Saturday, September 27, 2014

Pacific Northwest Social Forum


I'm in no position to write any comprehensive review of this event.  Good job Food Not Bombs on the lunch.  Carol (mom) was especially keen to go as she'd been to the Social Forum in Detroit and been on organizing committees for Forums before this one.

This year the plan was to fragment the global event among several cities, so that more people from diverse locales could maybe make it to one of them.

This was not the same church as where we have the ISEPP lectures.  First Unitarian is not First Congregational.  Both have ample facilities, with the Unitarians also having Eliot Center, the site of many a social event in Portland, including some Barcamps I've attended (that's a computer thing, not a camp for bartenders).

Ibrahim was the one panelist I could claim to know by name.  He came up to Carol and I later and introduced himself in a friendly way.  I reminded him he knows Lindsey (housemate), who would have dug this event; she's still in Nepal.

The Luchini family was in high gear with both parents leading breakout sessions.  However it's not like I was able to recognize many faces.  Portland is a small city, but not that small.  More it was the issues, causes and agendas that I recognized.

Using the term "capitalism" to encapsulate / name a broken operating system, buggy and disreputable, is part of the common core vocabulary, though I wouldn't call this an unexamined nomenclature.  During questions to the panelists, the door was left open to embrace aspects of the "current system" but given the heterogeneous makeup of the group, having a common vocabulary is an asset and after cost / benefit analysis it seems "capitalism" is indeed the common foe.

Somewhat ironically, I'd scheduled the middle of the day to photograph houses on the market for some people looking to move to Portland and so was out and about playing the language game of home ownership after lunch.  Then I settled down on the back deck with Nietzsche, Godfather of Fascism? to read some of the anthologized writings therein.

English must be versatile and fertile enough to come up with other isms, for those wishing for neither social-ism nor capital-ism.  Those can't be the only two choices.  This book Quakernomics I've been reading suggests capitalism is not intrinsically oppressive, if placed at the service of alternative value systems.  Maybe.  Why call it "Quaker capitalism" instead of just "Quakerism"?

Why not just advertise an openness to a plethora of small scale experiments (no "winner take all" rules need apply), with some doubling as a basis for video programming, such that onlooker-viewers may judge for themselves what's an appealing lifestyle?  We already do that a lot already.  Let's do it a lot more.

We (humanity) can practice hundreds if not thousands of isms and individual humans need not see themselves as trapped by any one of them, anymore than bees are trapped by flowers (unless they're flowers of the insect-eating variety).

Engineering subcultures are not by definition the enemy so much as potential infrastructure providers, stage crews, for giving the various isms space to flourish and recruit.  Architecture is a branch of engineering in this vocabulary.

Aren't religious communities "socialist" in that the devotees of whatever flavor share assets / property?

But in that sense isn't an aircraft carrier shared property as well?  Who on board has title?

A captain of a ship is so often not its owner, nor are the admirals typically in owners of their fleets, or why would socialists have them?

Political terminology is full of holes.  Why stake one's life on such hole-ridden texts?

The capitalist in me says risking everything to defend "capitalism", one ism among many, is not a good business investment.  Isms come and go.  The 1800s need not dictate the terms of our debates going forward.

Monday, September 22, 2014

El Topo (movie review)

El Topo ("The Mole") incorporates many tropes from the Western, but also the martial arts film.  A story line wherein a wannabe confronts successively higher masters and fights them, perhaps to the death, is taken up by Bruce Lee, with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar one of the masters he fights.

As someone well versed in the Buckminster Fuller legacy, I have to comment on Master Two's splendid collection of toothpick vector matrices, including a painstakingly constructed isotropic vector matrix of considerable size, which our anti-hero destroys.  Got me thinking about Russell Chu, a patient toothpick IVM builder.

The anti-hero goes on to confront his own son, now a grown man, as yet another master he must overcome.  If we take "killing" as a metaphor for simply "comprehending" then we might restore the gory foreground to the status of tantric dream (cartoon-verse or whatever).

The anti-hero is driven into the priesthood by a love triangle, getting "crucified" on a bridge in a scene aptly named Betrayal on the DVD.

