In many respects, An Artist of the Floating World is similar to the author’s debut – A Pale View of Hills. Despite the similarities, this book is a stark improvement in both setting and execution. As with Ishiguro`s previous title, emotional rollercoaster it is not. Event descriptions and dialogues are expressed by the narrator in an altogether serene manner, without any unnecessary grandeur. Even the tensest moments of conflict between characters seem formal and almost intentionally devoid of any accompanying emotional component. Noh theater and original Bijin-ga pictures come to mind when thinking about this particular style of narration, where feelings are concealed and crystalized in a highly symbolical representations, requiring active mental involvement to decode.
The first time I came across a term recreational mathematics I didn`t quite catch what it was referring to. Math never seemed to me like an activity that would be undertaken solely for entertainment purposes, although I have experienced a certain level of serenity while solving a batch of math problems in the past, particularly if they were adequate to my knowledge. Methodical completion of individual problems fires periodic dopamine doses in my brain resulting in an overall feeling of satisfaction. Recreational mathematics refers to a set of math problems that have no obvious practical or theoretical applications if solved, and functions more like brain teasers for mathematicians and philosophers to tackle with their skill set. Although existing solely for entertainment purposes, these seemingly useless problems can sometimes reveal some fundamental characteristics of mathematical world, like a question whether mathematics could be established using only formal logic. This problem was indeed pursued by mathematicians at the beginning of the 20th century – without definitive results. To my knowledge, no one managed to cram mathematics into the boundaries of formal logic, although different opinions exist on this topic. The quest for logicism, although ambitious, was ultimately unsuccessful. One simple recreational mathematics problem, although not directly an argument against logical axiomatic mathematical system, illustrates the dichotomy between mathematics and common sense. It is called The Two Envelope Paradox. Although there are numerous different explanations to this paradox and ways to solve it, I am going to explain the basic premise of it and give you some of my own observations.
Finishing my thorough examination of the Rouen Cathedral that I wrote about in my last post, me and Anna engaged in some psychogeography. In a scope of around one hour we stumbled upon two more churches that, together with the Cathedral, were located in very close vicinity. First one, located directly behind the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Rouen, was a relatively tiny structure (for a gothic church) called Eglise Paroissiale Saint-Maclou. Although my senses were saturated from observing all the details of the Cathedral by this time, it was still impressive to witness another gothic masterpiece several meters away. The church was positioned in the middle of a small square, surrounded by colorful wooden buildings that essentially characterize the Rouen old town. Their irregular column placement, frequent asymmetry and crude finish contrasted the strict and almost pedantic mathematical placement of every detail and peace of slab of the church, homogeneously white except for some yellowish brown overtones that signified the age of the building. I was greeted by a geometrically neat sprawling arcs that looked like the presbytery (the back side of the gothic church), but upon noticing the entrance at the center of it, I was rather perplexed at the positioning of the church. It had an entrance proper at the front of it, leading to the nave, but unlike most buildings that decorate and highlight the façade of the church this one had a lot more prominent presbytery compared to its front. I was left wondering whether such peculiar placement was intentional or accidental. For some reason I leaned more towards the former.
I have visited France four times by now and haven`t once been to its capital. For some reason I feel absolutely indifferent towards the overhyped glamour of Paris. I recognize the cultural impact the city is capable of, but comparing Paris to the whole of France seems unjustified. It is a big and historically and culturally rich country that has a lot to tell. To imagine that everything that the country has to offer could be experienced in one city seems naïve to me. And I have seen enough of it to say that people that restrict themselves to exploring only the country`s capital are missing out. I have been planning my latest trip to France since August. Although towards Jean-Paul Sartre`s political and philosophical views, not unlike the majority of Marxist and post-modernist French philosophers of the time, I feel a certain revulsion and am in a habit of criticizing, his novels and short stories are generally enjoyable reads. Healthy amount of nihilism is entertaining to observe in his characters. This summer I have indulged myself in reading his collection of short stories The Wall. One story in particular called The Childhood of a Leader was especially intriguing. At one point in the story the main character – Lucien – embarks on a trip to Rouen with his friend Bergère. After reading this segment I decided to visit the same city in northern France with my beautiful life’s companion – Anna.
In my previous post about vaporwave I spoke extensively about its subgenres and mentioned hardvapour as one of the more interesting electronic music genres that has been conceived in the recent years. I also spoke about wosX – one of the more prominent figures in the context of the genre and a producer that I admire very much. I am happy to say that I was able to reach wosX himself and have a fruitful conversation with him about vaporwave as a whole, his notorious End of World Rave and evolution of music. You can listen to the whole conversation down below. I also compiled a shortened transcript of the podcast in a text form to give you a taste of the most relevant moments of the conversation if you don`t have time to listen to the whole thing. You can also listen to the music mentioned during the podcast down below.
