Archive for the ‘art’ Category

Philosophic Manga

Saturday, 23 March 2024

For many years, every manga that I had ever encountered was simply lousy. I came to have little expectation that any were not, but I was aware of Sturgeon's Revelation,[1] and so I would still occasionally look at manga. Eventually, I found some that were quite good, and even a few that were brilliant. I'd like to mention two that I find very interesting as works of philosophy.

Philosophy in general is sometimes characterized as consideration of the True, of the Good, and of the Beautiful. I don't know of a manga to which I'd point as a worthwhile meditation on the Beautiful, but I can point to one manga that has interesting ideas about the True, and another that is a wonderful meditation on the Good.

The official English-language title of the light novel 紫色のクオリア [Murasakiiro no Qualia], by Ueo Hisamitsu, and of its manga adaptation (by Ueo with illustrations by Tsunashima Shirou) is Qualia the Purple, but a better rendering would be Purple's Qualia or The Qualia of Purple. The story is marketted as yuri (work with a theme of romantic love or sexual attraction between females), and it has some elements of that theme, but most readers primarily seeking that theme are going to be generally frustrated.

The actual primary theme of the story is the uniqueness of the epistemics of each person. In response to the same stimuli, we have different sensations, and construct models that are very different not only in these building blocks but in subsequent structure. In the best cases, our models of the external world correspond very well to reality, and thus indirectly the models of one person correspond well to the models of another. But the maps are not the territories, and my maps are not your maps.

In Murasakiiro no Qualia, the character Yukari does not model animals and machines as fundamentally different. However, unlike a couple of other characters, Yukari does not think any less of living creatures for being machines; she treats machines with genuine affection and sometimes love. Moreover, within the framework of the story, Yukari's model works. (I deliberately refrain here from providing examples.) Another character, Alice Foyle, produces what appear to be child-like drawings but contain solutions to challenging mathematic problems.

Ueo doesn't simply write of characters with special abilities flowing from looking at the world differently. Ueo proposes the idea that personal identity itself is located exactly in our respective internal differences of sensation and of all that we build from sensation.

The story also involves elements of speculative science fiction, to which I impute no value except as plot devices. I'm rather more interested in how the protagonist, Gakku, obsessively fights Fate, much as does Homura in Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magika.

The official English-language title of 葬送のフリーレン [Sousou no Frieren], by Yamada Kanehito with excellent illustrations by Abe Tsukasa, is Frieren: Beyond Journey's End, though the pirate translations began with the closer translation Frieren at the Funeral; either of these titles is appropriate. (A more literal translation would be Frieren of the Funeral.) This series has become a huge critical and commercial success, and its anime adaptation has likewise become a huge critical and commercial success. (At this time, I've watched only clips of the anime.) Frieren begins with the return of a party of four adventurers after they have saved the world from a Demon King, a quest that they accepted a decade earlier.

The eponymous Frieren is an Elven maga, who had lived a quiet, meandering life for more than a millennium before joining the party, and who can expect to live many millennia more. During the celebration, Frieren casually makes plans to meet the other members of the party, in another fifty years. The significance to human beings of half a century does not begin to register with her until she returns, and finds Himmel, the once youthful leader of the party, to be an old man. And, when not much later Himmel dies, Frieren struggles to understand both how someone with whom she had spent only ten years could have come to mean so much to her, and how she could have failed to recognize that she had only another fifty or so years which she could have spent with him and did not.

Thereafter, Frieren is the story of the further adventures of this Elf, with occasional flashbacks to her time with the party who defeated the Demon King. What's really being delivered is both a bitter-sweet love story — as Frieren comes over decades to recognize that Himmel was the great love of her life — and an extended meditation on the importance of relationships, on the meaning of life, and on the nature of ethics. (The other commentary that I've encountered has missed both the point that Frieren loved and loves Himmel, and the consideration of ethics.)

