Archive for July, 2010

Brainwaves and consciousness: ease of mind

Monday, July 12th, 2010

The brain is a riddle for us all – we have only superficial knowledge of what it contains, how it is shaped during a life and what the subconscious mind is about. But progress is being made – all the time. Our immediate challenge is to obtain a working control of our brains so that a decent life is possible – or a mind that supports us, does not disturb us.

Electrical waves can be observed in the brain under certain conditions.They are called theta (from the Greek alphabet) waves consisting of oscillations with a frequency of 4 to 7 Herz. This gives rise to the expression theta rhytm. These waves are found to arise during meditation.

Meta-thoughts also arise during meditation, being of a higher order or second order of thinking.

In your life you act through your will, and it is beneficial to increase your sensitivity to what is going on or who you are, and you will want to find out about the subconscious processes in your brain. Modern meditation have been shown to touch these elements.

The basic art of living and being a human raises the question of what we are  and what can be found at the bottom of human nature, what is beyond the senses that rule most of our actions. The aim is to balance your thinking, attain wellness and ease.

The old Greeks were seeking answers to these questions too, and used meditative processes through incubation techniques. Their ambition was great – they wanted to get to the underworld of the mind. Their oracles gave them food for thought so as to get nearer to reality, and to search for deeper levels of consciousness. Could what they were looking for be called meta-thoughts?

This was later labeled mysticism, it was done on an individual basis so it was closed to others and therefore outwardly seen as a possibly doubtful practice.

Could modern meditation teachers and Greek temple priests/healers have the same function?

Emerging thinking and research on the functioning of the brain could find these techniques useful in the work to improve peoples lives. The emerging techniques has science behind it, many of the processes can be described soundly, so it is not mysticism any more. We need to reach the deeper layers of our consciousness, and are building the science/knowledge to understand it too.

What will we find in our deep layers of consciousness? What will be the use of what we find? Watch it – works are in progress.

Genomics unfolding – the story of building DNA understanding and practice

Sunday, July 11th, 2010

The explanation of what life is is said to be found in the DNA both human and nonhuman. The first (incomplete) sequencing of the human genome was done 10 years ago.

We are hearing all the time about modifying genes of plants, animals and even reconstructing old genes to make new plants and animals. Cloning of animals is a fact. Both knowledge and practice moves briskly along.

But the human DNA is proving harder to crack. The commercial promise is still there, but so far few people are doing business – the big activity seems to be research – and for a long time to come too.

We want to find the DNA sequence related to illnesses, develop drugs to correct the DNA flaws. Especially cancers have been a serious contender for developments. This process is not going speedily forward – the truth is hard to find. Is there more to human life than chemistry – is there more we need to know? What has happened to DNA over time – how has it developed? The time span is enormous – millions of years.

All human genomes are different – DNA from crime scenes can be used to determine who was there. If we could determine what is good DNA and what is bad DNA we could sort people according to their qualities, as well as fix their obvious faults. This kind of thinking is obviously scary!

DNA sequencing for humans can be done ever cheaper, but there is as of now fairly little we can use the sequence for. The promise of business is there so developments are going on.

We are now trying to find the DNA relations surrounding human health so that we can develop drugs to correct illnesses. From what we know now it already seems clear that not all illnesses are treatable by drugs. Diagnosis based on your DNA is not yet a reality, and the drugs are not there either.

But non-human genomics are thriving and/or progressing: fuels, agriculture, micro-organisms, animals, plants.

There is also discussion about patents and copyright: What is patentable?

Only time will tell – there is obvious promise – but is there more to it than we have now? DNA research will continue – it seems to be well funded – but we need more time to understand. Is the approach of cell processes correct – maybe it is more about systems, networks, life sciences.

Genomics will be coming to us all – soon.

Performance artistry maturing

Friday, July 9th, 2010

Performance art is a wide form of art, and many things are called performance art. Performance artists seem to be able to do what they want and get away with it – although the public in many cases both get annoyed and seem to lack understanding of what is going on and what the artist is on about.

Things are changing, and institution like art academies, performing institutions now embrace performance art.

Performance artists are free to do what they like. They mix genres, create new expressions, they are hybrid, associative and they may go into symbiotic relationships with other forms or artists. Earlier expressions like dadaism, futurism, surrealism often had elements of performance or happenings.

Performance art is about diverse art forms assembled and shown in real time. Happenings are there too, as well as action. Total silence or inaction can also be found – often disturbing audiences that get up and leave.

Many forms can be mixed to create new visions, to stir up intellectual curiosity, to shake up your docile mind. Collaboration is often used to extend the range of possible outcomes.

