Please panic responsibly

Francis Porretto:

At this time, America, like the rest of the world, is coping with the Wuhan virus. It’s brought about a number of (hopefully) temporary alterations to our patterns of life. These have not been easy adaptations for most of us. Our vibrant economy is badly hobbled, our social mechanisms are largely idled, and our politics has…wait just a moment…great God in heaven! Nothing has changed about our politics!

Charles Hurt:

The whole point of establishing the nation’s capital in Washington was that it was a dismal swamp uninhabitable most of the year. The mosquitoes alone kept Congress out of session for long months at a time. This narrowed the amount of time each year that federal legislators could be in Washington wasting your money and destroying the country with their ridiculous ideas and votes.

Then along came air conditioning, and that ruined everything.

Nathan Pinkoski:

In reflecting on the COVID-19 crisis, we need not agree with MacIntyre’s wholesale pessimism about our political and social institutions. We need not question shutdown measures in place, nor even subscribe to their “biopolitical” critique. But if we care about the future of our societies, we raise a simple question: Do the managerial experts performing within the drama of this crisis have an adequate understanding of the hierarchy of human goods?

Giorgio Agamben:

What is worrisome is not so much or not only the present, but what comes after. Just as wars have left as a legacy to peace a series of inauspicious technologies, from barbed wire to nuclear power plants, so it is also very likely that one will seek to continue even after the health emergency experiments that governments did not manage to bring to reality before: closing universities and schools and doing lessons only online, putting a stop once and for all to meeting together and speaking for political or cultural reasons and exchanging only digital messages with each other, wherever possible substituting machines for every contact — every contagion — between human beings.

Joseph Moore:

Everything we do is a more or less educated guess, as far as what, if any, lives will be saved. It’s always a balancing act. Decreased economic activity kills people, too, a notion our Left seems congenitally disinclined to understand, but which is nonetheless completely obvious upon inspection. So, make good decisions, knowing it’s a trade off, seeking some less bad and essentially unknowable outcome that is largely independent of anything we may do.

Severian:

Unfortunately for us, speed and scale have considerably broadened our notion of physical security. We know what kind of actions Mighty Pharaoh took in a plague. Given the technological limitations of his time, he could do no other. We modern folks, on the other hand….

… well, look around. We’ve decided, as a culture, that “physical security” now extends to “never getting the sniffles.” And we have, or soon will have, the technology to make that kind of monitoring a reality. The mud huts along the Nile didn’t have two-way Alexas installed; the McMansions along the Mississippi soon will. The state of the art of government really does allow for 24/7 individual surveillance. If we don’t want the sniffles, this is the only way to do it.

The Z-Man:

We live in an age where the unthinkable, like the fog, quietly creeps up on us until suddenly the unthinkable is the new normal. Just as “shelter in place” is the new normal whenever it snows, mandatory lock downs will be the new normal whenever too many people get the sniffles. The unthinkable not only becomes thinkable, it becomes impossible to think otherwise. It also means that everything unthinkable today is suddenly on the table, maybe even the menu, for tomorrow.

***

I’m not a virologist, and it would be presumptuous of me to make any pronouncements on the severity of the current apocalyptic threat and the best strategies for meeting it. However, I have observed human beings in action for more decades than I want to count, and can confidently say that, in matters of power and money, it is impossible to be too cynical. I suggest that, after your daily dose of hysteria from the medium of your choice, you see William M. Briggs for a different perspective, in particular his Tuesday updates.

Cheap stuff, free stuff, silly stuff

Adobe has transitioned from innovation to rent-seeking. Fortunately, there is are practical alternatives to Photoshop and InDesign: Affinity’s Photo and Publisher. You can buy them, and actually own them, and for excellent prices, too. Currently they are $25 each. There’s also Affinity Designer, a counterpart to Illustrator, for the same price. I haven’t had time to give them thorough workouts, but I have verified that most of the Topaz plugins I use work in Affinity Photo. The Affinity site is here.

***

Cherry Audio has made their Voltage Modular Nucleus free for the downloading for a while. I already have VCV Rack and Reaktor Blocks, so I’ll probably give it a pass, but if you have a yen to experiment with modular sound synthesis, it might be worth checking out.

If you have a digital audio workstation such as Logic or Cubase, here are some freebies you might find useful.

• Native Instruments’ Analog Dreams is an “instrument” emulating old-fashioned subtractive synthesizers. It’s in my armory, and it sounds convincing. I haven’t used it much, but that’s because I have more virtual noisemakers than I will ever use.

