Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Burma: A Human Tragedy (movie review)

The nation-state system is broken in many places and stateless refugees pile up, with bystander nations feeling helpless.  Burma is a poster child for the brokenness of nations.  But not the only one.

This film focuses mostly on the plight of Burma's refugees in Thailand and Bangladesh.  Many are internally displaced and wander the jungles, pursued by a genocidal army hell bent on ethnic cleansing.  A rebel army, actually several, fight back.

The prospects for new treaties among these peoples, new agreements, would improve in a context of more trust.  Aung San Suu Kyi is interviewed and her comments are used to punctuate the action.  Anjelica Huston narrates.  There's no deep historical storytelling nor geopolitical analysis.  The focus is recent times and what's happening on the ground.

The film is damning towards a particular ruling elite, offering few reasons to hope.  A reconciliation process, more like what occurred in South Africa, is contemplated by some.

Telling Burma's story outside Burma is somewhat effective, i.e. a kind of processing goes on which might be too incendiary within the local namespace.  People learn from seeing themselves mirrored elsewhere.

Given the ethnic strife in North America, and the history of genocide and betrayal, it's somewhat useful to compare notes perhaps.  Many of the same patterns are repeated cross-culturally.  Problems around rape for example (I happened to see this as a double feature with Occupy Unmasked, with a focus on the same phenomenon).

Friday, November 23, 2012

Arrest of Dora Marsden

arrest of dora marsden
Originally uploaded by thekirbster.

I'm thinking this is from the time she heckled Winston Churchill by climbing the facade of a building and shouting through the skylight at a men-only event of some kind.  I snapped a picture of Trevor's cell phone, or was it a tablet?  I forget.  Probably a picture of my cell, a Razr / M, using the Nikon Coolpix, after Trevor shared a copy.

Yes, I saw those stories about Anonymous versus some foiled voting heist, but I don't tend to take such stories at face value.

Likewise the FBI probing into compromised relationships in and around the security networks. Tommy Chong touched on the CIA story recently unfolding, playing up its comedy (sitcom) value.

Paranoia tends to run high among any who lie and cheat in ways the FBI might find out about (and also care about). It's not like that whole phenomenon evaporated after J. Edgar Hoover. Are you a possible target of blackmail, for which you'd trade secrets to keep things quiet? That's what many worry about: getting caught up in some drag net. They'd rather just talk about Libya.

Tommy also made fun of Oregon, as did the opening comedian (whom I'd seen at The Bagdad). Oregon is the "redneck South" beneath Washington, its relative North. In microcosm, Oregon is the more racist, the least secure. Washington is the greater power, Seattle the bigger city.

In WA, you have a more Canadian approach to marijuana, more likely to diffuse the cartels and their leverage. OR is closer to Mexico in having a moralistic / paternalistic / semi-Puritanical mental outlook.  Prohibitionist imposers repress and create an underground, are fragile egos living the nightmare, acting out their frustrations.

Portlanders are especially impatient with such a Puritanical mindset, which is more reminiscent of the Feds (knuckle-draggers, ape-like). But lets remember Portland is not the entire state. There's a disconnect, about which Salem does too little, politicians being too parochial for the most part.  Satellite TV does more to level the playing field.

Dora was a free spoken British Bodhisattva of the early 1900s, intent upon advancing the societal position of women, but a bitter critic of the "cause oriented" who'd sacrifice their health by doing hunger strikes (a popular suffragist strategy).  She distrusted "ideas" and their hypnotic power, their ability to divert and deceive.

She counseled gaining property and influence, creating a secure base. Marriage and its morals were abusive. Let men and women negotiate as equals and broker their relationships without some societal requirement that they strictly adhere to a certain script. She was not a "one size fits all" kinda gal.

I believe she created many enemies, such that when she proffered her more serious metaphysical works, too many were alienated to give her the time of day. She couldn't face the disappointment. That she would have fans in 2012 was neither a certainty nor a consolation for her then.

I'm still a noob when it comes to Dora, so if truly curious, look for better sources.  Feel free to say I sent you.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Seven Psychopaths (movie review)

The movie opens staring at the Hollywood sign with the dialog starting immediately on the theme of reality versus fiction.  "This is a fairy tale from the fairy tale makers" the movie screams (quietly, at its own pace).  We see the screenplay later, neatly photocopied and ready to go.  The writer is walking it to his agent.

In the context of this dream, therefore, we encounter dream violence.  The scent of self parody and satire is strong.  "This is what we do in the movies, we show you the blood and gore that we know is already in your imagination, if you're anyone like us."  Is this an alternative to violence?  Is showing it, vividly, a way of sucking it out of the real world and projecting it to a safer more contained one?  Could this be construed as a pacifist enterprise?

