It's been a while. I'm still addicted to caffeine, but it's by choice. In order to quit caffeine, one must substitute it with healthy alternatives like vegetables and fruits, in order to retain the energy boost. I'm not inclined to change my diet, so I'm sticking with my lovely elixer caffeine.

The pageviews are still rising steadily. I can see that most of them come from Russia. (?) That's it for now. Bye.


The new Blogger system forces you to see how many page views your blog has. I find it weird that my blog keeps increasing page views every day. Not in large volumes, just creeping upwards steadily. I know it's not me because I don't visit my own blog very much...

I don't know why I find it creepy to think people are even reading my stuff?

So anyway I have to abandon everything right now because I'm in a caffeine withdrawal, and can't think straight for more than 10 minutes at a time, and become fatigued really easily.  I haven't had caffeine for a week now, except a cup of tea about two days ago, which I hope hasn't set me back for another two weeks.  I remember that cup of tea being a huge caffeine rush for some-reason...

I was drinking caffeine like a fiend. My steady rate was 500mL of energy drink per day (2 small cans), but sometimes would drink 750mL (3 small cans) or up to a whole litre (2 large cans). Today is Friday, and I decided to quit starting Friday last week--cold turkey--when I turned up to work totally forgetting to buy some more drinks the night before. But I decided I don't want to be addicted to any substances. If I want my life to be dictated by my addictions, they will all have to be purely psychological, and ones that I choose for myself.

They say it takes two weeks for withdrawal symptoms to wear off. That means I've got another week to go. I know I can do this, I've managed to quit alcohol, even sugar--I had to stop eating sugar for some reason--it's a long story.  Another addiction I'm trying to quit is less substantial: shopping.  It's hard because there are lots of really cool stuff to buy right now, but I don't want to buy something unless I'm dead serious about buying it.  Another thing I've got to stop is picking at my face, which is a huge problem for me.

Here are a couple of interesting articles about addiction, including one about "relapse", which is important if you're deciding to quit something:




I've recently been fascinated by speed-reading, although haven't been practicing it as much lately because some books are better when you hear it in a voice, like Hemingway or F. Scott Fitzgerald, both who I'm getting into right now. But nevertheless, my own discoveries in speed-reading have been a little different from the texts and information I've come across to teach you how to do it, though I haven't had a mentor ($$$) or any computer software ($$$$$) which seems to be highly recommended. So I'd like to take this opportunity to lay down my own version, cutting the bullshit (I'm not getting paid for this), and getting to the gritty substance of what speed-reading is all about. The trick isn't learning how to speed-read, that's something you can do overnight. In fact, I'll tell you how to do it right now.

Speed-reading is a series of breaking habits, which is much easier than making them. The first habit you must break is vocalisation. This is when you are reading to yourself with your lips each word one-by-one at a time. Chew some gum, or sing a song if you have to, but stop reading with your mouth! The next step is to quit sub-vocalisation. This is when you are reading the words one-by-one in your head, sounding them out in your imagination. You may have stopped moving your lips, but you might still feel the back of your throat trying to shape out words! Sub-vocalisation is a tricky habit to break, I find it easier if I'm listening to instrumental music, or some kind of drone-y noise in the background to distract my mind from trying to hear the sound of the words. Concentration is key. Once you've broken sub-vocalisation, you are already reading much faster than you ever were before! But it doesn't end here.

When you are reading a word, you are not simply following one letter after another, but all of them at once, taking the word in as a whole. The same idea can be applied to multiple words, to read a whole phrase, or a sentence, as a whole. Now you are reading in chunks. Think of a painting, and think of each brush stroke as a word. The brush stroke doesn't make anything on its own, but multiple brush strokes when put together form a complete image. The first thing in a painting you see is the whole picture itself. The same concept applies to speed-reading, but it's more than a static image: it's concepts, ideas, and whole experiences all at once. Concentration is key!

