Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Wanderers 2014.11.26


We had one of our best turnouts ever today, with people we practically never see.  Coffee was in high demand.  I said I'd be more like a photographer at a wedding and move about, then fade away as my day job is peaking.  Just getting to join was a privilege, with family and friends.

Our topic was Matriarchy, beginning with concerns about definition and semantics.  Matriarchy is not "just the opposite" of Patriarchy, but then what's the latter?  Matrilineal is easier to define.  In Patriarchy, the fathers have a stronger "need to know" regarding the paternity of children, as property passes father to sons, or any offspring per King Lear.  In Matriarchy, paternity doesn't matter as much and the mother's brother may be head of household, with her husband the head of another household.

Constance Tippett Chandler was our presenter.  She's an artist who shapes a concept of history as from clay, with attention to detail and scholarship.  Matriarchy is less concerned about gender, though patterns around gender may well develop.  "Whoever is most fit for the job" was her response to division of labor questions.  Creating the ethics in the moment as a way of unearthing a distant culture in the past may seem like undue editorializing, but as performance-based conceptual art, it makes sense.

Given circumstances, looming work-related tasks, I took my leave somewhat early and missed a lot of the discussion.  Do we really find evidence of a Matriarchal layer in Old Europe circa 7500 BC?  We do find a lot of sophistication about time and cycles back then, astounding pottery, evidence of successful civilization.  But what do we know about the social order?

In Connie's telling, that layer of history, or prehistory, is buried with the invasion of the Kurgans, after which the archeological record shows plentiful weapons cluttering up the landfill, up until our day.  We're still the war-prone heirs of the horse-mounted bullies who imposed far stricter rules to the point of enslavement.  Patriarchy is a lot about asceticism, rank, policing others.  More fascist.

Obviously much discussion could flow from such a storytelling.  The Confederated Tribes of the Iroquois, by some accounts a model for the Federation of States branding as "USA" in later chapters, was Matriarchal.  In Connie's telling, the patriarchy reached a corrupt phase and downward spiral out of which the matriarchy then emerged.  Could this happen again?

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Recapping a Story


When Lindsey Walker was with IT for CSC for GulfStream, a subsidiary of General Dynamics, she had the savings to (a) follow the band Weezer to Japan and (b) scope out Portland for its reputed Portlandia scene (this was before the TV show).  She ended her IT lifestyle in Savannah and made a bee line in her Nissan, with Titty the cat, to Asylum District (Hawthorne) there to start a new life as a rock star and revolutionary.

In the meantime Tara and I had done some desert driving lessons that ended when Razz the Subaru bumped over some floor-piercing rocks.  Walker had forsaken driving as something less ethical folks do and become more ascetic, a cyclist and pedestrian.  Result:  given I had a spare space and she had a spare car, tit for tat:  she got the space, I got the Nissan.

I'd also been experiencing dire straits in the wartime economy (fewer good options for civilians) and welcomed Lindsey's exciting foray into pioneering an ascetic lifestyle.  She got us into the FNB network at a critical time when free food in exchange for labor and logistics, was a welcome opportunity.

Fast forward:  Lindsey discovered Newar Buddhism through the one temple in that tradition anywhere in the Pacific Northwest, and it just happens to be around the corner from the Linus Pauling House, through which Lindsey and I first met, thanks to Patrick.

Lindsey is now interested in becoming a serious student of the Newar Buddhist tradition, with another year of training in Nepal to follow her recent three-month sojourn there.

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Exorcist (movie review)

I'd not seen this one since the Philippines, when priests came on TV and told us it was just a movie, which made it worse.  My girlfriend at the time soured on Ouija Boards but warmed up to priests, so impactful was this celluloid-saved scenario.

When it opened to some beautiful call to prayer music, showing scenes in Iraq, where apparently the Christians had found a hell mouth (cite Buffy), that finally made it click for me, why the Catholics felt compelled to invade.

But wait, no, they didn't, that was a Neocon thing, not a drop of pure Christian blood in it, except at the Monster U fringes, with imam-rabbis Falwell & Robertson types flaming them on.  The Pope was against bullying Iraqis in the name of ousting a Noriega type the US had been supporting just prior, in some "balance of terror" you should ask Kissinger about, I'm no authority.  I was in Tehran once, fun place.

