Monday, January 30, 2012

Journey of the Universe (movie review)


Once again, I wasn't sure what I was getting into.  We wandered up to the 16th floor of the wrong building, finding a beautiful lobby, then entered 888 to make our way to what turned out to be a meeting of the State Bar (as in lawyers' guild).  There's a subgroup or committee looking to improve the future -- "the only bar section in the country with a specific goal" or something like that.

At first I thought this was clever marketing, this Torporation (Torp) instead of a Corporation (Corp).  The best way to avoid that "corporate personhood" stigma is to start up as a torporation instead, with torporate executives and so forth.  "More benign than corporate persons, because they sleep a lot" was Glenn's joke. Anyway, it made a good skit in the theater of my mind.

Which brings us at long last to the movie.  This had been on public TV I'm told (OPB), yet we were somewhat exclusive in getting to see it -- not clear on the details.  Brian Swimme is the new James Burke and does a fine job in the microcosm / namespace of Samos (an island), where we've decided Pythogoras literally lived.

The narrative takes a bold move in that cave of his, suggesting we look at the imagination as like another eye (an imaginary eye), a wholly different way of seeing.  Two other kinds of eye, including the water ball eye (what we also have) were discussed beforehand.

Anyway, as with most of my movie reviews, I somewhat assume the reader has seen the movie already -- backwards from most reviews, which read more like previews, but certainly a way to go:  it's like we at least have this recording in common, so now lets share our takes / angles.  Like a book club.

That was what this meeting was like: a focus group.

The organizers were honestly interested in getting some feedback, lawyers first.  The group knew we had some scientists intermixed, including the identifiable physicist / cosmologist on the back bench, a credentialed authority (University of Chicago).  So when it came time to relay impressions, it was stipulated we let the lawyers speak first, as this was, after all, a meeting of their guild.

One of those present suggest we raise our hands if we were lawyers, but the moderator immediately countered that this need not be revealed.  Interesting culture, this.

Don talked about the movie Farewell (a spy movie) on the way back in his new motor vehicle, Glenn stuffed in a much roomier back.  We'd had a good time.

Other Wanderers, such as Bob McGown and David Tver were there too (they both spoke).

I spoke as well, after the bar against non-lawyers was lifted.  I was slightly self conscious when raising my hand, in geek costume (in my Python sweater-vest, army surplus jacket on the rack), especially of the leather cuffka, Nirel brand, about my wrist -- but I doubted it mattered too much (lots of people had styles).

My gray locks put me more in the "rounded elf" category and soon I had the entire room chuckling about how a lot of our dark side was missing.  "If I'd been briefing a room full of ETs about what to expect upon encountering humans..." I suggested.  But the film was upbeat, wanted us to feast on the images, not shield our eyes.

Shades of Koyannisqatsi and Winged Migration both.

Some of the lawyers present got more talkative with time.  The physicist in the back was also diplomatic I thought, in requesting a moment to think.  When the lawyers had been asked, they'd fallen into a profound silence reminiscent of a Quaker meeting, reluctant to have too easy opinions.

Gradually the ice thawed and opened the space for some real sharing.  Lynne Taylor was there and spoke up before I did.  She'd seen an earlier draft of this film at the Parliament of World Religions.  She was eager for more of this genre.

There probably was some implicit tension in the film, as it used Samos as an integration point wherein to criss-cross psycho-spiritual and physio-scientific concerns.

Was this taking on too much of the role of the priest?  Know-it-alls can be a problem.

I saw lots of hat-tipping to maternity and the child like nature of humankind, though the narrator was clearly an XY.

Several lawyers remarked on the interesting thesis that what set humans apart in an important way was their prolonged childhood and extended dependence on mothering, which translates into malleability / adaptability.

I will add my two additional cents:  that the show closely adheres to cultural templates, as far as "television scoring" goes (following known examples), is to its credit.

Some of the latest state of the art images are shown in this frame, a visual feast is delivered.  Having a frame stay familiar and friendly gives more room to the weird and strange.

Better to read the somewhat "cliche" or "formulaic" obeisance to convention as honest homage to admired prototypes / ancestors, in the language of film making and television.  Why fix it if it ain't broke?

We're telling the greatest story ever told, that of the universe itself, and to take an "if you can't beat 'em join 'em" humble pie attitude is not a stupid move.

I thought of Universe too:  "that which humans have expressed regarding the universe" (a kind of "shared poem" in RBF's lexicon).

That it all reduces to Pythagoras and number sets up a good vibe for simple storytelling (this is about passing the torch so memorability is key). 

The final fade out on Europe is apropos.  There's a deliberate Medittereanean flavor to all of this, an invitation to other regions to give it their own spin.  Be bold, be regional, be place based.