By the way, you don't need both eyes to read the same word (with apologies to the one-eyed possibly the blind). Mastering your peripheral-vision, pretty soon you are able to read entire lines of text at a time, as if reading a single word. Now you are now approaching the art of vertical-reading. Reading vertically will allow you to read up to 900 words per minute, but this is only the limit of the linear approach. To read even faster, you're going to have to take on the layered approach, which is much more complex and involved, and something I can't get into right now as I haven't practiced it myself. To be perfectly honest, I'm happy to be just reading linear. If you would like more information on the layered approach, I'd recommend looking up information or books about Evelyn Wood Reading Dynamics.

The most important thing that needs to be mentioned is one of the biggest banes of not just speed-reading, but all reading in general, and that is regression. This is when you've read a sentence or two, maybe even a paragraph or a whole page, and you realise your mind has been trailing off, and you've absorbed none of what you just read. So you have to go back and re-read what you just read again. This will slow you down immensely, and needs to be conquered. Remember, concentration is key! But another way to help stop regression is by using a pacer. On a computer screen, you can use your mouse-cursor. On a book you can simply use your finger (It may not be so easy on an e-reader or a phone, but those devices are good for speed-reading anyway because you can make the text large enough to chunk-read vertically with ease). The practice is to move your pacer over the words you are reading at your own comfortable pace. It may feel awkward and cumbersome at first, but with enough perseverance it will keep your eyes focused sharply on the words, and less chance of your mind to wonder off. When you are reading fast enough, your mind will be absorbing more information than it can think about, which means it will be even less likely to be distracted. Remember to concentrate! Because this is the tricky part, as I mentioned before.

The trick to speed-reading is not knowing how to do it. It's adjusting your brain so that it can absorb large amounts of new information at a time. When I was first reading pretty fast, I never ended up reading any more than I usually do, because I got so exhausted I kept falling asleep after about an hour or so. The brain needs to be exercised regularly, and trained to deal with massive quantities of new ideas and learning at a time. Don't worry, it can be done! This is what will really take you weeks of practice, and the ultimate key to unlocking this potential is something more potent than concentration, it's patience.

Brain-training exercises, such as those found on the Nintendo DS or iPhone/Android apps, can be helpful in keeping your brain strong and analytical. Understanding patterns and associations is important, doing a lot of sudoku and cross-word puzzles are also a great help. It will also be important to have good vocabulary, because if you read over any word you don't understand, the mind's image will be incomplete. So if you have time, find a dictionary and scan through for every word you don't know yet.

God-luck and good read!

Minimalism. Dance.

Here are a couple things to tide me over:

The choreography in both of these are extremely well accomplished.

A Poem by Emily Dickinson

I've been reading poetry by Emily Dickinson lately, and come across this one poem which I so far claim as my favourite. It is untitled, and categorised under the "Nature" section in the book I have. The four sections are Life, Love, Nature and Death (actually called "Time and Eternity" but I'm not so coy), and so far I think Nature has yielded some of her best, but that's probably just my preference, as I think Nature encompasses all the other three in itself.

There's a certain slant of light,
On winter afternoons,
That oppresses, like the weight
Of cathedral tunes.

Heavenly hurt it gives us;
We can find no scar,
But internal difference
Where the meanings are.

None may teach it anything,
'Tis the seal, despair, -
An imperial affliction
Sent us of the air.

When it comes, the landscape listens,
Shadows hold their breath;
When it goes, 'tis like the distance
On the look of death.

I'm not a poetical analyst, and I don't think I'd ever like to be, but I will talk a bit about why I like this poem in particular. In the first stanza, she gives light a sense of weight, or oppression. But not any kind of physical weight, as light is virtually weightless, but a moody weight, "the weight of cathedral tunes". I imagine an overpowering pipe-organ ringing through a large hall of a cathedral. It's interesting how she finds it oppressing, but comparing it to the "slant of light" appearing on wintery afternoons through its "weight", there is no question that this is a moody weight, a heaviness: melancholy, although I've never heard melancholy described more beautifully than here. It's currently winter where I am right now, so I know exactly what she's talking about insofar as imagery, but the melancholy is something much more universal that applies to any time of the year.