Standard Guitar is an extended-range electric guitar that works well with pedal and amp emulations. (The site is in Japanese, but it’s not hard to figure out where to click.)

Shiny Guitar is an arch-top guitar, suitable for jazz, of course, and quite a bit else.

Both the above guitars run in Plogue’s sampler Sforzando, which is also free.

If you have NI’s Kontakt, there are several other free guitars to consider here.

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I wonder sometimes just how authoritative AllMusic is. The above is from the entry on Canned Heat’s second album. Strange — I don’t recall hearing the City of Birmingham Symphony Chorus on “Amphetamine Annie.”

***

I recently received the above invitation. Um, yeah. Right. Just wondering: how many of these “women of excellence” need to shave?

Continue reading “Cheap stuff, free stuff, silly stuff”

Miscellany

I can believe that a man can fly. I can believe that a copper-powered spaceship can travel vastly faster than the speed of light. But I simply cannot believe that any superheroine, no matter how impressive she looks in superspandex, can run or fight effectively while wearing high heels.

(Via Jagi at John C. Wright’s place.)

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Useful terms

Cognivirus, as in “In other news, in the latest debate Joe Biden has pledged to beat SARS and Bernie Sanders is leading the fight against Ebola. Apparently Joe’s cognivirus is contagious.”

Unglican Church [of Rome], Catholicism as misunderstood by the creators of Japanese animation. (Do not confuse with the American Catholic Patriotic Association.)

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Weblog of the Plague Years II

William M. Briggs, Statistician to the Stars!:

Incidentally, anybody remember how news media make their money and politicians win their support? Clicks, eyeballs, followers. The more freakish the headline or pronouncement, the bigger the profit the larger the following. Now, honestly, do you think any editor or politician has succumbed to the temptation to exaggerate the coronavirus threat?

and

If you think the politics now is bad, wait until this is over. The blamestorming and trophy-giving will be truly nauseating.

Severian:

What happens when the final tallies are made, and we realize that more people died from the associated stupidity (e.g. diabetics not being able to get their insulin due to supply chain disruptions) than were killed by the Wuhan Flu? The Media is responsible for all that, and when people are feeling the very real pain of a major global economic depression, they’re going to remember it.

Good taste …

… doesn’t apply here, except maybe in a Cramps sense. (Right-click and open in a new window to see every lurid detail.) A friend spotted this vehicle in a college parking lot near his place and sent the picture with the comment that “Anime can be dangerous.” Well, maybe. There are better ways of advertising your enthusiasms — though if that’s the sort of anime you like, it might be better if you kept it to yourself.

Update: the rest of the story.

Are there straws in Vatican City?

Pope Frankie in perspective:

On September 1, 2018, this successor of Gregory I, who saw Latin civilization crumbling, and Leo IX, who grieved at the loss of Constantinople, and Pius V, who pitied souls lost in the heretical northern lands, implored and lamented: “We cannot allow our seas and oceans to be littered by endless fields of floating plastic. Here, too, our active commitment is needed to confront this emergency.” The struggle against plastic litter must be fought “as if everything depended on us.”

(Via William Briggs.)

Today’s quotes: straws and charity

Joe in Indiana:

Seriously, of all the plastic waste in the world, why straws? Little plastic tubes must be a fraction of nothing in the giant landfill we call Earth. How about getting rid of the plastic packaging that surrounds just about everything as an anti-theft measure these days? You can’t cut it, tear it, pry it apart, or even bite it open. We bought a new toy for the granddaughter and by the time we got it open she was too old for it.

Ken the Brickmuppet:

… there’s no greater expression of charity than forcing other people to sacrifice.

Real or not?

It’s hard to tell. The screencaps above I believe are genuine, but the pictures below might be fake. Then, again, perhaps London really is turning into an updated suburb of Scarfolk. In either case, it would be difficult to top these, and I haven’t had the time to work anything up.

Posts from previous years appropriate to the first day of the fourth month are archived here.

(I’m posting this a day early because tomorrow is Easter.)

“There is no conspiracy”

First Things? Really?

Yeah, right.

Carelessness and stupidity are insufficient to explain how this thoughtful religious, largely Catholic, magazine can be labeled a source of “hate” and “violence.” It’s extremely difficult to believe — impossible, in fact — that there wasn’t some active malevolence involved.

(Via Kim du Toit.)

