Return Maximization

Before I write, I pull a small lump of metal, no larger than a thimble, melted and dimpled and deformed, from the windowsill. According to the Sedona Crystal Vortex shop in Sedona, AZ it’s a meteorite, capable of activating Kundalini energy plus simulating the third eye and/or crown chakras. I rub it between my fingers, feeling its weight, its material strangeness. I don’t believe in the New Age but I like the idea that this thing  may or may not be from outer space, that I could have been scammed and it doesn’t even matter, that everything’s from outer space if we’re being technical and it’s the sort of technicality that mocks any attempt at de-vagueifying the unshapen. Continue reading “Return Maximization”

Chloë Sevigny is Not the Coolest Girl in the World

From a February 10, 2017 profile of Chloë in the New York Times Magazine:

It’s difficult to fathom how, exactly, this quaint Connecticut upbringing gave rise to the downtown It Girl and eventual indie actress the novelist Jay McInerney dubbed, in a now-infamous 1994 New Yorker profile, “the coolest girl in the world.”

As “now-infamous” suggests, that descriptor of Sevigny caught on. It haunts Downtown culture, is echoed club-side in mixtures of envy and admiration. April 10 2017, Nylon: We’re now 23 years into Sevigny’s Condé-sanctioned reign as “the coolest girl in the world.” Except McInerney, nor the Condé Nast-funded New Yorker, never bestowed that title upon her. Here’s the original 1994 piece, alleged quotation nowhere in site. Continue reading “Chloë Sevigny is Not the Coolest Girl in the World”

The Mind-Expanding Ideas of Andy Clark

The New Yorker finally got around to predictive processing with Larissa MacFarquhar’s profile of Andy Clark. Clark is the author of Surfing Uncertainty, the premier book on the subject.

Perception did not, then, simply work from the bottom up; it worked first from the top down. What you saw was not just a signal from the eye, say, but a combination of that signal and the brain’s own ideas about what it expected to see… Continue reading “The Mind-Expanding Ideas of Andy Clark”

Interview with A D Jameson, pt. 2

I first read A.D. Jameson’s criticism on litblogs like HTMLGiant and Big Other, where he wrote about the New Sincerity, Russian formalism, and cinema. I was interested back then in irony and sincerity, especially because I was in an environment where a lot of people I knew were doing molly on weekends, were peripheral to a hippie-rave subculture that was heart-on-its-sleeve.

On Easter Sunday, in true HTMLGiant fashion, we got to revisit some of these topics over GChat, touching on experimental film, Nicolas Winding Refn, Terrence Malick, and George Lucas. The first part of this conversation, which focused on indie lit and the avant-garde, can be found here. Continue reading “Interview with A D Jameson, pt. 2”

Punk Ethos & the Blog: An Interview with A D Jameson, pt. 1

I first read A.D. Jameson’s criticism on litblogs like HTMLGiant and Big Other, where he wrote about the New Sincerity, Russian formalism, and cinema. I was interested back then in irony and sincerity, especially because I was in an environment where a lot of people I knew were doing molly on weekends, were peripheral to a hippie rave subculture that was heart-on-its-sleeve.

On Easter Sunday, in true HTMLGiant fashion, we got to revisit some of these topics over GChat, touching on the blog’s potential as a format, the exhaustion of the avant-garde, and the performative aspect inherent to sincerity. The latter half of our conversation, which focused on film and fandom, will be published in a separate post. Continue reading “Punk Ethos & the Blog: An Interview with A D Jameson, pt. 1”

New Fiction is Psychic Occupation

Fiction—or more generally, longform narrative text—has long been the handyman of society and culture, serving whatever functions are most needed at a historical moment. The Greek oral tradition, famously, functioned in part to preserve cultural histories and customs—hence the sprawling lists of names and figures, or lengthy descriptions of hospitality, in Homer. Arabic maqamas synthesized and preserved the collected wisdom of the medieval Iberian peninsula through proverbs and fables. Victorian novels provided an escapist entertainment for members of the aristocracy, while the Bible, Quran, and Mahābhārata operated as normative unifiers.

We no longer need literature to provide heavily plotted absorption: drug-like escapism, the loss of ego, more easily come from other mediums. Likewise, our encyclopedias, our etiquette guides, our microfiche handle our cultural historiography just fine. Television, film, non-fiction, and the Internet spent the 20th century eating away at literature’s territory, forcing the discipline to transform from generalist to specialist. The best literature of the modern day does what only literature can do—allow readers to squat and inhabit other minds, other worldviews, other consciousnesses. Continue reading “New Fiction is Psychic Occupation”

Predictive Processing & Art as Cognitive Remodeling

I.

Visual art — representational imagery — begins somewhere between fifty and one-hundred thousand years ago, overlapping with the Upper Paleolithic Transition. The period consists of rapid gains in tool technologies alongside the beginnings of modern symbolic thought, with human societies developing currency systems, dispersed social organizations, and increasingly sophisticated religious belief.

To Alva Nöe, writing in 2015’s Strange Tools: Art and Human Nature, the religious and social practices which began in this era, such as funerary rites, rites of passage, religious ceremony, symbolic adornment, and complex linguistic interactions, are examples of organized activities, “evolving patterns of organization” within which humans are embedded. Modern examples include driving a car in a highway system or navigating the complexities of workplace protocol — both being situations where we act improvisationally, within sets of constraints, and using established scripts, pre-determined by the situation’s structural context. Continue reading “Predictive Processing & Art as Cognitive Remodeling”

Art as the Antithesis of Design

From the footnotes of an upcoming piece examining predictive processing and Alva Nöe’s 2015 work on aesthetics, Strange Tools:

Nöe makes [his] argument through exclusion: art practices which are not interrogative, which do not challenge existing structures and practices are not, technically speaking, art. Pop songs, to Nöe, aren’t musical art, they’re a first-level human practice (or “organized activity”) called “song-making.” Choreography can be art, but “dancing” as practiced by amateurs and many professionals is an organized activity. Continue reading “Art as the Antithesis of Design”