127: what is 'pataphysics?

I learned a new word over the weekend..'pataphysics.  The apostrophe is intentional and I presume silent when spoken.  Do you know anything about 'pataphysics?  If you do, please let me know what your study involves.

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episode 90: Thoreau 'On Walking' and a strange experience over by the Spaulding Farm

Henry David Thoreau wrote an essay for The Atlantic magazine talking about walking. It includes a bizarre and wonderful experience he had one day over by the neighboring Spaulding Farm.
(here's the essay:

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Pittsburgh 40th street bridge VLF ( Very Low Frequency) recording

Here's a long, slow video of the VLF activity walking across 40th street bridge in Pittsburgh.  All the sounds are from the Beleboke.  

Couple of interesting observations:
1.  You can hear clearly the characteristic hum of the electric grid powering the bridge structure itself, but it is not as comprehensive and complicated as the sounds on the street.  This makes sense:  there are fewer cables and power sources across the river.
2.  I realized that most but not all passing cars emit a unique signature which is captured as a fleeting high pitched singing gesture.
3.  The 40 street  bridge is decorated with plaques showing each of the state flags.  perhaps one future walk I'll return and explore the resonant characteristics of the metal.

I did a spectrographic analysis of the sound:  this is a visual representation of the frequency fundamental and harmonics present over time:





other pictures from the walk:


Adumbrated Trolley lines

Pittsburgh is a town of trolleys.  All of the old trolley lines are gone now.  The buses had names from the trolley lines until a few years ago with a round of route consolidation and now my 86B Frankstown is called the 88 Penn to Bakery Square. Bakery Square used to be the Nabisco factory and though there's nothing wrong with this, its now where Google has offices.

I've got a map of the Pittsburgh rail system as it ran in the late 50's.  Some tracks  were pulled up, others  paved over.  The trolley system is like an endocrinal system pulsing beneath the surface of our modern commute, a residual path.  Along with the map are plans to take  a half dozen walks, a psychogeographic view of Pittsburgh through the logic of public transportation 60 years ago. 

A few days ago, Kathryn and I were walking down to the grocery store.  It must have been Easter Sunday, we came home with bags of lamb, mint sauce,  seitan and cabbage.  Walking down Friendship Ave, we crossed Negley where they've been resurfacing the road.  

Image-3   Image-1   Image-2   Image-4

(photos by Kathryn Kane)

Peter Ackroyd talks about London as a living being, with vital organs formed by the fact of consistent human activity.  (Iain Sinclair, in his Guardian review, quotes Ackroyd ""In London," he writes, "the past is a form of occluded memory, in which the presence of earlier generations is felt rather than seen. It is an echoic city, filled with shadows." ) A place where people have always made watches, or always slaughtered cows, or always run haberdashery  store.  That activity creates a resonance, and sure London has thousands of years but the Pittsburgh decades were intense ones and all the poetry of all those lives running along each  rail drains in to the psychogeographic troughs and ditches etched where the lines don't run anymore.

 I'd guess the new  tarmac is down now, but nobody  was working then and we could see the trolley tracks in the older layer of road surface.   

Johnny Cash in Peterborough (a poem)

I was on the train from Kings Cross to Berwick, up the East coast of England passing through Cambridge, York and Newcastle.  

It must have been around nine the morning when I'd arrived at St. Pancras from Paris after a great weekend speaking at UNESCO .  I had a hangover  behind and a five hour train ride ahead of me.  My American debit card didn't work in  an  English point of sale machine at the liquor store so   I left the bottle behind and wandered around the station until I found a Tesco express.  Tesco Express sells booze, and they also handled my card just fine so I bought  a bottle of Famous Grouse, a liter of Perrier and some digestive biscuits.   

If the cost of Bourbon is astonishing in London, it  is prohibitive in Paris - I put 23 euros on the UNESCO charge for each of several glasses of Jim Beam on the rocks.  There's no alternative anywhere though, except an occasional Jack Daniels.  No Wild Turkey (my first choice).  No Makers Mark, no nothing.  No Bulleit.  No Bookers.  No Basil Haydn, Woodford Reserve  or Pappy Van Winkle.  Old Crow? No. Old Grand Dad? Nope.   No Blanton's , Buffalo Trace nor Eagle Rare. 

No Rye, neither, but that's not much to miss for.  I'm OK with Jim Beam, but I chose Grouse and I'm glad I did.

So I sat myself down at  the corner of a platform with a scalding cup of tea and a hip pocket full of whiskey.  Nobody likes a dirty old drunk, mid-morning.   I still don't know what the open container laws are in London, but people do tend to see what they want to see.  They want to see a quiet poet, waiting for the train, sipping from his cup and filling up with Famous Grouse.   If only I'd known, I'd have worn a beret.

