Thursday, July 28, 2016

Flushed Away

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No this is not a movie review, although Flushed Away is a toon that I've seen, and reviewed.

My story is about the yellow toilet, aka Yellow Throne, handsome on its black tiled floor, a high efficiency model, works well.  That previous throne was too underpowered, thanks to my conservation-minded self:  I'd put a fat rock in the tank so it'd flush with less water.

The stone expanded with the wetness and although it never cracked the tank, it become impossible to remove with any known technology, short of cracking the tank. The flush was too weak.  I'd sabotaged the toilet, unwittingly, not acting in my own best interests apparently.

Mick the Plumber put the new one in back in 2012. It had to come from far away, as yellow is not a color much in demand for toilets although I sure it beats red or orange.

Fast forward four years, to 2016, and the wax seal has worn away, and the bolts holding it to the floor are shot, weren't much to begin with.

Mick arrived just a few hours after my call, and after some dire thoughts about what we might have to do, bought a rebuilding kit and got it working.

No warranty, because lead seals are problematic by today's standards.  They wear out.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Spinning Death Tolls

As we learned from Vietnam, a military is in large degree a PR operation designed to reassure the home folks that "we're still the good guys" and that "we're winning".

A lot of that consensus broke down during the Vietnam War, and the Pentagon resolved to learn from its mistakes, which didn't mean forswearing off senseless violence by spending down inventory.  That's a moneymaking racket too big to fail.

These days, the way to spin the civilian deaths is to acknowledge a very few of them, as this gives the appearance of honesty and meets viewer-voyeur expectations.

"Of course some civilians will perish.  That's how it goes in the Hollywood movies as well." The public accepts that.

So pick a number, maybe double digit (85?), and have the media agree on that.  They all repeat each other anyway, so sewing these numbers is not that difficult.

In the meantime, the death tolls are ridiculously higher. What's a "civilian" anyway?  In Vietnam the theory was civilians were harboring the terrorists, and so complicit.  Bombing entire villages was routine, a great way to test the new weapons (napalm, Agent Orange etc.).

Simply ruining that much infrastructure (irrigation channels, power stations) leads to untallied collateral damage.  Here, the general public colludes with the media, as long as the message "we're winning" and "we're still the good guys" is getting through.

Truth is not the real goal.  Cosmetically acceptable stories are the goal, so the vets come home heroes and may be thanked for their service.

As long as troops are held in high esteem, more will sign up.  The PR machine ensures the wheels keep turning that way.

To some extent, social media bring different feedback to those more open to reading multiple sources. Controlling and sanitizing these sources is too much work, but marginalizing with misinformation keeps these liberals in check.

The returning vets themselves, the braver ones, like Smedley Butler, will sometimes actively engage in counter-spin against their former employer and become a target of FBI investigations, sometimes leading to later smear campaigns.

Accusing the media of a "liberal bias" helps keep them in line and obedient to their true paymasters.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Spinning Ball


If you lived here, you'd be home by now.

I'd like to slow it down a bit...

Friday, July 22, 2016

Measure 97




Global Matrix Widget

Neolithic Math

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Just Gender (movie review)

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I'll have some X-refs at the bottom in case you're interested in related blog posts.

This documentary acknowledges that language is at the core of the challenge, of accommodating what's actually the case.  That challenge is perennial and language doesn't always have the luxury of getting too set in its ways.

Those with a quick, shall we say facile, even cursory view of gender might go with the simple binary model, of male and female, but at the cost of all nuance, and outright blindness to some aspects of human experience.

Safe to say, I advocate not sticking with overly simplistic models unless under severe time pressure.  If you have a full life of some decades, you'll have plenty of time to develop your appreciation for gender and sexuality.

Starting with the good news first, the 21st Century is off to a pretty good start relative to the 1900s, in terms of transgendered people feeling less alone and disconnected.  The general public has developed a greater understanding and tolerance for more complicated stories, and the Internet has made finding and building community easier. Suicide attempts among transgendered, a leading indicator, are still way too high though.