Yoko and John Lennon appreciated this film and Jodorowsky's talent more generally.  He's both the director and a main actor in this comic book South American western.  I can see why.

Anyway, the son, the mole, is vastly understaffed and underfunded and his alchemy experiment proves a calamity and he experiences game over, probably doomed to replay this level at some level.  Reintegration of "the other" into "polite society" or whatever the towns people signify, is clearly a dicey game, explosive, and without careful management and supervision, was bound to go awry.

The DVD itself gets a lot of credits i.e. restoration of the original film to its DVD state, complete with an interview (engaging) with Jodorowsky, which leaves me wondering if the somewhat rough cut editing is an artifact of restoration.  I think more likely it's what I'd call the "comic book style" of this kind of movie making.  Things happen abruptly sometimes, just like in real life.

In trying to turn his rescued significant other into a shaman, like himself, she appears to bifurcate into two people (my reading) at first conflicted, but growing self-assured enough to stand on her own and engage in a separate journey.  On this reading, it's maybe a triangle, but Mara is simply more in touch with herself and doesn't need to piggy back on her man, riding him Lady Macbeth style at first (given what she'd been through, I can't say I blame her).

The anti-hero, in the meantime, has a lot of father-son issues to work through and so isn't really prepared for a girlfriend.  He needs to deal with not being in control for a change.  Part Two of the film (the film somewhat divides in two) traces the anti-hero's continued maturation, this time against the backdrop of the mole's alchemy project, which he undertook by popular demand in a spirit of public service, a politician of sorts.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Slutwalk 2014



This crowd was on the cerebral side, regardless of dress.

The speeches were pitched to a high level and I overheard someone way a lot of St. Mary's students were in the crowd, a premier Catholic school not unlike St. Dominic Academy where I taught math and sundry subjects in the early 1980s.

The protestors were basically advocating for Second Life rules in First Life insofar as avatar presentation goes.  Dress or don't dress your avatar however you like:  nothing about your dress code implies consent and/or a willingness to provide favors, sexual or otherwise.

The Code of Conduct around Portland State University and other places is clear:  women, and men, can dress how they like within whatever boundaries the courts would uphold (e.g. going stark naked is still not accepted public "attire" except in designated areas), and no aspect of one's costume or dress should be considered "an invitation" as in "but she dressed like a slut, your honor".

Understood?

Put in other terms, guys have no right to behave like dicks no matter how women dress or undress themselves.  "Consent mode" and "dress code" are two different concepts.  Don't confuse them.

Get it yet?

Some in the crowd were professional dancers who considered their performance art very far from an invitation to random others to assume anything about their willingness to have any specific type of relationship.  Portland has a lot of strip clubs.  These are supposed to enforce a professional code that keeps the dancers safe from non-consensual intimacy.

The main speech maker declaimed sorrow at even needing to hold such an event / protest as the rights being asserted should simply go without saying.  To have to fight for the right to never have non-consensual sex:  why again is that even up for debate?

Given the Code of Conduct is clear, I'm not for a moment saying it's necessarily a simple matter to resolve every dispute wherein an aggrieved party alleges non-consent after the fact.  Many a soap opera has featured a betrayal wherein an innocent party becomes the target of a criminal accusation, for whatever motive (revenge, blackmail etc.), or wherein a perpetrator protests innocence by alleging such a motive on the part of the aggrieved.

Soap operas sometimes make matters easy for the audience as there's often a "fly on the wall" point of view (the camera) giving the inside story.  Usually a jury of one's peers, or the court of public opinion, as the case may be, will not have the luxury of such a viewpoint.

That's where the police and detective shows come in, along with the lawyer shows.  Our TV channels are awash in such stuff.  At St. Dominic Academy, they almost all watched General Hospital.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Sounding Some Themes



I told the story of CareWheels, as I knew it, to 791 Techologies in Canada.  That was Ron Braithwaite's project.  I hung out with 791 people at DjangoCon a lot, as they were among the top sponsors.

