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James

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Let's All Do Philosophy [Nov. 20th, 2006|07:50 pm]
James
I just put up a philosophy project at Strange Groupings. It's for anyone to participate in, so if you like to contribute to philosophical undertakings, this one is for you.
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Strange Groupings Manifesto Release [Jun. 3rd, 2006|08:03 pm]
James
[mood |Bang]
[music |Sun Kil Moon – Duk Koo Kim]

Well, I finally got my book printed and we are having a release party.

The party is on Tuesday, June 13th at The Embassy (223 Augusta. in Toronto) starting around 8:00. We haven't finalized any bands yet, but we've got some pretty good ones lined up. I know that most of you who read this online aren't anywhere near Toronto and will be unable to come, but if you have any friends in Toronto who don't have anything to do on a Tuesday night tell them about this awesome event. Also, check out our new website at www.strangegroupings.org, where you can see images from the manifesto right now.

If you'd like a print copy of the manifesto they are going to cost CAN$20. If you aren't in Toronto and you'd like one, I'm sure we can find some mutually agreeable way to get it to you. They are small in size, so shipping shouldn't be a prohibitive expense.
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Equations for Your Consideration [Apr. 16th, 2006|08:55 pm]
James
[mood |On an Upswing]
[music |Radiohead – The Bends]

(Working Flying Machine) - 0 = Large
(Working Flying Machine) - (Non-Working Flying Machine) = 1 second
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The Opening of this Livejournal Entry is Intentionally Formatted as a Short Story [Dec. 8th, 2005|11:32 pm]
James
[mood |disheartened]
[music |Royal City – At Rush Hour the Cars]

After the In Search Of... Michael decided it was time to get the band going for real. Because Adrian didn't really have time to practice with us, he was left out of the plan. So, Phil, Michael and I started trying to figure out how we were going to play these songs with just three people.

Of course it doesn't help that I can't really play anything. It also doesn't help that we need to play everything. After two practices we could play four songs. On the first, Michael played guitar, Phil played guitar and I played bass. On another it was banjo, guitar and bass. On another it was organ, guitar and keyboards switching to drums. On the last it was violin, guitar and me on xylophone and a drum.

There is a problem with this. Two, really. First, three people cannot carry two guitars, two basses, a banjo, a drum kit, a xylophone, a violin, a small electric organ and a rather large keyboard to a show. Equally importantly, the audience doesn't want to wait a minute between songs while we switch instruments.

The solution to this problem was the play the same instrument more often. This solution requires me to actually be able to play bass. Fortunately I'm not really as incompetent at it as I imagined I was. Even more fortunately I have come to some realizations that are helping me get better pretty quickly.

For one thing, practicing makes me better. This is something I didn't really know for a long time, because I only did things that I found easy, and gave up on things that seemed hard. Another thing is that I should take advice from people who know better than me. Michael is a pretty good teacher, and he can give me tips to improve my technique. When I listen to him and do what he says, I get better in a hurry. Also, just because something seems hard doesn't mean that I can't do it. Yeah, I will never be the best bassist in the world. Being the best in the world is hard. Being good enough to play some songs–even some fairly difficult songs– and entertain a crowd is something that hundreds of thousands of people do. It's something that people do. I'm not really that special. If I was missing an arm, and I found bass really hard and frustrating I might be forgiven: I really would be special in my lack of ability to play bass. That is not to say that one armed people should give up on their quest to play bass, just that they can be forgiven for saying that it is extremely difficult. But I am able bodied, and of sound mind. If I think playing the bass is extremely difficult it is because I haven't practiced enough, because I haven't had someone instruct me on technique or I haven't taken the instruction I've been given. If I give up because it's too hard, it's because I'm a whiner and I don't like to be confronted with difficulty. It is because I am arrogant. I believe that if it is difficult for me then it must really be difficult.

And this is how it is with most things. Things that people do anyway. Unique things are something else, it's hard to guess how hard they are. But if hundreds of thousands of people do something, you'd better believe that unless you have an idenfiable limitation that would prevent it, and likely even it you do, you can probably do it to. You just have to practice enough. You just have to humble yourself to instruction enough.

But I don't know if I will ever be in love1. People do that. But maybe I really am special in this regard. I know it's arrogant. I know that "everyone" feels that way sometimes. Some of them are right. It might actually be that there is something about me that means it just won't work out. Or it might just be that this isn't the sort of thing that you can practice very effectively, it's not something you can get really good at, and a couple of misunderstandings and poorly timed events can render you to loneliness for the rest of your life.