As the movie makes clear, we're still the prisoners of yesteryear's reflex-conditioning in a lot of ways.  When a person experiences anger welling up -- one reaction to feeling powerless in the face of fear -- that rage or wrath may seem God-given and therefore a license to righteously lash out.

Those with an "angry God" upbringing have a tougher time dealing with transgendered family members.  Given my own liberal upbringing and attitudes (Rome was pretty cosmopolitan), when I hear people insisting their gender was never a choice for them (I don't dispute that), my thought is even if it were, that would have been OK too.

The film uses "transgendered" as the umbrella term, literally showing a symbolic umbrella and putting other terms underneath it.  In one pithy quote, one of the interviewees makes the important distinction between gender identity and sexual orientation:  who you want to sleep with is orientation, who you want to sleep as is identity.  There's no logical entailment connecting these two.

Yes, the word "gender" was used in place of "sexual" to make "transgender" easier to talk about -- this insight from an activist in San Francisco.  "Transsexual" comes with a lot of baggage, even if some of it is lighthearted; yes I'm thinking of Tim Curry's performance in Rocky Horror Picture Show.  Did you catch him later in Kinsey?

Another spectrum might be how much one focuses on or cares about gender.  The film emphasizes repeatedly that one's gender is very central to one's identity.  I wouldn't dispute that that's very true for some people however others come across as more asexual in the sense of caring less, which I'm not circling as either pathological or repressed (though it may be in some cases).

When I think back to a very young age myself, it was being human at all I had a problem with, but not in a way that was too distressing or that led me into suicidal thoughts.  I just remember a strong sense that many other animals seemed a lot cooler than these hominids.  I was jealous, I guess one could say.

The real pathology we all need to deal with is this thing we call "bullying".  The alternative is not being a doormat, but learning more diplomatic skills.  The right to express disapproval of what one disapproves of is not one to take away.  Neither is it a basic right to never feel offended or insulted by others.

I learned the term "stealth trans" from the movie i.e. some are so successful at making the transition that they're once again closeted in a way, in terms of not being open about having transitioned.

Comedians are often our best diplomats, in terms of getting away with treating of sensitive topics that many would just get stuck within and lose their way.  Arthur Koestler on "why we laugh" is worth reading.  Laughing is often therapeutic stress relief.  Enter the clowns and cherubs.

X-refs:
Kinsey (movie review)
Prodigal Sons (as mentioned on QuakerQuaker, also here and here)
Gender Wars
Gender Again
The King of Masks (movie review)
Gender Bender

Monday, July 11, 2016

Iron Ministry (movie review)

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Glenn and I both enjoyed this well-crafted documentary, on a Sunday afternoon after lunch.  My habit of late has been to borrow movies on Sundays and return them on Wednesdays, from a local rental shop.

This week my two were The Last Colony, one I'd seen on the shelf weeks earlier then lost sight of, but this week I scored; and Iron Ministry, which I'm reviewing now.

Shades of Songs from the North in some ways, with the long camera shots, often intimate as in "in your face".  I found myself speculating as to the filmmaker's technique.  People were so willingly not camera conscious, is how it seemed, except that time in the diner car.  In North Korea, they minded a bit more.

What's salient for me in particular about his film is I was fascinated as a kid by the vestibules between train cars.  These were "the noisy parts" for me, and the whole "air lock" quality of joining cars together, with couplings and all, just permeated my little brain, such that I still regress to my childhood whenever a passenger train goes by.  There go those noisy parts!

The thing about his movie though, is it's so "inside the train".  I'd been expecting what I call "external shots" and those were meticulously provided as a special feature, all together.  Instead we were this passenger, the filmmaker, not an omniscient ghost, not on a Hollywood budget with cranes and helicopters, computer animation.

The other passengers call us "foreigner" and feed us stuff.  We're a person, albeit both intrusive and unobtrusive, hard to calculate.  We never get to see the filmmaker in the mirror.  We get names in the credits is all.