As to ethics, I'll note that Himmel implicitly rejected the Utilitarian calculus and anything like it, and within the story the ethics that he instead embodied have, since the time of the quest, been propagating. Humans and Dwarves explain their acts of local goodness by saying That's what Himmel would have done. The world of Frieren continues to grow more humane, because of Himmel, long after his death.

Sousou no Frieren is a story that has more than once made me laugh aloud, not because of any jest, but because the author has made some excellent choice, often in having a character do something very right, but sometimes the author's choice involves other things. At least twice, his choice has concerned the rôle of Fate — once to challenge a character, and at another time to treat two of the characters with love.

[1] Ninety percent of everything is crud. Sturgeon did not claim that 10% of everything is not crud; the ninety percent is merely a lower bound. (And a metaphoric one at that, though I encountered one fool who tried to argue as if the legitimacy of Sturgeon's Revelation hung upon a literal interpretation of ninety percent.)

Looked and Felt

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Some days ago, people who consume this 'blog by an ordinary visit with a graphics-enabled browser were confronted with different graphics within the header. The prior and present graphics look like this [image of archaic header lettering, white] but, for a while, the graphics looked like this [image of art-deco header lettering, metallic with grey borders] and then like this [image of art-deco header lettering, the larger being metallic with grey borders and the smaller being white with grey borders]

I had been in the mood to try a change. I constructed some new letters of a general form that I like, which used to be popular for the cover titles of pulps and of comic books. I decided to give them a metallic look (which was done by layering gradient fills of blue-grey).

But my big problem with the results was readability, especially of the subtitle. Changing the subtitle fill from a metallic texture to a solid white helped somewhat, but readability still wasn't what I wanted. The problem was even worse when displayed on my tablet, which resizes images to suit itself and can thereby further blur graphics.

Additionally, though I don't worry a great deal about the æsthetic opinions of others when it comes to my 'blog, both of the people who expressed a preference expressed it for the prior lettering. (One of them declared the newer graphics to be faux-cool.)

I may not be done with these experiments though. I've been thinking of converting the visual theme of this 'blog into a meta-theme, whose graphic components vary, perhaps as a function of time or perhaps randomly or pseudo-randomly.

I have played-around with elements for a distinct presentation to mobile devices, but I note that the screens of typical mobile devices are now fairly large and of high resolution. Meanwhile, the current presentation actually seems pretty good on my agèd cellular phone, which has a screen with a 3.1-inch diagonal, with 480×640 pixels.

Let that be a lesson t'ye!

Monday, 31 August 2015

Yester-day after-noon, I misread a rumpled sign in the distance. It was an advertisement for guitar lessons, but I thought that it offered GUILT LESSONS

Of course, I wouldn't expect guilt lessons to be seriously and openly advertised (though some college courses seem indeed to be guilt lessons). Rather, I had thought that the advertisement were a joke or a work of art. I suppose now that this were a matter of illusory found art.


Sunday, 30 November 2014

Off-and-on, I work on the plans for a couple of pieces of serial fiction. And thus it is repeatedly brought to my attention that, for the stories really to work, a profound necessity must drive events; essential elements must be predestined and meaningful.

This characterization contrasts markèdly from my view of real life. I think that people may be said to have personal destinies, but that these can be unreälized, as when we say that someone were meant to do or become something, but instead did or became something else. And, if I did believe that the world were a vast piece of clockwork, then I'd be especially disinclined to think that its dial had anything important to say.

Virtually True-to-Life Story-Telling

Thursday, 8 May 2014

There's a sort of story-telling that has not yet, to my knowledge, really come into existence, though it has been possible for many years. It has been approached from multiple directions; and, if it emerges in no other way, then it will emerge from computer gaming, when AI in personal information technology becomes sufficiently powerful. However, it doesn't actually require AI at all.

In real life, when one comes to a place, as one interacts with what one finds there one discovers things about the place — stories. We can have story-telling that mimicks this process. What I suggest is that we will see works of fiction that are computer programs in which there is no game in the ordinary sense (though a game in the more general sense of game theory is unavoidable), but there is a virtual reality in which a story or stories may be discovered — without forcing. (That is to say that none of the cheap devices of chose your own adventure books or programs will be considered acceptable.)

