Thursday, September 29, 2005

Baghdad, City of

We may legitimately expect great advances in civilization from Baghdad, once the dust settles. Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi lived in Baghdad, according to an online Britannica. I was just checking into that a few minutes ago. I hear Greenspan favors still teaching the long division algorithm in K-12. I'm certainly not averse.

Did I ever mention my job at Georgetown University, refiling Arabic language texts to their rightful shelf positions? The job required at least knowing the regional alphabet. At the time, I kind of did, thanks to a course I almost failed at Princeton. I also used the time to read more about James Joyce (the Hugh Kenner connection), and naval history (this is closer to the time when Fuller's whimsical/poetical Critical Path was still new).

Let's keep working on getting Imperial Rome out of the picture. Old Glory, in symbolizing a fight against British Imperialism in the 1700s, knows something about beating back illegitimate tyranny. Democracy and self-determination at the local level go hand in hand.

We understand that a stable world system doesn't require power to apex in any one apex. Tower of Babel was for a reason: to keep Man where he belongs, out of the control room (within those limitations, we do as much as we responsibly can, and then some).

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Return to the Moon?

Mom pointed out an interesting juxtaposition of stories on the front page of The Oregonian today: the rural southeast feels bypassed by federal aid agencies; NASA wants to return to the moon.

I have Google set to sweep newsmedia for any mention of the OMR stadium-shaped city idea. Turning stadiums into cities seems to be a favored solution to date, but that doesn't seem very practical in the long run.

If NASA could build us a spanking new moon base (a dot-mil operation), maybe it could help us brainstorm about new high tech ecovillages right here on Spaceship Earth. We civilians (remember us?) could use some help from the aerospace sector.

But NASA may not have the imagination for it, may not have the "right stuff." OK, so how 'bout The Mouse in Orlando? EPCOT used to mean Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow, before the language lawyers changed it to Epcot (deliberately meaningless) and disgused the BuckyBall with the wave of a magic wand (camouflage?).

Monday, September 12, 2005

More on Mathematics

I've gone back to Internet brainstorming with other math heads, trying to find a way to engage the media more successfully in high def, high bandwidth, prime time pedagogy, i.e. how do we live up to the promise of TV as a medium for education? Obviously it needs to be entertaining as well. The two go together, positive synergies are inherent.

Inventors always dreamed it might be used for good, even as they cringed, bracing for worse. Well, we know what worse looks like, but there's still plenty of bandwidth for better. And we've had a lot of excellent television. I've often been awed by the talent, the writing, the whole shebang.[1] Not on every channel nor every program mind you. But sometimes TV just blows me away, the way some books and movies do, or some dreams.

A lot of thinkers have focused on "symbol dances" as a genre to focus on, by which I mean multimedia language games that have, as their content, some of the alpha/numeric, iconic, ideogrammatic, and variously stylized glyphs of our or other cultures. Like, flash the ancient greek letters and say them. Sigma, phi, pi, theta. Ro ro ro your boat. But with Flash as in Macromedia, as in Shockwave, as in Sesame Street with Big Bird -- and Evil Bert (not really evil -- that was a joke from the political sphere, some kids won't remember).

I've played with Flash myself, and come up with primitive examples of what I'm talking about. But I'm no super incredible artist when it comes to some sophisticated art-making technologies. I write pretty well. But I'm no great prodigy when it comes to animation (I like to think I add to the team, but I'm not as good in all positions, obviously).

[1] "shebang." WordNet 1.7.1. Princeton University, 2001. GuruNet Corp. 13 Sep. 2005.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

More Global Data

Of course another stargate that's opened (metaphor) is between New Orleans and Amsterdam, Louisiana and the Netherlands. I was pleased to see so much set in the Netherlands in Quicksilver, however twisted that telling. Such wonderful canvases.

People elsewhere on the globe are starting to get more of a picture of what the heartland of America is like. The logistics are poor here. Like, look at our dikes. Kids in Holland stare at the TV agog: so America is like this stone age place, like in The Flintstones?

Sunday, September 04, 2005


Is now the time to dust off shelved megaproject proposals, e.g. Old Man River City (OMR)? Trevor brought this up at our meeting yesterday -- seemed apropos.

This stadium-shaped A-frame features terraced living, with apartments taking the place of bleachers (obviously its scale dwarfs ordinary football stadia), plus a cover.

I updated a web page on my site with a pictured scale mockup (see Bucky Fuller's Critical Path, 1981 for more details).

On synergeo (Yahoo eGroup) some guy thought I was talking about replacing New Orleans with this leviathan, but I'm more thinking how to bring something on-line that'd be faster to start using (it could go up in sections), while employing companies starting now, thereby giving folks some options (shades of New Deal thinking).

The eventual fate of New Orleans needn't hinge on what we do or don't do in the East St. Louis area.

And we might have learned something in Baghdad about building in transparency (sorely lacking in that context).

The tsunami story isn't over yet either, by a long shot. Disaster relief could and should be one of the world's principal industries (like the body's immune system), fading into construction, communications, health care and education at the civilian end of the spectrum.

Emergency response becomes part of the military way, what with its chain of command and experience with heavy equipment. Restoring order means reverting to a natural state of nonviolent civilian living. Putting out fires is the name of the game -- not starting them.

I don't know if OMR is just a solution looking for a problem here, but bouncing back from Katrina with megaproject proposals, one of which would be rebuilding New Orleans itself (a daunting task), is a healthy response. However, going to the moon wouldn't be that relevant (thinking back to Hurricane Camille, which came shortly after Apollo 11).

Floating city ideas should also be revisited while we're at it, with realistic attention to natural disaster possibilities. Not every technology is suitable to every ecosystem -- presumably we know that much by now.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Katrina (aftermath)

Tracking with CBS, I saw that segment about the big banana shipment, a fully loaded container ship, getting tossed inland, meaning very bruised bananas. Tremendous loss of hard work, careers built over a life time. Fishermen, their boats ruined, so carefully maintained and fussed over all of their fishing boat lives. Pets gone. Children. Heartbreak in the heartland.

New Orleans and Baghdad have opened a kind of stargate between them, as both have suffered so many untold disasters, and now have armed national guard troops trying to restore order. The public now feels they're in competition: how could you provide for Baghdad and not for us?

A hurricane of destruction was willed by men against Baghdad, whereas Katrina was not of men. These crises do not have the same causes, and yet the shapes are similar. War and natural disasters have always borne some resemblance. And the Red Cross administers in both contexts.