Free music forms often can often be called performance art – there can be a conscious striving for new forms and content. Theater, dance, pictures, photo, video all use the free form of performance to create, to do do research and be innovative.

Radical experiments are going on, and acceptance can be hard to find in the audience and among the institutions. Performance is often not documented – it is not for posterity – but may become myths as time passes.

Performance often pulls the audience into the action provoking reaction and discussion, and often performance is used as a political tool.

Art is often very commercial, and performance has been used to combat commercial pressures in art.

Education in performance art is found – a nice development that.

Performance is still not mainstream – you have to look for it – it may annoy you – but it can open your mind and be very rewarding emotionally, itellectually and socially. Go get a look, participate!

City thinking – city doing – city living

Thursday, July 8th, 2010

For the first time in human history, more than half the world population is living in urban environments. Globalization has strengthened the important role of large cities as the preferred environment for the political, economical,  cultural work and social contact point of the world. Such contact is also increasing as world income is rising – in spite of the crises. Cities must handle sustainability, mobility and socio-diversity, and challenging infrastructure issues.

Socio-diversity is about all kind of people coming together having different backgrounds, nationalities, varying income levels, ages, religions, races, ways of life. We must create community feeling, build safety, find the willingness to use the streets, squares, parks, markets, buildings, facilities, malls.

Streets must not be lifeless – a certain degree of life and bustle must be there. We must stimulate the city. People must be seen, move, do things, throngs are sometimes what is wanted. Street mass and vibrant energy is also wanted.

Democratic participation in sustaining and forming the city must also be considered. Socio-diversity makes this difficult, but the users of the city should increasingly take part in making the city: new forms of democracy and consensus may be needed.

So half of us live in cities and we therefore must make sure it is good to be there. Surely there are many good cities – or partly good – but it is early days for many cities. But planners have seen the light and are at work putting theory into practice – the work – live – play towns are emerging. The city must also be felt to buzz and vibrate.

Pressure on city centers are increasing: find the best land, buy it, develop it so that you are in the thick of serving the needs of businesses and consumers throughout the day. Very often old parts of cities are pulled down, thereby losing some qualities. Commercial and community interests must be balanced.

Urban communities must now be sustainable communities, and 24/7 communities.

A city can not be a completely new place, it needs a history, a memory, a recognizable feel and touch. So planning should be a permanent process, do it all the time, but slowly to make time to think, gain experience and see what is good. We must take care of heritage, make the city grow, forming it, creating new and great activity spaces.

People of all ages must be accommodated and cared for so that they find the city a good place.

Working and leisure habits of city folk and travellers/tourists must be in the works. With increasing world travel taking place we must take into account that many people in the town does not know it very well and need assistance and facilities to get on: advicing offices, marked paths, good signs….

Cars are a pain for the cities now, and car traffic must be changed. Many cities now have car-free zones, speed restrictions, traffic in tunnels. Car are also dynamic and create bustle and often convenience, so a broad thinking must be applied.

Communal areas areas and commercial areas within cities will offer, eating, walking, sport, rest and recuperation areas, and the division of labour between official and commercial interest may change – maybe into symbiosis.

Cultural activities like theatre, cinema, the arts, concerts of many kinds are also part of an urban community. This makes it relaxing and entertaining to be part of city life.

Innovative retail concepts will continue to grow, with more services added and a good connection to the experience scene. Performance, installation, sculpture will fill the urban retail space.

Street markets will increasingly return to urban areas and will be a method for local producers to develop a connection with the locals, and a way for office workers to develop a second stream of income by selling wares in the market.

Conversation will again become the best way to communicate: face to face is best.

Urban areas with access to meditation, yoga, stillness and quiet spaces will be able to attract a premium for their product offerings.

Artists will move into urban spaces to perform: more informal, performance, low-key, improvise, jugglers, illusionists, street artists.

Comprehensive long-term planning will be required, and the word comprehensive will take on a new meaning – it must include most things and be open to innovation and incompleteness: Energy, water, land, activities and much more.

Cities will increasingly be planned as walkable high-density compact towns, varied housing,  good ubiqutous mass public transport. Parks – including miniparks – , shops, schools, libraries, etc. must be located to reduce travel, with covered walkways, separate bikeways,  good pedestrian links. Planning of community events must also be integrated in the setup.

Sports areas and stadiums, facilities must be placed sensibly.

The character of each district should be taken care of: history, people, character, scenery, charm.  Also evaluate shopping areas, food places, plazas.

