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Hello, my name is Judas Gutenberg and this is my blaag (pronounced as you would the vomit noise "hyroop-bleuach").


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Like my brownhouse:
   spectacles on the Santa Monica Promenade
Saturday, January 13 2001

John and Chun and perhaps John's sister Maria as well all headed off to the mountains to go skiing and snowboarding. I could have gone, but it's really not my sort of thing and I didn't want that uneasy feeling of being a Mr. Tag-Along. I figured, as usual, that I could get some things done here on my own and perhaps even go on a few solo adventures.
But if I thought I'd be getting much done in the aftermath of last night, I was mistaken. Early in the day I did manage to do some interesting stuff by connecting my electric guitar directly to my computer and running various music software. I'm really not very happy with any of the computer-generated distortion effects I've tried.
Like most hangover days it was mostly good for naps and baths. I took a nice nap in the afternoon and when I woke up it was dark outside.
At 6:51pm it finally happened, that thing about Los Angeles I've been eagerly anticipating. I was sitting at my computer and unexpectedly I felt my chair vibrating back and forth with a fast steady rhythm, with period of something like a third of a second. The desk under my hands, which has a fairly weak construction and likes to shimmy anyway, immediately picked up the vibration and began rocking. It all lasted for something like five seconds. The earthquake, and that's what it was, was very peaceful and pleasant, like being gently rocked to sleep. After it was over, my heart was pumping so hard from the sheer excitement of it all that I couldn't tell if the ground was still shaking or if it was just my pulse lifting me and setting me back down again. I immediately posted to my discussion board and then surfed all the news sites and Nobody reported anything about it for a good twenty minutes, and then CNN, which had been leading the news with word of a much larger earthquake in Central America, finally did a televised segment on the local Los Angeles earthquake. Evidently there had been two, both measuring a little over 4 on the Richter scale. I must have missed that first one. By the way, this wasn't the first earthquake I've ever experienced. One of much smaller magnitude struck Charlottesville a few years ago and, though I didn't feel anything, I remember the inexplicable rattling of the windows.

Having spent the day all by myself, cooped up in my house with a hangover, in the evening I decided to just do something else. So I set out on foot without any real plan or intention. I would have stopped at the nearby hole-in-the-wall coffee shop and done some writing on my Psion (since that place is the closest thing to community anywhere near my home), but I looked in and the place just didn't seem right, so I kept walking.
There's a new public service announcement billboard over Santa Monica Blvd. in one of the usual inferior locations that all public service announcement billboards wind up. This one features a picture of an ærosol can decked out with a needle and a plunger so as to resemble a syringe, complete with the caption, "Some drugs are found under the sink." I can just imagine some teenager seeing that billboard and thinking, "Oh, I hadn't thought of that..."
The one thing I liked about that Kubrick movie Eyes Wide Shut was the implicit exploration of the concept of urban vision quest, an event where one sets out on his own in the urban landscape and things just sort happen. It can be an extremely passive exercise or it can lead to all sorts of interactive adventures. For me tonight, it was much more of the former than the latter.
I made it all the way to the downtown Promenade, which (according to Mapquest) is 2.7 miles from my home. It was brimming over with people, many of them forming large knots around various spectacles which, in aggregate, formed a sort of frozen parade around which the audience was streaming. The first act I came upon featured a collection of extremely well-trained dogs (along with one cat) which could do things like jump through hoops, collect dollars from the audience, and chum around with "arms" around each others' shoulders. I especially liked the cat, which reminded me of a diminutive circus tiger. Further down, a young boy of about eight played an electric guitar and sang over a drum machine. I walked past him twice and every time he was performing "Hotel California," although he also knew "Come Together." "Hotel California" was definitely his best tune; to that vaguely wicked song the innocence of his youth seemed to bring an eerie old-soul charisma.
An awful large percentage of the people on the Promenade looked to be of Asian extraction. Many of them seemed to be Japanese tourists. I couldn't believe how short this one Japanese chick's skirt was. It was like a belt running across her upper thighs and she was all matter of fact about it, as were her friends, who probably couldn't keep from thinking about it either.
I sloshed back and forth up and down the Promenade a few times because, really, the sea of faces is ever-changing and none of it ever seems to get old. Spectacles continued on with their numbing repetitive acts for awhile and then closed shop and new ones came to take their places. I spent the most time watching a group of tag-team white evangelical Christians witnessing to whomever would listen. As usual, they were greeted by far more scorn and skepticism than acceptance. A cadre of hecklers with whom these Christians evidently had considerable experience showed up and tried to shout them down, but the Christians had the advantage of electronic amplification. Still, eventually the Christians felt compelled to call upon the protection of the police so they could carry on with their witnessing unmolested. Still, so harried were they by the heckling that they quickly lapsed into name calling in response to even the most innocent of questions asked by the audience. I kept entirely quiet, just watching it all play out. It was all so strange and unreal I felt a little like I was on some sort of drug. Towards the end there one of the evangelists managed to get on something of a roll, belting out an endless stream of your usual "Jesus died for your sins and who will accept Him as their personal savior? Who is willing to put up their hands and say, 'I love you Jesus and am willing to forever cast away the evil ways of sin and answer your call and accept your Heavenly grace.'?" I sort of wished I'd brought some sort of recording device so I could use this white bread religious schlock in some future musical project. These days, every time I see religious nuts prosletizing I can't help but think how their largely common-sense morality is basically just a restating of the rules that made it possible for humans to settle down, give up their hunter-gathering ways and become agricultural. Not only is it tired and old, but it's also kind of sad. I wish a religion would arise that would preach the morality of a non-agarian non-society.
Walking back home down Broadway, in a sort of Kubrickian turn of events, I came upon a group of intoxicated formally-attired black gentleman staggering out of the side door of some sort of meeting hall. I figured it was a Lion's Club or some other benevolent organization, but as I continued onward I saw that it was actually a Masonic lodge.
Back at my house I took off my dumpster-dived dress shoes to see what was wrong with my feet, which had been in pain since shortly-before reaching the Promenade. One of my toes was a bloody mess. Evidently my toes had been so tightly-compressed that the nail of one had cut into the flesh of its neighbor.
It was already past midnight as I found myself leafing absent-mindedly through another of John's books, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus by Wittgenstein. Okay, so that's not exactly light reading. It may not actually make any sense in any case, not even from the start. "The World is all that is the case." (Perhaps Wittgenstein really means "the Universe"?) I was sort of hoping to find the answer to a set of questions running around through my head that are based on the following axioms:

1. Before a certain age, all information we receive is sensory and non-symbolic.

2. After a certain age, we begin to supplement our sensory information with symbolic information, mostly in the form of language.

3. Past a certain age, it is possible to continue learning entirely by symbolic information (say, in the form of books or textual web pages).

This leads me to ask the following questions:

1. Is it possible to have a firm understanding of the world without any experience with non-symbolic information?

1.1. Is there enough information in purely symbolic information for something to understand that information after having seen enough of it?

1.2. Could I design a computer program that could learn entirely by analyzing the relationships between elements of textual information, without any other source of training?

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