Some people are lonely. Some people have never been anything but lonely. Any day may be the best day of your life, and all other days beyond that are just the slide downhill.



1. What I really mean is that I don't know if my organism will ever be part of a couple in the future.
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Being Mistaken [Dec. 7th, 2005|10:48 pm]
James
[mood |optimistic]
[music |Nada Surf – Zen Brain]

There are so many ways we can get it wrong. First of all, we can be misinformed, presented with falsehoods in place of facts, misled. Second, even if we are presented with the truth, our perceptions can be mistaken: perceiving is so much guesswork and we don't even know how to practice. Third, our memories can fail us, we can remember things that didn't happen and forget things that did. Fourth, our reasoning can be flawed, we can bring in false and hidden assumptions, we can jump to conclusions. Fifth, we can fail physically, our organisms can do things we didn't intend, we can say the wrong word or fall on our faces.

There is no reason to be sure you are right, not ever.
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Experimental Evidence [Nov. 22nd, 2005|12:44 pm]
James
[mood |cavityless]
[music |The Constantines – Soon Enough]

The only way we know anything about the world is through experimental evidence. Different experiments produce different results. Sometimes we understand how these results can be compared, but many times we don't. It is thought that sometimes the results cannot be compared in any meaningful way.

Looking at the world through our own eyes is only one experimental way of ascertaining the properties of the world. No explanation of wavelengths of light will ever capture how it feels for us, from the first person, so see blue. But measuring wavelengths of light and looking at blue things are two different experiments. There is no reason to expect more similarity from them than from a particle and a wave.

Compared to the wealth of knowledge that we can potentially access, trusting the senses to ascertain the world is intellectually bankrupt, as is the reductionist drive to explain the feeling of senses purely in terms of brain function. Either picture could be complete if we did not know of the other. As long as we have access to both, it would be a waste to ignore one.
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Strange Groupings [Nov. 15th, 2005|11:11 pm]
James
[mood |self-congratulatory]
[music |Tilly and the Wall – Nights of the Living Dead]

It's registered, and there is something there, though it isn't much.

Strange Groupings has a website.
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Cooperation [Nov. 12th, 2005|06:02 pm]
James
[mood |alright]
[music |Wolf Parade – Dear Sons and Daughters of Hungry Ghosts]

Since the beginning of the theory of evolution, there has always been an attitude that we can guess what sorts of qualities will be favoured by evolution. It has been assumed that things that are stronger, faster and smarter are favoured. It has been assumed that things that are more selfish will be favoured.

In The Universe in a Single Atom the Dalai Lama muses that altruism cannot be explained by evolution alone. This view is an echo of what learned scientists who study evolution have told him.

But if evolution favours selfishness over altruism, then why aren't the cells in your body fighting it out with one another right now? Our cells don't eat each other the way paramecia do. That is because cooperation is better than defection. If cooperation were a failure, we would be paramecia at best, but it seems more likely we would be nothing at all.

Of course genes don't just create cells or organisms, they create groups of organisms. Yes, I have different DNA than you, but each of your chromosomes has different genes than the others. Collectively human DNA creates a wide variety of humans, and we to have evolved to work together. Examine the brain of a feral child, one that has grown up without contact with other humans and you find holes there; places where nothing grew because there was no stimulation for it. We are designed to care about each other. We are designed to sacrifice ourselves for each other if necessarily.

It makes perfect sense that evolution would create these traits. These traits are better than selfishness. We don't call it the tragedy of the commons because everything works out great for everyone. Selfishness is shit, we all know it, an evolution knows it too1.



1. I know that evolution doesn't know anything.
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I Have a Niece [Nov. 4th, 2005|11:55 pm]
James
[mood |uncly]
[music |Modest Mouse – Life Like Weeds]

Ellen Patricia Edmonds Whyte was born a little after noon today. She's a little less than a thirtieth of my weight, and my hair is longer than her.

Babies really have an unfair advantage when it comes to attracting attention. When I went to see my new niece in the hospital today she got the hiccups. This basically meant that the four of us who were there stood around and watched her hiccup for twenty minutes.
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Feeling Terrible [Nov. 3rd, 2005|09:08 pm]
James
[mood |not great but whatever]
[music |Built to Spill – Strange]

So I've been feeling terrible for a few weeks now. What is really unusual is not that I feel really bad, but that I have been getting a lot of writing done during that same time. Normally when I feel bad I don't really do much of anything. But I've really been cranking out the manifesto recently, and my goal of having a finished draft by the middle of the month seems quite achievable. Hopefully I can translate that into a launch early next year.
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