Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Common Grounds

 I'm hanging out with my coven mates, at the local Coffee Shop.

We're enjoying Cyriak videos and talking about Hortonian Networks, Horton having invented hydrology, after Leonardo maybe (who was a Jack of All Trades).

Yarrow's birthday yesterday was really fun.  He's just turned one.  The first nine months is year 0 (starting from glimmer in someone's eye), then as a terrestrial one starts counting through consecutive integers.

Over on math-teach I'm boosting a kind of "Gnu Math" that draws on New Math but is not just a boring repeat of the 1960s and its Cold War.  The globe is not polarized in quite that way anymore.

For those just joining us, the associations between the Cold War and New Math were myriad.  As I was writing to a Friend recently:
Talking briefly about Vietnam, our friend under Ho during the push-back against the Japs (just evoking the lingo of the day, not attempting to be racist).

Ho was our friend.[1]   The a huge flip happened after WW2 and the fascists (Japs Germans Italians) were our friends (Marshall Plan) and Russia and Vietnam were now the enemies (it would take awhile for Vietnam to become that way, but Russia was bad overnight, behind an "Iron Curtain" of Churchill's invention -- Reagan's invention to tell them to take it down).

Very intelligent people in the OSS were a lot like "Hanoi Jane" a generation later (I've read her autobiography, Jane Fonda's, ex of CNN's Ted Turner).

Did you know some Americans fought on the side of the North in the Vietnam War?  That's a little known story.  Who can blame 'em, given their OSS history (the CIA would come later -- having lived in DC I would come to know some of them personally, another story, six degrees of separation, Kevin Bacon and all that).
I've been making some travel plans today, work related.

Anyway, when the Iron Curtain descended across Europe, it became important that the USA kids get up to speed on the kinds of maths that won the war, Turing's stuff in other words.  The University of Chicago started cracking the whip, getting us to turn into Bertrand Russells at a young age if we could.  Problem:  Bertie was actually a pacifist.  Einstein too. And Linus Pauling.

One of our number at been at the Economics of Happiness conference recently, where a fair amount of technology bashing occurred, making the Internet be the problem.  At least it's something people can gang up and gripe about.  What's more cathartic than a good gripe session?  We're thinking to have one at Annual Session this year, though the proposal is not finalized. Friends get phished a lot.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Thirsters 2015.2.26

"A is for Anthropology in STEAM (enhanced STEM) not Art" has been my mantra.  I studied psychological anthropology at Princeton some, and knew about Clifford Geertz and his thick descriptions of cock fighting long before most people.  So I was glad to join Dr. Tag (on her way to see grand vistas), Christine, other friends (and Friends) tonight, for a free ranging discussion of International Development as its own ingrown subculture.

As evidence of its being ingrown, you'll find little talk of Iron Mountain, i.e. the Maslow anti-pyramid of military services that form the bulk of "foreign aid".  A lot of the best toys come in one color:  camo.  But development specialists are supposed to tippy toe around the big gorilla and just speak of civilian programs like health care and birth control.  And yet Anthropology cozies up to the military in HTS type programs -- you'd think there'd be more cross-fertilization in the discourse.

The USA pacifies its poor by giving them an option:  military service.  The bulk of foreign development work in North America involves Beltway Goons running the creaky old primary irrigation system, of defense contractors, into the ground.  They haven't the imagination for anything better, like ending poverty.  Starvation could have been eliminated as a major cause of death by 2000.  Humans chose the path of lower intelligence, afraid of what it might mean to grow into a next chapter.  Nostalgia for infancy is not just an ontogenic phenomenon.

The Millers, a father-daughter team (Peter also from Princeton, Kate a visiting anthro professor at Reed), did a great job reviewing an extensive literature spanning decades, and in that small annex to McMenamins we had people with development experience all over the world.  Comparing notes is important, reflecting on what we've learned.  My family lived in Lesotho, Bangladesh, Philippines, Egypt, Bhutan, Florida, Italy, Oregon to name a few.

Just as a racist is someone who believes in races, nationalists believe in nations.  I find it easy, as a 1900s baby, to slip into the old habits and think like a land lubber.  "When in Rome...".  However, even if Einstein was one of the first to think outside the box, he was neither the last nor the only.  We may want to avoid the prefix "post" as in "post-nationalist" as the next chapter involves a flood of new nations (domains), both physical and virtual (e.g. Rogue Nation).

One might call this chapter "making light" of sovereignty, i.e. accepting its more tongue in cheek aspects, the more farcical side (like those hopelessly gerrymandered districts).  But then role playing games were never not serious, given "role" is just an anthropology word for "whatever a person does in society" i.e. there's no other game in town.

Speaking of small world after all, I'd forgotten, if I'd known, that David Chandler, in our Quaker meeting, was born just outside of Bangalore, India.  Me?  Chicago, Illinois.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Pay 2 Play (movie review)

Now this is one clever film.  I had no idea that Parker Brothers stole Monopoly from the public domain, ultimately from a woman who followed the economist Henry George and was communicating the opposite message.  That's hilarious.

A guy named Darrow learned it from a bunch of Quakers and then colluded with Parker Brothers on getting a patent.

This all came out when the inventor of Anti-Monopoly was defending his right to publish his game.

