Saturday, October 28, 2006

The U.S. Versus John Lennon (movie review)

I saw this with Matt, appropriately, as John was a star in his sky, and his murder left a palpable emptiness. But this movie isn't about the senseless act of violence that ended his life. Rather, it's a shared trip down memory lane with some of our favorite talking heads. A lot of this story was new to me (I followed The Beatles from a much greater distance, mostly from my perch in Rome).

Yes, Lennon had a privileged life by working stiff standards, and probings by the FBI don't begin to approach the terrors of Vietnam, but that doesn't make him an enemy. His was a family values lifestyle, if that means loving your wife and kids and wanting what's best for them.

But when your wife is an already accomplished conceptual artist, quite able to expertly morph into some ninja princess master of psycho-guerilla warfare (as Bucky sometimes called it), and when you're one of these new breed of idols called "rock stars" whatever that means, and pretty clever besides, it's really unlikely your adventure will remain within "normal" parameters. Theirs certainly didn't.

Many of these fans (plus a few loyal opponents) were new to me, as on camera personalities, although G. Gordon Liddy I've seen and always get a big kick out of.

Richard Nixon has become archetypal in some way, surreal and Shakespearean. He's the star of his own universe most definitely, but one that's hard to break into, if you're not him. I experience compassion.

This fight between angry killer bee isms (communism... anti-communism), always so ready to devolve into stupid shootouts, as if that solves anything; Lennon was trying to show a better way to fight these battles, making them more like chess. He definitely engaged Nixon's attention, made more of a game out of it. Clowning is a serious business my friend, any real circus manager knows that.

And remember to set your clocks back tonight folks; the summer of '06 is long over, never to return. On a happier note, we get that extra hour in bed, perhaps reminding us of John. Peace.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Geometry in Nature

"at peace in Universe"
(statue made in Nepal)

"Hexapent in the Silicon Forest"
("Quantum Reality" by Julian Voss Andreae)

"Reading Hungarian Geometry"
(at Peet's in Lake Oswego)

Friday, October 20, 2006

VIP Visits PKL

:: David Koski ::
I retreived David from his uncle's in Dunthorpe this morning. If neighbors Koski and Torvalds ever meet at parties, it's about Finland that they share, not boring operating systems.

Later we paid a visit to Meliptus, though the tide was too low to permit its emergence from the boathouse.

I took along my newly acquired Bobliographon, the SubGenius Psychlopaedia of Slack.

David invested a lot of his youthful days in sunny California exploring Synergetics-related geometry, especially phi-scaled tetrahedral blocks. Today, he's a union HVAC engineer in Minneapolis, still interested in geometry.

While I was returning David to his uncle's, and again stopping by Trader Joe's, Dawn and Tara went to Freddie's for the Sim Pets add-on to Sims 2. Tara is quite blissful, now that her cute electronic dolls have these cute pets to go with.

Last night I took her to see the kick-off ISEPP lecture, by Dr. William Saturno on Mayan archeology. Saturno is an excellent storyteller.

Mayan cities really chewed through those trees, sometimes resulting in their outright abandonment (and later reoccupation). The forests atop these ruins (many from hundreds of years before Jesus) remain discolored even to this day, thanks to all that limestone plaster, and hence their tell-tale visibility to satellites, helping archeologist geocachers get there first, to protect the public record from more selfish and greedy looters and their black market accomplices.

We've got trips locked in to both New Mexico and Orlando, though I'm on a tight leash these days, owing to my ongoing fun gig with Saturday Academy.

Related reading:
The Archeology of Mathematics Teaching @ Math Forum

Sunday, October 15, 2006

American Pop (movie review)

Probably because we were just recently in Washington Square, NYC, this oldie but goodie seemed to jump off the shelf at Hollywood Video (along with the final episodes of Lost season 2).

The arch and famous fountain appear a few times in this animated feature, plus I dimly recall coming over from JSQ to attend a talk by Ralph Bakshi himself, closer to the time of this film's release (1981), at some NYU lecture hall also next to the park.

American Pop begins in Czarist Russia, where a mother and son escape a pogrom -- the rabbi dad falls to the sword, insisting on finishing his prayer.

After the mom dies in a garment factory fire, the son gets absorbed into Vaudeville, gets wounded in WWI (losing any chance for a good singing voice), marries a stripper, and eventually becomes a petty crime boss in Gangsterland USA (in part thanks to his own son's arranged marriage).

This next son, an accomplished pianist, enlists in WWII and is shot while playing, leaving his eldest to haunt Greenwich Village (enter the arch) and soak up its beat culture.

He makes his way, by stolen car and hobo train, to the drug, rock and anti-war scene in California -- by way of Kansas where a fling in the corn field begets a fourth generation (this we find out only later).

The last son ends up taking care of his washed up druggie dad (they move back to New York) who eventually abandons him (after first pawning the boy's guitar), and becomes the street smart punkish cocaine dealer with lots of music in his blood.

This last son becomes the superstar for the climax of this story, and although he's blue eyed and blond, all that American Heritage, Jewish included, is carried forward in the music, perhaps completing the great grandfather's prayer in some dimension.

The film uses interesting techniques, painting over live actors while sometimes splicing in raw documentary footage to add realism. Whereas the characters are fictional, the music is the real deal, popular American hits from throughout much of the last century.

For 12-year-old Tara (and for me), I thought this was a good history lesson, especially in complement with the EMP exhibits in Seattle and Nashville's Hall of Fame and Museum of Country Music. Follow the memes, study the genesis of your culture.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

New Wings

This evening, I joined other Saturday Academy supporters, including Terry Bristol, to celebrate 23 years of operations plus the launch of a new public sector craft 'n groovy crew.