I'm settling in to this routine where I meet at Red Square wearing my AFSC Liaison hat and swap papers around with the Multnomah Meeting Communications Clerk.  Sounds very toontown doesn't it, like out of some Hollywood movie.  Red Square is just a coffee shop and the Portland AFSC is moving closer to Stark Street, so it's convenient for me 'n Rick, both Friends, to chat over coffee sometimes.

Holden is in Sebastopol I'm pretty sure, with Carol on her way from LAX right now.  Melody got a voicemail from the away team near Kathmandu, still heading for the Rotary-sponsored women's clinic so far as we know.  Glad to meet up with Jen and Yarrow again, and to finally meet Melody's dad.  Uncle Bill is training over from Seattle.

Wanderers will likely celebrate the Solstice on the 19th, which for me will likely start at Colonel Summers where I'm still active with the SE FNB chapter (that's Food Not Bombs, lots in these blogs about the local group, with some links to global resources).  FNB was hosted by the Quaker meetinghouse on Stark Street for about a year, when Blue House was also providing more logistical support.  We were more of a hub back then.  Our main supplier moved and Lindsey found more time to work on music after that.

OK, enough with the random notes, gives the flavor.  Sounding some earlier themes, keeping my storylines going.  CareWheels.  Some good thinking went into that project.

I've also been hyping Fibonacci Numbers on math-teach.  So what else is new?

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

More Documentaries

I find multitasking helps me stay focused.  Each activity gets concentration and attention, but I exhaust my patience for Just That One Thing and get relief simply by varying the content.  We all know this power from the Channel Changer (one of the great inventions of all time).

Is that what's meant by Attention Deficit?  There's nothing wrong with an attention span of only three minutes, if you keep coming back for another three minutes often enough to keep up with the workflow.  That's how our interrupt driven computers work.  The operating system's whole job is to multitask intelligently.

Sure, some tasks take sustained attention for a lot longer than that, but lets hear it for the ones that don't, or don't always.

In that spirit, I welcome the chance to plunge into Quakernomics on my Samsung Galaxy Tablet (10.1") from time to time, or maybe on my Razr when riding a bus.  That book poses interesting questions especially seen in contrast with The Wobblies, a 1979 documentary I just reviewed (I'm pretty sure I'd seen it already, or maybe parts of it).

The IWW was sure no form of capitalism could be benign whereas Quakernomics makes the case that nothing intrinsic to capitalism says that system must be miserly-miserable.  But then Quakernomics is very broad brush stroke with what it means by "capitalism" casting Quakers as most definitely capitalists, in contrast with the Marxists who sometimes ridiculed their mendacious ways.

Likewise the book Debt:  The First 5000 Years, also on my Kindle app, is broad brush stroke with its meaning of "communist", making it mean almost any community-centric economy, any sangha.  So much ideological warfaring depends on loose definitions or, same thing, breaks down as definitions come under closer scrutiny.  "We're not in conflict, we're just working in different namespaces."

Prohibition by Ken Burns is a masterpiece of storytelling.  I'd never associated Happy Days are Here Again so closely with the repeal of Prohibition, preceded by FDR's legalizing 3.2% beer by executive order (a master stroke).  I've always taken legal drinking (for those of legal age) for granted, my generation having been imprisoned for similar offenses the Burns documentary avoids mentioning, despite obvious parallels.

Building up beer as a specifically and endearingly German thing, to postpone Prohibition, really backfired come the demonization of Germans and their culture during WW1.  That, and the passage of a Federal Income Tax turned the saloon-keeper caste and their suppliers into outlaws.  The US had a new source of income and a profitable war to prosecute.

Truly, the "saloon" as an all male club, a symbol of anti-female apartheid, pre women having the vote etc., did not survive into the mid 1900s.  More accurately, gender stereotypes broke down under the pressures of industrialized city living and typecasting based on gender (and "race") became less and less tenable for any institution.

The Wobblies sure liked to sing a lot.  When you have a pre literate and, more important, pre Web culture, propagating ideology through lyrics (and prayers) makes sense.  And these are not songs to kick back and listen to, they're songs to sing oneself.

