Sunday, January 25, 2015

The Throwaways (movie review)

I learned a lot this evening, from the documentary certainly, but also from the intro and Q&A.  The Clinton Street Theater has gotten more active and into a groove with KBOO, which is groovy, no complaints from my corner.

I don't go to that theater as often as John Waters says I should (fun clip), but Alexia's loyal participation in Rocky Horror on Saturdays maybe counts towards my good will karma.

We were fortunate to have one of the co-directors, the behind-the-camera guy who films Ira, the big affable gent on the system's throwaway list, as the system has no need for talented documentary makers with prison records.

Cable TV, on the other hand, does, and Ira is a poster child for those 1980s and onward public access studios the cable companies were asked to make, in exchange for mining the populace.  I've availed of the same resource, as did my co-workers at CUE.

Ira did exactly what sociologists who envisioned this symbiosis imagined should happen:  he turned his camera on the surrounding social ills and produced content for a concerned community audience.

The film poses some serious questions.

What is the fate of those decrepit city neighborhoods, with every child left behind?  Do those face gentrification, demolition, or the continuing malign neglect?

Art colonies, connected with universities or not, sometimes do wonders for a neighborhood I don't deny it, so I'm not saying one scenario fits all, yet I think brand new cities, such as Old Man River (OMR), deserve their day in the sun, so our generation might lay claim to some bold experiments, not just dreary wars.

Let a lot of people start over, build it in to our workflows that they can.

The days of exporting your loose ends to Australia or North America are at an end.

Ira's story tells of the new Jim Crow laws, which stigmatize him as a felon who keeps paying his "debt to society" long after the years in the Staten Island prison have been served.

Denied food stamps.  Ineligible for most work.  He's a throwaway on paper.  He doesn't buy that though.  He gets local cable station training in video making and now his award winning collaboration is traveling the country.

In Portland, the movie got itself a packed house, thanks to KBOO and its affiliates doing a good job of spreading the word.

As students of the Civil War well know, making slaves and later corporations into persons might happen in legal language, but society is often slow to see the benefits of following rules.

After the war, many slaves continued working the same property not as slaves, technically, but as serfs.  Slavery became feudalism.  Keeping the old apartheid system going was the name of the game.

Denying former slaves the vote became the object of an intimidation campaign with the KKK an overt symbol.  The movie Selma recapitulates that chapter.

Fast forward to 2015 and the old trigger-happy conditioned reflexes remain, possibly senseless but still engrained.

Jo Ann Hardesty played a leading role in introducing the night's program and clearly had many fans in the audience.  She hosts a regular show on KBOO.

A grass roots health care initiative aiming to cover Oregonians with something more coherent than the usual patchwork invited us to a rally in Salem.

I was encouraged to see people exercising their prerogatives as bona fide stakeholders in ongoing community debates, and perhaps plans for a more democratic tomorrow.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Shared Calendar

Any member of MMM-PSC may share a calendar with it.  Group participants still need to decide how to organize sharing information amongst themselves.  Just because we all have a calendar doesn't decide which one we share publicly.  Here's one I'm sharing:

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Wanderers 2015.1.13

I came straight from some AFSC work (May Day planning) and got in a bit late.  Skip was already into it, packed house.  I had laptop business to manage so ending up way in the back in a comfy chair was optimum.  The response was enthusiastic although a lot of braininess makes for some frustration.  People move at different rates.  Skip left best for last:  the actual physical models, which were quite large and interesting to view.

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Oregon History and Steam Power

Dr. Carl Abbott of PSU's urban studies program delivered a next-in-series presentation on Oregon's history at McMenamin's Kennedy School last night.  The theater was packed with some standing or sitting on the floor.  People were eager to learn this information, which is not usually shared on television.  The Oregon Encyclopedia and Oregon Historical Society are sponsoring this ongoing series of talks.

River boats helped network and grow the cities and towns together along the Willamette and Columbia Rivers, and Portland came into the foreground early as a port city.  St. Helens was an early rival, as was Astoria, and even Milwaukie.

However the plank road out to Washington County and a newspaper gave the city its sustenance and identity.  Milwaukie had the shallow sandbars around Ross Island to contend with and Astoria was still too far from the inland action.

Trains supplied the next layer of infrastructure, replacing wagon trains.  At the local level this helped economies like Hood River's as trains now hauled produce from that ecology's lush orchards.

Portland joined the transcontinental network with much fanfare (parades and speeches) in the mid 1800s.  The city far outgrew the others in the state and only now in 2015 are we seeing some signs of better balance, with Portland still the biggest, but not dwarfing the others so completely.

Carl did not have time to explore the road networks in detail, nor the building of the dams and the consequences of electricity for the region.  He was looking mostly at 1850-1950 whereas Oregon's importance as an electrical power source was a story for later.  Aluminum factories and later server farms would take advantage, with California plugging in via HVDC.

Sam Hill features in the road building story, as does Columbia Gorge tourism, photographers especially, which Carl alluded to in his "weekend corner" description of a scenic area suitable for weekend drives.  Carl did mention Les Schwab and his signature chain of vehicle maintenance facilities.

