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Sunday, March 16, 2008

Ambigrams and weekend reflections

I've been experimenting with Ambigrams, inspired by Douglas Hofstadter's enthusiasm for the artform. I've also acquired a copy of CS3, and I'm pleased to say I've been able to make some use of it on the scanned images of my drawings. For instance:It says "Thought" right-side up and upside-down. A pleasing symmetry, wouldn't you agree?

I really like ambigrams with double meanings, especially when the concepts the words represent have some significant relation to each other. I'll post more as I get them digitized, but for now here's my name and a word that I'm pleased to have my name associated with: Extropian.

Both words run the same direction, so it takes a little more imagination to see. What's neat about same-direction ambigrams is they sometimes give you that "flipping" effect, where at first you perceive one meaning, then another (like a wireframe cube's orientation). Please comment on this post and tell me if you can read both words in this one; I'd appreciate the feedback.

And, since "extropy" isn't a word one runs accross on a regular basis, I'll save you the trouble of looking it up and give you the Wikipedia definition:
<<< Extropianism, also referred to as extropism or extropy, is an evolving framework of values and standards for continuously improving the human condition. Extropians believe that advances in science and technology will some day let people live indefinitely and further that humans alive today have a good chance of seeing that day. An extropian may wish to contribute to this goal, e.g by doing R&D or volunteering to test new technology.
>>>
Drawing was the highlight of my weekend. I also read about half of "The Mind's I," which is really exciting because the ideas are exactly what I was hoping to learn about. I've found another four or five books that I need to read, as a result. My "pending reading" stack is getting a little precarious, if I had a pet I'd be afraid that it would be killed by the toppling stack.

At the same time as the book is exciting, I feel like I've already been introduced and made comfortable with some of the really shocking ideas in the essays (this was the early 80's when it was compiled). Things like telepresence and body-transfers are concepts that science fiction prodded me to think about long ago.

Other things this weekend: I went to the new Ikea in West Chester, which was a total zoo. They have flashing signs on the freeway talking about "event parking," and they're not exaggerating. There's cops at every intersection directing traffic, and the store is intolerably packed. I was extremely frustrated by the crowd, and left in a much worse mood than when I came in. I ended up with four wine glasses, some tea lights, a ten dollar paper lamp, and no light bulbs. Turns out the little picture of two light bulbs was supposed to indicate that the purchaser needed to get them as well, not that they'd be inside. I'll wait till the hype dies down to buy anything else, I think. The lingonberry-apple sparkling juice twelve pack I picked up almost makes the trip worthwhile.

I feel conflicted about Ikea. Its mass-produced, but it looks neat. For some reason I feel an aversion to mass-produced things; a hold-over from my punk-rock days, I suppose. But I feel like buying something "unique looking" that everyone else has is sort of a cop-out. I'm reminded of the bit in "We the Living" when the soviet state starts handing out patterned cloth instead of plain. At first everyone in St. Petersburg is really excited because they finally get some variety, but their excitement dies when they realize everyone else is walking around in the same patterns. Trivial, perhaps, but it grates on me. I don't mind so much the utilitarian things like lamps and furniture, but the purely decorative stuff I have an aversion to. Which is funny, because I like the way it looks.

So: inspired by the attractive appearance of their hangings, I decided to make my own. I've got a bunch of old thrift-store sheets that have been variously used as togas and bed canopies. I cut one in half and did a design in black and blue sharpie: its an ambigram that says MEME/GENE inverted, and repeated in such a way that its roughly in the shape of a helix. I think I'll do the same thing on the other half, but with MIND/BODY in red and green. Then I'll have two halves of a double helix, with ideas on them that are intimately related. I love the symbolism, and I think that having it hanging around will be a constant reminder of the path of learning I want to take. Here's some photos:


A bit sloppier than I'd like, but I think by the time I got a third of the way though it the sharpie fumes were getting to me. The blue ones are the inverse of the black, and both say MEME and GENE (with proper application of imagination). Unexpectedly, you can also read both words vertically where there's at least four layers. GENE always starts with a blue letter, and MEME with a black one. Unless you read it upside down, then its the reverse

Its got kind of a Jewish feel to it, what with the blue and white color scheme and the sharp script. It'll make for nice irony when the compliment to it's done in Christmas colors.

Some of this creative surge was a result of "constructive procrastination;" I had some work that I needed to do over the weekend. Somehow when I've got great books and art tools that I know how to use (or can experiment with), playing with Access statements and pivot tables seems less fun. Its nice to be reminded that I have creative power in mediums other than just the spreadsheet, marvelous tool though the spreadsheet is.

Without a girlfriend to occupy so much mental energy trying to figure out now, I feel like its increasingly important to figure myself out. I thought I knew, but it turns out I'm more surprising than I thought. A while back my Dad commented (looking at an old picture of me) that I used to be so creative. This struck me, 'cause "creative" is a word I've always liked to apply to myself. But upon reflection, I realized that he's absolutely right. I've been really bound up in a lot of different conventions for the last few years. Objectivisim, motivating though it was, had the effect of making me stiff and dogmatic. Then wanting to be an investment banker drained me of soul, 'cause I could never figure out a reason other than money and power that I wanted to do it.

Now, however, I feel that I'm on a path that I can love. Part of that is that its a very branching path, and there's a whole lot of opportunity to imagine, make stuff up, and conjecture. Yet at the same time there's potentially a great many applications for any of the imaginings one conjures.

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