Sunday, January 22, 2017

An Ethic of Thought

Might man be able to set himself free from the shackles of false thought? Can all beliefs be made subject to destruction, or is man too milquetoast to reach this precipice of mind? I had the thought four years ago, though my current answer lacks the zest that the former answer contained. I must have imagined it was possible to do this. I remember viewing the project before me in wonder - not as some burdensome task such as fixing a broken part, but it was like building something that wasn't there before. There was elation in the anticipating of this mental exploration.

I suppose it was prone to failure, though. In order to build a home, you need a certain set of land to place it on. The worldview I wish to construct is the home and the ideas in my memory bank make up the land. Most things change over time, save for certain necessaries. The stock of ideas in my memory bank over the past four years have certainly increased. Not only does this indicate that the land, or the set of ideas, has become larger, meaning that a more robust worldview (i.e. home) is required, but it means that careful attention must be allotted to the moral state of the specimens which make up the land. When you have few specimens, it is easier to monitor them. But when you have more, there is a greater risk of non-knowing and thus an increased chance of poisonous specimen lurking in the field of ideas.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Stigma

JACQUES: What does it mean to be alive?

RAINIER: To be alive means to be anything but dead.

JACQUES: You can sell these binaries for a dollar a dozen, but that won't get me any closer to meaningful aliveness. You assumed I was playing a game of logic. I knew I was asking a question of existential importance.

RAINIER: I beg your pardon, monsieur! It is quite pompous of you to assume I could read your subjective musings at the mere sight of a question - and such a lowly exemplar of syntax at that!

JACQUES: There is no need to become red in the face, Rainier. None of this means any-

RAINIER: Doesn't mean anything at all? What nonsense! You asked me to prescribe to you a framework for a meaningful existence, and suddenly you turn the tables, denying meaning at every moment of your ordinariness. It would appear that you're in despair, but you're not, or else you wouldn't be talking to me. Who are you?

JACQUES: I can't be alive or else I wouldn't have asked the question. I can't be dead or else I wouldn't have been able to ask the question.

RAINIER: This is bizarre! I should prefer to mosey on over to Café Velours, where I will enjoy a plate of lobster mayonnaise in solitude.

JACQUES: Fine by me - I don't want to put up with your stigma, anyway.

RAINIER: You do realize that word refers to the holes in the hands of the Christ, don't you? The context in which you used it is so plainly bourgeois, why, it makes me sick! I have lost my appetite. Show me your hands; if not, I shall reserve my malaise.

JACQUES: You've lost an appetite for food; I, however, have lost an appetite for discussion.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

I have no identity. But there is the I - how? I have an identity, or an I. It is just that it has no axiomatic, focal plane on which it resides. I am the I. But the I is homeless, psychically speaking. There are different ways to be homeless, for instance, the cyber homeless population in Japan. Then again, is not my identity to be found in Christ? But who is Christ? Christ is God. But who is God? God is who He is. He is objectively true. As far as human effort goes, it seems near impossible for anyone to know Christ - and that's probably not near impossible but actually impossible. What devices does mere man have to reach out to God - not just a concept, but a person? If a man only knows a concept, that means he doesn't go beyond himself because concepts exist at a subjective level in the mind. Man could once, through the senses, know God by taking Jesus of Nazareth into account; however, for some, this was only performed aesthetically. I know this because not everyone who perceived him knew him; seeing God is insufficient. If seeing the body of Christ itself was insufficient, then how much more insufficient must our efforts be in this geographically far-removed modernity? I've already talked about the senses. What else do we have? Intellect, emotions ... I'm drawing a blank ... is that most of it? The senses, intellect, and emotions can all be used to deny God. Of course, these tools can be used for good, but the point is that they're double edged. How does one know God apart from such imperfect devices and is that possible in the first place?

Do I have anything other than questions? I have jeered at the postmodernists, but apparently, I am one myself. Most of the paradigms I display are fragmented. As much as I delight in zealously telling part of a story, I worry that someone will take it as what I understand the whole story to be. I guess I don't have that much an understanding at all.

Story? Why am I throwing around this postmodern jargon? I really don't care. I don't even completely like it. I'm doubting myself. I was going to ramble about how I have no identity and how that's identified through my writing; that's ironic. Two words? Is that all I have to offer? Can two words even form a proper sentence? They can. Notice how I just reaffirmed myself by resorting to the very device that made me doubt myself.