The audience asked lots of questions.  I attended with Denny, a member of Multnomah Meeting, like Carl is, resuming his life in Portland after a stint in Shanghai.   Many other Quakers were there as well.

Carl tells me Dan Pope from the U of Oregon will be covering more of the Silicon Forest chapter. They're doing a chronological series and Carl was doing mostly steam and some fossil fuel, with electricity to follow. I have a standing engagement first Mondays with Dr. Bolton, also of PSU (emeritus) so may not make another of these. I'm glad I at least got to this one.

Saturday, January 03, 2015

Donuts Visit

Sitting in Heavenly Donuts awaiting a verdict on a car problem, you'd be expecting an ironic outcome, and maybe that's what this is:  clogged air flow meter, a $900+ item, merely clogged, so take her away for all of $76. 

Plus I got worked done while I bit down. 

Can you top it?  Yay Nissan.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Convergent Friends

:: seasons greetings ::

Some may find the title misleading as there's a Martian Math spin to this post, by which I mean I'm blending in some of what I also call Quaker geometry in posts gone by.

Given the primacy of the tetrahedron in New England Transcendentalist late 1900s poetics, aka 4D per Bucky Fuller, we have some obligation, in Quakerism, to sustain the inertia (our heritage, after all).

So the teaching is this:  at the XYZ origin, instead of something boring like a bowling ball with hooks, the XYZ vectors stretching away at right angles, we substitute a wrought iron tetrahedron, hooking our six vectors to that, reinforcing the understanding the opposite edge pairs are mutually perpendicular.

Inscribing a tetrahedron as face diagonals in a cube is an easy way to demonstrate this fact, plus to allow for an inverse tetrahedron (the dual in the "duo-tet cube", Bucky's 3-volume).

I imagine a clear plastic cube of beveled faces, six squares glued, with chains pulling hard against the tetrahedron in the middle, in the XYZ directions.

:: model by Skip ::

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Wild (movie review)

Maybe because a guy at the Christmas Party at the FCNL liaison's house was decrying the liberties The Exodus had taken with history (wrong swords, flags, camels...), that I wondered if that rusted tank without water was really the real one, if there is one, twenty miles on from wherever.

I'll have to wait for the DVD "making of" feature to find that out, and if the fox was CG.  Bridge of the Gods was certainly real, though I didn't realize hobos on foot were allowed over.  Makes sense that they should be.

Strayed is a pun, as she's strayed, and wants to get to know her own bizmo better.  That's "slang" for one's own body, built for business / IT.  "Slang" in quotes because I'm like the only one using "bizmo" for "business mobile" in the first place, let alone for our bodies.  But this is BizMo Diaries after all, so you'd expect these memes here.

The roller coaster of life gets some safe predictability for awhile (about a hundred days worth, in under two hours), as one trudges the PCT rehashing through experiences and recovering from PTSD.  The security of having things in flashback is what keeps them from being a near death experience, which isn't to say Cheryl doesn't have heart pounding encounters:  with a rattler; with scary males.

I went from the Christmas Party in North Portland directly to Lloyd Center, the big outdoor theaters, built at a time when I used to walk to work (CUE) through what's now the parking lot (the one Robin Egg was stolen from, our blue Subaru -- while I watched the movie Troy).  Speaking of which, I renewed my Triple-A membership yesterday.  These blogs, if they still exist, have some fun AAA stories (battery repair, losing keys, other excitement).  Razz was our next car.

Anyway, she stumbles along, doing an REI commercial along the way.  I don't think hikers begrudge that commercial and I'm a champion of product placement as a legit way to sell people on a lifestyle, and hiking the PCT is definitely an acquired taste.  You need companies to support athletes, and that's why we have athletic brands.  We didn't get what brand of condom that was, but this wasn't really that kind of movie.

She's a mature and intelligent woman at this point in her life with flashbacks through her younger years.  The audience is willing to take this as a study in empathy once it's clear we're not bracing for horror.  Hitchcock tricked us with a flashback once, but we're trusting the ride here.

There's a happy end feel to it too, but also that sense of an observer (a big movie-going audience, and TIME) changing the observed (a private campfire "true story", not a novel).  Will we have more tourists now, looking for Jerry Garcia festivals?

In some ways I was reminded of Prodigal Sons in how we dive into a family's dynamics and explore them, finding the usual good stuff:  our mortality and humanity. Prodigal Sons was more the documentary, with people starring themselves, whereas this is a "stage play" (with the "great outdoors" for a backdrop) with actors.

I was also reminded of Roz Savage and her lonely journey amidst the elements as one of the greatest ocean-going rowers of all time.  She has also written deeply and reflectively.  She's someone I've met in person, though not in a way she'd remember.

Then of course there's Lindsey Walker, just back from a very long walk (not a trek) in Nepal, getting down to tattered sandals like Strayed's at one point, after a bicycle trip to California.

We're getting into Everyman / Everywoman territory here, El Camino, the pilgrimage, the great way.  Each one of us is a scenario, a dharma tube, partially overlapping with others.  My wife Dawn died on St. Patrick's Day so I got her sense of loss and separation and not being in a party mood in that scene from her life.