We know that's an important ingredient in "gamefication" as well (to localize, in the form of some specific geography or vista, a world).

The film points to the future with some notes of hope, but doesn't really try to go there.  I'd say it's more a summary of where they'd gotten by the end of the 1900s.  It's an end-of-millennium piece.

Some of the next iterations will seem less cliche in some ways, as we're more disruptive of set mindsets (relic belief systems), or as nature is (not saying it's all about humans and their experience).

Down the road, maybe we'll see more about the transition from 90-degree to 60-degree-based thinking, more in harmony with nature, perhaps in the guise of East-meets-West.

On the way to the venue, we passed a by "fear panel", a public space LCD radiating fear into the room.  Something about an extensive network of tunnels in the Persian vista.  So?  Are tunnels illegal all of a sudden?  Sheesh.

How that commuter-TV based lifestyle serves people is beyond me.  The amount of fear pumping through those veins, those urban capillaries, can't be good for a body.

So this is why we all wanted to get wired?  So we could be afraid, so very afraid, in The Matrix?

Don't be a coward, kill your TV -- which might just be the "head channel" you're watching.  Choose your channels wisely (use that "third eye").

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Sunrise (movie review)

I had little concept of what I was getting into, when Nick told me about some live cello music at the Hollywood Theater.

This turned out to be part of the ongoing silent films thread, this time featuring Sunrise by F.W. Murnau.

Fine musicians, in this case including Nick's friend Lori Goldston on cello, provided more "emotional bandwidth" as Nick put it.

At first I surmised I was watching a recent release, made to look like a 1920s pre-talkie.  But later I realized we were watching the real deal.

The style of film making then is really quite different, creating a sense of surreality or other worldliness around the action portrayed.

Sunrise investigates a man planning to murder his wife in order to take off with a new interest, a woman from the city who smokes prodigiously and is of presumably dubious character.

The wife deserves better than this lout but there's no "good riddance" way out in this village.

After he bungles his murder attempt, the wife seeks to escape his clutches before he tries again, but is perversely seduced by his (sincere) sense of remorse.

They stumble in on a wedding-in-progress and he relives taking on a commitment to look after and protect his dyadic other, per the standard nuclear family contract.  There's no possibility of a molecular family in this culture, with two moms and or two dads (this isn't Bhutan, with its above average happiness quotient).

Their faith in one another is renewed (or hers in him mainly), but then on the way home in the same row boat he planned to drown her from, a storm kicks up and it looks like he's lost her overboard, this time very much not according to plan.  As omniscient viewers, we're positioned to judge him innocent (this time).

I found myself awed by the consistent look and feel of this film and thought just maybe I was seeing an all time great.  The cityscapes are meticulously detailed, the trolley scenes superb.

Upon doing more research, I see other film critics share this view.

Nick and I adjourned to Columbia River Brew Pub, formerly Laurelwood, across the street.  Then we bussed home so he could rest up before the journey back to Hillsboro.  Since Tara had a driving class in Beaverton the next day, it made sense to do it this way.

Thanks to legislation passed in the Nixon Era, kidney dialysis patients are eligible for three visits a week.  In Europe it's four, but with shorter hours.

Nick is aware of the research going on at ONAMI, as is his doc, but results from that effort aren't expected for some years.  Nephrology is still in its infancy.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Looking Back

Outcomes research was hitting a peak in the medical world in tandem with the career of my boss, David Lansky.  He was director of CUE when I got together with Dawn.  He got me working on FORTRAN on this HP mini-computer, and before long I was in the operating theaters at night, debugging my point of care Visual FoxPro suite, named CORIS (the cath lab counterpart was named CLAIR).

Perfursionists stayed alert and interested, filling in my grids, a professional way to fill the time by feeding researchers useful numbers.  Nurses entered some data.  Paper forms went around later, for doctors to fill out.  A picture of the surgery was developed in the data, as research numbers.

The reputation of the hospital, for doing outcomes research, was kept at a high level.  Interesting work.  Mostly heart related.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Wanderers 2012.01.17

Pursuant to the previous installment, I did leave a follow-up voicemail with Tre, as he seemed truly distressed up that tree, not just playacting.  Just climbing that thing was a feat, of circus quality.  Add the red and blue lights, crowds, and you get the expectation of entertainment.  We've seen this in cartoons, with people shouting "jump" and so on.

I wore my chauffeur hat again today (not literally, I have no special hat for when driving), picking up an MVP at PDX.

You might think, if we were truly a spiritual community, of this network of colored houses, this board game of assets (safehouses and so on), that our personnel would be rotating through retreat centers, heading off to meditations, disappearing on vision quests.