There's a lot less public singing in groups these days, is my impression.   We have become a culture of spectators on the one hand, and amplified / recorded celebrity-pro singers on the other, with new institutions to break down that difference:  karaoke bars (and of course "church choirs" are still popular), and Youtube.

These two films, on Prohibition and the IWW, in combination with To Be Takei with its focus on the internment of Japanese Americans, provides a ton of information about the "culture wars" that North Americans have been fighting.  Prohibition had everything to do with trying to legislate lifestyle choices with one caste (cast) feeling entitled to dictate to another.  Prohibition was "cast warfare". Criminalize that of which you disapprove, is the "moralistic solution" Americans tend to favor, at great cost to their living standards.

Indeed, we might intelligibly replace the notion of "class" with that of "cast" (as in theater), as ultimately it's a matter of role playing.  Cultures are role playing games, pure and simple.  It's just they take themselves so seriously that saying "game" sounds offensive (too jokey, too light), especially to hardliner ideologues of whatever true faith.

The IWW fought hard for the eight hour work day, and for Freedom of Speech.  The documentary is brilliant in that it shows press accounts being predictably and routinely anti-IWW, making the point, in case it wasn't clear, that newspapers are a tool of one cast more than others.

Demonizing the IWW as either German or Russian agents helped Americans confuse the two, helping with the Great Pivot under the Dulles Brothers, when Germany and Japan (former enemies) became allies against Vietnam and Russia (former allies).

Speaking of demonizing Russians, I also squeezed in at least part of Season One of The Americans, set during the Reagan Years.  I won't try reviewing that here though, beyond acknowledging its relevance.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

To Be Takei (movie review)

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That's "Tah-Kay" not "Tah-Kai" as the movie makes clear.

What strikes me about George Takei are the similarities between his story and that of Kiyoshi Kuromiya, another Japanese American who incurred internment and a resulting life-long commitment to activism in defense of civil liberties, including gay rights.  Kiyoshi and I used to hang out some in Philadelphia, when I'd fly there for AFSC meetings.  He was likewise kind and brilliant, also focused on personal integrity.

Being gay is an orientation, not a lifestyle, George likes to point out.  If it's "a choice" so is being in mixed-sex relationships a "choice" i.e. it cuts both ways, yet many mixed-sex oriented don't think of it as "a choice" for them.  Well ditto.  That was reasoning by a standup comic we heard later that same evening, but it fits as analysis.

The documentary advances its threads in a multitasking way, an effective way of storytelling in that you get three minutes here, seeing the marriage equality campaign move forward, then three minutes there playing up the Star Trek lore.

What's illuminating about this film is how it's highly media literate within what's popularly called "pop culture" so we get inside Howard Stern's radio show and into magazines and tabloids, visiting a lot of edgy comedy.  That's why the later show by Dick Foley and company at The Helium was so dead on, including more gay jokes.

Like a lot of the stranger-fans in the movie, waiting in line for picture signings and so on, I'm a Takei friend on Facebook.  I don't think I've ever posted to his profile or commented thereon, but I've really liked some of his funnies.  I'm think of myself as a subscriber in that sense.

The movie spends some time on how Asians get portrayed in films.  Yes, a fencing sword is less "stereotypical" than a samurai sword one could say, but getting all martial arty and Bruce Lee like is hardly "out of character" for an Asian male.  They seem to do that a lot.  Not just Errol Flynn.

The interlude about a fantasy Kirk-Spock relationship kicked up by the collective unconscious for Internet consciousness, is hilarious.  ROTFLOL.

The musical George has been working on, Allegiance, is another one of those threads we see advanced.  Here in the Pacific Northwest, from where I'm writing, this musical would have special poignancy.  Perhaps we'll see it in Portland.

To Be Takei

Friday, August 15, 2014

Delta Calculus

I'm thinking Calculus is too generic a name for the Newton-Leibniz thing, takes up a good word for what I'll call Delta Calculus, as opposed to say Lambda Calculus (different greek letter).

People make fun of Newtonian mechanics for being "mechanistic" (duh) meaning "clock-like" which is where delta calculus hails from:  the world of gear-works and their ratios.  How quickly does this gear turn relative to that one?  dy/dx comes from there.  You're trying to reverse engineer nature by modeling her as a clock-works.  Sure it's primitive, but it actually works pretty well when it comes to planetary orbits and what not, even if we admit to chaotic elements.