So yeah, kinda claustrophobic if expecting grand vistas, though we do get some of those, see out the window in a few long takes.  We see out the window a lot, just not in that postcard vacation movie sense.  More like we're camped out on some floor in a smoking area near the toilets.

I'd call the tone "democratic" in some sense, but not without different classes.  Some cars and compartments had more amenities, were more private, looked more modern, moved faster.  The kids on the bullet train had smartphones and knew about Michael Jackson, a common currency, a trader bead.  The inlanders knew a lot about pork.  Things looked pretty hygienic but for the fact of all that smoking and smog.

The people are friendly and eager to get along.  They see the world outside China falling prey to warmongers and don't want to sucker for that.  One speaker sincerely admires Americans for being so able to assimilate, says "we Han" could learn from that.  The Tibetan woman is haunted by how the prophesies of iron beasts are dreams come true, more like nightmares.  Trains brought the big mining bosses (more ruthless) whereas they'd been more used to local little ones.

Other Chinese speak frankly about their government being secretive, in a way I hear a lot of Americans talk about their own secretive state.  Sure the bullet train was struck by lightning, sure it was.  I don't speak Chinese but hear a mocking sarcasm in some understated way.  Dead pan.  Chinese have a fun sense of humor.

Lots of shots of Chinese train-goers passed out, sleeping.  Admit it, you won't get long shots like that in just about any other movie, so don't dismiss this opportunity as beneath your radar, especially if into cinematography.  We're learning a lot from these narrator-less documentaries that nevertheless have a point of view, if only an angle and an avatar (not a ghost camera).

Saturday, July 09, 2016

Meanwhile, in Outer Space...



Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Wanderers 2016.7.6

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I ended up spending much of the 4th of July, a holiday in this zip code (A) hanging out with old friends and (B) immersing myself in European history, French Enlightenment period especially, which overlaps a British Enlightenment coupled with an industrial revolution.

So, David Hume was highly admired in French salons for his cheerful temperament.  I need to dig up that article linking Hume with Zen (if memory serves, that's what it did).

Rousseau, on the other hand, was rubbing too many people the wrong way, especially Established Religion.  He needed asylum.  Hume was persuaded to take up his cause, but with the warning that Rousseau often turned on his benefactors, and this ended up happening.

Wanderers was interesting today.  Glenn was discussing the global bead trading industry, going back to the Indus Valley Civilization of some 2000 BC and earlier, to known "garnet mines" in Northern India used over 10,000 years ago.

Actually garnet, a form of quartz, is often mined from riverbeds, tiny, pre-polished.  A pump drill may be operated one-handed, leaving the other to keep the bead in place.  Glenn had some specimens, with a magnifying glass, and a great book.

Studying said book was an eye-opener, and reminded me that "trader beads" i.e. "money" were not a new phenomenon.  Gold aficionados harp on how any "real" currency is backed by gold, but rare gem stones, glass beads, necklaces, anything that looks really good and is hard to get, is worth having.

Hard currency looks "good as gold" by definition, as the promise of what it might buy if saved for future use.  In Critical Path money is backed by beef, i.e. cattle.  That's a good a backing as any, and Fuller elaborates on this narrative with a lot of Minoan imagery, proving he'd spent some time with Toynbee as a Delian.

Critical Path was brave in that it cannot be taken literally in some of its more speculative sections.  As a prelude to Tetrascroll it's in part a fairy tale or myth, as the New York Times reviewer put it.

Anyway, lets not trivialize currency systems by telling shallow stories about gold.  Yes, that element has many useful properties.  The Periodic Table is a great contribution to STEM, as is atomic theory, and the structural chemistry it begat, with Linus Pauling, in who's boyhood home we meet, a midwife in that begetting process.