The first stanza sets the topic for the rest of the poem, from there the pronoun "it" comes down like a hammer, encapsulating the entire concept of the first four lines. This is one of the most beautiful mysteries of language and the mind, the way we can describe an entire experience, bearing all its narratives and moods, and surface it all simply through the word "it". In Japanese, they don't even have a word for "it", but rather a "zero-pronoun", where it's not even said at all.

It's fascinating. Perhaps the reverse is how creativity works. We start with the word "it", and all the experiences that it surfaces, and from there we lay it out into a form.

Another effect of "it" is when you take one of the stanza's out of context. Take the last stanza for instance (already odd, as it changes up the number of syllables), and "it" suddenly takes on a much larger meaning: hope, love, life, God?

I love the way she rhymes "breath" and "death", as if she encompasses an entire scope of life in one swoop. Considering, when you put the stanza back into context, that she is referring to a slant of light "on winter afternoons". In poetic terms, that's like saying "you have about two minutes left to live". Although, I always found it fatuous to think of seasons and days to only represent the cycle of life. Children still experience winter at least once a year, and the elderly can still experience spring and summer. I like to think of it as a link, that any point in your life you experience the melancholy of a winter afternoon, it is a similar feeling to your (poetic) winter afternoon.

I like her personification of landscapes and shadows. Perhaps it's a bit horrifying to think of shadows breathing, but looking closely, it's not what she's saying, it's only implied by our imagination. The shadows holding their breath, combined with listening landscapes, describes a suspended feeling, a stillness or anticipation, but for what? And the way the poem ends on the word "death" is almost like a knife jabbing into your heart, softened only by the fact it belongs to a simile.

But perhaps it's not all so glum. After all, a cathedral tune might be oppressive, but is it so gloomy? She describes it giving us "Heavenly hurt", is this some kind of masochism? Perhaps it's more about a transcendent feeling, finding resolution from an internal struggle, a mixture of contradicting emotions within oneself. Accepting death, but finding it beautiful.

And finally, the surrender. The solution is that there is no solution. We can not tell nature what to do, it is our master and we are its subjects. Obedience and loyalty is the key to eternal harmony.

That is until we're able to build weather machines.

Other ways to watch a film

What is it you are looking for in a film experience? Story? Characters? Comedy? Drama? How often are you fulfilled by any of these? Are these the only aspects a film can provide? Is a film not a film without them?

In my last post I mentioned briefly about ways to listen to music more satisfying and fulfilling than the conventional linear-progression format we are so used to. The same can apply to film, an epiphany I reached after watching the DVD MIC.MADEIRA by Simon Whetham and Hugo Olim (sample above). I bought the DVD at the Merzbow concert, as Simon Whetham was one of the opening acts whom I thoroughly enjoyed. MIC.MADEIRA is a project where Simon Whetham stood in various desolate areas around Madeira with microphones, recording sounds of nature plus various insides of metal poles and rails. From these he put together a 40 minute collage, and collaborated with Hugo Olim to make a film from it. I'm not sure what the film is exactly, my best guess is that it's multiple exposures of microscopic water droplets, varying in and out of focus. There is constant movement, constant focus-pulling, and eventually a split-screen where both sides are moving opposite directions (EDIT: Hugo describes how it was made in the comments below). There are points where it seems to be VHS-like static interference, which is either in sync with the sound, or is creating a sound, I can't tell, but it blends seamlessly into the film experience on the whole. But to analyse what it is and what it means would be missing the point entirely. The film is a kind of form, that doesn't rely on narrative, explanations or structure. There are no faces, characters or expressions to follow. The form this film takes is the purest form that film can be: the minimalist expression of form itself. I'm going to embed other films by Hugo Olim as examples of my discourse, but even narrative films can be appreciated in the same way.

To go back to my opening question, perhaps everyone will have their own answer, and that's fine, so here I will provide an answer of my own. What I look for in a film experience is to have sensations invoked. Film is perhaps the most powerful medium for doing so. It doesn't take as much effort on the viewer's part (not like reading a book or a poem). A photograph can invoke, but it's limited to a visual sensation. Music and sound can invoke, but it's limited to an aural sensation. The combination of image and sound opens up a world of possibilities, with a limitless catalogue of feelings to invoke. There is nothing more thrilling than reacting to a mixture of different emotions, especially contradicting emotions and dichotomies!

