Ran Prieur http://ranprieur.com/#9a417fe513f58988c3b5b1e84cfc57397194a79b 2018-05-31T19:50:08Z Ran Prieur http://ranprieur.com/ ranprieur@gmail.com May 31. http://ranprieur.com/#b8c7d582feebbff14733c814211fd799b3eead50 2018-05-31T19:50:08Z May 31. Not a lot of ideas this week, so I'll go straight into the weekend with some sounds. With Leigh Ann's help, I recently discovered sacred harp singing. It was practiced in southern American churches in the early 20th century, and it's as raw as anything I've ever heard. I need to listen to more, but my initial favorite is Alabama Sacred Harp Singers - Windham.

Shakespeare: Original pronunciation. That ten minute video is mostly background and explanation, but you can hear good examples of the accent at 3:00 and 6:20. To me it sounds a lot like the "pirate" accent (which is largely derived from Scottish pronunciation) and a little like the accent that Vic Chesnutt sings with. In other words, totally awesome.

Finally, Guy Plays A Cat Organ. Like the first commenter, I really admire this guy's obsession: to make a bunch of stuffed cats, that make catlike sounds when squeezed, all tuned to notes, and then to practice squeezing them just right to play a song. I'd love to hear a whole album of cat organ songs. Still, it's not as mind-blowing as this version of Greensleeves on Otamatone.

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May 28. http://ranprieur.com/#a50c44336fff986b9fd87f20a3a49b0afcf3d57b 2018-05-28T16:20:07Z May 28. Bunch o' links, starting with two from the subreddit:

Image gallery, I live in a modern EcoVillage and it's pretty much the real-world Shire. I'd like to think this is the cutting edge of some future utopia, but realistically, it's just a nice twist on suburbia.

Experience The Trippy Life Of An Ancient Redwood. Now this could actually be a cornerstone of utopia: using virtual reality to change human consciousness to understand the aliveness and complexity of nature. If this kind of understanding becomes normal, the human-made world will inevitably get better.

Great White Sharks Have A Secret Cafe. Scientists tagged sharks and noticed them going to what they thought was an ocean desert. But it turned out to be a rich and complex ecosystem, too deep in the water to be seen by satellites.

Too Clever By Half is a smart article about coyotes, who are really good at small-scale gamesmanship, but bad at the "meta-game" necessary for survival. This Hacker News comment thread has some thoughts about how this relates to the human world:

This reminds me of a turning point that I had in high school. When I was young, I would get in trouble and try to get around the rules. But at some point I realized that most of the time you aren't getting in trouble because you are breaking the rules. You are getting in trouble because you are making the rule makers unhappy. Once I had that realization I was able to focus on relationships with the rule makers and figure out what they actually cared about. This allowed me to break the rules just as much but without getting in trouble.

Finally, with summer starting, another Hacker News comment thread about fan placement to move cool outside air through a warm space. Summary: it's best to have two fans at opposite sides, one blowing in and one blowing out; but if you have only one fan, blow it in, because if it blows out it will be pulling air in through nasty stuff in the cracks.

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May 25. http://ranprieur.com/#73d884a432bd3778b0fa206df43edcf9ab082398 2018-05-25T13:50:52Z May 25. Finishing from Wednesday, thanks to everyone who gave me suggestions about dancing. I figured out that I've been overreaching, trying to do too many moves at once to songs that are too difficult. So with some help from my "instructor", I'm stripping it down to fundamentals. 1) Don't even allow my arms to move until I'm good with my feet. 2) Start with the most danceable song in the world, which is going to be different for everyone, but for me, it's Yo La Tengo's cover of the Beach Boys' Little Honda. 3) Practice moves, starting with this Northern Soul basic dance tutorial, and focus my attention to match the beat with increasing precision.

New subject, a reddit thread from yesterday: What was the worst change in a person you saw at your High School reunion? It's mostly sad but still loaded with good stories.

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May 23. http://ranprieur.com/#01f362313dae3a6d0de339dd0b1c020101be49a5 2018-05-23T23:30:20Z May 23. From Monday's post, I want to write more about dancing. When I wrote about this a few months ago, it emerged that being "good at dancing" has at least two meanings. One is that your head has trained your body to make a set of precise movements, and music is not even strictly necessary. The other is that you feel as if your body is moving to music without your head even being involved.

This has to be an illusion, because your ears are connected to your body through your brain. What's really happening, in definition-2 good dancers, is that their subconscious mind is moved by music to improvise complex body movements.

How would someone would train for this? I went to dorm dances in college, I spent a lot of time out on the floor, and I was terrible. I still try to dance at home, and I remain stuck in a rut somewhere between Thom Yorke and a seizure. My head throws all kinds of ideas at my body, but my body never finds a groove of moving on its own, except that if a song really rocks, I might feel moved to crudely hop.