The figure below, singled out by Glenn Stockton from the many images flying through his workspace, provides a fine summary of rotational motions "in principle" i.e. what you'd expect just thinking about it, in a somewhat Kantian sense (synthetically a priori in other words):


You've got the magnetic field thing going, as a kind of involution / evolution of toroidal (donut) shape, then the revolving and orbital-precessional.  The solar system "corkscrews" whereas in profile it's sinusoidal, which means sine waves.  We should talk about sine waves more, and their oscilloscope values.  Trigonometry remains such a key, don't let e to an imaginary power divert your attention from the underlying rotational phenomenon.

The rate of change at which something changes gets us back to that "trim tab" idea of the butterfly effect.  Butterflies do not in fact cause climate change individually, yet are a part of the climate collectively, and deltas in butterfly cultures may indeed serve as canary-in-mineshaft warnings or positive omens, of big wheels turning in a helpful or harmful direction (you need a model to figure out about preferences, and a value system).

Saturday, August 09, 2014

Holy Toledo



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Hygenic Dress

Pythian HQS

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For further reading:
Re: Hygenic Dress League

Friday, August 08, 2014

Space Available (E Burnside)

E Burnside Offices

Office space for sublet.  Common areas.  Photocopier.

Wheel chair ramp.  Street front. 

E Burnside.  Share with others.  Nonprofits please apply.

AFSC is vacating its offices.

Contact PCASC for more information.

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Thursday, August 07, 2014

Thirsters Again

I dropped mom at her drones workshop at Unitarians and buzzed over Fremont Bridge, exiting on Kerby by the hospital then taking Weidler to the McMenamins on E Broadway.  I left just in time to retrieve her, in light nighttime traffic.

Now I'm having a cup of tea with my British friend Steve.

Tonight's topic was the history of the Middle East (so-called) since around the time of the Ottoman Empire, with the rise of industrialism in Europe posing new challenges and giving rise to many new artificial states, such as Lebanon (a French project) and Jordan (British).

The French helped give the Maronites in Lebanon a boost before leaving, while Britain in drawing in Jordan, as a state, was compensating some Caliph for allowing Iraqi Muslims to be conscripted against Turkish Muslims (Arabs against Ottomans).

I was interested to learn more about ISIS given that demonstration in Detroit we'd come across.  Christians and other ethnic minorities are feeling the boot of some rival gang as it takes over along various transportation corridors.

Religious gangs are not a new phenomenon and one Thirster piped up with analogies between sectarian violence in Europe (Catholic versus Protestant for some hundreds of years) and what we were looking at here.  I'd say that goes without saying.  Humans are fairly predictable beasts of limited bandwidth.  They argue about a lot of the same things all through time.

So I hadn't realized this spooky subset of Shi'a's Twelvers, the Alawites, were so in control in Syria, another faux state.

It's not that only some states are faux; they're all faux, it's just some get all offended when you point out their fauxness, whereas others are more reconciled to their being phony.

Thirsters have been meeting for many years, thanks to founder Bob Textor, anthropologist and a valued contributor to the design the Peace Corps in its early days, during the Bill Moyers and Lyndon Johnson years (early to mid 1960s).

Our presenter tonight was Bill Beeman.  From the Thirsters listserv:
Bill is an internationally known expert on the Middle East and the Islamic
World, particularly Iran, the Gulf Region and Central Asia. He has also
conducted research in Japan, India, Nepal, China and Europe. From 1996-1999
he sang professionally in Europe as an operatic bass. He continues his
musical career.
One of the Thirsters piped up during Q&A, asking if Al Qaeda was as advertised in The Power of Nightmares, a largely imaginative projection, not unlike "Mafia" or "organized crime".  Bill said that it was, though he hadn't seen that BBC series, which I've written up and oft linked to from within this blog.  Once the demonizing had begun, Al Qaeda offices sprung up all over, like Symbionese Liberationists in the days of Patty Hearst.