It is a mistake to think invocation can be brought forth through narrative only. A story is the least important aspect of a film, if it has one at all. This is a problem with especially American audiences and youthful critics. In response, film makers are creating sterile, space-less, disposable flicks with too much emphasis on plot, leaving no room for atmosphere or feeling. The photography can be beautiful, but leaves much to be desired when it's not given room to breathe. At the bottom of the barrel are modern action-genre movies, that don't so much as give plot but plot "markers"--the pregnant wife, the villain kicking a dog, etc--as a means to carry us over from one action set-piece to another, designed to be consumed and forgotten, like a factory-made can of soup.

It is a particular nature in our culture, especially Western culture, to be oriented towards a goal. All our lives we are in need of getting somewhere, it makes me wonder if we will ever know when we get there at all. It's understandable that we may not be satisfied with where we are, but with the attitude of always wanting to go somewhere, can we ever stop to appreciate being where we are? Isn't the journey just as important as destination itself? I think it is, in fact, I know it is. And this is why I choose not to aim for goals, but for roles. I choose the journey, not the destination, and I give myself all the time I need to stop and look at the scenery along the way.

I would like to repeat a paragraph from my last post, only retool it to apply to film: Strip away all the superfluous ingredients, and what do you have? It's just light and sound, playing in a pattern, playing together, to create an atmosphere. Things like "narrative" and "structure" are just theoretical, they exist as an explanation to what makes an audience respond to film, but they come after, not before film. Film doesn't have to be a linear progression, it can be crystalline, it can be realised as you are watching it, without concern for a beginning or an end. It doesn't have to be watched with just your eyes and ears, it can (and should) be felt, emotionally and even physically. You don't have to watch for the events to happen, there exists a space between events, which is just as important. And there is also framing, the effect of silence and darkness, as the images and sound continue ringing in your memory, sometimes for days.

I'd like to end with one of my favourite YouTube videos by animator Don Hertzfeldt. It's called "Watching Grass Grow" and it's a timelapse of about two years of banal, seemingly endless work on an animation, but every now and then the fruits of his labour show when it all comes together in the camera tests. I haven't seen the final animation, but I enjoy witnessing the journey to it all the same, without needing a final destination.

You're doin' alright.
You're doin' OK.
Just follow your heart
and don't rot away!

Andrew W.K. / Merzbow

note: Andrew W.K. didn't play "Never Let Down" in his set, but it's still a great song and should be listened to it often.

"A long time ago, I dedicated my life to making a fool out of myself", he said, "and I would like to thank all of you for making that dream come true!"

A rather profound attitude worth adopting, I think. I was already being a fool-hardy, devil-may-care buffoon attending a show on a Wednesday night, having to go back to my 8-4 job the next day. Which is probably why I spent most of the the show behind the crowd, trying to ignore how much fun everyone else was having, and convincing myself that I was being sensible conserving my energy.

"You see this?" Andrew W.K. asked, presenting a bare stage around him, "this is not a concert! This is a PARTY!". He had no band that night, it was just music playing and him singing along to it, or playing along to it on his keyboard. The crowd cheers, and they are all having a party, and I'm wishing I was cheering and partying with them, but I couldn't!

Or maybe I just wouldn't. Or didn't. Not until some big headed fucker decided to stand in front of me and block my view, and W.K. was singing Ready to Die (most of the set was from the I Get Wet album, which makes sense as it is still to this day a wall-to-wall punch-in-the-face of an album), that I decided it was time to let go of all concerns and preconceptions of tomorrow, and jumped into the crowd and became part of the party.

As the days goes by, I have my ups and downs, but mostly downs, I call it "my downtime". But I've found recently being up mostly coincided with listening to the music of Andrew W.K. He is like Jesus in that stupid "Footsteps" poem that Christians always cling to, only he's better than Jesus, because he Parties Hard, and doesn't give you any conditions. He kicks you in the teeth with his optimism, and dares you to change your life. Perhaps the secret is to never stop listening to his music? I don't know. When I saw him on stage, it made me think it was possible, maybe just possible, to be in a perpetually good mood, to live life like a party. Maybe it's not possible, but I know I don't ever want to feel down again. From this day forth I want to practice giving myself active self-encouragement, to fight any doubts I have about myself, and see where it gets me (so far I've managed to write this post, after an inexplicable hiatus, so there's that).