SA is finally going it alone, instead of under the auspices of this or that higher education institution (incubators OGI and PSU still plan to work in tandem).

We enjoyed finger food and alcoholic beverages in PSU's new computer science and engineering building, applauding speeches and interviewing star students, veterans of SA's courses and internship programs.

One student had helped program the latest Lego robot using prosthetics you can't buy on the open market, such as magnetic field and pH sensors. Another had helped with a laboratory process that more effectively colorizes viral gene splicers. A third had spent a summer diving into the nanotubes literature and eventually working on their synthesis. All of these kids were still high school aged.

You'll find more on Saturday Academy elsewhere in this blog. I've been an instructor at both the OGI and PSU sites, teaching Pythonic Mathematics, a way of learning mathematical concepts while developing fluency with a state of the art object oriented computer language.

I spent some of the evening chatting with a man with a son named Kirben -- such an unusual name. The dad is one of four random CalTech students on former defense secretary Harold Brown's Xmas card for the year 1970.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Musical Event @ Noguchi Museum

"peaceful garden"

"god's light"

"noguchi, fuller & sadao hqs"

John Belt and Oswego students

"setting up"

Angela Molenaar of BFI and composer Petr Kort

Noguchi bust of Bucky

Friday, October 06, 2006

Princeton Dinner

I joined fellow alums (hi Connie), a couple prospectives, parents of a current undergrad, and the staff of Pyramid Brewery (NW warehouse district), for a Princeton Club of Oregon celebration of our somewhat cerebral heritage last night. All told, about fifty of us showed.

Dr. Joshua Katz was there, hot off a jet, to stand and -- after either chicken, salmon, pork or pasta; wine, water or beer -- deliver Etymology: The Glamour of Grammar.

Among the words Dr. Katz was excited about last night and/or is known for in the etymological community, are: etymology (the word itself), you (the pronoun, Old English), eel & snake (Hittite through Latinate transformations), vespers (evening prayers) and badger (the mammal).

Princetonians lapped it up, then asked traditionally brilliant questions.

For example, I wanted to know if there was any precedent for this explosion of made up commercial words, like Tylenol and Toyota Camry. He joked about Häagen-Dazs (very made up) and all the obvious psychology that had gone into that. And no, probably no precedent.

He called on me as "Mr. Angil" because I'd earlier distinguished myself by fishing up the Latin root for eel (he'd polled his audience, just like he polls his students). I'd flashed on Angillara on Lake Bracciano in Rome's outskirts.

The Korean couple next to me featured a charming more loquacious mom (of a Princeton student, also of an NYU student), and a quiet dad who chuckled knowingly but never said anything. That reminded me of the cute Korean couple in Lost, which Tara and I were just watching, and I even caught myself blathering about that for a few seconds. A Being There moment.

To my right, the Latin teacher from Cottage Grove, with her two high school aged wards. They lapped it all up with the rest of us. My response to tough-to-get-in good schools is we just need a lot more of them. Princeton is great and we joke about God going there, but really its our wholesome Global University that's great, meaning this planet for starters, where God does indeed teach, with a special spin just for each of us.

Also yesterday, Uncle Bill came by, yet better versed in self-publishing, and we updated his website, plus I briefed him on iPods and Internet lore.


Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Postpone the Elections?

So this Princeton computer scientist shows on TV how mindlessly easy it is to subvert the Diebold voting machine, and Diebold's lame retort is "you didn't have the latest version of our software."

That's supposed to inspire confidance?

We have the talent in this country to develop a transparent open source voting system with tons of built in protections. Banks know this stuff cold. When big money is at stake, they're among the first to demand auditing.

But when it comes to voting, where's the integrity? Who really defends democracy anymore? Anyone?

Dissecting critical, core civilian infrastructure, describing how it works, is an essential function of public education in the USA. If we expect to recruit new voters into the system, we at least owe them an explanation of how it all works.

If a teacher can't describe how a vote at the polling booth makes it to some HQS for tallying, with checks against abuse, then that teacher's students have been denied access to their most fundamental rights as USA citizens.

Congress needed to play a leading role in restoring trust in voting, electronic or otherwise.

Not having a secure system in place is terrifying, destabilizing, and to even implicitly endorse this status quo is to be a kind of terrorist for sure.

I'll be scanning my sources for any sign that the American people are being given a clear story about their newfangled voting system. Unless these stories appear, I don't think USAers should be coerced into voting by any "powers that be," nor should the results be given any legitimacy.

The election should perhaps be officially postponed, and no I'm not talking about martial law.

On the contrary, we should go into a holding pattern, with politicians forced to fix what's broken, every move scrutinized, run through a gauntlet of experts, the security-minded, those with real world auditing experience.

This would be interesting reality television, instead of just the namby pamby stuff like on Survivor (talk about lame).

Until then, whatever these politicians talk about on television is really of no weight or significance to us. We might as well tune out and just listen to Muzak™.

If the real USA isn't what's on TV, why should we even care? Let's just admit that our USA has been subverted and destroyed from within, and move on, maybe start over on an island someplace.

Antarctica anyone?

Monday, October 02, 2006

A Security Mom Speaks Out

Bagdad interior
Cindy Sheehan took the stage at the Bagdad tonight. She spoke from the heart, to an enthusiastic audience, handling the obligatory heckler with ease.

I'd never been in the same room with her before (I was way up in the balcony). She thanked Portland for its strong support, and the Bagdad, and Thom Hartmann (who was not present).

Speaking of security moms, mine's flying back from Minneapolis tonight, where she was at some WILPF event (I'm hazy on the details). I'll be heading out to PDX to meet her plane.

Tomorrow, the painters arrive early and start doing some sanding.