An example of the experience of such a game without AI is easily imagined. The user launches the program. There is no prologue. He or she finds himself just inside the gate of a property, with various things in his or her possession. Leaving the property in any way exits the program. Proceeding into the property gets one to things such as one or more buildings. The buildings have things such as desks; the desks have drawers. The drawers have contents. Examing these contents and other things on the property, the user perhaps learns things. Reflections may or may not be revelatory, depending upon the stories. There are no declarations of achievements; one is never told when all the important pieces have been seen. But stories are there and some people find them. There will be writers who learn how to move the user to joy or to fear or to sorrow or to melancholy in this way.

AI can be introduced first for beasts — birds, rodents, perhaps cats. It will be a while before a proper dog can be implemented. (And I'm not so sure about a cat.) Other persons probably first begin as those at the other ends of telephone lines.

Wilma Deering and Eschaton-a-Go-Go

Friday, 27 September 2013

Some of you may already be familiar with Molly Kiely, an artist best known for illustrations in an alternative comic-book style. She and Ginger Mayerson are currently seeking funds to complete a graphic novel, Eschaton-a-Go-Go. Appropriately enough, they have a campaign on IndieGoGo.

There are a number of attractive perks for contributors; but, right now, there is an especially cool offer. For $15, Ms Kiely will draw a custom ATC with the science-fiction character or golden-age movie goddess of your choice. Note that she'll execute a small commission, rather than requiring selection amongst ATCs that she's already created. For example, I requested

[Wilma by Molly Kiely]
image used with kind permission of artist
Wilma by Molly Kiely
her take on Wilma Deering, roughly as Wilma appeared in the 1929 episodes of the Buck Rogers comic strip.

Now, here's your problem: This offer was limited to 25 ATCs; when last I knew, 7 of them were already claimed. That leaves just 18 still available. You don't want to suddenly realize that you'd like an ATC of LN-18 or of Alice White or of Galloway Gallagher or of Gene Tierney, only to discover that the last of these commissions went to some clown who wanted a picture of Professor Simon Wright.

I Know It When I See It!

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Yester-day evening, I was using a publicly accessible WLAN to connect with the Internet. I found my access to this 'blog blocked by a Norton-branded product, which declared the 'blog to be pornographic.

Erotica really hasn't figured large in this 'blog. You can find the relevant entries with the tag erotica. I think that the two or three entries that caused Norton to damn this thing are specifically my entry of 2 July 2009, my entry of 26 March 2010, and perhaps my entry of 30 June 2010; the entry of 30 January 2011 may have weighed against me as well.

Of these, the entry of 2 July 2009 is the one that most likely set-off alarms. It contains an overtly erotic image (by Carolyn Weltman), and has a key-word of cunnilinctus.[1] Do a Google image-search using that key-word, and a link to that entry is currently the second returned. And, because of a couple of the other key-words in that entry, other images are also found, including one by Karel Šimůnek than many would regard as pornographic.

In the '50s, the drawings by Joe Shuster in the entry of 30 June 2011 would have been regarded as pornographic, though now the word pornography would typically be regarded as too strong. (Actually, a hundred years ago, many would have insisted that the picture in my entry of 2 February 2011 were pornographic, while now-a-days it could appear in a children's book without fuss.) Still, the text in that entry contains the term sado-masochistic and there are pictures, and Norton's classification was probably mediated with weak AI; indeed, once other flags were thrown, the appearance of the word dominatrix in a follow-up entry may have been seen as further PoP.

Most WLANs that filter do so by way of a DNS table. When a browser seeks content located in terms of a URI or of a URL, and that specification includes a domain name, the domain name is converted to an IP number by way of a DNS table. By censoring the table that is used, the WLAN can block domains.

Some people subvert this censorship by way of a proxy server, which is no more than some site that will act as an intermediary; fetching content from the blocked domain. The obvious problem here is that the proxy may be identified and blocked as well.

