Skin In The Game I

Skin In The Game I

Sadnanth: Eh in that Joe Rogan interview, Peterson basically equates religion to aesthetics in a broader sense of the word, which i’m still not sure is reconcilable with the rest of religion itself.

Sadnanth: Ok nvm he answers it later.

Depressshiva: I think he makes a very strong case for the aesthetic and religious connection. For example the reason comic books have not taken off as strongly in India is because of the local folklore or stories that we have on Ramayan or Mahabharat. It maybe even be argued that we need flights of fancy rather than being purely factual.

Sadnanth: But the issue I have with that is again that all religions make certain truth claims without providing evidence for those claims. And while viewing it all as aesthetics is nice, aesthetics by definition is subjective, it’s an appreciation of beauty, not a factual statement about the world. Not saying it doesn’t have its place, just saying that it doesn’t really address any of the issues i have with religion satisfactorily, haha.

Depresshiva: Tell me one non subjective truth claim that Eastern religions make Sadnanth?

Sadnanth: Reincarnation, that enlightenment is a thing, karma.

Depresshiva: Six schools of thought all disagree on the three concepts above. And all of those issues have to be experiential hence subjectively experienced before you accept it. You haven’t experience karma or being in the flow then reject lah. Reincarnation is predicated on those ideas what pretty much

Sadnanth: Predicated on what ideas?

Depresshiva: Karma reincarnation and enlightenment. They are all intertwined. If you reject karma and enlightenment because you don’t have any subjective notion of it, then there isn’t a need to hold onto reincarnation either… Obviously I don’t. Because I have experienced karma and enlightenment very strongly in my life. The truth claim is a nominal one and not a prescriptive one. But you can’t do it any of these truth claims without any experience of it. Its very easy to reject it otherwise. Basically cavemen, tribal or christian ideology suffices.

Sadnanth: Or no ideology… But fair enough ah I never teased apart that relation this finely.

Depresshiva: There is no such thing as no ideology. Nature hates vacuums. Try as you might, you, your kids, your family, your community will end up accepting something. Think about Communist China and Christianity. 10k new converts a month with a membership larger than the communist party that single handedly brought the masses out of poverty. Which is why i like Jordan Peterson and Nietzsche. You see the abyss, you gotta overcome it. Somehow. It’s never nothing, if you look at it, its a fullness of sort.

Sadnanth: I disagree that people will end up accepting something by default. Perhaps I’m in the minority and due to confirmation bias have only really interacted with people without much of a religious inclination, but I disagree that people need to have an overarching framework to follow. Not everyone subscribes to an all encompassing worldview like religion. Most people have simpler motivations. You work a job you hate for your wife and kids. You see other kids suffering, your empathetic connection for your own kids extends to color that observation, and you decide to contribute to a children’s hospital. But it’s small, little actions that provide meaning rather than an overarching framework of metaphysics and morality. Definitely my own experience, btw. In my view anyone who tells you that X is how it is in totality is wrong, because things are complicated and morality is confusing, for the most part. I subscribe to no religious worldview, but definitely have aesthetic preferences, which is why reducing religion to aesthetics seems odd and incorrect.

Sadnanth: Tldr; you don’t need religion or an ideology to overcome nihilism, only a collection of small actions and impulses that you later band together. In fact I would argue that ideologies are often the imperfect attempt at synthesizing this collection of actions into something ‘whole’. Life has no meaning save the one you give it.

Depresshiva: No way to resolve it because we disagree about data-sets⁠⁠⁠⁠.

Sadnanth: I don’t think it’s that simple man. People tend to be lazy, and figuring out a cohesive worldview to guide your actions is hard work. Think about all the people who nominally identify with a religious group. Fake Christians, fake Hindus, what have you. They say they subscribe to it but really don’t, instead going by the heuristic approach (i.e. the collection of actions). Definitely got a lot more nominally religious people than deeply religious people. Ergo more people follow the heuristic than otherwise. Feel free to tell me I’m wrong.

Depresshiva: Your small set of impulses and actions have to come from somewhere. If you are lucky enough to have an upbringing where your parents don’t screw you over you might be able to be a productive member of society. But in the trenches or when shit goes horribly wrong that pastor will walk by your death bed to offer a quick fix. And most people will take it since it’s an easy way out. Which is why I agree with Jordan Peterson when we don’t have that sense of transcendence or divinity things start to go wrong in a sense. If you aren’t educated or don’t have many prospects in life, all this is wishful thinking. I am not saying that your phenomenon doesn’t exist. What we are arguing whether its in the majority or minority. So like I said; data-set disagreements.

