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Oct. 21st, 2014

03:43 pm - one that hovered over the rest of nature in blithe autonomy

This isn't what I use this for, but god, it's the only place this thought could possibly go. So.

I had a work problem, which went something like this: I have a very large table of values with lots of metadata associated with them (let's call it ANIMAL SIZE, with data NAME and LOCATION.) There could, in some instances, be up to five different ANIMAL SIZES with the same NAME and LOCATION. What I wanted to do, was to ordinally rank the animal sizes 1-5, starting from the smallest ANIMAL SIZE first. Oh, and this is all in Excel, of course. How the heck to do that?

The obvious way would be to use the SMALL function. Except SMALL only works on an array - there's no such thing as SMALLIF. OR IS THERE.

There are two parts to this problem:
1. Apply SMALL to a subset of a column without editing the column
2. Then apply 1-5 to each value, from smallest to largest

I can take no responsibility if this is a terrible solution. It's what I came up with in an hour and a half.

So:

1. Judicious use of 'array formulas' (entering CNTL-SHIFT-ENTER instead of ENTER when completing a formula) and IF statements does the work here. Turns out IF can be used to select a subset of an array using something else, like so:

IF(NAME.a=NAME,ANIMAL SIZE) \\NAME.a here is the name in the row

This, combined with an array formula, will return all the ANIMAL SIZEs where the NAME is the same as the NAME of that row (i.e NAME.a) You can do this recursively, so:

IF(NAME.a=NAME,IF(LOCATION.a=LOCATION,ANIMAL SIZE)) \\for future reference, this will be called SUBSETTER

Will break it down to just where the NAME and LOCATION are the same as that row. Presumably you could do this as many times as Excel will let you.


So we've now created a virtual subset of a subset using nothing but formulas, how to rank them?

To do this, I used the SMALL formula. Basically, SMALL(array,k) returns the k-th smallest value in an array. My mad solution was as follows:

1. Check if ANIMAL SIZE is the 1st smallest in the SUBSETTER'd array. If it is, return 1, otherwise
2. Check if ANIMAL SIZE is the 2nd smallest in SUBSETTER'd array. Return 2, otherwise...
And so forth. You get the drift. What this actually looks like is:

IF(
ANIMAL SIZE.a=SMALL(SUBSETTER,1),1,
IF(ANIMAL SIZA.a=SMALL(SUBSETTER,2),2,
... etc.)

It's complicated-seeming, but only because it has hella moving parts. You can do this as many times as Excel will let you create IF formulas, keeping in mind that each SUBSETTER is two IFs by itself, and also that if it gets too large you will be staring into the void of madness. I did it to 5! And I was not completely insane by the end, although close.


I realise this is completely off-tone for this blog, but you know who cares? Not me! Everyone has to deal! The... no people who are reading this these days!

Apr. 2nd, 2014

09:13 am

"The whole time, the whole of my twenties, I had a sense that I was doing the wrong thing, but I couldn't have told you what the right thing was - except possibly it was the opposite of whatever I was doing."

- Sheila Heti, 'From My Diaries' ( N+1 #18)

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Jan. 21st, 2014

12:48 pm - capital at the end of the world

The world moves more and more. We walked around Milan, shocked at every cornice. The signs of discontent where everywhere, but I was distant from them - revolutions seemed more pointless than ever, since who would they be for? Why so much bleeding for a thing that merely sets its opposite in motion; to scratch at millions for the possibility of a alien-better future for others? I read somewhere that the end of the world was a fantasy of the middle class that represented the collision of law and debt - a conflagration that would force one to submit to the other. Who would it be for? Who was any of it for, anyway?

I used to struggle, in the soul-well-staring of university academics, with the idea that perhaps there wasn't anything called 'willpower': that by the time the thought 'get out of bed' translated into a sudden movement upwards, outwards, that all the necessary preparations had already been made, chemicals percolating slowly through days of torpor, the universe arranged just so between smells and sounds and persons so that your 'decision' is just a rationalisation for why your body awoke that day and not another.

