PDX -> SEA this morning. Amtrak. Carried as rolling stock, node to node. A dot on a map, a polyline on the plot. Lat + Long, moving along.

Found the Frye Museum. Or it found me. Elegant, concise, free. Focus on impressionism. My kind of museum!

198. St. Genevieve

St. Genevieve stood up to Atilla The Hun and became the patron saint of Paris.

199. Harvesters, Leon-Augustin L'hermitte

Leon-Augustin L’hermitte painted a romantic notion of manual labor in the beauty of the French countryside and inspired Vincent Van Gogh.

After the museum, the other museum: the cafe. One of my fave spots anywhere.

And then a ferry. And another ferry. And the walk up the hill, to the farm.

Summer Arrives

Last night we had a fine fireworks show, right across the street in the park:

185. Happy Birthday America!

Nothing organized by anyone. Just funloving folks showing up with lots of explosives and putting on an impromtu show. How it was when we were kids.

They say summer begins on the day after the 4th of July here in Cascadia. Real summer that is. In April and May we have our late spring burst of niceness. The tease. Then the joy gets stuffed in the bin by the annual early summer west coast ritual of June Gloom.

It sounds silly, as if a single calendar day could matter to mother nature.

But I have to admit, as I walked downtown this afternoon in full, warm sunshine… there might be something to it after all.

Tom Robbins And Aesthetic-Aware AI

Or maybe I should say ‘The possibility of aesthetic-aware AI’…

Lately I’ve been working with an application capable of gathering large amounts of data from the web, particularly social media sites.

One question I have is, what if would happen if we could imbue the computer with a sense of style, such that was interested in particular segments of the data, and then parlayed that interest into a desire to gather more data and learn more along those lines?

In other words, what if the app could move beyond content and towards an idea of style?

On another note, I’ve been reading Tom Robbins’ novel Another Roadside Attraction. The book is somewhat of a sendup of sixties values and contradictions, but there’s also a lot of serious humor too. One of Robbins’s favorite games is setting up dialogues between charecters who espouse extreme, almost absurdly extreme viewpoints, and to end up with something beautiful in the interaction. Some of the most attractive thinking in the book is done by Amanda, his female protagonist who on one hand lives a fantasy-island life of hippie atheism, but on the other hand makes a ton of sense as a pan-theistic mother-figure who’s out to have the best time possible in her brief shining moment on earth.

Some of Amanda’s thinking on style versus content:

The most important thing in life is style. That is, the style of one’s existence—the characteristic mode of one’s actions—is basically, ultimately what matters. For if man defines himself by doing, then style is doubly definitive, because style describes the doing.”

Amanda expounded upon this at some length. “The point is this,” she said eventually. “Happiness is a learned condition. And since it is learned and self-generating, it does not depend upon external circumstances for its perpetuation. This throws a very ironic light on content. And underscores the primacy of style.”

After nearly an hour’s monologue, she summed up by remarking, “It is content, or rather the consciousness of content, that fills the void. But the mere presence of content is not enough. It is style that gives content the capacity to absorb us, to move us; it is style that makes us care.”

Then later she says:

“Maybe I’m attracted to style because the notion of content is a very difficult notion for me to comprehend. When you substract from an object the qualities it possesses, what do you have left? After you’ve taken from a star its age, position, size, velocity, distance from Earth and chemical composition, are you left with a hole in the sky – or something else? This lump of dough on the table has the properties of being soft, pliable, white, moist, smooth and cool to the touch. But what is it exactly, what is this thing – the content – that possesses those qualities? It can’t be defined. I’m afraid the notion of content has to be replaced by the notion of style.”

And still later:

“Those folks who are concerned with freedom, real freedom — not the freedom to say “shit” in public or to criticize their leaders or to worship God in the church of their choice, but the freedom to be free of language and gods — well, they must use style to alter content. If style is masterful, if it is fluid and at the same time complete, then we can re-create ourselves, or rather, we can re-create the Infinite Goof within us. We can live on top of content, float above predictable responses, social programming and hereditary circuitry, letting the bits of color and electricity and light filter up to us, where we may incorporate them at will into our actions. That’s what the voices said. They said that content is what man harbors but does not parade. And I love a parade”