The line goes north through Peterborough, where I was halfway through the pint.  I had some music on my laptop, but something about the morning caught me on a repeat loop  and I listened to Johnny Cash sing 22 times,   "He Stopped Loving Her Today".   A song like that, a song listened like that, the lines start to merge.  The first line of the first stanza and the first line of the second stanza create a standing wave with the first lines of stanzas three and four.  Same  with the second, third and fourth lines of each stanza.  The song becomes one verse,  outside of a sequential performance.  The music stands isolated, shining against the lush flatness of the Fens. 

Words are like the breaking point of a wave, the moment where all possible meanings collapse in to one.  Scansion  interacts between lines  like waves, adding  to the peaks, deepening  the troughs,  cancelling out.  What remains are the offbeat  single exhalations, the momentary gaps, or the catch in the voice.  The song becomes a hieroglyph, the moment it was recorded etched in to the moment that I heard it.  

Leaving Peterborough, I wrote a poem, and here is that poem:

there’s an instant when you know that you will die
there’s an instant when you know there you will die
there’s an instant when you know when you will die
there’s an instant that you know when you will die
there’s an instant that you know there you will die
there’s an instant that you know that you will die
there’s an instant there you know there you will die
there’s an instant there you know when you will die
there’s an instant there you know that you will die
that an instant that you know there you will die
that an instant that you know when you will die
that an instant there you know when you will die
that an instant there you know that you will die
that an instant there you know there you will die
that an instant that you know that you will die
that an instant when you know there you will die
that an instant when you know that you will die
that an instant when you know when you will die
when an instant that you know there you will die
when an instant that you know when you will die
when an instant that you know that you will die
when an instant there you know that you will die
when an instant there you know when you will die
when an instant there you know there you will die
when an instant when you know when you will die
when an instant when you know there you will die
when an instant when you know that you will die






Tattoos and the collapsing aesthetic field

Not all tattoos have to have a story, but all tattoos do have a story.

On the spectrum of tattooed-ness, I'm probably lower-middle.  Currently working on a left arm sleeve, with designs from the Lindisfarne gospels.  Three mid-size pieces lined up my spine (Tara, Odin and the bee-headed mushroom shaman).  A decent chunk of my left calf with a dragon.  Plus a few smaller, older bits here and there.

First question:  yes, it hurts.  Sometimes it's hard to say what 'hurt' is, though.

Second question: depends on what you mean by meaning.

I mean, what is meaning, and does a tattoo have to mean something?

A probability field collapses under observation.  Before observation, a probability field contains all possible paths between two actions, two states, two conditions or locations.  Under observation, the field collapses into the one outcome that is recognizable as this particular moment.

The collapse of probability instantiates this essential moment.  The collapse of aesthetics precipitates poetics:  first as memory, with the psychogeographic valence of quiddity.  The aesthetic field collapses under the vector of mortality, what elsewhere I describe as the vectors of scale.

Most mornings before work, I go to the gym.  Some of those mornings, I will exercise.  others, I will sit in the steam room and sweat out the dual ill humours of melancholy and gluttony.  The smallest movements impress sensation on my skin, like I'm immersed in this hot alchemical retort.  My arms shape  whorls, define swirling patterns  cascading in the steam.

This I think is what it's like moving through the collapsing aesthetic field, the poetic aura.  Getting tattoos is structurally resonant with  the collapse of the aesthetic field, which is probably why it hurts so good.


Whitechapel, Iain Sinclair, MI-5 and someone at the BBC

Someone at the BBC has been reading up on their Iain Sinclair.  


In Spooks, Matthew Macfadyen plays Tom, who serves as the senior case officer for section D in seasons 1-3.  Spooks was re-named 'MI5' when it broadcast here in the States.  I guess so we wouldn't confuse it with  what, I don't know, the Simpsons?  Anyway, some skullduggery later, Tom is replaced by Adam (Rupert Penry-Jones), a charismatic and troubled transfer from MI6.  Adam makes it for a few more years than Tom  did before he also gets done in too.

Tom moves on to star as Detective Inspector Edmund Reid  in Ripper Street.  Adam left MI5 (dead) to become  a young DI looking for respect from the tough-bitten crew in WhitechapelRipper Street begins a few months after the last of the murders associated with Jack the Ripper, in 1889. Whitechapel is set 100 and some years after the murders, and season 1 follows Adam ( DI Joseph Chandler) as his team tracks down a copycat killer.  

Ripper Street quickly leaves behind its eponym.  But Whitechapel  has a second season with another copycat, one who has studied the  Kray twins.

This is all Sinclair's territory.  Read White Chappell, Scarlett Tracings for an epic, arcane prose-poem Ripper bit.  Here's Sinclair on the Krays , who also make an appearance in Lights out for the Territory .   Liturgy emerges when Sinclair walks.  A London emerges that has as much to do with Blake's Jerusalem as it does the high survelliance state and Olympic relics. Sinclair has walked with Alan More, whose From Hell is a mesmerising and comprehensive reflection of Ripper lore.   In a moment of high style, I would have said that it is a London extracted from Blake's buttocks.  I'm not being intentionally provocative here.  When I first read Sinclair, he was walking around the M-25 motorway in part to exorcise residual withcraft from the Thatcherite mausoleum in the Millenium Dome.  

