Friday, November 26, 2010

Hurt Locker (movie review)

Les pointed out, as we settled in for this war movie, in a snowy horse farm, that it was directed by a woman. That did seem relevant, as we entered the surreal world of occupied Iraq.

The guys are in pause mode when it comes to developing civilian life skills. They've forked off into a hellish world they do not question. The language games revolve around rank, giving and following orders, demonstrating competencies with one's equipment, one's tools.

When the protagonist, Sergeant First Class William James, tries to re-integrate into his civilian persona, he feels he has no skills. Chopping carrots and pushing a cart through the supermarket only add to his sense of alienation.

Feeling like a fish out of water, not especially respected or understood, only separates him from his art, his work, which is disarming bombs. He needs to go back to the theater, to where he understands his rank and role in a social network.

In not questioning this man-made reality, simply taking it as a given, the film duplicates the atmosphere of a computer game, such as Half Life. Concrete wastelands full of wind-blown trash, any of which might be explosive, turns this into a first person Quake or Doom.

The film alludes to this, by showing the hero playing such a game. The army recruits with such games as well. The implied message is that life imitates art, and the Middle East has become a stage for acting out teenage fantasies of destruction and death.

The message of the film is rather clear I thought: war is a drug, and may become highly addictive. Finding some place in the world to live out one's destiny as a soldier becomes an existential requirement. Survival of the persona trumps survival of the body. Better to die for one's art than for no reason at all.

One of our Wanderers has a son who did that job of bomb decommissioning. Takes courage, and lots of it. The guy is somewhere outside the theater of war these days, though is still working with explosives.

Les and I talked about whether the XY chromosome was buggy. In a world where war is unnecessary, does the "male species" lack relevance? Many seem to think so, and respond by making sure war remains necessary.

Hurt Locker would work well as a double feature with Jarhead, as both are overtly philosophical.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

More Global Data

Made in Sweden

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Gasland (movie review)

John Fox is worried about what it might mean to allow hydrofracturing in his water table. Would toxins get into the ground water and destroy his habitat? Hydrofracturing is a process of injecting a brew of chemicals deep into the earth to release natural gases.

A complicated and unknown geology may offer little protection against seepage. Wells get contaminated and the the tap water catches fire. Streams go bad. Toxins trickle in (or flood in as the case may be). Animals (including humans) get sick and die.

John makes a pilgrimage across country, starting and ending in Pennsylvania, aiming to discover what's been going on. Colorado, Texas, Wyoming, Utah... Louisiana.

Are the denizens of the Lower48 still hell bent on destroying their own environment. Yes, apparently they are. Environmental protections put in place by a previous generation have been rolled back, as unfavorable to industry.

The largest unfiltered water supply in the world in upstate New York is the next target. People worry about "terrorists" poisoning their water supply. Ironic.

Lots of people enjoy natural gas though. Big city folk use it to cook with, heat their buildings with, power their "clean energy" buses with. Gotta have it.

What's happening to the countryside is a lot like what's happening to the Niger Delta or any region where rampant energy extraction occurs without much rhyme or reason. The locals are no match for the conquerors, who bully them into subjugation. There's little government to speak of, and no real national guard (in the literal sense, of guarding the people).

One might imagine ways to actually plan and develop energy resources in harmony with the ecosystem, intelligent designs. Such planning is hardly evident in the Lower48 though.

Any real science is short circuited as politicians try to create "jobs jobs jobs" (opportunities to "earn a living") regardless of the consequences.

Update (September 2017):  see this as a double feature with FrackNation for another point of view.  There's also a Gasland 2 out by now.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Quick Note

I enjoyed getting some training to serve as a judge of debate teams, and of other speech events. This was at Cleveland High School. As Nancy pointed out, it's a big poor public school with limited resources.

The state doesn't provide much funding for debate as a sport, even though this is such an obvious long term investment in cultivating democratic institutions. Government is half-assed and lazy, is Tara's view.

I'd been at Glenn's when she reminded me this was the 10th. Somehow, I'd always pictured this training happening on a Saturday, so was somewhat discombobulated.

Glenn and I had been discussing my global exchange student fantasies, which he tended to regard as too expensive. Why would taxpayers fund all that travel, over more local exchanges?

I took my general systems theory view that it's not taxpayers we're crediting, but the sun itself. Yes, human labor is mixed in... (more in my science fiction linked below).