Air quality, noise levels should be monitored and kept acceptable. Too little noise makes a dead city?
Access to digital, online information is now found everywhere and urban information systems can be developed that can give you all that is happening in the city via screens in many places: only fantasy can tell what to include.

Towns should also have production facilities: growing and production of food, energy generation, light manufacturing – to see how things are done. Variety will come with that, making the city more buzzworthy.

There will be open spaces for recreation, wide sidewalks, small mini parks with play areas, others with quieter places where people can meet to play chess, domino, urban sport.

Parking is controlled and preferably located outside city centers, charging facilities for electric or hydrogen cars are found. Shared places for bikes, trams or low carbon buses are separated from the sidewalk by greenery like trees, bushes, green walls. Bikes, electric mopeds and stackable electric cars are allowed.

Intelligent transport systems with video surveillance will provide real-time updates and optimisation of traffic signals, demand management measures will be used.

Mobility is important. Road and rail systems are integrated using hubs and nodes with feeders. Wheelchairs are also part of the system. Public transport via trains, trams, rail systems, buses must be the preferred mode of travel – because it is the best: Good coverage, seamless connectivity, high reliability, comfort, low travel time, cheap fares.

A planning structure seems important, with zoning of functions, layers of planning, time horizons, some principles.

It seems cities are improving – we are getting better at fixing them up!

Art confidence or making yourself comfortable in the art world

Sunday, July 4th, 2010

Are you comfortable about art: Do you understand it, know what is all about, can you discuss it with some sort of confidence? Don’t worry – but you have to put down some work: being there, watching, listening, talking (should be more of that), reading, writing, disagreeing and vice versa, demonstrating, enjoying, laughing – it is all there.

Art is wider, more open and experimental than ever. It is exciting.

An educated mind full of knowledge and experiences from thousands of exhibitions and installations is not enough to make you safe, comfortable, sound and able to think and talk sensibly about the art you observe or take part in. The human mind often balks at new uses and ideas, being  a closed and conditioned system that must be touched, disturbed, shaken from time to time to function well.

So what is new: Technology is there, but so immature, design is now converging with art and forming a symbiosis in the new era of of networks, cooperation, interconnectedness, art is about capturing the moment and developing new techniques to do this, art is coming into design and with it better use and value of products, new forms of music and presentations are coming up, new arenas and settings. Performance artists are crowding in as well – drawing attention to their art form that is rapidly developing. And street art? Watch it, it will grow and become accepted – one day.

Paintings and drawings are in constant flux, but new formats and content can always be found. The obvious and the inexplicable, violent expressions versus stillness and calm is there. You can see special, or say deviant, ways of looking at or describing everyday activity.  The clinically scientific and analytical way of observance or viewing is found. The old themes of loneliness and togetherness are often seen, and hyperactivity is a recent theme. Clever and cunning art is always there.

The human mind is again shown as a roaming device full of unknown twists and turns. This constant outpouring  of new ways, solutions and combinations will continue forever. In art you will see sculpture, installations, political issues interwoven, controversies of many kinds presented as art, breaking convention personal and societal. It is called art, and it is converging with many things.

This is good, you should accept it and take part in it. Doing this will improve your self-confidence as well as your enjoyment of the presentations and activate your brain.

You will see new forms, new combinations, art as creation, find that your mind opens up, and you will be rewarded. True art has intelligence, it touches you too, often deeply, but sometimes just irritates you.

System thinking will also enter art: ecological principles, systems science, networks, symbiosis et al. It all ties together – you will find it rewarding!

Art quality is often measured by its ability to make a lasting impression – difficult to tell when first seen – but worth looking for: Maybe you can say you saw it when it first was shown!

Keep the water in the city

Thursday, July 1st, 2010

Many cities have trouble getting rid of surface water collecting during heavy rains and flooding. New thinking is being developed – and practiced: the natural habitat has ways of doing this that are sustainable.

Plants, the soil and water have natural characteristics that can help clean the air, lower temperatures by cooling, remove particles,  suck up carbon dioxide by photosynthesis, make plants grow and so suck water. Plants and soil can absorb emissions, clean water and keep water in place for a long time.

The trick is to increase the number of plants, use permeable surfaces, cleaning ponds, open up rivers/streams or build rainbeds for plants. Making roofs green will absorb water  and make it use longer time to reach the drains. The amount of water flowing into the drainage system can be dramatically reduced in this way,  20-70 % depending on conditions.

Water cycle landscaping is a term used for large scale planning and integration of resources, including evaluation of energyuse in buildings.

The cities are ecological systems and must be treated as such. Broad systems/ecological urban planning will get us there and natural processes will be part of the design.