A better subversion is to use a different table than whatever is being supplied by the WLAN. In particular, one may configure one's system to use DNS tables provided by Google, or perhaps by some other third party. But be alert that using an alternative DNS table may not be a good idea in other contexts. (For example, when using a subscription ISP that places quotas on content for most sites, but with exceptions.)

[1]The words cunnilinctus and cunnilingus are synonymous in English and in some other languages; but in Latin cunnilinctus referred to the act, while cunnilingus referred to a performer of that act. The latter word acquired its more recent meaning as a result of incompetent posturing (something that has figured more than once in attempts to borrow foreign terms and phrases). Efforts to clean-up this particular mess have repeatedly failed, but I avoid participating in it, by using the word that is both proper English and proper Latin. Hence my use of the less common term.

In a Fix

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

I collided yester-day with Brouwer's Fixed-Point Theorem while writing a program that aids artists in creating on-line web galleries.

There's a notion in art of complementary color. The lighter a color is, the darker is its complement, and v.v.. And, if one locates a color on a color wheel, this complement is its diametrical opposite on the wheel. Complementary colors are used, well, to complement things. So, for example, a dark red object is thought to look best against a light green background (if one uses the classic red-yellow-blue color system) or against a light turquoise background (if one uses the red-green-blue system).

I thought (and think) that it would be a fine thing if an image should be automatically displayed on a page whose background color were the complement of the average color of the image. In keeping with this complementarity, it might seem to be a good idea for the page text to be the complement of the background, which is to say that original average color. Well, here is where Brouwer pokes his head in the room and suggests a problem.

Brouwer's Fixed-Point Theorem tells us that every continuous function f from a closed ball onto itself has a point x such that f(x) = x. A color wheel is a closed ball in two dimensions. Grey-scale is a closed ball in one dimension. Half-way between black and white is a shade of grey which is its own complement. The color dead-center on a color wheel is its own complement. So the center of the cylinder formed by the Cartesian product of light-and-dark with the color wheel is its own complement. And any colors near this center have their complements also near this center, which means that there isn't enough contrast for real usability. Color schemes such as medium grey text on a medium grey background just don't cut it.

I don't know what the best adjustment is; I'm not even sure that there is a unique best to be found. But I believe that the proper adjustment would be to alter the lightness — and only the lightness — of the foreground text, making sure that it were different from that of the background by increasing any existing relative difference. (In cases were the brightness is dead-center, a movement in either direction should be fine.)

Dancing in the Dark

Friday, 28 October 2011
[image of nude dancer, by Maurice Goldberg, entitled 'Ariel', modelled by Dorothy Lee]
photographed by Maurice Goldberg
modelled by Dorothy Lee
from Theater Magazine 1924 November

I recently acquired a copy of this image as a page removed from an issue of Theater Magazine. I'm not sure that I would have got it had I known that it came thence; I'm not comfortable the practice of dismembering old books and magazines for their images, except in cases where there is truly negligible interest in the volume or issue in question being held together.

In any case, I think it a very nice picture.

Ask my pen; it governs me,—I govern not it.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

As I was looking for a holder for the Esterbrook Nº 356 nibs that I got, I ran across dip pens being produced by Steven P. Engen of Cottonwood, AZ. While these could hold a Nº 356 nib, they're not particularly well suited for that particular purpose.

None-the-less, I was especially attracted by this pen made of African blackwood and alabaster (here with an Esterbrook Nº 048 nib):

[image of a dippen whose holder is made of blackwood and alabaster] Images copyright © by; used with kind permission thereof.
It arrived yester-day and was as nice as it had looked in its pictures. I then ordered this pen made of olivewood and ironwood:
Images copyright © by; used with kind permission thereof.

Honestly, I'm not sure how much I'll use them for writing (now-a-days, my every-day pen is a Lamy cp 1 black fountain pen), but I figured that I'd later think back with regret if I failed to get these two pens.