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

Good Press for Python

Saturday, February 07, 2015


:: comings and goings at PDX airport ::