Behind the Eight-Ball: Hardboiled Noir and the Existential Chinese Angle

to say goodbye is to die a littleI am really into Film Noir right now, so here are some of my thoughts on this.

If no one reads this, that’s ok; this is just me getting some thoughts out there.

I just finished watching two, very different, films in this genre:

Brick (with Joseph Gordon-Levitt)
The Killing (classic Kubrick film)

It’s amazing to see how the interaction between elements in each one is totally different, yet converges to a similar degree of uncertainty, a sort of ominous feeling that our “hero” has already lost, even before events untangle to their last consequences.

I cannot emphasize how important this last element is to the whole genre:
Our “hero” is already broken, he’s just trying to pick up the pieces of whatever it was that broke him.

I will focus on Brick, only because it struck a different nerve, one not usually stricken, at least not like this.

In the very first scene of Brick our young “detective” Brendan (played by Gordon-Levitt) stares at the dead body of a young dame*; we can only assume our cat* was dizzy with the dame* in question. This is it, there is no way to win here, no way to rate*, but he must get on with the lay* – as Marlowe would put it – and follow the trail, hear what the other cats and dames sing*, until the fat ankle* does what she does, and then, only then, after he crabs* what the pieces tell him, only then might he find rest, a wicked kind of rest, the kind that’s disrupted at night by the nightmares of what was lost and cannot be retrieved. But none of this is in his mind during the lay*. During the job he’s in some sort of limbo that consists of broken memories and a keen sense of the now, this is what allows him to keep going, this is why he won’t drop it: there is no future; he knows it… hell, he can even feel it; what follows is just what follows, and we can’t do a thing about it, but silently root for Brendan to find out who did this to Emily, and why.

What follows is full of what we want – what we need – from this kind of film: kids with decks* wearing iron*, a young canary*, one dish* to die for who knows her worth (as she claims in a song/poem during a fancy party, while playing the piano), a trustful wise head* sidekick/partner, a local kingpin, and a case involving more sharpers* than a pack of mouthpieces* at a convention in Las Vegas.

The twist? All of these guys are high school kids, and, you know what? It works, it totally works.

So yeah, let’s move to a Noir world for a while, and imagine ourselves in a world where we, as main characters, are as doomed as doom can be, but also, a world where we don’t care about it, where we can’t even think about it, let’s taste the flavor of doing something for nothing really, while dreaming of that dame to kill for, while we keep our grit, pushing towards that thing that awaits at the end of the road: our last, long, Big Sleep.

It’s damn worth it.

( Dictionary for *-marked words available at: )

Victor Pelevin on Myths and Meaning

Via The Helmet of Horror

“[…] if a mind is like a computer,

perhaps myths are its shell programs:

sets of rules that we follow in our world processing,

mental matrices we project onto complex events to endow them with meaning. […]”

The “Why is there something rather than nothing?” question from another perspective.

I guess it all depends on what “is” is? Doesn’t it?

Another good reason to Think Context: How well do we know how we felt/feel about something?

Imagine this:

You get to do a really repetitive,simple and boring task, then you are given $5 to tell someone, also waiting to do the task, that the task was not boring. Now imagine the following, instead of $5, you get payed $100 to do the same thing….

How does this change how you feel about the task?

“Well,” you might say, “young chap, this doesn’t alter how I feel or felt about such endeavors, after all, I am a gentleman and a scholar who knows that a boring task is a boring task and that’s it. Cup o’ tea?” Well… Actually…

It turns out that if you get payed $5 and tell the other guy that the task was not that bad, you actually start to believe that the task was not that boring, while if you get payed $100 and tell the guy that the task was not that bad, you don’t believe it yourself. The idea behind this is that you get to fool yourself into believing the task was not that boring because you experience cognitive dissonance, since you are holding two psychologically incompatible thoughts. In this case: the task is boring and a “bad reason to lie” ($5) or a “good reason to lie” ($100).

You see, you feel the need to reduce this dissonance to make you feel better about yourself, so that you are “not really lying for $5,” but rather you “actually did not dislike the task that much.”

