Tuesday, December 31, 2013

New Years 2013

I watched the above geometry clip, by DK, among other things.

Tara and I had rented a pile of DVDs, among them 56 Up (like my age), and We Steal Secrets:  The Story of Wikileaks, which probably deserves its own review. 

I watched the latter, having seen 56 Up shortly after getting back from our trip north.

I also attended to AFSC business.   At the last corporation meeting (in early March of this year) I was reading the testimony of Bradley Manning.

Phone calls, emails, text messages... I wouldn't say I'm alone.  But nor would I call this a party.  Just hanging out.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Celebrating the Solstice with a Celebrity

My choice for this year, the talented Sheryl Crow singing about sunshine and covering John Lennon's war torn piece.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Gravity (movie review)

Tara and I caught the 3D version at Fox Tower.  Good sound.  Yes, a pet peeve I've always had is how much spurious sound gets added over top, where "sound" is an oxymoron.  In outer space, you don't have sound like that.  Finally, at last, a film with the guts to add some realism in that regard.  Having vast destruction occurring in silence reminds one of the role sound does play in alerting us to situations.

Many bold moves.  First person shots, "in helmet".  You couldn't have that other point of view, that we get as an audience, but those quasi-omniscient points of view were long ago accepted.  We say we don't believe in angels but only because our language buys them entirely, hook, line and sinker. The film industry is the champion of impossible viewpoints.  And right next to them:  the stars.

Clooney does a fine job.  At first we think maybe he's a loudmouth jerk, but soon realize he's grounding the whole mission, anchoring.  He's a geodesic.  A meaning of gravity (yet with levity -- he's always cracking jokes).  Clooney is a rabbi, if we want to go with that, a dharma teacher.  Then Bullock is gutsy brave and evolving, as one tends to do in death's face.  Nothing like death's face to spur one to get a move on, spiritually speaking.  She goes through plenty.

Tara, a physics student, was fairly OK with the physics engine.  In reality, the inertias involved would likely just be too great.  Grabbing a moving car on the freeway or leaping onto a moving train, is not that much easier in zero gravity.  Grabbing the box car door as it flies by is just too much a jerk on your body.  You need to swoop alongside and grab, but just a fire extinguisher is likely not up to it.  She's in that lack of O2 fantasy.

That's a darker interpretation:  when she's dozing off as an homunculus, perhaps to be reborn in China (as a dog maybe), we think she has like an hallucination, but it's more like a discontinuity, with George having his desire to keep living the dream too.  Both have died at some point, and we the audience are left with our impossible point of view, dead long ago and far away.

This got us both eager to cross-check (omni-triangulate) and we sat at Ringler's later (a McMenamins) with our smart phones, reading about the Chinese space program.  Most of the hardware credited to China in the film is planned to make it's real time debut in the near future.  The film is "quite close to now".  No Orion yet.

At the Wanderer's Solstice Party, Brenda, a lab tech at MHCC, said the new planetarium software was really great.  She's Ms. Frizzle from Magic School Bus when in character -- she actually dresses up as that during one of the college campus summer festivals.  She'd probably be a good astronaut, or could at least play one.

Life of Pi was somewhat a precedent for this movie, in exploring seamless CG.  We've come a long way in films.  This was the industry's way of showing off it's own breakthroughs, its ways of communicating the reality we know is out there, the reality of "outer space".  We live in it, within a biosphere as thin as the oil on the surface of an orange or thereabouts.  Maybe a little thicker.

The themes of death and gravity stay tightly interwoven in this film, which is what probably keeps it from being "just another action thriller" and makes it a meditative play, a profound work worthy of these serious performances by stars, lots of close-ups.  It's an existentialist stage play, ready to join conversations with other works, in future writings, and yet it's a roller coaster as well, a thrill ride in addition.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Bylaw Changes

A rather open secret among Friends is that it's an uphill battle to keep the American Friends Service Committee in their good graces.  You'd think, with the 100th anniversary of the Nobel Prize coming up, that Quaker churches and meetings would be crowding into the frame.  Twas the AFSC that accepted, on behalf of Quakerdom more generally.

However, the political landscape has changed since those days leading up to World War Two, about which I recommend the book Human Smoke (on my Kindle).  That flash of early brilliance and optimism was nearly drowned in the wars to follow, in Vietnam especially, where the AFSC kept showing up in Hanoi, maybe on the same airport bus as Jane Fonda.  That alienated a political demographic that overlaps with Christendom certainly.  The Vietnam War had many elements of a crusade, especially if you see it as Diem did, a devout Catholic.

Consider the late Bayard Rustin,  his 100th birthday the focus of a recent Corporation meeting.  US President Obama subsequently awarded him a posthumous Medal of Freedom.  A lot of the same people who love to hate Hanoi Jane have no time for our hero Rustin either.

Our Corporation bylaws currently stipulate that at least two reps from each represented Yearly Meeting be Corporation members.  This governance relationship, between Yearly Meetings and the AFSC, which includes "at large" as well as geographic members, is strained to the breaking point, with the logistics of reaching a quorum proving daunting, well neigh impossible sometimes.

To address this shortfall, the Corporation feels it must adapt by streamlining.  Instead of stipulating "no less than two" reps from any Meeting, it will be "no more than two".  The status quo will become the norm, whereas it had been our Achilles Heel.  The AFSC will continue operating with the proper bona fides, as truly a Quaker organization, and the peanut gallery can just stay unfilled (the balcony seats are never needed for Corporation meetings as it is).

I played devil's advocate during the conference call with Friends Center this morning, in my role as convener for my region's reps, our Yearly Meeting being North Pacific YM (NPYM).

The clerk congratulated me on my performance but one could sense our seeing a way open, the way of shrinking, like Alice.  There's that tendency to stampede towards the light at the end of the tunnel.

A streamlined AFSC will be cozier, more tightly knit, goes the theory.  Those who do share a commitment, will more likely get more done, divested of the more lukewarm hangers on, the foot draggers, the grumblers.

I pointed out that because we're still hammering out what's considered legal representation in cyberspace, the day may soon come when reps need not travel to be legally present in meetings, thereby constituting a quorum.  Where are the laws with that today?

So why worry so much about our "carbon footprint" when we might be on the brink of another upgrade?  Might we address our shortfall in numbers another way?

If our goal is truly to maximize diversity (another bylaw change) then isn't cutting back our numbers a move away from that goal?

Why not pack the house, in virtual space, in augmentation of the physical meeting, and demonstrate greater diversity at the same time?

We'll see what happens.  These discussions will be ongoing for some time.

The board takes a look at it again, before kicking it back to us for a red or green light.  At least we've found a way to be open about our shortfall and the legal bind that has put us in.

If we have no way of living up to our existing bylaws, then it's not surprising we feel compelled to change them.  We have to go with the army -- inward weapons only -- we've got.

On with the metaphysics then! -- or whatever "organizational alchemy" is called.