More generally: How can the conscious mind lead the subconscious mind to do things that the conscious mind can't do on its own?

My strategy right now is just to practice moving my attention from my head to my body, as many times throughout the day as I remember. I've heard about people who are so body-centered that it actually feels to them like their "self" resides in their torso, and their head is like a tower or a periscope.

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May 21. http://ranprieur.com/#7ade56d5e299ed66e226f16bc9565a391fe7acd4 2018-05-21T21:10:03Z May 21. Fascinating Reddit thread from the weekend, People with OCD, ADHD, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, dissociative personality disorder, or any other mental condition sensationalized in the media, what is it actually like? This sentence about ADHD could fit a lot of things:

It is a heinous disorder, and it leads to a life fraught with feelings of failure and inadequacy, as though we simply don't have the same capacities that other individuals seemingly inherently and nonchalantly possess in spades next to our pittance.

Diagnosing myself, I have a shred of OCD: when I go up or down stairwells, I have to overrule the urge to counter-spin at alternate landings so that my left and right turns balance out. And I have something like ADHD hyperfocus, in that it's easy for me to focus narrowly, and hard to focus widely or even not-narrowly. When Leigh Ann and I are watching stuff, she's always telling me to move the cursor off the screen, because for her it's an annoyance, while I've just tuned it out.

I normally "tune out" my entire body, which is why I'm clumsy. Neurotypicals seem to have a subconscious program running all the time, that keeps track of where all their body parts are and what things they might bump into. If my conscious mind doesn't do that shit, it doesn't get done, which makes all kinds of physical activities mentally tiring. It reminds me of the Emily Bronte line: "The soul to feel the flesh, the flesh to feel the chain."

My girlfriend is hilarious. The other day she put on a Tito Puente song and told me to dance, and when I did, she said, "No, to the music." We just bought a membership at the Pullman Aquatic Center, and she helped me finally figure out why I always get water up my nose while other people don't. They are intuitively opening and closing their soft palate, but for me to do that while also moving my arms and legs is going to take hours of practice.

But if I only have to focus on one thing, my eighth grade woodshop teacher said I was the best lathe worker he'd ever seen, and it wasn't even hard.

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May 18. http://ranprieur.com/#f64c35f069d81ba03a1450b8b94bbccff066c19a 2018-05-18T18:40:30Z May 18. Music for the weekend. Long, slow, simple, heavy, and luminous, this is one of my favorite songs of the decade: The Rutabega - Turn On The Summer.

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May 16. http://ranprieur.com/#3117606dd2abc886868c4262316fe742f5fd14a1 2018-05-16T16:20:47Z May 16. Why does Laurel sound like Yanny? Someone has discovered an audio clip that makes different listeners hear radically different vowels and consonants. I hear Laurel and not Yanny no matter how hard I listen. It works because different people's ears are tuned to different frequencies, and Laurel is lower pitched than Yanny. If the pitch of the whole thing is dropped, then Laurel falls out of my range and Yanny falls into it, and I hear... well, more like Yammy.

Now I'm wondering how many other things are like this. My favorite song sounds terrible to almost everyone, and the explanation probably goes beyond mere taste, and into what sounds make it through to our brains.

In politics, there's a thing called a "dog whistle": words that sound innocent to most people, but send a message to a particular subculture. Donald Trump is like a dog-whistle savant. He's gone beyond words to craft an entire persona that whistles "salt-of-the-earth statesman" to some people and "authoritarian ass-clown" to others. Like a motor that runs from the positive and negative poles of a battery, he is using the tension between two American perceptual filters to drive his career.

More generally, in an information landscape in which everyone sees everything, whether it's a presidential debate or a family dinner, the real action is on the level of subtext: messages encrypted not by math but culture, not by frequency but "vibe".

As our tech system moves toward dystopian universal surveillance, we'll just get better at hiding in plain sight.

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May 14. http://ranprieur.com/#bca1901c104619381477afec3f832693dceaab8c 2018-05-14T14:00:35Z May 14. Back to the inner world, two different readers have reported getting a lot of help from this video and other videos by the same guy, Joe Dispenza. He basically does motivational talks for metacognition: getting inside your head and changing deep habits. If I had to distill his instructions to one point, it would be to aggressively practice observing, thinking, and acting differently than you normally would.

He also has this interesting line: "We don't pray in this work to have our prayers answered; we get up as if our prayers are already answered." Now, that could be bad advice, if you're praying for some practical benefit and acting as if it's true when it's not. But I thought of another way to twist it. Imagine that there are many versions of you living in multiple timelines, and just this moment, an alternate "you" has shifted into your life, and for reasons you don't remember, that other you was asking for just exactly the situation that you're in right now.

This takes some imagination and practice, but it's basically a way of hacking gratitude and being fully present. I've also been practicing a different move with similar results, and it's hard to do it right, but if I remind myself that I'm going to die, it can make the present moment feel precious, and can also sweep away trivial fears.

