Sunday, August 24, 2014

Scottish independence.

My ancestral homeland is debating independence. Here's a Scottish-American historian's take on the whole thing.

The eve of two great independence referendums are upon the British. There is the referendum of Scottish independence, set for September 2014; and there is the as-yet-undetermined referendum on European Union membership promised by Prime Minister David Cameron in the event of a Conservative majority after the 2015 elections. Both promise to dramatically remake the body politic of the United Kingdom.

For the layman, a couple basic premises need to be established. First off, the United Kingdom is scarcely older than the United States, having been born of a union of England and Scotland in 1707. Its chief purpose for England seems to have been the facilitation of the pre-existing worldwide English Empire, and for Scotland the creation by proxy of a Scottish Empire that failed to take hold in the jungles of Darien. It should be added that Scotland was bribed and cajoled into the Union; the English actively opposed the Darien scheme and stood by as Scots, fellow-subjects of their King, were harried and killed by the Spanish. In an era where overseas empire was the only guarantee of safety in Europe, England made Union the only way to empire for the Scottish.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Observations on the Nature of Awareness

Hi all. Long time no blog.

Anyway, I haven't fallen out of the habit of thinking and doing stuff, I just fell out of the habit of posting about it here. Over the summer I wrote a couple essays; what follows below is one such. I wrote it while non-sober, and the state I was in at the time led me to contemplate the nature of consciousness itself. It's rather stream-of-consciousness, but rereading it sober I concluded there was a germ of an idea in there. See for yourself:


In the field of music, pitch is inherently associated with emotion, and different pitches with different emotions. Composers and musicians are taught how to exploit these associations, and thereby to trigger given feelings in people.

Pitches are essentially mathematical. In the plainest physical terms, they are the average wavelength of a series of sonic vibrations, and they repeat themselves mathematically. (I say "average" because they can be composed of several different pitches; strumming a guitar to play up to six strings is an example of this, as is picking the strings of a chord shape. Progressions are pitches through time, and therefore represent an elaboration of the emotionality of a pitch.) Take the pitch we call "E." An open guitar string that sounds the pitch of E when played, if doubled in length yet with the same tautness and diameter, will sound an E in the next octave up. Similarly, were it to be cut in half, it would sound an E in the next octave down.

As for octaves: the phrase "octave" is a misnomer. If you have a guitar handy, notice that there are twelve frets to the octave, not eight. However, of those pitches within an octave our modern Western society has socially constructed to divide up into twelve, there are eight chords that seem comparable to our ears. On a guitar fretboard, this is rendered as follows: EF-G-A-BC-D-, with the dashes representing the four pitches that we did not deign to give letters.