Sadnanth: Again, you’re not talking about religion, you’re talking about community. If you’ve had a messed up childhood and you get taken under the church’s wing, you get positively rewarded for following behaviors at first, which you then later synthesize to construct the worldview. No two interpretations of Christianity are the same, but when you ask most people why they follow what they follow, it’s because it makes them feel good and gives their actions meaning. But that’s the important thing, their actions are given meaning, and that is doable without religion. The collection of impulses (which i’m just gonna refer to as a morality heuristic) might come from religion (which, again, is not necessarily true), but that doesn’t exactly refute my point

Depresshiva: You are making conflicting statements Sadnanth. 1. People are lazy 2. Coming up with a metaphysical framework is hard work 3. Their actions need some sort of meaning. But somehow you make the leap that people come up with meaning at the end of the day. Which you will and also you will be sian and lonely, therefore is isn’t tenable. Religion is basically spirituality in community what, so is morality which is individual ethics in society. If you didn’t have society you wouldn’t need either. All this is secondary to the aesthetic experience of religion which pretty much lights up the same parts of your brain as a good concert. Why do I care whether you are atheist or not. Because the eastern or atheism is not a self propagating ideology. At the end of the day, you will have a society or empire that believes in one god and you are fucked. Has happened before, will happen again.

Depresshiva: http://www.cam.ac.uk/research/news/disbelieve-it-or-not-ancient-history-suggests-that-atheism-is-as-natural-to-humans-as-religion

Depresshiva: So the fairy tale that humans are naive and the unnecessary religious doctrines will wither out is misplaced. It happens sporadically. Which is why to draw a full circle. Jordan Peterson is awesome even though he needs to reference Hindu archetypes more. Especially since he is obsessed about mythology.

Sadnanth: Don’t really see how any of those statements are conflicting, to be honest. All I’m saying is that there exists a significant subset of the population who do not derive meaning from religious life or worldviews, but instead give their actions meaning by using useful proxies at a much smaller scale, i.e. the notion of acting according to a grand unified theory of reality is appealing to some, but not to all.

Depresshiva: I agree but it’s not the mainstream nor is it viable. Only the educated and successful do that. To paraphrase Taleb: YOU ARE THE ABERRATION RATHER THAN THE NORM.

Audio Log I

Modern music is mixed and mastered too loudly.

The old process of making music:

  1. Instruments are recorded separately, with a mic placed a small distance away. The distance and any echo effect captured is called natural reverb. Jazz bands and some older rock bands recorded together, live. This was done on the older Black Sabbath records.
  2. Instruments are mixed on a 24 bit format, with frequencies ranging from 96kHz to as much as 192kHz. Of course the human hearing range is 20-20kHz, so a lot of what was recorded was just noise. 24 bits was like the word length, basically the more bits you had the more information you can mix in. The same way your PCs work today. CDs and mp3s are 16 bit.
  3. Since the vinyl was a physical, analog medium, an engineer would be hired to ensure that the songs were literally of the right size to fit on to the vinyl pressing. Making the songs louder would take more information on an analog medium, so they would take up more space on the vinyl. To save money, music was engineered to be soft.

The vinyl has a lot of flaws. Any scratch on its surface would come out in the music. Having a frequency range of 192kHz was pointless since most of the frequencies recorded were ambient noise. Frequencies below 40hz were hard to capture on the format (hence why most older songs barely have bass).

The CD was introduced around the late 70s. The CD is at 16 bit and 44.1kHz, covering the main hearing range from as low as 20Hz all the way up to 20kHz. For some reason, the CD remains at 44.1kHz up to today, which means a choppy resampling of music from the older frequency ranges. Only the DVD is at 48kHz, which makes it easy to just half or quarter the older frequencies (96 or 192kHz). Also, since all CD players and playback devices were engineered at 16 bit then, nobody bothered to really make 24 bit players or CDs. It wasn’t just the medium that changed- recording changed too.