Revolutions feel as little like that as well - single breaks rationalised after the fact, gathering together and covering over a vast tracery of compound movements and opportunistic feints into one vector pointing in the wrong direction. Never mind that all the necessary groundwork has happened months before, everywhere one chose not too look, where it will only be obvious years later once idealism has given way to the cynical, exhausted limits of resources and easy routes out.

You end up with weird fatalistic determinism. Everything that happens was always going to happen, and all your movements within that happening where just the bouncing of a pebble on a vast flow of soil borne ceaselessly downhill. It's not the fatalism of any God, conspiracy or motive force: that would imply a point of intercession. It's just that the vector is bigger than you, moreover, you are a product of that vector, an expression of its mindless intent, an amplified pattern in fluctuating solar energy. It would be kind to say that thought was a passenger on that wave. It's hard to maintain that optimism.

Before the French Revolution, I read, revolution was conceived like an earthquake - you could be blamed for preparing poorly, but the basic condition was unpredictable, uncontrollable and out of anyone's hands. State apparatus rose and fell on nothing more knowable than waves far out to sea. The Enlightenment, it said, gave revolution a teleology; gave it handholds where the determined revolutionary could dig his hands in and drag the change in one direction or another. Before then, 'revolutionary' was a meaningless term, like describing someone as being in charge of clouds.

In Milan every corner called for 10-point plans and 90s Anarchy! symbols, even the banker's districts - or perhaps especially the banker's districts. I tried to imagine an Italy that gave in to their demands and drew a blank.

I think about how reactionary conspiracy theorists point to the fact that 80% of the Communist party platform from the early 1900s having now been implemented as proof that modern society is 'communist', and how the same logic works equally well to describe the country as 'reactionary', and how in time with enough machines and enough productivity all our weird dreams and demands might become true, simultaneously, and how that might not describe a politics so much as all of them, simultaneously, pointing out to nowhere or one big collapse. But there are no Barbarians left, and no one is going to come roaring out of the east to kick teetering structures into the dust.

What does Calvinist capitalism look like once production outraces any demand? Isn't this the source of the 'Well, they have washing machines, they can't be poor' antagonism. Doesn't, given enough time, the whole thing make itself obsolete? If that's not the point of it, of 'rising living standards', then what is? Would we punish people eventually not because there is any lack of resources but because we must, because without a morality play the whole thing seems wasted? I imagine a vast elderly human edifice at the edge of time that needs nothing, but enacts vast plays of human avarice and downfall with ritual precision; fortunes rising and falling according to old and wasted almanacs that dole out punishment and luck as an immutable and predictable pattern. A vast rat maze in the shape of a brain, a reward-punishment circuit on the scale of a species flickering in the dark like a dying pulsar.

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Dec. 10th, 2013

06:46 pm - MATT LOVES SONG 2013

Like every year, January is both a billion light years away and also, I'm pretty sure, just yesterday. But here is a list! Because we are human, and lists are a kind of story we tell ourselves. It has no ordering beyond intuition, and no claims to authority or comprehensiveness beyond my own life on trains and other transportation mechanisms, and maybe not even that. It is about something, although I couldn't possibly say what.

This is the year I started using Spotify. See if you can tell how it has changed my listening habits! What fun! What insight! What!

Kanye West - Yeezus
What do I need to tell you, person who is likely to be reading this, about Yeezus? You already know. You already heard. It was a huge, floating cube like Gondry told us - but a weaponised geometry, every edge sanded down to a bleeding edge, moving at unpredictable and lethal speeds. Where 'Dark...' went big, 'Yeezus' is precise. I don't like every song on here, which is par the course for 'Ye, but when it is good it is very good, and it's good over and over and over.

Pusha T - My Name is My Name
At last! All hail King Push, finally off shitty sidetracks into regionalism to drop his best verses in a long time onto the best Kanye album this year that 'Ye only vocoder-mumbled on. It's so good - the beats snap and crack like the best of 'Hell Hath...', Pusha sounds like he's putting in more work than he has in a long time, doubling down on sinister basslines and rolling syllables around snare drums. Ah. Not for people who can't see through the subject matter, but as always, no one can make scales and keys sound as good as T.

