Deeply Dippy

Deepity (n): A statement with two interpretations, one true but trivial, the other profound but false.

The term was popularised by philosopher Daniel Dennett, after being coined by a friend of his teenage daughter. Deepities are common in self-help books, religious apologetics, and sales pitches.

* "Time is a word" - could mean "The word 'Time' is a word", or "The concept of 'Time' is nothing more than a word'.

* "God is love" - could mean "Love is good and important", or "When you feel love, you're feeling a magic man in the sky".

* "There are no problems, only opportunities" - could mean "Every problem presents an opportunity to overcome it, which may or may not involve innovation", or "There is no such thing as a problem, and only foolish people like you believe there is, wheras wise people like me know better".

* "Everything is in a process of coming into and passing out of being" - could mean "Stuff changes constantly", or "Everything is simultaneously itself and something else". It's also used to argue that "All categories are fuzzy at the edges" (obvious and trivial), or "All categories are false" (obviously trivially self-refuting).

* Jean Baudrillard's (in)famous declaration that "The Gulf war did not take place" - could mean "All that death and destruction was a lie", or "Most of us experienced it on the same level as the death and destruction of a video game".

But...what's the opposite of a deepity? What would we call a statement with two interpretations - one shallow and false, the other profound, maybe obscure, and true?

For instance, Marshall McLuhan's famous slogan, "The medium is the message". On one level, it's a basic category mistake, conflating "Television" in the sense of "The technology which makes it possibe for you to watch soap operas", with "Television" in the sense of "The soap operas you watch". On this level, it would mean "The story is the paper it's printed on" or "The grapevine is the rumour".

But what McLuhan is saying is more like "The presence in your life of all the economic infrastructure, technological skill, scientific understanding, construction centers and distribution networks necessary for you to watch crap on TV...makes more difference to how you live than the crap on TV".

So, all the preconditions that had to be in place, for me to dunk a cheap biscuit into a cup of tea with milk at six in the morning before typing this sentence on an affordable laptop...are earthshattering compared to one soggy biscuit and one impulsively written blogpost.

Maybe the opposite of a deepity is just an aphorism. Like "The fox knows many things; The hedgehog knows one great thing", or "History repeats, first as comedy, then as farce", or "Nothing causes greater adherence to an opinion than opposition to it.".

Here are some aphorisms from a blog I just found. Except some are, in my humble opinion, deepities. I've struck through those which I think are pseudo-profound. See what you think - more to the point, see where you disagree.

* Prove to me that there is a God and I will really begin to despair.

* More often the miracle is what does not happen.

* What people believe is a measure of what they suffer.

* I broke a stone to see what was inside. It was no longer inside.

* Today there is no-one to fight for. Only against.

* Few silences are unbiased.

* The purchase of books is mistaken for the appropriation of their contents.

* Learning too soon our limitations, we never learn our powers.

* “Pull yourself together” is seldom said to anyone who can.

* Science is a system of exact mysteries.

* A grass blade hyphenates earth and sky.

* Never take investment advice from someone who has to work for a living.

* It is a sign of weakness to avoid showing signs of weakness.

* There is this prevailing illusion that debt is a renewable resource.

* “Success” isn’t being on top of a hierarchy, it is standing outside all hierarchies.

* We idolize eagles although hens are much more useful.

* All events and experiences are local, somewhere.

* Detachment is not indifference.

* There are two endless directions. In and out.

* Narcissism is the other side of self-pity.

* I got serious; I became a humorist.

* Luck cannot be duplicated.

* Humans have stomachs twice the size of their brains and three times the size of their hearts.

* Once you have resigned yourself to your sentence, the guard always unlocks the door.

* Thinking’s the disease. More thinking’s the cure.

* Guessing is more fun than knowing.

* I don’t know how old I am. It changes every year.

* True deception goes unnoticed.

* The distance a goldfish swims is not controlled by the bowl.

* A mystery is a topic about which the more is learned the less is understood.

Not Waving but Sounding

Today's syllogism: Sounds are waves. Synthesisers make waves. Therefore synthesisers make sounds.

If you know what a wave is in physical terms, good. If you understand it in mathematical, newtonian or psychoacoustic terms, great. But as a musician you don't need to. You just need to know that different shapes of wave have different sounds.

This is a sine wave:

It's an extremely boring sound - rather like a flute, but without the breath noises of the player. Superimpose several of them at octave intervals, and you've got one of these:

Hammond organ, wurlitzer, calliope, that amazingly annoying child's toy organ - all basically a few sine waves on top of each other.

This one's called (for amazingly obvious reasons) a square wave:

Soundwise it's somewhere between a clarinet and a church organ. Make it assymetrical, and you've got a rectangle wave:

More, and it's a pulse wave:

That opening chord from "Shine on You Crazy Diamond" - each note is a half dozen of these, very slightly out of tune with each other.

This is a sawtooth:

By far the most commonly used wave, and also the "richest" sounding. There are tracks where all the instruments are nothing but overlayed, slightly detuned sawtooths. Or possibly sawteeth.

Squeltchy basslines, lush strings, sharp stabs, brass blasts - all based on this one wave.