Indeed, that's how it is, and has been, for a long time.  Dawn was far more active in her practice than I was, by so many measures.

Just today for example, two meditators from another house came by, in route by bike to their meditation center (a yurt in this case, at some higher altitude).  Melody is away on retreat as well.

Now I'm at the Pauling House for a talk on Computability, Turing Machines, Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem and all that.  One of the seniors, a professor by training, is holding forth.  He's got his super duper unlimited registers machine with just four instructions, for defining computability.

We should not forget the Quakers have a meditative inward practice, sometimes labeled "unprogrammed" to distinguish it from a scripted service, or ceremony, led by a minister, teacher, pastor or rabbi.

Unprogrammed Friends are free to attend programmed services of course, and many do.  There's no necessary either/or relationship between programmed and unprogrammed (a lesson that may apply to computability also).

A senior member of a meeting may minister informally, in an authoritative ("weighty") manner, both inside and outside the Meeting for Worship context.  Indeed, a Meeting has its ritualistic aspects for creating a privileged space, a fact Dawn was adamant about recognizing.

I've been publishing some of my philosophy of mathematics around the Koski toons, taking off from the flapping 4sys (Gene Fowler).  The Wittgenstein list gets a front row seat, not surprisingly.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Meeting House Haps

Hello, Tre?
meetinghouse tree

Wilderness Way was having their regularly scheduled meeting when Tre showed up at the Stark Street meetinghouse, rapping on the window.

He asked if they knew Kirby, which they didn't, but then, when he climbed the tall tree outside and started ranting, they decided to call Lew Scholl, clerk of property management, their contact person for Friends. The neighbors just called the police.

I was on EmoKid (the bicycle) heading towards some union hall on Foster & SE 64th when I got the call from Oakland, CA.  It was Lew.  Did I know Tre Arrow? He was in our tree at the meetinghouse.

I revectored the bicycle and showed up there promptly (in about 10 minutes).  Lew called back Wilderness Way and let them know to expect me.

The fire department had already responded and the police had blocked traffic on Stark St.  The police had their lifting device, like for fixing phone poles but fancier, positioned high up.  Someone was up there interviewing Tre.

I was asked not to contact him on my cell phone while this was going on. I called Lew back to let him know it was a pretty big production, and then Melody.  Then my phone died (battery out) so I couldn't call anyone.

For the emergency teams, this was no big deal (that's what the sergeant said), but I thought it was a bigger ordeal than a cat stuck in a tree at least.  The truck needed to hoist the interview booth required quite a bit of support logistics.

They said they wanted to ascertain if he was planning to jump or anything.  He was not.

Rick Seifert, our clerk, showed up and talked to the police sergeant in charge.  They were already in the process of dispersing.  Dusk was swiftly turning to darkness.  Rick later journaled about the event as well.

The Wilderness Way people understood Tre's ecological message and were willing to shout up their moral support.

Ranters gathered on each side of the sidewalk, starting a polarized debate familiar around Portland.  They shouted about taxes versus the environment versus jobs, stuff like that.  OPDX has somewhat changed the political climate and there's lots of passion for change.

Thanks to the Internet, bike swarms etc. were poised to offer more support and to send up gear were Tre planning to stay there a long time.

Lindsey caught the events on Livestream pretty much as they were happening, at least towards the end. Twitter and cell phones had spread the word and she just randomly happened to be tracking, had no foreknowledge of Tre's plans.

Channel 12 asked me off camera if we Quakers had foreknowledge of this action.  I assured her we did not.

Rick really hoped John Munson would be reachable, and called Carl and Marge Abbott for his number from the clerk's office, but found out John's off serving in the Peace Corps someplace (that had been his plan all along).  John and Tre have had communications in the past.  I know John more from AFSC work.

Anyway, the police understood Tre was not really breaking any laws.  He's a well known guy around here, an activist, in Wikipedia and everything.  He does stuff like this.

I assured Tre the Quakers weren't looking at this as criminal trespass or anything, and there was no contemplation of seeing this as a criminal action (people are allowed to climb trees in Oregon).  I think that's what he expected from me (kind of a no brainer), and said he'd be down shortly.

He came down in the darkness (with occasional flashes and TV lights) and made some eloquent remarks to the cameras.  Channels 12, 6 and 8 each had small news teams.  People crowded around and listened to his message.

He said we were raping the planet and needed to love Mother Earth.  He wanted to know why more people weren't moved to defend her.  He was quite coherent and everything.  He's good at what he does.

Guiding Light
:: tre addresses questioners ::

Occupy Tree
:: sharing on Facebook ::