Danny Brown - Old
Danny Brown! That Danny fucking Brown! I am very predictable in my hip-hop choices this year, but maybe that's because there were so many thick as hell hiphop releases this year, of which my view is barely a glimpse of. 'Old' extends the range of 'XXX', as it should, without sacrificing anything of the raw energy of the Danny that brutally murdered every MC he dropped a track with in 2012. It turns back and forth between a murky soul sound and last year's ugly synth riot. It's so good. If you didn't like Danny at first, this record is closer to him making detente with the unconvinced, without being worse in any way.

Drake - Nothing Was The Same
Another record that's not perfect in every second, especially in its guest verses (someone should really just have sent Big Sean home, especially after he clearly stopped giving a shit about where the beat was) But as always it just sounds so gooooood, doesn't it? Go listen to the bit where Tuscan Leather kicks in properly, or the breakdown on Come Thru - it's a record that's not afraid to be about as weirdly progressive as a gigantic rap record can be. I always think that Drake looks like a goofy outsider in his own rap videos, even when he's surrounded by the trappings of rap wealth, and that sense has always been the best thing about him, even as his albums become greater and greater money torrents.

Speedy Oritz - Major Arcana
This year's Indie Rock Record No One Gives A Shit About That Matt Loves, because apparently there's a quota. 'Arcana' was this year's distillation of 90's crunch and wind, full of twisty dissonance and thick breakdowns. Plus the lyrics are great, in that very specific bleeding-on-the-mic that I am literally incapable of getting bored of. "My mouth is a factory for every toxic part of speech I spew." I can't! I just can't! I have no critical distance on this shit, I'm afraid.

James Blake - Overgrown
'James Blake' buried occasional stark moments of beauty in otherwise difficult, Interesting sonic experimentalism. Overgrown isn't so much different as it is like watching a half-submerged mountain rise ominously from the sea - the peak ("Retrograde") is even more staggeringly beautiful, but the surrounding album solidifies those experiments into little heartaches of their own. I don't rank albums, but if I did...

Villagers - {Awayland}
I thought this was a quiet, folky record, which you could easily mistake it for, but once you hit Earthly Pleasures you realise (like I did when I put it on at the background at a dinner) that it has a noisy muscle to it, that big orchestral underlayer and harsh guitar turns, like a kind of twee, more in-tune Bright Eyes circa 'The Story Is In The Ground...'. I come to think of this one as a continuation of the project in that era of BE, taking it to a weirder, more surreal place, but with the same pain and politics mixed up in one.

Neko Case - The Worse Things Get...
Case's albums used to be, for me, in a category of indie rock that was inexplicably the target of consistent love from critics despite never really being that 'dramatically' impressive. Then I listened to 'Middle Cyclone', and I realised that was the point. There's nothing earthshaking about this MORish indie record, and nevertheless it is near-flawless in execution and repeatedly devastating - culminating in the acapella takedown of "Near Midnight, Honolulu" but excellent on every other side. Like Bill Callahan, Case gets deeper and deeper to some simple perfect thing with each record.

HAIM - Days Are Gone
I feel like this another one of those "I don't need to tell you" albums, maybe? God, I hope so. Pop music so tightly wound into the groove it practically defines the expression 'in the pocket', like the world’s best 80s cover band from an alternate universe with a whole selection of songs you’ve never heard of that nevertheless… sort… of… sound familiar… I’m not exactly the world’s leading proponent of nostalgia-ism in music but when it sounds so right, why resist?

Everything Everything - Arc
Imagine if someone did the Futureheads thing in a less aggravating way! Imagine if Foals was less self-consciously middlebrow! I don't have a lot of time for a great swath of NME's project to put a guitar in the hands of every underweight Englishman and make him play something the ruined adjective 'angular' can be applied to - but this is a serious mess of tight drumming, vocal turns and the determined application of a guitar pedal collection. Long live the Great Radiohead Army.