The new process of making music:

  1. Music is now recorded digitally. There is no mic unless you record acoustic and vocals. The processing, however, is all digital. Logically, there is barely any natural reverb either.
  2. A lot of effects and compression now available since music can be digitally altered. Individual instrumental tracks and vocals can now be processed on their own before being mixed together with the rest of the instruments. No coincidence that musicians started auto-tuning their mistakes digitally around this period.
  3.  The lower frequency range meant that bass was more audible. The new frequency and recording allowed for a cleaner, more polished sound without random noises or ambiance.
  4. The concept of digital space is very different from analog space. While there is a limit of 700mb, loudness was no longer an issue. The time limit was the bigger issue, so as long the album was less than 45 minutes, the engineer could do a lot more than he wanted.

Compression at the mastering stage isn’t necessarily bad. It adds warmth and richness to the music if applied properly.

The irony now is that the medium that allowed for a softer, more detailed sound is being abused to make louder, harsher sounding records. When music aired on the radio, they had to have the same assumed loudness, otherwise the listener would have to constantly turn down the volume for louder records and turn up the volume for softer records. The solution was crude; simply compress all music to sound relatively the same (at least in terms of volume).

Let’s look at the spectograms of two separate songs:

01. Fear Of A Blank Planet
Fear Of A Blank Planet by Porcupine Tree

The spectogram has multiple peaks. The range between the highest peak and the lowest peak is dynamic range. While not the best indicator of how good the music will sound, I have observed that the most pleasant sounding records, even in the metal genre, often have very dynamic masters. On top of that, the orange space is referred to as headspace. The more headspace a record has, the softer it will sound, giving you room to add in EQ choices that will not make it sound unbearable. Goes without saying that dynamic masters work well with complex sound system setups. For reference, this track was ripped from the 5.1 surround DVD-Audio and downmixed to stereo with the Channel Mixer plugin on foobar. The dynamic range for this track is DR12.

Here is the spectogram for Lamb Of God’s Desolation:

02. Desolation
Desolation by Lamb Of God

It’s truly a desolate sight. There is no headroom, no peaks and no variation in the loudness, meaning everything is squashed to your ears. This isn’t to say that there is a lot of detail- a lot of the mix is noise frequencies at the midrange and a bloated mid-bass. The dynamic range for this track is DR5, which is not even that squashed by today’s standards.

Of course I am using two different songs from two very different genres to exaggerate a point, but go on to the dynamic range database and look up music you like. Older Metallica records went up to DR12. Slayer’s Reign In Blood, which I would consider the gold standard for thrash metal production, is DR12 on CD. The older Cannibal Corpse albums clock in at DR10-DR12 and still sound heavy and visceral.

A mistake I used to make was thinking that vinyls had better sounding music because they registered a higher dynamic range. Not true. Since all vinyls contain noise, not just from the vinyl but from the needle playing it, the noise will be mistaken by the dynamic range meter as a super small peak. As such, the program will detect a high dynamic range, even if the same master for the CD was used for the vinyl.

The only way to know if the vinyl had an uncompressed master is to actually ask the vinyl pressing company itself. The guys at Metal-Fi have a forum thread on dedicated vinyl masters for metal records.

I am now embarking on ‘restoring’ badly mastered tracks, having seen some amazingly repaired songs floating about on the Russian internet. It’s been difficult, since wave peaks that are lost in the master are honestly lost forever, but audio technology has improved vastly today. I use iZotope RX 5, with the Neutron plugin. Primarily a mix and master software, it features a dynamic equalizer that has given some astonishing results, with the software using complex logarithms to ‘guess’ the lost frequencies. The results still aren’t perfect, but I have already achieved a lot.

Here’s the spectogram of a remastered Desolation:

02. Desolation declipped
The results of my messing about with the equalizer.

Reducing gain and increasing headspace is easy, its guessing the right frequency to increase or decrease that’s been proving to be difficult. From the picture, you can already see that the new peaks are way too high, but I have achieved the jagged peaks that are prominent on more dynamic records. I now know that most metal records have too much mid-bass (the irony that reducing bass increases the audibility of the bassline!), too little treble and an extremely pointless noise at around 800hz.

This is the first of my “audio-logs”. I don’t intend to be an actual producer, but I hope I can find a way to make my music sound like it did when it was recorded.

Arrival Of A New Sci-Fi Trend

Arrival Of A New Sci-Fi Trend

Spoilers. Do not read if you haven’t watched Arrival, Interstellar or Midnight Special.


 

Arrival is part of the usual Oscar circlejerk right now but I actually left the cinema feeling underwhelmed. Don’t get me wrong, the movie is good, especially on a technical level, but I wasn’t happy with the way Villeneuve balanced the sci-fi with the personal emotion of the film’s protagonist.