Now that's a story worth spreading far and wide.

The documentary is mostly about the broken US political system, further wrecked by the Supreme Court with its Citizens United ruling.

The links to a Banksy-like painter of "Monopoly guy" takes us to Occupy, where this symbol often appeared.  Mission:  Occupy.  From Occupy, we move to May Day.

I like using Monopoly Guy for Wanderers, mixing him with a lamp post on a chess board.  He's been drinking a lot and walks randomly as a result, the connotation being mathematical: osmosis, cellular automata and like that.

Well crafted, mixed with street art / PR.  Another good entry on the Corporate Personhood shelf.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Jupiter Ascending (movie review)

We caught the Sunday matinee, Alexia and I did, on a very sunny afternoon, uncharacteristically warm.  We enjoyed excellent pizza and ginger-pear cider with our movie.

This movie contains many allusive elements:  a skating hero, a poor servant girl of humble origins, and inter-planetary intrigue among twisted royals, who see the peasant girl as their mother.

As I've been revisiting the Bay of Pigs and Cuban Missile Crisis chapter, I was imagining Jupiter Jones as poor Cuba, suddenly caught up in superpower chess.  When Khrushchev shared with Castro later how he got Kennedy to agree to remove the missiles from Turkey, as a part of the deal, that seemed oddly far afield, given Gitmo right next door.

But that was the Cold War for ya.  Castro didn't care about Turkey that much.  He was just hoping to kick the Yanks out of Gitmo (the western hemisphere's Abu Ghraib -- can't blame him for trying).

The movie alludes to Cloud Atlas, which in turn alludes to Soylent Green. An image of themselves humans have always found unattractive, oft posed by the angels, is of a self-parasitical beast, one that feeds on its own young (and on its old of course -- whatever is weakest (e.g. "undocumented")).

That which is healthy within feels called to end such a wretched existence, if that's what this is.  A character's heroism is quite often manifest in some fight to restore aesthetic beauty (aka humanity) to the humans' scenario.

I thought some of the best screen writing was when one of the royals explained how "time is the only dimension worth paying for" (paraphrase) or "time is the only dimension" for short.  Space is a given, and once you add hyper-drive and wormholes, effectively infinite as a permutation space, even if it follows a strict physics.

One also has to add, in addition to a physics, a string of incredibly good luck events in the face of impossible odds but there's a reason they call it fiction, wherein only the impossible happens.  That's what makes it so action-packed and suspenseful.

I'd say there's real depth to this movie once you juxtapose the foreground plot (servant girl) with the fantasy (the day dream).  That's a Jungian world, pregnant with archetypes, worthy of college-level essays and such.  No reason to blow these movies off as footnotes.  They're works of art, worthy of comment, no less complex and textured than Cinderella or Snow White.

I don't claim to do them justice with these quickie blog posts, which serve as bookmarks in the sand, bread crumb trails to treasures.

Back to the Castro / Kennedy story, I'm not casting JFK as mad King Ludwig of Neuschwanstein fame, far from it.  He had some great advisers (like his brother), like King Ludwig never had.

The parallel I'm drawing is a clandestine service fighting for its political survival.  Ludwig to spies:  "go kidnap so-and-so high level diplomat in Vienna and hold him for ransom, anonymously of course, so I can get money for more castles."  Spies to Ludwig:  "sure Ludwig, sure, whatever you say boss". Cut to spies enjoying themselves in Vienna for a week, expenses paid. "Dang it boss, we nearly had him, but the clever dude picked the lock and got away."  Ludwig:  "Dang it!  Maybe next time then."

The mad King Ludwig in this film is one of the twisted sibling royals, even more twisted than the other two.  I thought he (the actor) did a marvelous job being twisted, and as Alexia pointed out later, it's not like the others were refusing the currency i.e. the soylent substance that bought more time -- the unobtanium in this Universe.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Saturday, February 07, 2015


:: comings and goings at PDX airport ::

Saturday, January 31, 2015

The King and the Mockingbird (movie review)

The King and the Mockingbird (English title for a film from France), is really not that old:  1980, my year to finish a four year college.

And yet I'd not heard of it until now, a missing puzzle piece in some ways.

The mockingbird, a caring father of baby birds, speaks truth to power, an insufferable King who has a crush on a much younger woman who's already Facebook Friends with a chimney sweep (read:  lower class dude) her own age (and type).

The King plans on asserting white privilege in true royal style, only to be stymied by a bunch of sensitive lions riled to rebellion by a blind yet hope-filled musician, moved by the mockingbird's sly tale telling.

The world Paul Grimault creates is awesome, complete with improbable elevators and a giant robot, shades of Code Guardian, all in a swoopy "New Swine-stein" castle-like setting (with allusions to Mad King Ludwig cite Royal Babylon).

It's a modern police state in a nutshell, with a dictator run amuk.

What a great anthropological study (and spoof) of a theoretical ant hill (of the kind humans build).  I'm so glad I got to view this restored (and dubbed) version.

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:

Don't be concerned if you don't see much happening. The Google Calendar and the whole idea of a listserv where just proposals in an environment with already-established practices around sharing calendars. Quakers go back to the 1600s.

A lot of generational torch passing was going on, plus some Friends were even leery of Google. What can I say.

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.