Lean a sawtooth over, and you've got a triangle:

It doesn't sound much like any mechanical instruments - aka "real" instruments. It's a distant relative of the rhodes piano...or electrical mains hum, if you're feeling less charitable.

What if you lean a sawtooth halfway over? You get a ramp wave - good for some thrumming bass sounds.

There are other shapes that don't have common names, but can also be useful.

A pinched triangle - sounds like an 80s videogame:

A squared-off sawtooth:

A pinched sawtooth that's a bit like a pulse:

An inverse sine wave:

Oh, and there's white noise, which has absolutely no pattern at all:

Now, all of these waves are digitally perfect. Which makes them mathematically simple, and sonically about as interesting as a year in Alaska with a family of calvinists.

Happily, synthesisers which use analog circuitry to make their waves are ludicriously inaccurate. In much the same way as guitar amplifiers are hopeless at preserving guitar sounds when overdriven. Rock and roll: Founded on technological failure.

Even more happily, the ludicrous inaccuracy of expensive synthesisers and amplifiers can be replicated by cheap software.

Kraftwerk used synthesisers from the Moog corporation. This is the moog's attempt at a sawtooth:

The moog square:

And the moog attempt to fuse the sawtooth and triangle into one: designing a software synth. Which I want to have a signature sound - that is, a signature deviation from perfect but boring waves. So I'm approximating the standard wave shapes by bolting together segments of sine waves.

This is my sawtooth:

My square:

And my pulse. Feel my pulse:

So, welcome to Kapitano's method of songwriting. Step one: Build an

I Start Again

This blog started as a place for occasional philosophical essays. But they weren't very good, so I deleted them and started writing about my life - hoping vaguely to pull the same trick as Joe Orton, turning real life into art. But it turns out you need an interesting life to do that.

For a decade I wrote about whatever seemed:
(1) Interesting at the time to me, and
(2) Easy to read for others on account of being not deep or technical.

Which is odd, as most of what's interesting to me is quite technical and occasionally even deep.

A decade of abortive affairs (C, M, D, C again, B) , failed occupations, unfinished songs, unstarted novels, and following around a party of politicos until I gradually realised:
(1) I didn't need them (anymore) as a support group, and
(2) Their philosophical insights which had once seemed fascinating were, well...gibberish.

Then in early 2015 I got depression. I generally get depression in winter and it's something I've just learned to sit through, but this black pit was blacker and pittier than usual.

And then my father was hospitalised with pneumonia. And then mother was stuck down with something similar. And then I got it. We managed to nurse each other through it all.

So. Blog. Time for a re-evaluation. And also re-launch, re-trospective and re-ality check.

There's no reason not to write stuff which some other people might find uninteresting, difficult, left-field etc. But there is a reason to write. I don't know what that reason is, because it's emotional not rational and I'm not on speaking terms with my emotions, but there's a reason.

"If you have an apple and I have an apple and we exchange these apples then you and I will still each have one apple. But if you have an idea and I have an idea and we exchange these ideas, then each of us will have two ideas."

- Charles F Brannan

"An escalator can never break. It can only become stairs."

- Mitch Hedberg

"Every person takes the limits of their own field of vision for the limits of the world."

- Arthur Schopenhauer

"Nobody holds a good opinion of a man who has a low opinion of himself."

- Anthony Trollope

"Obedience simulates subordination as fear of the police simulates honesty."

- George Bernard Shaw

"Change only the name, and this story is about you."

- Virgil

"Fundamentalists can run with anything, and make it serve their purposes."

- Bart Ehrman

"I took a lie detector test. No I didn't."

- Steven Wright

"The man who does not do his own thinking is a slave."

- Robert Ingersoll

"They muddy the water, to make it seem deep."

- Friedrich Nietzsche


I am now 43 years old.

That's about 300 in gay years.

And I think I made the same joke when I turned 42.

So, things I have learned so far this year:
  • Throwing away those boxes of things you've been keeping because they remind you of your childhood...isn't so difficult, and doesn't impair your ability to be nostalgic without them.

  • Mormons are polite, but Jehovah's Witnesses are friendly. Jehovah's Witnesses read the bible, but Mormons study it.

  • 25 years after screeching at me that I couldn't possibly be gay because she was too good a person to spawn a gay son, my mother has found the courage to say homophobia is dumb. At least when insane American preachers do it.

  • Fanatics thrive on being hated, but wither under contempt. Contempt is the opposite of deference.

  • It's possible to eat and enjoy vast quantities of healthy vegetables...if you don't mind being hungry again an hour later.

  • I like getting drunk. I just don't like being drunk.

  • That seven-speed prostate-stimulating vibrator that I got mainly because my mostly-straight friend-with-benefits has discovered he likes anal play. It's great fun.

  • If you wait for special occasions to do special things, you'll never do them.

  • Those classic movies that I kept meaning to watch because I had a vague feeling that they'd be good for me but not actually enjoyable. They're actually enjoyable.

"When promiscuity is the fashion, the chaste are outsiders."

- CS Lewis

"Buy one soul, get one free."

- Northern Kind

"People rarely succeed unless they have fun in what they are doing."

- Dale Carnegie

"History is a tragedy, not a melodrama."

- Christopher Hitchens

"Intolerance of ambiguity is the mark of an authoritarian personality."

- Theodor Adorno