Restoring the soul of Transylvania

"I've long talked about the battle for the soul of Transylvania."

"We must restore the soul of Transylvania. Our nation is shaped by the constant battle between our better angels and our darkest impulses."

"It's time for our better angels to prevail."

Quite a speech, really. Almost brought a tear to my eye.

MSM and SM have been gushing over his running mate and her choice of outfit for her acceptance speech, and how her white pantsuit and pussy-bow blouse were a most perfect and timely touch.

There are those who will say that the all-white ensemble was a bit over the top. But I disagree. In fact, dress scholars Mary Ellen Roach and Joanne Eicher find that what you wear is one of the main ways we send social signals.

Even more so where politicians are concerned.

The beyond the grave revival of her political ambitions is nothing short of unearthly in the aftermath of her dead and buried presidential primary campaign: the color white hereof hearkens back to the unspoken symbolism of a time-honored tradition.

There is no arguing with tradition—or with style!

What can I say, I have always been a sucker for style.

Don't take it personally, but I may just have to take a pass on the campaign promotional T-shirts, though. I am sure you understand.

The political events and vampires depicted in this post are fictitious. Any similarity to actual politicians living or undead is neither intended nor coincidental but inevitable.



Automated Zemblanity

William Boyd coined the term Zemblanity in the late twentieth century to mean the opposite of Serendipity:

William is incorrect, of course, and (don't get me wrong) this is not meant as a criticism of the book or its author (hey, I am a great fan of Gérard de Nerval, too — "Evey flower is a soul blossoming in nature."), but what need is there (poetic license aside) for a new word, when a perfectly suited one, which already exists, will do.

The opposite of Serendipity—making discoveries by design—is not Zemblanity, it is Indoctrination.

Along with the tools by which conformity is enforced:



And any deviation thereof stigmatized:


All of which are words which were coined by George Orwell (1949).

But that was long before Al Gore had invented the internet or the term "World Wide Web" was coined by Tim Berners-Lee (1990).

Simply put, Serendipity is an UNPLANNED fortunate discovery.

It has both been described as a phenomenon (something that just happens), or a faculty (an inherent mental or physical power). I have no issue with either definition.

I like to think of it as a breeze of fresh air.

Since the advent of the World Wide Web, Serendipity has also been seen as a potential design principle for online activities that were (and did, for a brief time) present a wide array (the "Wide" part in "World Wide Web") of information and viewpoints.

The problem with Serendipity is that (by definition) it cannot be automated, for if it is, what is thusly artificially cultivated, is no longer Serendipity, but a finite manufactured sequence of well-defined, implementable instructions (like Google PageRank or Netflix's Cinematch)—which is what algorithms are.

What ended up happening instead, is that the very search engines that were supposed to be associated with a more diverse information access and lead users to sources to which they would not have been exposed otherwise, turned out to become, not just simply a tool of censorship (it happens), but the asphyxiating instruments by which the echo chambers and filter bubbles of a dominant culture are reinforced.

If the results yielded by your search engine seem to you less serendipitous than they used to be just but a mere three or four years ago, it's because they are.

The hand that writes the algorithm is the hand that rules the world.

Yes, Virginia, Serendipity exists.

And it is both a phenomenon and a state of mind.

But algorithms do not generate Serendipity.

Serendipity exists, in spite of algorithms.

Try the dice pool in the side bar.

There is no knowing. You might get lucky.

Whether it is serendipitous is entirely between the dice and you, and that which you were not looking for.



One touch of nature makes the whole world kin.

My brother in law is fond of Teri's garden, especially her lemons, which he holds dear, or so he likes to intimate:

Though, I will confess that, as is often the case in such interrelationship (and I, in this, am no exception), I have little in common with my brother-in-law—no one's ever accused him of being the brightest light on the Christmas tree (certainly not me)—but even I must concede him recognition for his occasional (and far in between) moments of illumination, which I do unbegrudgingly—giving credit where credit is not only due but richly deserved—my brother-in-law can be a man of profound wisdom when it comes to the simplest (and most important) things in life:

"Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads."

OK, true; my brother in law didn't say that—not exactly in that way (that was Henry David Thoreau - giving credit where credit is due)—but the point remains.

Nature is loved by what is best in us (says Ralph Waldo Emerson—again, not to be confused with my brother-in-law):

Teri's lemon...

The apricot from Penélope's tree...

The lychee off Aiko's garden...

The earth is what we all have in common.

And so, this toast is for you, dear brother...