ANN No

Like hell I’m giving these jackasses my phone number. It looks like it will be about two weeks before I visit Anime New Network again — if I bother. The encyclopedia is sometimes useful, and perhaps 10% of the news is actually noteworthy, but the rest is just a waste of pixels. I can do just fine without it.

Notes on the perception of imaginary differences

Here’s a MIDI file of Scarlatti’s Sonata in A Major, K24/L495/P80, played on a physically-modeled virtual harpsichord tuned to A = 440 Hz:

Here it is again, this time with A = 432 Hz:

Did the first recording make you feel “self-centered, narcissistic, materialistic and aggressive“? Did the second resonate with the Heart Chakra, repair your DNA and restore your spiritual and mental health? If so, I congratulate you on your acute sensitivity. (Be sure to wear protective headgear at all times.)

Or did the second just sound a little flatter than the first?

Even if there is a real basis to the paranoid theories — extremely unlikely; the rise of the 440 standard is so complicated that positing a vast international conspiracy is inadequate to explain it — the precise frequency of the “A” in a scale matters far less than the qualities of the intervals between the notes of the scale.

The preset used for the two recordings above does not specify the temperament, which implies that it is equal-tempered. Other presets offer different tuning systems. Here is the sonata again, this time at A = 415, using an unspecified “well tempered” tuning:

And again, at A = 392, using “Werckmeister III“:

Even ordinary human beings who don’t wear tin-foil hats might be able to hear subtle differences in the character of the music now.

(Via Dustbury.)

Love story

Never found that one special person? Don’t fret; perhaps the right person for you is you. For ten low monthly payments, Dominique will prepare you to marry yourself. It’s a bargain; here’s what you get:

• 10 weeks of guidance, practice, and inquiries to support you in marrying yourself
• A weekly email with a Self-Marriage question, practice, and inspirational writing
• Clear, step-by-step guidance from your Self-Engagement in week 1 to your Self-Marriage in week 9 and a final week of integration
• 6 recordings of Self-Marriage Calls (50-60 min) where you will have the chance to deepen in your practice, reflect on your insights and challenges throughout your Self-Marriage journey.
• Additional support of sisterhood through the Self-Marriage Unveiled Facebook group

Hour-long private sessions with one-on-one support are also available for a special price.

The FAQ doesn’t mention pre-nuptial agreements, but I expect one would be a good idea in case things don’t work out. Are there any lawyers who specialize in self-divorce?

Perhaps of relevance: Terry Allen, “I Just Left Myself.” There’s also a tune by Be Bop Deluxe that I’m not going to name, but it’s probably just about driving a car.

Gotta have a Feckle Freezer

Accumulated odds and ends:

Is Obama Catholic? No, and Dennis McDonough is an idiot.

Is the Pope Catholic? That’s a much more interesting question. Edward Feser supplies some useful background, including notes about Popes Honorius, John XXII and Liberius.

Hyperplay will provide hours — well, minutes — of fun for the mathematically inclined and the easily entertained.

Continue reading “Gotta have a Feckle Freezer”

Somatic perfection

Francis W. Porretto on Ghost in the Shell:

Ghost In The Shell is the absolute pinnacle of its art form. There’s nothing else in the anime oeuvre to compare with it, especially as regards graceful writing and philosophical depth. Masamune Shirow will be remembered for centuries for the story. The makers of the anime can be justly proud of the finished work. That Hollywood should choose to make a live-action version is merely additional praise of the original.

So what is this SJW concerned about? That central character Motoko Kusanagi, a round-eyed, big-bosomed cyborg, will be played by round-eyed, big-bosomed Scarlett Johansson, one of the foremost female action stars of today. “Whitewashing!” “Racial exclusion!” “Cultural appropriation!” “Insert your preferred SJWism here!”

These…persons deserve nothing but contempt. They’re the true bigots and squanderers of cultural treasures – all cultural treasures. That a brilliant piece of anime, known mainly to devotees of the art form, should be picked up by a major Hollywood studio and cast with a terrific, somatically perfect leading lady is an act of high praise…but no! “The character has a Japanese name!” Therefore, by SJW rules, she must be played by a Japanese actress. Failing that, at least one with an epicanthic fold.

Anyone who grants these cretins the smallest sliver of time or shred of respect is doing a disservice to the entire human race.

I wouldn’t say that the first Ghost in the Shell movie is incomparable in its philosophical depth — there’s Serial Experiments Lain, at least — but it is a superior work, and the remake, if competently done, should lead its more adventurous viewers to seek out the animated version.