Think about it…

Yeah Science!

(Festinger & Carlsmith, Cognitive consequences of forced compliance, 1959)


Notes from The Blue Book.

And so, Wittgenstein said:

” […] The question what kind of activity thinking is is analogous to this: ‘Where does thinking take place?’ […] by misunderstanding the grammar of our expressions, we are led to think of one in particular of these statements as giving the real seat of the activity of thinking. […] Thinking, one wants to say, is part of our ‘private experience’. It is not material, but an event in private consciousness. This objection is expressed in the question: ‘Could a machine think?’ I shall talk about this at a later point, and now only refer you to an analogous question: ‘Can a machine have tootache?’ […] The question is What is the relation between thinking (or toothache) and the subject which thinks, has toothache, etc.? […] I shall in the future again and again draw your attention to what I shall call language games. These are ways of using signs simpler than those in which we use the signs of our highly complicated everyday language.”

And after good ol’ Ludwig said these words, Language Games were discovered, and the whole world would never be the same.

To be continued…

Taken from: Major Works, Selected Philosophical Writings published by HarperCollins.

Mental Origami

Borges’ library contains every single book that could ever be written. An infinite number of chimps with an infinite number of typewriters, typing at random, will eventually write all of those books as well. Any event that can possibly happen will happen. Symbols are visual shortcuts for complex phenomena, our brains make them meaningful. Every  single thing and its properties can be determined via its context, even context itself. Understanding these facts increases our knowledge radius.


(The views and opinions expressed in this post are proudly sponsored by: “Insomnia, making everything you write look pretty darn good to you.”)

The curious case of the dancing Spiderman; or, It’s (pretty much) just in your head

An amazing article about “dancing Spiderman” and the synchronicity phenomenon:
The curious case of the dancing Spiderman

(Also, here’s the link for the song that plays in the synchronicity video, enjoy!
Jung at Heart )

The Borel-Cantelli Theorem

Let \{A_j\}_{j=1}^\infty be an infinite sequence of events.

If the A_j are mutually independent events and \sum_{j=1}^\infty P(A_j) diverges, then P(\{ A_n {i.o.} \} ) = 1. Where \{ A_n{i.o} \} reads “A_n infinitely often”.

So, what does it mean? Well, we can think of it like this:

Suppose you have your brand new email account, and you are thinking about a really safe password, one that is “unbreakable”. Well, the above theorem says that no matter how super long and complicated you make your password, eventually it can be “broken”, so it is rather a question of asking “How long will it take for someone to break my password?” instead.

Another way to think about it:

You have a coin, and you are going to start flipping that coin until you get Tails, Tails, Head, in that order, consecutively, three times. You will eventually get it, it’s just a matter of when, not if.

There are many other examples that we can come up with, but I suggest that you come up with some of them. See you next time!

What’s the deal with zero-ones and turkeys?

I am really excited. Today I found a mathematical theorem closely related to Nassim Taleb’s Turkey Problem . In this post I’ll just retell the turkey problem as stated by Taleb, the next post will include the mathematical theorem that I just found today (so you can give me a couple of minutes to digest this math concept); finally, the third post will include the link between them. Ok, here we go.

The Turkey Problem

Imagine you are a turkey, in a really nice farm. Everything is awesome. Today is January second, and you just woke up in this great farm – you don’t remember where you were before, but that’s ok.

Time goes by, let’s say a week, and you notice that other animals, like, say, the pigs, get taken away by these two legged creatures only to never be seen again. A couple of months go by, and every week, you see them take away at least one pig, and it never comes back. Something bad must happen to them, you assume. Now, eight months have gone by, from your previous observations you come up with a pretty clever theory (according to your turkey brain):

Careful observation indicates that the two legged creatures take away pigs, and only pigs, so turkeys, such as yourself, never get taken away by the two legged animals.

Then, as you clever reader might have imagined, November comes…

If you are still curious and can’t wait for the next post to know what’s going on, the title contains a huge hint on what you should be looking for… See you next time!

Forms in Nature

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