The film asks this question of pacifists, waving favorite symbols:  crosses, a Quaker...  Gandhi.  The Quaker is much interested in the Vietnamese psyche, which he imagines as full of vengeance, but then he takes it in another direction, as one of the co-writers of the screenplay.  He goes for an image of self-immolation (a bond).

The Quaker is also stereotypically in favor of "mixed breed" marriage, and as a couple they practice a form of satyagraha or use of inward weapons.  No guns for him.  The lead screenwriter, Irish, also tilts in this direction.

The theme that everyone in the dream is helping to make the dream, to pull it in the direction of their archetype, is also strong.

Going to and from Fox Tower (the cinemaplex) on the bus, I was reading Human Smoke, a non-fiction book about the reality and psyche behind World War Two.  The reviewers claim the writer is "a pacifist" and is providing a "pacifist point of view."

I'd heard the Quakers have a role in this book, as does Oswald Mosely.  Both are against engaging in this next orgy of outward violence, though maybe for different reasons.  I have more to read, just bought it this evening.

There's a dog on our street named Mosely.  Animals, dogs mostly (though bunnies too), feature playfully in Seven Psychopaths, riffing off the theme of no animals (as in non-humans) being hurt in the making of this film -- but then the humans are shown doing each other in with extreme cold bloodedness.  The murders are highly pre-meditated, planned, plotted, calculated, choreographed -- as if in a screenplay.

The characters wonder about an after-life, yet this becomes funny too, as they're already as if dead (killed) so many times, just not remembering clearly, the gift of time being at least a partial erasure.  They're already in an after-life, much like the ones before and to come.  Demons in hell have their own kind of immortality.  Karma is simply the conservation of momentum.

I've also been reading Blacksad the comic (graphic novel, film noire) all animal characters, and dealing with themes of racism and white supremacy, the Cold War and rabid hatreds.  More fiction, more depictions of violence, more telling stories that elucidate, as well as entertain.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Recent Victories

I urge this as an exercise, to review recent victories, you might think "to build self esteem?" but not so much, more it's about seeing yourself honestly for what you consider "a victory".  Was there someone to defeat?  Or was it some personal goal attained i.e. were you defeating your own lethargy?

One of mine was getting the Raspberry Pi to talk to my HDMI monitor in the office.  The solution was quite trivial and amounted to tweaking some settings in a text file, config.txt, already well commented.  But there's a sense of pride in doing, called positive reinforcement, that is it's own reward.  I remember when I bought an inexpensive capacitor and Bill Sheppard (a Wanderer) welded it on for me, replacing another on my DVD player's circuit board.  An investment was saved from the trash.  Skills had been well used.

Here's another.  My housemate is a lifestyle sculptress, herself the prime subject, meaning strict rules and attention to consumption and waste patterns.  All the glass bottles piling up from my six-packs were not helping her keep six-pack abs (a result of eating vegan + plenty of exercise), plus that's a lot of recycling.  Solution:  buying growlers instead, where the same bottle is reused, and filled from a keg. A higher grade, fresher beer is procured at a bulk price, and given constraints on transportation, it's gotten less often and in a healthier way.  I can bike a few miles for my 64 oz. container of Hub IPA.

Next:  I'm getting more into Haskell.  John T. at work had gone through a number of math languages, looking for innocence and purity, something aesthetic.  He felt his quest had come to a worthy terminus in Haskell.  A lot of thinking had already gone into Lambda Calculus when these functional languages were spawned, so they inherit that layer.  It's like an oil or natural gas field.  Once you start fracking in Haskellville, you get a quick infusion of gas, where gas is a good thing.

Does chronicling victories mean one should not also chronicle defeats?  "Defeat" is the grammatical opposite of "victory", not "failure", not "loss" (although "loss" is closer, since to lose is to be non-victorious).  I'd say your objective, in this mindfulness training, is to strive to report evenly.  Focusing on losses may be a way of avoiding responsibility whereas capitalizing on victories, even small ones, is building up your hand and thereby staying in the game, whatever game.  "I'm still a player" is the battle cry of the undefeated (those still willing to experience victories).

A next step with this practice is to tease victory stories out of others, get them to focus on wins in your presence, and then celebrate those victories with them.  This has a lot to do with friendship and being affirming.

At SMAD the other day we talked about "shame" and the bias of our group and group leader was definitely against it, i.e. shame was cast is an unhealthy substitute for other states that would improve the world more effectively.