Honourable mentions:
Underground Lovers - Weekend,
A$AP Rocky - LONG.LIVE.A$AP,
J. Cole - Born Sinner,
Midlake - Antiphon,
Into It. Over It. - Intersections,
Omar Souleyman - Wenu Wenu,
Tal National - Kaani,
The Drones - I See Seaweed,
Bill Callahan - Dream River
The National - Trouble Will Find Me
The soundtrack to Drinking Buddies (which made me grudgingly enjoy Foxygen songs, an achievement in itself)
Rick Ross - “Bugatti"

-matt

Oct. 1st, 2013

08:14 am

MONDAYS

1.

He is buried up to his neck in sand. The sun gleams off his bald plate, which is spotty and red from exposure. I set alight a large metal canister of a gelatinous, flammable material and slowly pour the contents onto his head. The material drips, flickering, onto his skin, accompanied by futile, jerky thrashing and screaming. When the material reaches the remainder of his hair it flares briefly, and he somehow screams louder. The screaming stops when the material enters his ears and mouth. At his point, his skull begins to sag like wet paper.

2.

We are in a large, well-attended meeting. He is sitting opposite to me, reading aloud a list several pages long. When he goes to turn to the third page of largely irrelevant points, I begin to emit a horrible keening sound and launch myself over the desk, forcibly inserting my hands through his shirt into the flesh below the sternum. In one rough, jagged motion, I tear open his ribcage and with one free hand pull free his beating heart. Blood flies erratically in all directions. Several people start yelling incoherently, others attempt to hide under the table. Still making the same keening noise, I begin to bash his drooling organ against the whiteboard until it is a red, chunky smear.

3.

We are discussing a matter over the phone. Pretending to be listening, I replace my mouth with a high frequency noise generator. His hands involuntarily clutch the phone as his eyes roll back in his head and his ears begin to bleed. There is a rattling noise and then a snap as his body begins to shake so violently in his chair that the mechanisms shatter. His colleagues turn around just in time to see his face and hands turn the bright livid purple of blood straining against skin before he bursts like an overfilled ballon. Blood spurts in random directions and his eyes fly explosively outwards to lodge in a light fitting.

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Jul. 18th, 2013

08:39 am

If there wasn't a word for it, we'd have to make one. If there wasn't a season for it, we'd have to start one. It became clear that the whole thing might have to be started from scratch, again: new lines, theories, definitions, everything. The world didn't look new: it didn't look like much at all. Shapes emerged and dissolved at the call of memory. Maps without delineation of sea and land. Here, there, scuzzy eruptions of apparent intensity from sketchings of detail. Symbols repeated under variation - transforming illegibly or merging with others at clashing intersection. The world spoke in the roar of far-distant and awesome action: great machines or thunderheads working on surfaces too distant to discern. A horizon that limited perception but not effect. Certainty found himself knotted where he lay: caught in webs not apparent at any height, nets that rotted into sticky, basic glues that ate new ideas and shat dead history. At this angle other cool shapes deformed were visible - attempts at clean landings half-sunk and remade into untraceable energy. The constant sound of impact. Baroque smells with no nostalgiac accretions. Everything at once so new as to excite frenzied aporia, and so awfully old as to evoke nothing an immobile boredom, constantly reaching to find an interior and finding only a window to more unfamiliar geometry without counting.

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May. 12th, 2013

04:10 pm - Game Of Thrones S03E05

The episode opened with Osha and Hodor running away from someone carrying Bran and Rikkon on their backs. We don't see who they're running from, although it's implied that Hodor has offended someone deeply, somehow. Possibly a "Si, Que What" conversation has been involved, but with more 'Hodor!'. They reach the coast and manage to convince an itinerant fisherman to give them passage by claiming that Bran can see where fish are, in his dreams. As they sail off, Bran confides in Osha that this isn't entirely a lie, as long as he doesn't get haunted by the three-eyed nipple that's been invading those dreams. And then, of course, the fisherman announces that they're sailing to Dragonstone. Oops.

