someone to be poor but have a great standard of living. Therefore, the concepts of “wealthy” and “poor” are in many contexts separable from ideas of happiness and standard of living

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Executing the innocent

December 27th 2014 02:13
Assume that "justice" in a particular case requires death, and consider these two claims:

-- Claim 1: "I would rather let 100,000 criminals escape the death they deserve than execute one innocent person." Under peacetime conditions, innocent life is just that valuable

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Real-world argument

December 26th 2014 02:03
You leave a pencil balanced vertically, standing on the kitchen table. You go to the bathroom, and when you return you find that the pencil is now lying on its side.

There are infinite imaginable explanations, and the same goes for science generally -- any set of facts is compatible with infinite theories. Maybe an alien time-travelled from the future to knock the pencil over

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Heads or tails

December 22nd 2014 23:27
A problem I'm worrying at. Forgive me if this is old news to you; I'm sure it's the sort of problem many people have thought about already.

So, someone presents you with a gamble: heads, you win $15; tails, you lose $10. Should you take the bet

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Does art matter more than life?

December 20th 2014 19:56
An extract from A Conversation of the Quai Voltaire by Lee Langley:

“He held out his hand and touched the blue tracery beneath the skin

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Marina Abramovic: Rhythm 0

December 20th 2014 10:27

End of a wedding

December 9th 2014 02:24
So it’s the midnight rubble at the end of a wedding. Bride and groom have long gone. Staff are sweeping up mess and stacking furniture. Audiovisual people are dismantling the stage. A few guests loiter, mostly close family of the couple, removing decorations.

Myself and the other videographer have packed the bags and are ready to head out, when he discovers that he’s one memory card short. He counts the cards he has and counts them again. He deduces that the missing card was the main wide-angle during the ceremony and also contains speeches from the reception. The bride is his client and also a good friend of his. The card came from his camera. The responsibility is squarely his

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