One tends to self-divide into a self-teacher within, and one's admonishments to oneself are like that of a coach to a team, but in what sport and what kind of team?  We differ a lot in that dimension and when we attempt to teach others in ways we teach ourselves (often quite effectively I might add) we may encounter types of resistance that are to us unfamiliar because lo, personalities differ (duh).

Some people inwardly curse themselves out when they drop the ball in some way, but their flip side self, who takes the heat, is not overly discomfited because there's a bond of trust with this particular coach.  "She berates me in just the way I need" says the grateful trainee.  Note the rise of "nagware as a service" i.e. people use cyber-tools to goad them to run more, swim more or achieve whatever goals (sometimes with gifts to "anti-charities" used as penalties).  Other people need to be very diplomatic with themselves and only sound affirming, because any self-cursing triggers a spiral into self-hate that leads to poor team performance on no real sense of a pro coach.  There's only despair and losing.

When you meet a new person, one thing to discover is their "coach me" API.  However some may runaway scared before you get that far.  They hear you cursing yourself out, see the flame-thrower you use on yourself routinely and pretty much seem to laugh off, as you like having a dragon for a coach, consider it a privilege.

However, your onlooker just worries that dragon will flame at him and he's just not ready to be on such a team.  That's really understandable.  Or replace "dragon" (handsome and romantic) with "ogre".  "I just couldn't live around that ogre" is a common statement in divorce courts, if translated honestly.  Yes, Shrek has done much to improve the ogre image / PR, but I'm still more of a dragon fan myself (which sounds easy to say I suppose).

While on this topic:  I remember the Scandinavian fascination with "trolls" as relatively cute and cuddly.  Internet culture seems to have singled out "troll" and "trolling" as fair game for banishment and/or flames.  The question is where does honest and open agitation and debate cross the line?  Some groups just don't like to be challenged.

For example, if you speak up amidst Quakers, saying that holding nuclear weapons was like spitting on Jesus while he dragged his cross through Jerusalem, are you written off as "a troll"?

The abomination some Quakers trolled about, pre Civil War, was the holding of slaves, still considered perfectly legal and Biblical in those days (today it's more underground, a target of FBI and Homeland Security investigations).  To this day, many Christians say "they hold slaves in the Bible so it must be fine and dandy with God, so shut up and leave us alone already!".  And indeed God and the apostles say things about how how the relationship of master / slave should be conducted (respectfully), which implies an acceptance.  Many Biblical authorities have said Jesus never said anything against slavery, but I'd say the derivation of the word "Friend" (as in not-servant, not-slave -- a free and willing agent) traces to John 15:15 wherein Jesus says he's fed up with slave-minded sycophants who just wanna get to heaven, over his dead body if necessary (paraphrasing). He was lonely for real friends, who can blame him?

Quakers were less into aping the Biblical cultures (various brand of Holy Lander), as if the point of that book were to stage theater (re-enactments) -- though sure, it's full of good stories, worthy of cinematic treatment (not to worry, more to come I'm sure).

Nukes likewise enslave, by holding a sword of Damocles over vast populations, but some "Saved Christians" defend this grave sin on Manifest Destiny grounds ("if God didn't mean us to hold nukes, then we wouldn't have nukes already" -- the same demented argument used to keep slaves ("using the existence of a state or condition, as a justification for its continuance" -- there must be some Latin name for that fallacy; "status quo ad absurdum"?)).

Scandinavians think trolls are adorable, and Scandinavians don't have nukes.  I'm thinking more pro-troll PR may be in order, to balance what the oafish ghouls and ogres have been up to.  We're not just pro-elvyn around here, we're pro-troll (traditionally they fight each other, so heyoka (and watch out!)).

Sometimes the same story may be told as a defeat or a victory.  If the premise is "loser" then I couldn't even keep track of the 2011 tax statement and so I haven't done the FASFA yet, egad.  However, having filed through H&R Block I was able to have my Razr / M talk me through an interesting set of turns and I didn't even have an accident while admiring the pretty GPS map. Victorious outcome:  I now have a copy of said statement and a better relationship with my smartphone (we're spending more time together).

The Raspberry Pi is a small computer.  Steve Holden not only gave me a unit, in my capacity as PSF member, after watching him set up a few, but lent me the book.  Sliding the SD card from the unit to the Mac Air allowed me to tweak config.txt on a different machine, and after awhile I just used on-board vi to tweak the settings and reboot.  I have an aspect ratio I can live with.  The unit is also connected by Ethernet to the office router and is happy to browse the Web.