Pacific Coast Trail itself is the unsung star of this film in some ways, a symbol of the roller coaster that is life, with the markings left by the many who've gone before.

Update:  Glenn reminded me coming down from Mt. Tabor this morning that Cinema 21 hosted the gala event with the original author and actress both on stage.  Big news at the time.

Sunday, December 21, 2014


Deke, aka Lawn Mower Man, aka @dekebridges, with 117K Twitter followers (on that account), very kindly called me up and followed through on an offer to let me use his digital broadcast receiving equipment.

For the first time in like years, I'm getting the channels in real time.  I'd ditched those for satellite, but then in the great downturn cut all my expenses, while living on credit and the generosity of others.

Since then, I've regained an income and (a) restored the gym membership and (b) started treating myself a little more.

I'm still at the frugal end of the spectrum, for a Hawthornite, but not complaining.  Quakers are supposed to cultivate "plain and simple" as virtues.  The house (aka Blue House) is fully mine, thanks greatly to Dawn's planning.

So I'll be watching more CBS Evening News, just like old times.

In other upgrades:  fitted purple sheets, found in storage, and new speaker wire for the two dad bought me many Xmases ago.  He got us the TV then too.  I'm in no hurry to go flat screen.  I get LCDs and HDTVs everywhere I go, so don't mind sticking with my antiques.

I need to return the audio cable though as the phonograph comes with a fixed length white and red.  I don't know what I was thinking buying the six foot cabling.  Fortunately, I still have the receipt.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Summer Camp

I was back to my "boot camps for teachers" meme today, this time including their families.  Glenn and I had been talking about publicly funded boarding schools, pre-college, of which there are very few.  However teachers are not "pre-college" in that sense, so the topics were loosely connected.  The bridge or glue language was Quakers, and public-private collaborations, more like in the old days.

Of course I'm back to my Project Earthala imagery, those elusive Fly's Eye Domes and other gear, perhaps deployed only for the semester, then packed up and returned to the giant warehouse somewhere.  Humans getting better at not leaving that much of a footprint.  OK to stake something for the GIS record but we're not wanting to harm the pre-existing ecosystem.  The eco-village comes and goes.

Although I mentioned helicopters, something of a cliche in Fuller School circles, Glenn emphasized their danger.  If the property in question is accessible by container truck... I'm just not into building lots of roads (defeats the purpose), more into making do and/or letting roads go back to nature (some counties over-built, lets face it).  Anyway it's not up to me to make the site-specific recommendations, not when summarizing the network.

Some of these might be closer to "call centers" as in "places of employment" than training centers or schools.  People have already trained in order to get here.  I'm not insisting on pegging the stereotypes, and draw on the variety / diversity in summer camp experiences already, including reminding myself that cold weather conditions may obtain, as I've not specified a hemisphere (above or below the equator).

Speaking of which, we're coming up on Winter Solstice.  Best wishes to travelers.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Seven Year Itch (movie review)

A friend who especially enjoys older films, with less swoopy computer effects, recommended this 1955 classic, directed by Billy Wilder and co-starring Marilyn Monroe.

The backdrop premise is the married men bid their families adieu in the heat of the summer, this being a privileged class with summer digs.  Yet even the janitor has manged to send his next of kin off Manhattan.

Which reminds me, the film opens in a light-hearted parody of the annual ritual to set the tone, set 500 years ago, using stock / stereotype Hollywood imagery.

Our anti-hero, Richard Sherman by Tom Ewell, free of his family, and enjoying air conditioning, has an eerie habit you'd think he'd lose, of talking out loud at the top of his voice, committing his thoughts to the air waves (literal air in this case, not the "air" waves of radio).

You'd think a family man of some maturity would not be in the habit of voicing his thoughts like that, a first step down the slippery slope.  No doubt the director chose to ignore the "inner voice" option for comic effect, and it works.

Probably the best moments are in the office when our star, having accosted Marilyn Monroe outside the boundaries of fantasy, suffers a paranoid backlash right when the psychiatrist walks in, to talk about the slenderized (sensationalized) version of his book.  This film is it (dry psychoanalysis compressed for mass public consumption), one could say, appropriately slapstick (almost), with Marilyn upholding the "dumb blond" stereotype.

The protagonist is not just afraid his wife will barge in and want a divorce, or that his reputation will be sullied.  He's concerned about his own evident lack of will power and by his wife's infidelity as an echo of his own.

He makes the mistake of misidentifying fantasy with reality more than once, as the audience is given to know.  As onlookers privy to intimate fantasy, through the "miracle" of film, we know our guinea pig gets lost in the maze, not knowing what's real.  We see ourselves in his woes.

One of the funniest lines is when he defensively asks "who do you think I've got in there, Marilyn Monroe?"  The film reaches out to engulf itself here, like an Escher print containing its own canvas.

As I'm reading some books about the infusion of quantum mechanics through metaphors, I'll say Richard Sherman is a probability wave with fantasies tilting him this way and that, to where he intersects consensus reality in comical ways.

He's often dizzy with all the self-particle ("me ball") spinning he does, a symptom of having an active imagination.