Feelings are so very fickle. Strange how an emotion like disappointment is portrayed as being profound, but so often, the events that culminate into that emotion are quite superficial in actuality. But that's just being human and we're all wondering what that really means.

I haven't written this way in awhile. In fact, I haven't even thought about writing this way in awhile. I've had my eyes turned outward for so long, seeing vanity and evil and meaning and goodness alike. But the time has come that I must look inward again. I can't write like this whenever I want to. Every so often I have this idea of watching over myself and it resulting in a more meaningful life, and then, only seconds later, I've forgotten the entire plan. Then again, I've wasted much time doing that to no known benefit to me (of course, there's a selfish notion there, this concern of personal benefit). There's always something going on other than me. All the time. Everywhere. As long as I am alive, it's constantly the others and me. It's never been Richard and Richard - even if he loves himself.

I have no fear whatsoever of contradictions though - actually, that's not entirely true. 💁

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

A Cornucopia of Tunes Have Been Added to Bandcamp

I now have approximately six hours worth of music available for free on bandcamp. I plan on adding some prices to them by next Monday ... just to see what happens and so that I can offer the entire discography for a very reasonable price. (sic) Lump sums are trending, correct? Anyway, these are some of the 'most important' music projects I've created within the last ~9 years. Enjoy!


Friday, January 6, 2017

How I Made MIDI GULF

I have spent a lot of time music-making (approximately 200 tracks for dalama jones), and for the past ~9 years have managed to finish approximately one long play or extended play per year. Throughout my underground musical expedition, I have come across many creative artifacts, or tools to create, and so, the methods by which I create music have changed over time. I thought it would be cool to briefly sketch out the ways in which I made music for my latest project MIDI GULF.

1. Jet Ski - main beat and sound effects courtesy of AudioBlocks. The stock beat didn't loop perfectly, so I did waste some time fixing that. It sounded cleaner originally but I like lo-fi. I played the synth and background drum variations on my MIDI keyboard. There's also a Skillet sample in there, taken from "Alien Youth."

2. Rainbow Trout - made in Pro Tools with a MIDI keyboard in late 2010. No pre-made loops or illegal samples on this one, though I did use the digital Boom drum machine and Xpand!2 synth. I made a recent alteration to it in Sony Acid, particularly, the beginning isolated drums because the drum sounds on this song aren't great and kind of hurt the ears when they're on their own.

3. 1990s Soda Machine - just some fooling around with some stock loops in GarageBand on an iPad. I plugged it into my interface, recorded it, and layered some of this discussion from philosopher Stephen Mumford and a bird sound effect via AudioBlocks in Pro Tools. Most of the effects added were done on the fly in GarageBand (I had way too much fun with stutter).

4. Dmitri's Sunglasses - pre-made loops put together in Sony Acid back in the day (circa 2009, methinks). I used to love Sony Acid and I still have fun with it. It was a most excellent upgrade from the Ableton Live demo / Audacity I was using before.

5. Blue Sorbet - lots happening on this track. The main loop is taken from Cowboys & Monsters' song "Kiss (Not an Eraser Mix)." Drum loops were programmed on my Alesis SR-16 drum machine. Other samples include: "Big Shot (Hands in the Sky)" by Straylight Run and "The Kill" by Thirty Seconds to Mars. Once again, another AudioBlocks sound effect is included here. Despite all the detail on this one, it's my least favorite track on the album, though I think the main loop almost redeems it.

6. The Waves at Sundown - samples include "Dimmer Light" by Dead Poetic and "The Bluff" by The Joe. I chopped a pre-made drum loop, taking only the kick and the snare and used a lo-fi plugin on that channel. This is my favorite song on the album.

7. Lobe du Ranch - live acoustic guitar playing from myself and some improv drums via my drum machine. Wolf howl taken from AudioBlocks.

8. Outside the Harbor - some minimalist icing on the cake, that is, a glittery intro which leads into some piano that I played on my MIDI keyboard. As you can tell, both parts play exactly the same, but I didn't have to play twice cause Pro Tools is efficient. I just had to play the piano part and then I duplicated the track and changed the virtual instrument - viola!

