E8, spooky action at a distance.

Some forms are chiral, meaning asymmetrical, others preserve mirror symmetry, some rotational symmetry and some preserve both. The number of rotations or faithful mirrorings gives the number of symmetrical elements. So a dodecahedron, 12 pentagon (5) faces, has a rotational symmetry of 60 elements (12x5).
Like regular taxonomy, most forms can be put into categories, though there are a few outliers. E8 is one of them. Also called Baby Monster, it is preserved by over 13 billion mirror symmetries, and is incredibly beautiful. This was all generously told to me through the medium of Cabinet Magazine, by Margaret Wertheim, who is a personal hero of mine. (Also my crocheting inspiration, which we will come to another time)

And here is the hook, or as Margaret prefers, the spooky thing:

"the Monster may encode the structure of our universe. There is tantalising evidence that this extraordinary symmetry group may lie at the heart of physical reality as explained by string theory. In some versions of string theory, our universe is described as having twenty-six dimensions and there are mystically eerie resonances between this version of the theory and the formal characteristics of the Monster. There are whole columns of numbers in the Monster’s character table that mirror properties of the mathematics that can also be used to describe the stringy structure of spacetime."

Super delicious.

In Praise of Shadows

The magical must liberate reason
from its anxieties of universalism;
the part can only be the whole,
if the whole is mysterious.

"...we are overcome with the feeling that in this small corner of the atmosphere there reigns complete and utter silence; that here in the darkness immutable tranquility holds sway... Have you never felt a sort of fear in the face of the ageless, a fear that in that room you might lose all consciousness of the passage of time, that untold years might pass and upon emerging you should find you had grown old and gray?"

Junichiro Tanizaki, In Praise of Shadows.

Shiv Visvanathan, A Letter to the 21st Century - This is mostly interesting because it is pre-911, and one decade later, perhaps slightly banal, even though the plea goes unanswered and the problems remain.

Lore Segal's The Reverse Bug

This story is is an exploration of the incomprehensible and the irreducible; subjects that are discussed at length, that tie philosophers in knots, that must be abstracted to be understood; genocide and pain. No answer lies within, but expertly, and astonishingly, Segal uses sound assault to crack the frail gloss of academic reasoning. We hear no screams, but there they are, and they assault us too. Bury it deep, so that we can talk about it.

This is read by Jennifer Egan and can be found in the New Yorker fiction audio.
Listen here - it's srsly good

Second Law of Thermodynamics, or, Einstein is a babe.

Heat cannot be transferred from a colder to a hotter body. As a result, natural processes that involve energy transfer have one direction, thus all natural processes are irreversible. This law predicts that the entropy of an isolated system always increases with time. Entropy is the measure of the disorder (or, randomness) of energy and matter in a system. This may mean that both energy and matter are becoming less useful as time goes on.
And here is the reason we are so obsessed with working out what the universe looked like in the microseconds after the big bang; energy and matter were unified and perfect order occurred. The rapid expansion of the universe and its continued expansion today, the cooling from its dense hot state to our more temperate climate, dark matter and dark energy are all linked back to this second law, forever taking a backseat to e=mc2.

The Host and the Cloud

Pierre Huyghe's The Host and The Cloud, one of the best films I have seen this year. A two hour gallery piece in Marion Goodman, Rue du Temple, Paris. Masked individuals in and around chaotic abstracted rituals, perfectly disfigured, solemnly absurd. Taken, taken, taken.
As Baudelaire wrote in l'Etranger, the liminal poem from the Spleen de Paris, to the wanderer who had no mother, father, siblings, friends, land or wealth.

Eh! qu'aimes-tu donc, extraordinaire etranger?

J'aime les nuages ... les nuages qui passent ... la-bas ... la- bas ... les merveilleux nuages!

So! Then what do you love, you extraordinary stranger?

I love clouds... drifting clouds ... there ... over there ... marvellous clouds!

The advanced technological society is self-perpetuating, it pays us no heed. We create our own rituals, our own systems of law, religion, our own rites, avatars, our own bodies, drugs, personas. Can we wander into the void, experience Zhuangzi's distant lands of marvellous creatures beyond ordinary comprehension, the harmony between life and death?
These are the rabbits in The Host and the Cloud. The spirits of the rituals that we have left behind, unshocked ideas of love, play, salvation, the now useless passions of a categorising nexus. "Save them" the final plea into the darkness.

1942 Hurt

The 1942 American-Japanese internment, post Pearl Harbour. The beautiful boy in the above photo, looking confused and curious at having to pledge allegiance to his home America, makes me want to cry.

Babar and Colonial Euphemising

"The hunter has killed Babar’s mother. 

The monkey hides, the birds fly away, Babar cries.

The hunter runs up to catch poor Babar."

"Here is Celesteville! The elephants have just finished building it and are resting or bathing. Babar goes for a sail with Arthur and Zephir. He is well satisfied, and admires his new capital. Each elephant has his own house. The Old Lady’s is at the upper left, the one for the King and Queen is at the upper right. The big lake is visible from all their windows. The Bureau of Industry is next door to the Amusement Hall which will be very practical and convenient."

The original Babar story jumps seamlessly from Babar's mother being killed to him discovering a wonderful new city (Paris, without the name). A kind old lady dresses Babar in a beautiful green suit and before too long he is building a modern capitalist city in his home country (somewhere in North Africa, also unnamed). The Bureau of Industry and the Amusement Hall, the new churches of the new age are not far from the Haussmann-Napoleon III vision for a stimulated Paris, one in which the entertained will not dwell on their political situation.

Instrumentalism is the dominant mode of education under advanced technological societies, and has, according to Heidegger, destroyed our capacity for meditative thinking in its demand for calculative thinking.

In the Bitter Harvest Tesconi & Morris write: "And finally we know: as both consumers and producers, we are replaceable. The system qua system needs people but it does not absolutely need me. Not only are we alienated and isolated from each other but from ourselves as well. Our self-esteem is wounded, our quest for personal identity lashes out incoherently for symbolic supports in stainless steel things and 'pay later' experiences."

In July 2010, the Sarkozy French government dispersed hundreds of Romani camps, declaring them illegal. The Roma, not welcome in France, have no warm welcome in their largest populated countries, Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia. What are the ethics of nomadism and borders?

If we expect cheap goods from China (and we all know why they are cheap), do we have a right to deny the movement of people? If we tick yes (just do it™) on cheap labour, must we not also tick yes on the freedom of movement and habitation? With clean packaging, has it become easier to obscure the map of production and destruction?

Companies dump unwanted computers and electronics in Africa and Asia, where they leak toxic mercury, cadmium and beryllium into the ground and air. Through this pernicious playground children sift for precious copper and aluminums to be re-sold into electronics re-manufacture. Trend has no end, now means don't either. The self-perpetuating technological system has abstracted and magnified the possible ends, which are now unattainable, leaving the significance of means significantly increased. Ritual routine and avoidance is the escape from the void of endless possibility.

Bluewater, described by Ian Sinclair, "a zone where only the fake is truly authentic, the retail swamp on the borders of everything, grandiloquent and meaningless as one of Saddam Hussein’s arches". From elsewhere: "a city with no gods other than Prada, Gucci and Starbucks, with no cathedral and temple beyond the naves and domes of the mall itself, and with no ultimate purpose beyond stupefying consumption".

Trends die to be resurrected and goods end up no good as waste. Death becomes the middle man of life qua fashion; consumption, waste, re consumption.