Weirdly enough, a friend recommended this movie to me as “what Interstellar was supposed to be”, and while I do think it’s a better movie than Interstellar, it has the same pitfalls; focusing very hard on the science of the premise before making a hardcore switch to character drama. This movie spends the first hour and a half or so dealing with how humans would realistically deal with an alien encounter, and it does this extremely well. Suddenly, the film’s themes change to predeterminism and eternalism in its final act. I don’t mean that there isn’t any foreshadowing- there’s clever misdirection and anachrony, but other than the plot twist being that the flashback that starts the film is actually a flashforward, the film does little to actually flesh out the non-linear perception of time. Moreover, there is only one line in the film about the protagonist asking her would-be fiance if he would change anything if he could perceive time in a non-linear fashion, before she decides she will appreciate every moment.

However, for the above idea to work, the film would have to show instances of her breaking away from predestination, to show the consequences of free will, but the film conveniently eschews that for a soap opera with the protagonist and her daughter (gee, does that sound familiar). Of course that in itself isn’t a sin, but my problem with modern sci-fi movies is this, jamming emotion and science into a movie. Of course, great sci-fi, or rather, great movies have emotional impacts that far outweigh the scientific accuracy of the film, but it becomes jarring when the film does not to bridge the two halves. The protagonist barely shows any form of chemistry between her and her future spouse (and even more annoying, it tried to hide the obvious fact that he would indeed be her spouse in the future). There is one throwaway line in the beginning with the daughter shouting “I hate you!” at her mother, but there seems to be no reason to believe the relationship between mother and daughter has anything meaningful for her to remember. Watch any family drama or character-relationship movie, there will always be friction scenes in between. The only real friction in this film is not even for the protagonist, but at the bureaucratic level with the nations struggling to achieve consensus (a theme that is also wrapped up with a soapy emotional beat rather than an exploration of international conflict). As with Interstellar, the film puts in a lot of effort into hard science but decides to answer all its questions with vaguely emotional moments, a trend which doesn’t sit too well with me.

In contrast, there has been another sci-fi family drama earlier this year last year that I genuinely enjoyed- Midnight Special. Unlike Arrival, the scientific aspect of the film is barely explored and serves as backdrop to the character drama. Unlike Arrival, the protagonist is not a scientist or a learned individual in any way, but a simple father trying to find a solution for his son. The film also has a consistent theme of dealing with loss, explored via various characters who are connected to the child with strange powers. There is also some clever characterization, with a scientist working with the government becoming more spiritual as he interacts with a power or phenomenon he cannot understand. The film also shows government and religious responses to the child, without in any way undermining their role to society in real life. It’s a simple, heartfelt film that is cathartic for parents who have had to lose a child. There is a lot of back and forth with the child and the father, before the father finally agrees to trust his son and let him go- so that the child’s departure is truly earned in the movie.

In Arrival, we know nothing about the character’s daughter other than her use as a plot gimmick.

On the philosophical spectrum, the last sci-fi movie that I’ve seen that presented two sides to an idea was The Matrix and it’s sequel. Even if it’s on the nose, it added on to the intellectual experience, because you see both the idea of free will and predeterminism (the Wachowskis tie it up in a very Vedic way), and when you leave the cinema, you can choose your takeaway from the movie. Nobody in Arrival acts out in his, her or its free will, providing no contrast to the protagonist’s convenient desire to accept and appreciate her fate. The protagonist is not given any choice in the film, nothing for her to choose to walk away from. So why does she choose to appreciate anything? Is it even a choice for her to appreciate? If I could perceive time like she did and have no idea what would happen if I changed fate, why would I think it’s better to accept things the way they are?

The film tried to do a lot of things and didn’t flash out a lot that could have made a much bigger impact.

But that’s just my opinion.

Cinematographer deserves an award for the shot when they walk up the alien ship, though.

 

The Ward

I am going away, I am going down
I am going away, I am going down

Sifting through a memory before it fades away
Adolescent secrecy, a million words astray

I can’t remember happiness, I thrive within the dark
The security of a loneliness is a veil that keeps my calm

By the way, I’m doing fine
I have a place to stay, just behind the sunshine
And by the way, I don’t need sympathy
I have a place to lay, I have more than you can see

I walk the streets alone at night, it helps to ease my mind
I lay me down come the morning light and leave all woes behind

I definitely didn’t care much for the entire album, but this one song stuck out then. And it’s become one of my favourite Opeth songs.