Thomas Jefferson also featured in my studies, as did Ada again.  In Ada Byron's day, electricity as an isolated phenomenon, an object of scientific study, was fairly new.  Ben Franklin was in on the investigation.  Natural philosophers would astound the aristocratic class in the resort city of Bath, where the well-to-do went in search of miracle cures.  All manner of "infotainment" was made available.  The musician Herschel, and then astronomer, discoverer of Uranus, started out in this nexus.

What Babbage and Ada didn't quite realize, was the Age of Steam was giving way to the Age of Electricity.  We'd still use steam, but not for delicate computations.  Transistors could do those.  We'd learn to etch silicon with photographs of city-sized machines, shrunk down to mere wafers.  These machines would be reliable and soon learn to communicate by radio, another consequence of our figuring out about the electromagnetic spectrum.

Wittgenstein and the Vienna Circle came later, around the time of the World Wars, in retrospect two chapters, followed by Cold, then Endless.  Yes in fast fowarding to Wittgenstein, I bleeped over Napoleon, the Indian then Civil then Spanish-American wars.

Ludwig Wittgenstein was an Austrian thinker from a wealthy family, looking to make a difference.  He ended up in Bertrand Russell's chambers and both men warmed to one another and learned from one another.

Ludwig showed up right around Russell's peaking in concentration.  The word on the street was Ludwig would carry on, picking up where the other left off.  Early 1900s.

Sunday, July 03, 2016

Meanwhile, in Puerto Rico...


I've been looking at Puerto Rico as something of an IQ test, when it comes to the US media.  We talk about Washington DC not being a state, but Puerto Rico is more populous and just as American, so will politicians running for Federal office give it sharp focus?

The island is in the same position as many US states:  broke.  But without the leverage of having much representation.  When the lights start going out in the hospitals, unable to pay for power, that's a sign the face of malign neglect is looking in your direction.  More on Facebook.

Saturday, July 02, 2016

Autoimmune Disease?

The waves of refugees escaping the breakup of the nation-states in large regions is a crisis greater than the South Asian tsunami, in terms of total numbers affected, and number perishing.

However, because the viewer-voyeurs see this as "war theater" that's all background for the violent foreground proxies, the gladiators if you will, the bleeder / leaders who aim to settle old scores in bitter feuds.

The line between natural disaster and a human-induced one is blurry.  The weather changes and lowering water table contributed to the unsustainability of entire lifestyles.  Many geolocated in the Americas remember dust bowls and droughts, or are experiencing those today.

If the same billions in energy expenditure currently pumped into killingry, were pumped into livingry instead, we could use our ingenuity and new designs to solve lots of problems and alleviate suffering. Such behavior would make sense, against the backdrop of world history.  We'd be in less of a slum, a ghetto, and our children would thank us instead of curse us.

However, our conditioned reflexes are such that self organization of that kind seems somewhat out of reach.  We're collectively "addicted to war" as some say, even though it's obsolete (as others aver), and therefore behave somewhat like fire ants allergic to their own colony, a pathology I doubt ants have.

Humanity seems to be collectively suffering from an autoimmune disorder that causes it to attack itself, a kind of planetary Lupus.  I like calling it Lupus because of the wolf imagery which connects us to howling at the full moon.  Lupus rhymes with Lunacy.

The way I see it, our global civilization oscillates between two archetypes:  Global University and Lunatic Asylum.  There's no escaping either aspect; it's not a matter of either side of the same coin always winning the toss.  You'll wake up on the Asylum side of the bed some mornings.

Given how humans are a vector for mental illnesses (meme viruses) that cause humanity to attack itself, our main recourse is a better immune system that's better able to distinguish self destructive behavior from viable and sustainable growth.  Movement in a healing direction is what the many religions, great and small, are meant to provide.  I suggest we harness them for that purpose.

By "religions" I don't mean to circle any particular beliefs about deities or demons or whatever.  The word "ideologies" might work as well.  Actually "medical science" would be the most apropos, given the namespace.  What God commands is to "heal thyself" with a little help from "divine grace" or "dumb luck" as the case may be (superstitious and/or ritualized behaviors pertain in either case).

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