Anyway, the girl's mom is a total Georgetown power-nester, a socialite par excellance, the dad gone, with a new loser boyfriend, and a teenage girl hoping to practice some real girl talk.  Mom isn't up to it though and projects this whole shrieking journey on her daughter, while mom sits it out in the mental hospital, doing unspeakable things in her mind with those priests.  It's all a flash back you see.  Mom got better.  That's the uncut version (laugh track), my spin.

So the audience is immediately jealous this mom has servants to boss around and fawning admirers and thinks it probably serves her right her darling daughter is such a potty mouth (like Nixon) who makes salon party social errors beneath those of most socialite amateurs, like peeing on the rug.  Hah hah, mommy doesn't get a Barbie, mommy gets a Chuckie.  [ This is the version where more dolls were used, with the coming-downstairs scene, belly-up on all fours.  Only very athletic girls should even attempt such a thing. ]

The hero-priest is racked with guilt and needs a way out himself.  What better way than down those same steps the loser boyfriend took, the now-famous "Exorcist steps" of Georgetown, one of my favorite necks of the woods, used to visit friends there, had a job there, even lived there for a spell, working for a pro-democracy group while staying with a partisan supporter of same (WDC is riddled with partisans, like Rome in that way).

The main tension in this film is the triangle between a raving mom, doctors, and the church.  The doctors and church are all men, vying for this woman's allegiance and respect.  The church plays especially "hard to get" where exorcisms are concerned as belief in the supernatural is no longer cool except when practiced with true believers (the devil himself the archetypal original-sinner in-self believer).

Today's priests do nuclear physics and teach astronomy and stuff and don't get involved with demonic possession cases.  Leave that to the con artists and filmmakers (symbolized by the movie-fan detective, professionally skeptical of everyone).  On the other hand, they have a reputation to live up to, and so don't want to disappoint when cornered by Satan.  Their profession gains credibility through this work, as it does from Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Out of the Clear Blue Sky (movie review)


I picked this up from Movie Madness to continue on the topic of 911, taken up at Wanderers last week by David Chandler.  He invited myself and a friend to watch it at his house, given his own focus on this topic and the fact that we're all friends anyway, through Quakers.

As I expected from reading the dust jacket, this is not a film about the whys, hows or wherefores.  It's about a group of families connected to a company that lost all 650+ co-workers who went in to work that day at North Tower, right near the top, where one could feel the building sway and see water slosh back and forth in the sink.

When the plane hit, all access to the ground was lost and the physics was lethal.  The CEO, who was enjoying his son's first day of kindergarten, understood the situation and grappled with it as best he could.  At first he was the human face of the 911 victims, but then the media turned on him when rumors spread that his company was not planning to make good on its promises.

The arc of the film is a lot about the exoneration of the CEO, who lost his brother in the attack, as well as about the nightmare the victims have endured since 911.  The film makers also lost family members and friends in the attack.  The suffering of the victims is mixed with that sense of the surreality of these horrific events, a reminder that reality need not be believable.

David thinks any notion I may have that these buildings could have been pre-wired for demolition for benign reasons, namely to get rid of them when they proved to be white elephants, is highly unrealistic and thinks it far more likely that the wiring was premeditated and coordinated with the airplane attacks.

That's assuming a demolition occurred, in addition to the airplane hits, which many architects and engineers argue is likely, given eyewitness accounts, analysis of the video, and of the chemical residue from the dust.

Adding a button to the picture and a decision to press it, does not in itself point to who the decider was as a matter of logic, at least not in my mind.

I'm willing to add a button (e.g. to explain WTC 7's fall "at the speed of gravity" -- not 40% slower as the draft NIST report alleged) but that's about as far as I go in my own analysis of what happened.  I have no special insider knowledge I'm withholding at this time.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Abandoned Projects

I haven't had time to explore my free Amazon Web Services and they were soon to convert to pay-as-you-go.  As a defensive measure, I cancelled the account, not really having learned anything.  Nor have I gotten anywhere with Cypher, the Neo4j language I was hoping to tackle.

Like anyone, I think I'm lunging toward X and find myself embracing Y instead.  Perhaps momentum is conserved if nothing else, or inertia if you prefer to call it that (coordinate systems talk).

Quakerism tends to have some liberal dharmas (teachings) about how "the way will open" and your work as the receiver is "expectant waiting".  The ego doesn't get to own the road in this picture.  But then perhaps one may legitimately worry this bigger Self is just another egoic projection, a shadow puppet. Projection is certainly a strong psychological phenomenon, good thing they came up with that name for it.