Meanwhile Danerys, having conveniently dumped her load of nipples, has tried to sail to the Free Cities in the west of Essos - unfortunately, it turns out that the reason that they got lumped with a load of nipples in the first place is that their captain is functionally blind. This is made painfully clear when he steers them straight for the Doom of Valaryria. Ser Jorah ruefully admits that he spent a good portion of their boat money on moustache wax, but it's too late for recriminations as the poisionous mists close in on them...

Finally we cut back to what Rob has been doing this whole time. Regretfully, the answer is 'very little' - it seems that being entirely cut off from his family has made him a little - odd. The whole army has camped out at Harrenhall after driving Tywin out and Rob has spent his entire time inventing an elaborate board game to pass the time. Remarkably, none of his army seem particularly hung up on this action. We are treated to a mind-numbing exegesis on the rules and features of this game, which seem to be related to the positioning of lemoncakes on a large hexagonal board that takes up most of a hall. Rob is midway through explaining tie-breaking rules to a helpless manservant when trumpets sound and a breathless soldier announces that Catelyn and Talisa have returned, at the head of an army. Rob rushes to the window to see them ride into the square, wearing elaborate and hilarious deer costumes, a host of wildwomen riding (and running) behind them. Rob appears completely lost for words, as the camera slowly zooms in on his mouth, until it's filling the entire screen, at which point he whispers, in an almost inaudible way, "Lemoncaaaaaaakesss...."

May. 9th, 2013

12:46 am

lists are another kind of comic: a sequence of images placed next to each other that creates the effect of narrative. they don't have any kind of (useful) epistemic content. one shouldn't care about whether Institution Y placed Artist Z place # on the top @@@s of the WHATEVER. The relative placement doesn't matter, and who really gives a damn about canon formation these days - so what kind of story is the list telling? what narrative is coming about by putting one artist next to another? what dialogues do they begin to have with each other? (like linear stories, hierarchical lists are necessarily the least interesting, unless in an expert's hands) list-making culture isn't really about coming to understand how the world is really ordered, it's about using the cultural detritus of modern art to tell a story about your life.

May. 1st, 2013

09:15 am - two poems, via ROUGH TYPE

Home is so Sad
by Philip Larkin

Home is so sad. It stays as it was left,
Shaped to the comfort of the last to go
As if to win them back. Instead, bereft
Of anyone to please, it withers so,
Having no heart to put aside the theft

And turn again to what it started as,
A joyous shot at how things ought to be,
Long fallen wide. You can see how it was:
Look at the pictures and the cutlery.
The music in the piano stool. That vase.

Gubbinal
By Wallace Stevens

From “Sur Ma Guzzla Gracile”

THAT strange flower, the sun,
Is just what you say.
Have it your way.

The world is ugly,
And the people are sad.

That tuft of jungle feathers,
That animal eye,
Is just what you say.

That savage of fire,
That seed—
Have it your way.

The world is ugly,
And the people are sad.

Apr. 30th, 2013

05:51 pm - PRESS RELEASE: Boo Joon-Ho's 'Snow Piercer' Gets Radically New Script

"Boo Joon-ho revealed today, on the eve of the release of his new film Snow Piercer, that it is not, in fact, the intricate and compelling story of a train travelling across a post-apocalyptic snowscape.

'That was a lie,' yelled Joon-ho, who was found wandering LA wearing a suit of tinfoil earlier today. 'I fooled you! I fooled you all!'

The movie, it turns out, will in fact be two hours of alternating long and short shots of a naked Joon-ho, face-down, humping a small, melting patch of snow.

'Snooow-fuucckeeerrrr!!!' screamed Joon-ho as he finished his press conference from a cardboard box on one of LA's major highways. 'Snooowwwww-fuccckeeerrrr!!'"

AP NEWSWIRE

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