Last week there was a thread on the Elder Trees subreddit, about using weed anxiety as a therapeutic process. Now, "weed anxiety" means different things, but for me, it all began about two years ago, when I started looking back at my own life with cannabis-enhanced emotional intelligence, and noticing all these mistakes I've been making. Because I'm curious, and because weed was also doing things that I really liked, I stuck with it, and for the last two years I've been cleaning up a lot of bad subconscious habits. It feels like releasing an army of auditors that cast critical eyes on my entire internal landscape. I almost look forward to it.

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May 11. http://ranprieur.com/#428839884200f8dfa167cf2ca61d6ad1a09cc6f2 2018-05-11T23:30:08Z May 11. Not a lot of ideas this week, but I can riff off the last post, and point out that when we make the outer world less challenging, we make the inner world more challenging. If we all had to struggle to survive, then a lot of us would die; but if survival is easy, then whatever is left to struggle for is less important, and it's harder to care. If we continue on this line of progress, eventually nobody will do anything that needs to be done, and the only cause of death will be suicide.

I'm not against this -- I would love to eat from a sci-fi food fabricator and have nothing to do all day but play games and go for walks and do creative projects. My point is that it flies in the face of our deep biological history of struggling to survive, and there will be voices inside us that push for higher stakes.

The other day I had a thought about "terrorism". I don't like that word, and one reason is that it makes it all about us: the terrorists sit around thinking about our feelings and how to make us feel afraid. I think they're focused on their own feelings. They're mostly young people, from the middle class or higher, and they want life to be more interesting, so they want to believe that they're engaged in a struggle so important that it justifies killing.

Have you ever had a group of friends, or family, and you had to get away from them because they were constantly creating unnecessary drama? That's my new model of political violence: it's just people trying to suck us into their drama. My new definition of "world peace" is not a world with no conflict, but a world where you are never forced into someone else's conflict.

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May 8. http://ranprieur.com/#eb0cb8842b836db7fd74db6437c681e0441f74a2 2018-05-08T20:00:07Z May 8. I was in Seattle over the weekend. It's having a problem that a lot of popular cities are having: the cost of housing is so high, that too many residents are either rich or homeless -- and both of those demographics suffer from mental illness. The difference is, homeless people are homeless because they're mentally ill, and rich people re mentally ill because they're rich.

Poverty is a smaller problem now than it has ever been, if you define problematic poverty as the percentage of humans who are suffering from scarcity. Meanwhile, more people than ever are suffering from abundance.

I want to avoid putting any kind of moral spin on this. If you count our prehuman ancestors, we've been living at the edge of scarcity for hundreds of millions of years, and only living with abundance recently, so we're still really bad at it. How well could birds fly only a few thousand years after evolving wings?

Of course culture evolves faster than biology. We've been aware of this problem for thousands of years now, and I think we'd be gaining on it if we didn't keep inventing new luxuries and comforts and choices. Maybe we're gaining on it anyway. This New Yorker article is about Japan and how they're on the cutting edge of finding subjective quality of life in this strange world.

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May 4. http://ranprieur.com/#86e1ed69ed3fc911b9a28272c64b6545a130747e 2018-05-04T16:20:25Z May 4. A few more stray links. This was posted a week ago to the subreddit: A Short Lesson in Perspective, about how the creative process is distorted by money and hurry.

Lifefaker is a new site that skillfully mocks how other people's social media posts make us feel inadequate.

Sent to me by multiple readers: Stone Age people may have voyaged the Mediterranean

And some great electronic music from 1971: Mort Garson: Philosopher's Stone

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May 2. http://ranprieur.com/#7b724b3cfab46db50ff20e85744044c50b7eca6e 2018-05-02T14:00:04Z May 2. A few links. This is one of the better woo-woo threads in the history of reddit, People that honestly believe they have been abducted by aliens, what was your experience like? There are lots of stories about missing time, and I believe these people are telling the truth, but I think the cause is something weirder and harder to understand than space aliens.

Gabriel sends this amazing Twitter feed, ctrlcreep. It's basically micro-scale sci-fi. Some of neotene's tweets are ideas you could hang a whole novel on, others would illuminate a sentence, but they're all interesting. It reminds me of what every writer says: that ideas are the easiest part. For me, writing is like building and steering a sailboat, and ideas are like the wind. If your sails are good, inevitably you will get more wind than you need; the challenge is to focus it into a journey.

This reddit thread, where people describe the experience of flow, makes me wonder if I've ever really been there. I can get deeply absorbed in creative work, but I've never felt the crystalline clarity, the sense of absolute competence, that some of these people describe. I've never felt like my body was doing the right thing on its own while my head just watched. At best, when I'm writing, words will just pop into my head and they're perfect. It feels great, but it also feels more like a sputtering engine than a train.

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