January 15, 2003

Trails of Slime

I've been surfing the phenomenology of consciousness and inevitably I've been diverted to off-topic sites. But really, I was quite surprised to alight at Thomas Crapper. It's entertaining enough, even though I'm not particularly interested in the history of sanitation, and don't really want to spend 1380 on a WC or 850 on a hand basin, no matter how authentic and high quality they are.
From there it was a natural progression to the Outhouses Of America site and the delights of outhouse racing. Having discovered what outhouse connotes in US English, I feel happier with the Heinlein quote setting the scene for star travel (referred to recently here)).

Posted at 12:23 AM | Comments (5)

January 12, 2003

The Sound Of One Hand Blogging

Having played with Blogger for a while, I've decided that sorting out comments is more trouble than it's worth.
So it's a grateful farewell to snailmusings.blogspot.com and a cheerful hello to kittywompus.com/snailmusings.

Posted at 05:44 PM

January 07, 2003

Scorsese Is The Thief Of Time

Last night I watched Fight Club which certainly had a giddy non-rational feel. It's a strange movie, not at all as advertised on the tin. It is however, as violent as the trailers suggest, and somewhat darker in spirit.
In a very different vein, I went to see Shorts at the Barbican, featuring short works by five filmmakers chosen by Philip Glass together with a live performance of his accompanying score. The music was as impressive and affecting as I had hoped for, and the best of the films were exquisite, atmospheric, provocative by turns. We were also treated to a discussion after the performance. In this Glass commented, among other things, on the particularities of film scoring, the nature of collaboration with directors, and the differences between working on film (where the director has the final word) and opera (where this privilege belongs to the composer). Along the way he recounted stories of directorial revision both with the composers foreknowledge (Scorsese is a time-thief) and without (total recutting of The Man in the Bath). While obviously greatly distressed by changes made to something in which he had made a very great personal investment, he was apparently fairly sanguine about it, recognising the realities of this specific creative process. Glass also remarked upon the contrast between film images, which can be very powerful yet are remarkably clumsy as a means of evoking a precise spectator response, and music, which is much more articulate.
Perhaps his most significant comments reflected his musical intentions when scoring film, which include echoing the structure of the film in the score, while at the same time avoiding excessive synchronisation of film and score. He sees the latter as allowing a distance, a space between the music and the images. Glass considered synchronisation to be perfectly legitimate, although he rather rubbished its credentials by suggesting that such manipulation was essential in e.g. advertising. So now I'm wondering how fundamental his 'de-synchronisation' is to the enigmatic feel of film scored by Glass, and how this might help create something which is greater than the sum of its parts.
Whatever. I like the music well enough for its own sake.

Posted at 11:46 PM

January 03, 2003

Maps, Mirrors, Minds

I grew up fascinated by Tarot, sparked by a book of fortune telling methods that somehow washed up at my grandparents. Good Methodists both, they theoretically disapproved of such hocus-pocus, but in practice were too good hearted to be troubled by a bit of harmless fun. They were more spooked by their grandson reading mathematical and engineering texts left by a lecturer great uncle. Probably more sceptical as a seven year old than I am now, I was as susceptible as anyone to the lure of secret and easy knowledge. I've since grown more wary of free lunches, but edged toward the not uncommon view that symbolic methods might guide us toward answers we are too busy to see with our conscious mind.
Whatever, my aged relatives certainly wouldn't have been troubled by the Peanuts Arcana tarot deck, much blogged (but which I picked up from Avram Grumer).
Even fluffier, but in some ways more impressive, the Playmobil tarot showcases cleverly designed Major Arcana using Playmobil figures. The gallery is playfully accompanied by a tarot reader.
And of course the readings all feel true.

Posted at 12:24 AM

January 01, 2003

Am I Numinous Or Not?

My blogging was cut short over the Christmas season, not for want of subject matter, but because I had a cold. Just having clear sinuses feels like the lifting of an impenetrable veil, and even the most mundane things seem marvellous.
Which reminds me. When I started Snail Musings I chose a template which prompted for a brief description. Without thinking overly hard rattled out 'seeking the numinous in a trail of slime'.
Numinous. A slippery word for a slippery concept. Coined by Rudolf Otto in "Idea of the Holy", wherein he examines the nature of religious experience and characterises it in terms a particular experiential state. Often designated in terms of three components mysterium tremendum et fascinans, reflecting otherness, awefullness and grace. There's plenty of explanation on the web, but if you don't feel like googling then you could look here.
So far so good. I certainly had no intention of limiting my blogging to phenomena that strictly satisfy these criteria. My scrappy and undocumented notions of what I want to blog are as likely to be manifested in chaotic economic flows or descriptions of quantum electrodynamics as within a religious or mystical context. "Sense of wonder" is part of it, and there's plenty to be found in thoughtful science fiction, much of which provokes philosophical wonder, although there's a more straightforward marvellousness in some of the convincing and elaborate world-building and other imaginative constructions.
Whatever. I thought I had a reasonable handle on 'numinous', but perhaps I've been in the position of Vizzini in The Princess Bride ("You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.") I've thought of the blessed word as closely associated with mystical experiences. But googling finds people explicitly contrasting the mystical and the numinous: here is a Mormon example. At first I thought they were simply wrong, but whether objectively correct or not there is a legitimate distinction between 'holy terror' and 'direct perceptions echoing the transcendent'.
Whatever, I found it interesting, but don't depend on finding either of the above in the pages of this blog.

Posted at 11:49 PM