And that is how you finish an album in approximately one year month. Generally, I'm really happy with how this project came together, though I will say that I still use too many pre-made loops. Whatever. I've listened through these songs quite a lot and I still like them, so I think that's worth something. In any case, it is fun to be releasing new music. If you'd like a free download, you can get it right here.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Protestant Problems

I can't help but wonder what Martin Luther's reaction would be if he saw Protestantism for what it is today. When he nailed those 95 theses to the door of All Saints' Church nearly 500 years ago, he was essentially protesting a lack of standards, particularly, the introduction of the indulgences into the Roman Catholic church. If I am correct in my interpretation, that the heart of the matter is a lack of standards, then Protestantism is lacking some vigor these days. Of course, Protestantism is an expansive network, and so, I do not wish to paint all churches of this network with the same brush. Nevertheless, I would like to survey some Protestant artifacts here.

I've rambled about postmodern Christianity on here before. If there's one thing that's kept me up the past few months (not literally), it's been postmodernism, in both its secular and Christian forms. Is it just me, or would we all have been better off if we just left this theory to the secular philosophers? I can't imagine Foucault, Derrida, Lyotard or the rest of their ilk being interested in what postmodern Christianity had to offer. It's not just bad Christianity - it's bad postmodernism. And yet, this is a formidable movement. It's endorsed by Marcus Borg, Tony Jones, Rob Bell, Brian McLaren, Carl Raschke, and Peter Rollins. There are organizations and events devoted to this framework, including Homebrewed Christianity, Wild Goose Festival, and Red Letter Christians. I should note, I am saddened to include Red Letter Christians in that group. I admire both Tony Campolo and Shane Claiborne, despite some disagreements with their ideas, and I included this organization in the list because Brian McLaren, Mickey ScottBey Jones, and Jim Wallis are a part of this network.

I've already written about the United Church of Canada and their beliefs on homosexuality and abortion. Something strange to me about Protestantism is all of the forms of postchristianity. Who would have ever thought there would be Christian atheism, which is plaguing both Protestant and Roman Catholic denominations alike? When you read about something like that, you just can't help but shake your head (at least, I can't). Fideism has had its critics in the past, but this is just absurd.

I read an interesting essay by Kevin DeYoung a couple of weeks ago dealing with the ideas of Brian McLaren, in an attempt to better understand postmodern Christianity. Now, I know it is better to go to the sources themselves, but I am low on time and resources, so I can't read everything. That being said, I'm waiting on receiving a copy of Postmodernism: A Very Short Introduction by Christopher Butler in the mail. So, believe me, I am trying to approach my objects of critique fairly.

And I'm sorry for the lack of cohesion here, but I thought it worthwhile to express some of my confusion over this matter before school starts up again. Honestly, what is happening with Protestantism? Where are the values? Why is there this denial of sexual ethics and the value of the yet to be born? Why is there this idolatry of doubt? Why is there this guise of celebrating 'every' ideology? Where has mysticism disappeared, in this anti-capitalist capitalization of solely this-world problems? Why has God been buried between the pages of esoteric, systematic thought - an intellectual game? There have to be standards if there is the way.

Monday, January 2, 2017

On Scientific Terms: A Knowledge Gap Between Scientists and Laypersons

Note: This is an excerpt from a paper I finished in December entitled Fringes and Folkways: Why Pharmaceutical Antidepressants are More Successful 
Than Herbal Medications. I thought the following section had some interesting ideas about language and epistemology.

Pharmaceutical antidepressants include monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAO inhibitors), tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs), and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). It is important to note that there are some discrepancies between how these medications are intended to operate. In order to understand how MAO inhibitors work, I must first explain what monoamine oxidase refers to. Monoamine oxidase is an enzyme that decreases serotonin levels within the axon terminal in the brain (Kolb and Whishaw 174). The three key terms in this definition are ‘enzyme,’ ‘serotonin,’ and ‘axon terminal.’ These will also be important when defining TCAs and SSRIs. An enzyme is a protein that originates from a living cell and is able to produce chemical changes in organic substances, by means of chemical action (Dictionary.com). Serotonin is an important neurotransmitter within many neurological processes, such as sleep, memory, and even depression itself (Dictionary.com). An axon terminal is a part of the axon which allows it to make contact with other nerve cells or effector cells (Farlex Partner). Since the MAO enzyme decreases serotonin levels, MAO inhibitors work as an opposing response, that is to say, their purpose is to increase serotonin and have it released, rather than decreased. TCAs and SSRIs, on the other hand, inhibit the transporter which delivers serotonin to the axon terminal (Kolb and Whishaw 174).