On few occasions have I heard term ‘Vaporwave’ being used to describe these distorted `80s and `90s inspired visuals and a form of electronic music, although until now I have never engaged in investigation to find out exactly what vaporwave is. One day, I stumbled upon and checked a Youtube video, mostly attracted by an exaggerated pastel colors and a head of a statue of Lenin in the thumbnail. It was a slowed down version of a Russian pop song, with an introit of similarly modified Rhianna song. The sound completely mesmerized me and made me repeat the video great many times. I tried very hard to identify the underlying source of amazement. The only term I could come up with to describe it was dissonant nostalgia. Lithuania, the country that I was born in, gained independence from Soviet Union in the early `90s, at the brink of collapse of said communist country. Aftermath of the soviet regime was still very much felt for the rest of the decade in the newly formed country. I was no stranger to Russian pop music, although I always felt a specific revulsion towards it. Generational wounds left during the soviet occupation made me, and many people around me, reject everything that was connected to Russian heritage. Yet there were just as many people who even after the horrors of Soviet Union embraced aspects of Russian culture. Pop music was one of them. Thus it did not escape my perception, since I would hear it in school, streets and even public transport. I do not remember it fondly – far from it. And I would probably never listen to it voluntarily. Yet the slowed down version of this very style of music enchanted me. I believe it is because it’s familiar enough to bring me back to my childhood (although not a very happy one), yet different enough to avoid being rejected altogether. Oddly distorted sound of it also adopts a mocking feature of the original piece that justifies me listening to it without causing a cognitive dissonance of listening and enjoying the song that was brought by a regime that devastated my country.
Considering the current shift in warfare methodology it is not unlikely to anticipate new imaginative ways to replace the rifles and tanks of the XX century. Most recent major shift in warfare strategy progressed throughout the period of World War II when every faction tried to best its enemies in most original and efficient ways possible. As dark as this period might have been, it was a catalyst for the exponential spring in technological and scientific progress. Many comforts and necessities of today would possibly not have been invented for a long time if not for the WWII; from penicillin to computers, countries were forced to compete against each other on a wide array of aspects in order to have an edge over the rival. Although conflicts of the XXI century may not be that obvious to the general public, national budget expenditure for national defense of the major powers of the world show that a great deal of countries` GDP is still dedicated to possible war effort and eradication of national and international threats. Comparing what part of the national budget country allocates to war throughout history is indeed interesting and it does help to take the current international tension into the perspective. USA today has a significant lead on expenditures on national defense, allocating 596 billion dollars to the cause in 2015. That translates to 3.3% of country‘s GDP and 16% of national budget. That is almost 3 times more than the ammount of money China allocates to the same cause and is considered to be second in that regard. Russia, while spending considerably less than USA, gives up 5.4% of their GDP for the war effort. Only countries that allocate such giant pieces of their national budget to the military are Israel, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and possibly Iraq.
Science is currently the guiding hand of humanity, helping in almost every field conceivable, from agriculture to entertainment. Genetically modified crops give a chance to supply immensely growing food demand driven by the demographic boom. Strides in medical sciences prevent the most notorious diseases, prolong the life expectancy and ensure quality of life. Most of us use technological gadgets on the daily basis for work, entertainment and communication. Despite the glories that science brings to human kind, it has a potential to be used for radically different ideals. Turning back to the past century shows us the scope of misery and destruction that scientific and technological progress can bring. It is a potent tool, but its ultimate use will depend on the one guiding it. World War II was the pinnacle of science application for destructive means – the nuclear weapon, developed by The Manhattan Project, or the infamous Japanese Unit 731, which was a perversion of scientific method. After the universal madness of the XX century, it is being reminded as a nightmare of human progress, a mistake never to be made again. Despite all this, science and technology is the driving force of the war machine. The methods are more subtle, but dangerous all the same. Science can still very well serve for the selfish, power-thirsty and destructive means of individuals and organizations.
Approximately 3 months have passed since I have finished my 365 day challenge on Facebook to compose a post about information, understanding or revelation that I have experienced that day. I managed to succeed almost without any major lapses, although it was a great deal more difficult than I imagined at first. I knew that this achievement is going to evolve and halfway through, with the help of my beloved girl, I began to ponder a way of transferring this idea to something bigger and hopefully more profound. After my retreat from Facebook I have decided to continue with my scribbles in a blog format. In the nearest future I am going to transfer the archive of my 365 day journey to this blog. I have decided to change a few things compared to my Facebook entries and I am going to list the most important ones here: