Ivan the Terrible

It is not possible to eat me without insisting that I sing praises of my devourer?
the darling Fyodor Dostoevsky

Some hungry appropriations have been spawned from the original painting "Ivan the Terrible and his son Ivan on Friday, 16 November 1581", or as it is better known, "Ivan the Terrible" by Russian artist Ilya Repin.

The original

Or as the Russian has it, Ivan groznyi, "Ivan the Magnificent" or "Ivan the Awesome". The epithet should be associated with power rather than horror, though madness, cruelty and a fair shock of hairy morals are crammed into the first Tsar's footnotes. Ivan, devout, intelligent and suffering episodes of rage, oversaw the transition of Russia from medieval nation state to an empire.

But Ivan IV was apparently cruel, and so was his son. At fifteen the young boy accompanied his father during the Massacre of Novgorod and spent 5 weeks there, watching the terrible beauty of death. His favoured son and heir, Tsarevich Ivan Ivanovich once saved his father's life from an assassination attempt by a Livonian prisoner, stabbing said criminal to death. As a young man, the Tsarevich had over 12 marriage suitors but his father played a major hand in the rejection and ofttimes banishment of all of them. Two he actually married but, deemed infertile by the Tsar, they were sent to a convent. A strange relationship had developed between the two men, who swapped lovers and enjoyed being co-onlookers to torture.

Beauty is mysterious as well as terrible.
God and devil are fighting there,
and the battlefield is the heart of man.

encore m. Fyodor

Things started to sour. In 1581, already in savage disagreement over their differing convictions in the later stages of the Livonian War (present-day Estonia and Latvia), Ivan the Terrible physically assaulted the Tsarevich’s pregnant wife. She suffered a miscarriage. Ivan Ivanovich took to his father angrily; “You sent my first wife to a convent for no reason, you did the same with my second, and now you strike the third, causing the death of the son she holds in her womb.” A confrontation ensued, ending with a scepter wound to the head of the heir. The terrible Ivan fell to his knees and cradled his son, kissing his face and crying “May I be damned! I’ve killed my son! I’ve killed my son.” The Tsarevich died as, in his final words, “a devoted son and most humble servant.” The Tsardom was eventually passed to the younger son, always thought of as week and often as mentally retarded. Russia was heading for The Time of Troubles.

The pixel and oil renditions that most keep me warm at night are Ivan the Terrible killing Marat, R2D2, Kenny, and Malevich's black square.

{Reference: English Russia http://englishrussia.com/ }

Ritual Spiritual

All theory, dear friend, is grey, but
the golden tree of actual life springs

Grau, teurer Freund, ist alle Theorie
Und grün des Lebens goldner Baum.


Ritual Spiritual - A Dinner

A consummate revival of spirituality.

The metaphysical with neuroscience, physics and chemistry.

The transcendent as a product of neuronal hardware.

A celebration of historical mysticism and spirituality, of costume, ritual, mind-bending, myths, music, stories, grace and collectivity.

... n. but blown dandelions in Elysian fields

Be still, my soul, be still; the arms you bear are


Earth and high heaven are fixt of old and founded


A.E. Housman 1859-1936

Neutrinos are tiny. Literally 'small neutral one' in Italian and having an almost nonzero mass, these happy babes can travel close to the speed of light and are electrically neutral. Certain kinds of nuclear activity or radioactive decay that takes place between cosmic rays and atoms or in the sun can produce neutrinos.

Underground at Kamiokako Mountain in Gifu Prefecture, Japan, is Super-Kamiokande, an observatory that studies the neutrino family (there are three neutrino 'flavours' - muon, tauon and electron) in the solar system as well as searching for proton decay and watching for supernovas in the Milky Way Galaxy.

Supernovae occur when giant stars collapse and explode, releasing so much energy that compared to them the sun's heat is a backyard bonfire. Their light travels trillions of miles (a light year is about 6 trillion) to reach Earth. If you saw a supernova, and you would need a telescope, you would be witnessing an artefact, a small cosmic presence, from millions of years ago, just reaching the Earth.

Your retinas are lined with photoreceptive cells that turn the light that falls onto them into electrical impulses, which are in turn sent to your brain and constructed as images. To see a supernova, not just a photo, would mean that cells in your body were physically changed by original light that travelled for millions of years to reach your eyes. And then it would be gone.

Nothing stills, the heavens are not fixed, particles blow about us like dandelion tufts in summer's haze and right now, far away, stars may be exploding and though we will never see them, in millions of years, someone may.

Is there something more grand than that?

cogito ergo forsit sum
[and so, and so, and yet and yet...]

And now I see with eye serene,
The very pulse of the machine;
A being breathing thoughtful breath,
A traveller betwixt life and death;

Wordsworth, She Was A Phantom of Delight (1807)

An almost completely open source 3.5 year old (size not age) nascent humanoid robot called the iCub will soon be better equipped to touch the human chord with pressure-sensitive skin. An 'i' that does not refer to Steve Jobs or its own metaphysical ego, the Cub is funded by the European Commission to investigate cognition especially in relation to tactile awareness and intelligence.

The world of dew
is the world of dew,
and yet and yet...

Kobayashi Issa

In the 18th Century, an aged woman recovered from a stroke. Upon regaining the ability to speak she reported to her caregivers that she was, in fact, dead. She compelled daughter and servants both to conduct her final service and upon their doing so, she laid her shrouded self in the coffin and fell asleep. She was not, in fact, dead and upon awakening, which she indeed did, she felt the same, that is to say, she felt that she was dead.
Cotard's Delusion or, affectionately but I feel not euphemistically, Walking Corpse Syndrome is a rare psychiatric disorder in which a person believes that they do not exist, are dead, rotting or missing blood and internal organs.
And so. Where does that leave Descartes' irrefutable truth? Will there exist a world in which the breathing do not exist and the bot breathes thoughtful breath, both all too fully betwixt life and death?

And so, and so. A man has a motor accident and wakes up to find that a woman is crying on his cheek. She smells familiar, but something is wrong. He touches her papery cheek and she looks up and smiles. The man feels something awry in that smile. She looks like his mother, and yet and yet...

The related Capgras syndrome is embodied in feelings that one's beloveds are impostors. It is believed to be the result of a breakdown within the brain between the area that processes visual information, such as faces, and the limbic or emotional system. The Fregoli Delusion is where one believes that different people are in fact the same the same person in disguise.

Often people with Capgras/Fregoli have psychotic disorders. Some merely have brain damage from accidents or strokes. Doctors used to believe that psychotics spun around in a chair would not get dizzy when a sane person would. Not as bad as being drowned or burnt to prove your innocence on witchcraft charges, but motion sickness as proof of sanity seems ineffectual and unsavoury to say the least.

Lesions on the fusiform gyrus, the part of the brain that recognises bodies and faces can damage its ability to connect to other parts of the brain. She looks like his mother but no emotions arise when he sees her, so she seems an impostor. Often the 'impostor' can leave the room, call the affected on the telephone and once again be recognised. Upon re-entering, they become 'imposter' once again. This is because the auditory recognition system is separate in the brain, according to V. S. Ramachandran, my personal favourite neuroscientist and all-around polygonal chap. The TED talks and in fact anything by Ramachandran is well worth looking into.

Busy old fool, unruly Sun,
Why dost thou thus,
Through windows, and through curtains call on us?
Must to thy motions lovers' seasons run?

The Sun Rising
Donne, 1571-1631

If Sun was an old man, this would be his psoriatic scalp. The little white flakes of skin past, pin pricks spanning hundreds of kilometres are this olde-fogeyish gent's most magnetic loci. Our sweet lodestone.

Photo taken September 2007 using the Swedish Solar Telescope on the astronomical island of La Palma in the Canary Islands

meteroid music

Thou wast not born for death, immortal Bird!
No hungry generations tread thee down;
The voice I hear this passing night was heard
In ancient days by emperor and clown:
Perhaps the self-same song that found a path
Through the sad heart of Ruth, when sick for home,
She stood in tears amid the alien corn;
The same that oft-times hath
Charm'd magic casements, opening on the foam
Of perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn.
Adieu! adieu! thy plaintive anthem fades
Past the near meadows, over the still stream,
Up the hill-side; and now 'tis buried deep
In the next valley-glades:
Was it a vision, or a waking dream?
Fled is that music: - Do I wake or sleep?

Keats, 624. Ode to a Nightingale

A stereo sound file of space dust hitting the Earth's ionosphere recorded on a forward scatter radio array.
All the dots and blips on the spectrogram are small meteoroids hitting the upper ionosphere. Then at 1313 UT a larger fireball sized meteor strikes producing a stronger and longer radio reflection.