The example debate, shortened for show, to give the new judges some exposure, was kind of interesting. The national forensics league had picked the "mosque at ground zero" meme for Public Forum (pofo) and was taken aback by all the backlash. For the first time, a resolution was retracted and replaced with: resolved: public forum resolutions should not be about sensitive religious topics.

Tara and I discussed it later. She sees debate as her sacred sanctuary, free from much of the crazy nonsense that infects the wider world. Keep silly religious topics out of bounds, and the sport will stay more enjoyable. My view was the debate format is pretty wimpy if not robust enough to handle run of the mill controversies, religious or otherwise. Wearing my judge's cap, she probably won. Keep the sport from getting too ugly by picking resolutions wisely.

On that particular issue, my view is religious installations, including temples, synagogues, mosques etc., maybe smallish ones, should be a feature in many an "office" building. Zoning should be for mixed use, including residential in more cases, so we have less mindless commuting. Why not work, sleep and worship in the same skyscraper?

I scribbled some more science fiction before I went to be, trying to be a good capitalist (means "using one's head"). I was also sparring with Brawley some more (he's a vet -- another topic), on whether it's a lost cause to try overcoming cubism. I think the Martian Math approach is being productive, as it lets me speak of Earthlings from a more external perspective (ETPV). I've been doing this on mathfuture as well.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Made for TV

So it's a week later at the meetinghouse (see below) and I'm learning a lot more about workflow design, even though that's already on my resume in places.

The idea of a "made for TV" Food Not Bombs maybe sounds cruel and heartless (too LA, too Hollywood), but in an era when we're counting down to zero, the ~bombs part has broad agreement and appeal, such that sponsors might want their brands front and center (or miss the boat).

I might see applying Centers Network skills and/or Western Young Friend skills, but then these are somewhat generic and emergent already. And I'm not seriously thinking this has to be a Hollywood show, unless you mean Portland's local neighborhood by that name. This is community participation TV of the kind we were always promised. Doesn't mean we can't filter excerpts to the bigger networks like ABC. Now if we only had real optical fiber, that let small outlets share the infrastructure -- not what the monopolists are intending.

In the meantime, there's a lot of local awareness of the criminal syndicates building more bombs, buying their pet politicians, while neglecting infrastructure for children and old people. To the extent there's any DEW system anymore, there'd be some real push back from the Pentagon. I still think an open alliance with Cuba would be cool (bridge through CDI?), a noble alliance versus that nefarious international human rights violator known as Gitmo.

Given recent progress within the Global U, I could see where the real dollars would go with us, and not with the phonies.

However, I digress. Back to workflow: what if the sponsoring donors send too much food to the cooking plaza, where the kids are lining up to learn and showcase their cooking skills? True, the cooking happens daily, with bike trailers, electric conveyances, delivering servings all over town (yeah, like Meals on Wheels).

On a small scale, what this looks like is too much produce piling up. For example, Lindsey (a star student) has a superman complex (very Nietzsche): she enjoys lugging huge amounts of produce up hills with a bike trailer, distributing it to free porches, sharing it with friends (she built the "tractor bike" herself). Sure, we could use more heroes like her (the more the merrier), but I can see where a plethora of committed horsepower might overwhelm some of the cooking facilities or, more likely, their composting facilities (not every church is so well equipped -- nor every meetinghouse either for that matter).

One solution is to cultivate more urban gardens, like in Brooklyn.

There's a lot of useful work implied in this picture. In Global U terms, one may not get a cash advantage for participating, but consider the sponsor credits. Free time in a bike co-op or gym, movie tickets (serious-minded documentaries most likely), even access to conferences, concerts, travel. I'd advocate sending Lindsey to Havana if we could get that ice cream factory thing going.

Plus like one of the crew was saying tonight (a former Brooklyn resident): hanging out with F~B gives free access to coveted apprenticeships learning to cook healthy vegan and/or vegetarian meals for lots of people. That's valuable skills building. Our Gathering of Western Young Friends, using the kitchen facilities at Camp Myrtlewood, is likewise a training zone.

These kinds of rewards, more career related, count as income in anyone's book. All it takes is some organization and a willingness to pitch in.

How wonderful to have Quakers at the forefront. Logistics R Us.

Will Code for America step up to the plate? We hear a lot about that initiative. What open source fund accounting software is out there. Coffee Shops Network wants to know.

Multnomah Friends / Google Earth