All three shows  feature London as a character, with stunning cinematography of the city:  they've also read some Ackroyd, I'd guess, and certainly know their Robinson.  

Someone in the BBC has packed Whitechapel with all of this.   Yes, the OCD detective inspector is a shallow conceit, and there's plenty more a bit over-ripe plot and character.  But let's say you have the same interest in Ripper lore that you may also have in Lord of the Rings.  Remember in the Jackson movies, when you kept looking at the screen and seeing some other illuminated scroll in Quenya?  Whitechapel is like Lord of the Rings where you get to see Tom Bombadil. 

It would be an interesting survey, to study the overlay of Ripper studies and Tolkien.  I suspect, not so much?

There's a character in Whitechapel  who refers to the "canonical' Ripper killings, and if that's your thing, I think you'll have the deep satisfaction of someone who recognizes the mainstream theories;  appreciates the callout to some alternates;  but also catches references to the downright quiggly.  

Pittsburgh Field Recordings: Blvd of Allies and Wood Street 011313

I walk through this intersection each morning from the bus stop over to my office building.  The pedestrian walk signs have an associated alarm sound.  I'm not sure how to interpret the beeps.  I would expect that the signal would beep when there was a green "walk" sign, but each signal seems to be beeping all the time.  Although I'm confused whether or not to cross the street, this does create an interesting soundscape.  Overlapping patterns change intensity with  my position in the street.  
I set out to record this on Sunday morning a few weeks ago.  Here's the video and soundtrack.  

It's possible that I'll manipulate the source recording, perhaps call it Field Recording with Unfolding Sonic Manipulations.  That would fit with other pieces, like Impossibly Loud and Unbearably Silent (for singer, automobiles and the 16th street bridge) or Hurdy Gurdy and Freight Train (for Hurdy Gurdy, East Side Parking Lot and the  Norfolk and Southern Railroad).  Pieces where the landscape is a counterpoint for the composed bit.  Part of the larger exploration of Pittsburgh sonic Psychogeography.   
But for now, this is the sound of a street corner, with waker.

Ekpyrosis and Ecstasy

Ekpyrotic art is an aesthetic that recreates the experience of the eschaton.   Earlier post on Ekpyrosis here

What are the mechanics of Ekpyrotic art?  Trance through repetition:  drumming, mudra, chant.  When material remains consistent, the mind latches on to epiphenomenon.  Perception of a pattern in repeated gestures is to remove the gesture from time and perceive a crystalline structure.  

When physical phenomena are perceived outside of time, the mental attributes of that action are lost , without meaning.  The body becomes  open to new imprints.  Like a new born duckling.  Its a condition before the new material.  Ekpyrosis is liturgical, and ecstasy is a functional  precondition for effective liturgy.  

To this duckling mind, then, we throw contemplation of the immense.  Contemplation of the immeasurable:  large or small. The breath-devouring ancient.  The face-melting future.  Experience of the impossibly loud.  The unbearably silent.  

Imagine the very small.  The nano.  That experience, the full-on contemplation of the vanishingly tiny:  a big part of that is looking back and recognizing our bigger selves.   Like Alice in wonderland. It is an anticipation of our death, as much as an anticipation of our departure from earth, where every glance will be backwards. 

This is not only the definition of, but also the reason for, the Overview effect.  Think on it:  the entirey of your life  - of all life - is "out there", external, not-all-around-ness.  It's  probably like going to a sensory deprivation tank and realising you left your body behind for real, a sensory deprivation tank where your body is vaporised for the duration.

For sure, I feel this sometimes when I look at a map of the US Eastern coast.  I've lived in Washington DC for High school, Lewiston Maine for College, and Pittsburgh for everything else.  A  psychogeographic asterism on the map.

The extraction of the physical gesture in to a space outside of time has some consistent and remarkable sensations.  It feels to me like biting on a piece of metal foil, a clenching in my abdomen, a  slight shiver that feels like it is generated by the muscles at tip of my spine where it meets the skull.  There is  enough of a contraction that my jaws quiver from side to side, although there are no muscles moving  in my face or neck.  A quiver.  An impulse.   At the bottom of my breath, all air expelled from my lungs ( if my eyes are closed)  I  feel a swaying -   or more like there's a cyclone, a small cyclone that I've swallowed,  When I breath out,  I contract enough to touch the sides of that moving wind. 

That's what it feels like. 

Mircea Eliade talks about Hierophany.  Hierophany is the revelation of the sacred,  a differentiating event.  Essentially poetic.   A shift where the pattern is perceived, the physical gesture ("mortality") has been removed from time.   If it isn't an intimation of death, it's an intimation of hypersptial experience.