One might distinguish projects based on their point of abandonment.  Consider a ship.  Some never make it off the drawing board whereas others plow the world's oceans for decades before finding retirement.  Both may be accounted "ended projects" but certainly at different chapters or phases. The other variable to remember is that projects spawn other projects to varying degree.

Tonight I was watching a EuroPython video mentioning Rope, Pykka, Bottle and Traad ("thread" in Norwegian), the talk by Traad's author.  Probably that, and the email from Amazon about my twelve month free trial period coming to an end, got me meditating on Abandoned Projects as a theme.

Not that these excellent Python projects (Rope etc.) have been abandoned, more they've been spawned, adding to a thriving ecosystem.

Likewise the projects I've thought of doing, or have gotten into part way, have sometimes produced results in other, perhaps unanticipated directions.  Precession.

====

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Thursday, November 06, 2014

Short Story

This one came to me this morning, a comic skit maybe. 

It's about this guy who makes like a hundred times more than anyone, or exponentially more, but then he's obsessed with covering his tracks by encrypting any porn he might tap into, and that takes like nine tenths of his dough, or whatever it takes to knock him back to like you and me. 

The funny part is we all know this is his obsession, to protect his privacy with fancy encryption bought from the most expensive think tanks.

So what has he gained really? 

We never know the IP numbers or exactly which girls and/or boys (or hamsters?) but in leaving that to the imagination, we pretty much just see a guy who could have had a lot more fun in life. 

So yeah, it's a sad story, but then it's fiction, a cartoon.

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Angle & Frequency



Synergetics heads will appreciate this snowboarder mag logo for its use of Frequency in conjunction with Similarity. In the Synergetics vocabulary, Frequency relates to size whereas Angle relates to shape. These may be varied independently.

Warning:  per Wikipedia, Synergetics is an "iconoclastic" discipline, roughly meaning:  unorthodox, verboten, off limits, fringe, in the twilight zone, remote, maverick, experimental, weird, odd-ball, off-beat etc.  But then probably more people read Bucky than Heidegger so it's all relative anyway.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Which Way Home (movie review)


Los Estados Unidos have become mythologized in more tropical climes, though here in El Norte, Costa Rica has a reputation as a subtropical paradise.

Not only do these kids often have very hazy, uninformed ideas, their parents and/or guardians may likewise have a very poor understanding of what almost two thousand miles on the top of a freight train might do to a person.

The children run away, clump together in teams, and a large number come home as PTSD victims, having been starved, robbed, imprisoned, and/or forced to witness crimes, including atrocities, against fellow travelers.  Some come back in a coffin.

What a lot of these Guatemalan, Honduran and Mexican kids don't realize is that North America has a large population of runaways just like themselves, fleeing broken homes.  They may be orphans, disowned, have an alcoholic step dad, mom's a meth head or who knows.

For one reason or another, a radical reboot / reset looks more promising than staying in the hood, and these kids hit the roads, sometimes the trains.  It doesn't matter what America you're in, the plight is the same, as are the attempted remedies.

What's most touching is how many of these young wanderers imagine they might find a loving family up north, not realizing many of our voting USA taxpayers would rather enjoy using them for target practice.  Immigrants who got here earlier tend to be mean to later immigrants:  an old pattern, similar to the "snobby butler" phenomenon.

Organized work / study tours for academic credit, and web sites for matching students with global opportunities would be part of the solution, as well as safer train tracks.  By the looks of this film, trains in Mexico have a bad habit of flying off the rails.

The film crew is gutsy in riding the trains with the kids, getting lots of hours in and winning the trust of their non-unionized cast of characters.  The social services and authorities, as well as NGOs, are portrayed as always caring and professional.  The "corrupt cops" and "predatory smugglers" do their thing off camera keeping everything PG-13.

Many thanks to PortlandiaLanguages.com for hosting this showing of an Emmy Award winning HBO documentary.  Save The Children International was the designated beneficiary of all proceeds.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Lunch Break

Long time readers of these blogs will remember Glenn Stockton, both a handy-man caretaker, really great with tools thanks to much off-the-grid living, even raising a family that way, and a scholar. 

He haunts the Good Will sometimes, knowing it's a place to score finds and today found a really great condition copy of a classic by Linus Pauling and E. Bright Wilson, which one is welcome to read for free on the Web:



Not that this book is light reading by any means. Pauling was a good clear writer in general though, Glenn points out, and I assume Wilson was too.


He also shared several other titles which you can take a look at by entering my Flickr Photostream, by clicking on either picture above.