Underlinings (#33)

John Conway on The Iron Law of Six:

I was astonishingly lucky. I literally remember my former undergraduate teacher telling my then wife that John would not be successful. She asked why. And he said, “Well, he does not do the kind of mathematics that’s necessary for success.” And that’s true. I really didn’t do any kind of mathematics. Whatever I did, I did pretty well, and people got interested in it — and that’s that. I did have a recipe for success, which was always keeping six balls in the air. Now I have had a stroke, so I can’t catch those balls terribly well. But what I mean is: Always be thinking about six things at once. Not at the same time exactly, but you have one problem, you don’t make any progress on it, and you have another problem to change to.

Underlinings (#24)

Pynchon in Cow Country?

Hmm. Somewhere I have heard of an author as reclusive as J.D. Salinger (who has no further need to defend his privacy). No, not the Italian Elena Ferrante (also a pseudonymous invention), but an American. Rather than face what he (assuming the gender itself is not fictional) calls “a false and destructive system” that is nonetheless “a reality of our world,” Pearson notes that his response is to “manufacture disposable authorial personae for every book,” making each one earn its own way rather than piggybacking on whatever reputation a previous title may have earned its author. … […] … The great Portuguese poet and novelist Fernando Pessoa created what he called heteronyms, alter egos or personas that allowed him to write as “them” instead of himself, a liberating and fruitful creative approach, he found. It is possible that something akin to that is going on here, if the same sensibility is behind both names, and that freeing oneself and one’s book from the connotation-heavy name seemed a good idea. However, Pessoa’s heteronyms are characters in his fiction — they express themselves and feel and act as personas — and that is not the case with Pearson, who, except outside the novel as his reality is created online, is merely a name affixed to Cow Country. So far.


Classic fungal number horror from Stephen King’s ‘Gray Matter’:

What we saw in that one or two seconds will last me a liftetime — or whatever’s left of it. It was a huge gray wave of jelly, jelly that looked like a man, and leaving a trail of slime behind it.
But that wasn’t the worst. Its eyes were flat and yellow and wild, with no human soul in ’em. Only there weren’t two. There were four, an’ right down the center of the thing, betwixt the two pairs of eyes, was a white, fibrous line with a kind of pulsing pink flesh showing through like a slit in a hog’s belly.
It was dividing you see. Dividing in two.
Bertie and I didn’t say nothing to each other going back to the store. I don’t know what was going through his mind, but I know well enough what was in mine: the multiplication table. Two times two is four, four times two is eight, eight times two is sixteen, sixteen times two is —
We got back. Carl and Bill Pelham jumped up and started asking questions right off. We wouldn’t answer, neither of us. We just turned around and wondered if Henry was going to walk in outta the snow. I was up to 32,768 times two is the end of the human race …



The concept of “anthropotechnics” rests on the hypothesis that the current psychophysical and social constitution of the species Homo sapiens — note the evolutionist emphasis of this classification — is based substantially on autogenic effects. In this context, the term “autogenic” means “brought about by the repercussions of actions on the actor.” The human being — especially in so-called “advanced civilizations” — is the animal that molds itself into its own pet.

Underlinings (#22)


… on Wednesday, the video that was auto-playing in everyone’s feed showed the murder of two people. It’s impossible to tell how many people saw the video (though Facebook’s version of the video was shared 500 times before it was taken down), but user reports suggest that thousands and thousands of people witnessed—without being warned ahead of time or knowing what they were getting themselves into—a brief, vivid, and unmistakable snuff film. […] … There is some question as to whether media outlets should be showing these videos at all. In 2012, the sociologist Zeynep Tufekci wrote for The Atlantic about research suggesting that mass shootings, like teen suicides, are contagious: that by describing the specific method and setting of the killings, law enforcement and the media can prompt more of them.

Underlinings (#19)

Ted Kaczynski (the ‘Unabomber’, interviewed in the John Jay Sentinel):

… an antitechnological movement that focused on the elimination of capitalism would expend vast energy in return for ve[r]y little gain. What is worse, by focusing on capitalism the movement would distract its own and other people’s attention from the real objective, which is to get rid of modern technology itself. […] Furthermore, people would obstinately resist the loss of economic efficiency entailed by the replacement of capitalism with socialism. And even if you could somehow replace capitalism with socialism, capitalism would soon reappear and become dominant because it is economically and technologically more vigorous than socialism. This again is guaranteed by the principle of natural selection (Technological Slavery, pages 280-85) and is confirmed by experience: When the socialist countries of eastern Europe couldn’t keep up with the West economically or technologically, they reverted to capitalism. Sweden once was ideologically socialist, but in practical terms socialism never actually got very far in that country, and Sweden today is still capitalist. While remaining nominally socialist, China for the sake of economic growth now allows a good deal of private enterprise (i.e., capitalism) in its economy. Venezuela’s dictator, Hugo Chavez, talks about socialism, but in practice he leaves most of the country’s economy in the hands of private enterprise because he doesn’t want the drastic decline in economic efficiency that would result from the elimination of capitalism. I know of only two countries left in the world that are left of capitalism: Cuba and North Korea. No one wants to imitate Cuba and North Korea, because they are (from a materialistic point of view) economic failures. […] So, as long as we live in a technological world, there’s no way we will get rid of capitalism unless and until it is superseded by some system that is economically and technologically more efficient. …