During the song I Get Wet, W.K. brought a fan on stage--a bearded guy with a Pokémon shirt and blue shorts, who looked like his life was changing on the spot--and they sang the rest of the song together. Then he said "good night" and abruptly left the stage. The crowd cheered for about five minutes, then sang Happy Birthday etc (it happened to be his birthday that night) for another five minutes. The stage-hand was packing up the microphones, and we slowly realised there was going to be no encore. While most were disappointed, I was thankful, because I had to go to work at 8am then next morning and get excited to see Merzbow the following night.

I found it interesting, but not surprising, that I recognised a lot of people who attended Andrew W.K. the night before also came to see Merzbow. Not that the two have anything in common, but I figured if I was fan of both, then it should stand to reason there are others who would be as well. It was reassuring to find I'm not the only one.After the concert, I sent the following text message to my housemate:
"jlyk; merzbow was solid hour of pure orgasm"
Although I don't think it was an hour, probably 30-40 minutes. Time didn't matter, there was no time, just Merzbow, and his heavenly noise.They were giving out free disposable ear-plugs before the show. I had them in for about five seconds before I realised I'm not getting the complete sound I was after. I took them out and my ears were taking it pretty well. Perhaps I've been to one too many loud shows that I am calloused. In essence, I'm going deaf. And Merzbow was probably the loudest show I've been to since SunnO))), which is saying something. I know something is loud when my entire body is feeling the rumbling vibrations, I guess that's the only way I know. I should be worried, but I'm not. I'm glad, because I got to see Merzbow, and hear him complete.

At first I was expecting just to see him sitting behind a MacBook, putting together some sampled noises or whatever like I've seen so many artists do. How do I know they're not just pressing "play" on their iTunes player or something? And it's always a MacBook, as if it's the only computer that can make sound? Well anyway, he had his MacBook, but he also had a table full of other electronic stuff, and pedals all over the floor. He carried some kind of instrument around him like a guitar, I don't know what it was, but it was basically a handle-bar with a large plate in the middle that served as a giant pickup, and he would scrape it with several different objects. The resulting sound was HUGE. From the rumbling bass to the high-pitch squealing of feedback, and everything in-between. I was lost in the sound, I don't know how to describe it other than being in a state of pure joy.

There were people dancing up in the front row. This isn't odd to me, as others may find it, as where some people may be hearing nothing but harsh noise, I was hearing melodies, pulsing rhythms, chords and discords. Everything you can find in "conventional" music, it was there, you just had to listen for it.

Merzbow, along with SunnO))), introduced me to all kinds of new ways to listen to music. Strip away all the superfluous ingredients, and what do you have? It's just wave frequencies, playing in a pattern, playing together, creating a timbre. Things like "time-signature" and "melody" are just theoretical, they exist as an explanation to what makes harmony and rhythm, but they come after the music, not before it. Music doesn't have to be a linear progression, it can be crystalline, it can be realised as you are listening to it, without a beginning or an end. It doesn't have to be listened to with just your ears, it can (and should) be felt, physically. You don't have to listen for the notes being played, there exists a space between the notes, the note itself is just as important. And there is also framing, the effect of juxtaposing a sound next to silence, as the sound continues ringing in your memory.

I try not to be an elitist snob with my nose up in the air, I try to explain to people that there are ways to listen to music that are much more satisfying and fulfilling compared to how we've been conditioned by the radio, TV and pop-culture. I would like people to be on my side, without any notion of superiority or inferiority, but in the end all they hear is harsh noise. Well, it doesn't bother me so much, as long as I can get personal satisfaction. I've been wanting to see Merzbow live for a long time, I was willing to even go overseas just to get the opportunity, but he came here to me, and I saw, I heard, I wept, and I am now complete.