What can be gathered from the terminology and definitions just mentioned is that although pharmaceutical antidepressants operate differently, they all share the purpose of promoting proper brain chemistry. From these terms and definitions, it is recognized that proper serotonin levels are of utmost importance. General understanding aside, critical thinking on the knowledge I have brought into focus is also important. While some might find themselves convinced by such esoteric language, an immediate sociological concern comes to my attention. Health and illness are experienced by all people, so why do neuroscientists resort to using such abstract language to explain brain functions and components? Terms like ‘enzyme,’ ‘serotonin’ and ‘axon terminal’ are not used in routine conversations. It is ironic how there is this, albeit non-monetary, privatization of knowledge in the written theories, considering health-systems whom operate from this paradigm are meant to serve the public, and it seems intuitive that a great number of persons would not understand what these terms meant. 

The plausibility of the idea that the brain has different sections that serve different functions, as well as the objectivity of how these sections are to be referred to, are also questionable matters. First of all, science is defined as “systematic knowledge of the physical or material world gained through observation and experimentation” (Dictionary.com; emphasis mine). The plain truth of the matter is that nobody has actually seen a functioning brain in itself. The closest humans have come to achieving such observation is through technology such as magnetic resource imaging (MRI). But the results these scanners render are not true access to the brains themselves; they are mere images. This is not some abstract, philosophic notion that has no practical utility, as some scientists have affirmed this attitude. To substantiate this claim, I would like to provide a quotation from neuroradiologist Mario Mastroianis: “The images pretend a precision and objectivity which is not really there” (Burri 375; emphasis mine).

Moreover, whose observation counts in obtaining scientific knowledge? It seems to me that there are two main types of actors who can achieve such observation in the first place: laypersons and scientists themselves. Considering techniques to understand the brain, whether that is through MRI scans or otherwise, it is the scientists who have access to these methods, not laypersons. With this observation, the question becomes one of whose narrative is more trustworthy: that of personal experience and accumulation of information or secondary information and interpretation of that information. If personal experience is more trustworthy, this is of course problematic for laypersons because such people probably do not have the time or resources to practice science ‘properly,’ at least, to the standards of the scientific community at large. For scientists, however, this is not a problem because they are the ones publishing the accounts of their practices and observations, and are the ones who the laypersons are told to trust. This is to say that laypersons are on the receiving end of the second narrative I mentioned, meaning that laypersons receive secondary information and must interpret that information as laypersons. This means that laypersons are not using empiricist methods to understand phenomena that are meant to be understood empirically. In the case of what a patient is told about their brain, they do not get to see it for themselves, and according to Mastroianis, neither do scientists. The other problem is that scientists have paradigms by which their thought collectives interpret and explain their findings. Unless a layperson has a penchant for autonomous study, chances are high that their interpretations of scientific information do not meet the standards of the scientific community.

Works Cited

Burri, Regula Valérie. "Visual Power in Action: Digital Images and the Shaping of  Medical Practices." Science as Culture, vol. 22, no. 3, 2013, pp. 367-387. DOI:  10.1080/09505431.2013.768223. Accessed 11 Dec. 2016.

Dictionary.com. “enzyme.” Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc, n.d..
www.dictionary.com/browse/enzyme?s=t. Accessed 10 Dec. 2016.

Dictionary.com. “science.” Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc, n.d.. www.dictionary.com/browse/science. Accessed 11 Dec. 2016.

Dictionray.com. “serotonin.” Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc, n.d. www.dictionary.com/browse/serotonin?s=t. Accessed 10 Dec. 2016.

Kolb, Bryan and Whishaw, Ian Q. “The Influence of Drugs and Hormones on Behavior.” Fundamentals of Human Neuropsychology. New York: Worth Publishers, 
2009, pp. 163-196.