A fiction truer than reality

It might seem like all fiction tells stories, but that's not true. I read Italo Calvino's "Invisible Cities" last week, and like a lot of literature, it didn't so much unfold as describe. At the border of storytelling are books like Lord Dunsany's "The Gods of Pegana," which I'm reading now, or even Lovecraft's "At... Continue Reading →


(Music) Ambush from Ten Sides

A single ethnic group constitutes fully 18% of the human species. At 1.3 billion in number, Han Chinese are the largest "tribe" in the world. There is simply nothing analogous in the West -- not just their size but their unbroken antiquity. Chinese people speak the same language(s) as their forebears. Mandarin and Cantonese have... Continue Reading →

Encountering the Old Gods

There's a trend in contemporary fantastic art so pervasive that I feel it needs it's own genre: the casual hierophany. A hierophany is a manifestation of the divine other. The name implies more than a mere appearance, however, which could come simply in a vision. A hierophany is an eruption of divine force in our... Continue Reading →

The myth of interpretation

The French philosopher and literary critic Roland Barthes developed an extension of Saussure's semiotics that he called mythology, an apt name since '-ology' technically means 'study of' rather than simply 'collection.' For Barthes, the semiological system of signifier/signified/sign was itself collectively another signifier that could be parsed, second-order, into a meta-language of myth. He gives... Continue Reading →

Language, Security, and the IoT

As far as we know, the alphabet was invented only once* -- in Phoenicia (covering modern-day Lebanon, Syria, and Israel). It spread and persisted because with it, you can render any word in any language. This is what the physicist David Deutsch called "the beginning of infinity" in his book of the same name. It... Continue Reading →

The X-rated architecture of Jean-Jacques Lequeu (NSFW)

Later this year, the Petit Palais in Paris will host an exhibition on one of the most enigmatic and little-known figures in architecture, Jean-Jacques Lequeu (1757-1825), whose fanciful, unorthodox, yet exactingly illustrated designs were just as grandiose as his contemporary (and better known) archrivals Etienne-Louis Boullee (1728-99) and Claude-Nicholas Ledoux (1736-1806). (Boullee's cenotaph to Newton... Continue Reading →

Men Act, Women Appear (NSFW)

"The mirror was often used as a symbol of the vanity of woman. The moralizing, however, was mostly hypocritical. You painted a naked woman because you enjoyed looking at her, you put a mirror in her hand and you called the painting "Vanity", thus morally condemning the woman whose nakedness you had depicted for your... Continue Reading →

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