Thursday, May 30, 2013

Wanderers 2013.5.30

:: xx in pdx ::

I showed up late for Wanderers this morning (yesterday morning by now -- it's late) and was surprised to find only Glenn.  I was even more surprised to learn of Jay's passing, one of our group and one of Terry's oldest friends.

Dave DiNucci came by when we'd all left, then turned up in Pepino's when I did, having invited The Open Bastion.  Steve is out of town but his small staff continues working in the new office.  Dave is giving a talk tomorrow, to a meeting of an esoteric languages (computer) society.  I will likely try to find it.

Tara had suggested a couple weeks ago that I might like The XX, a band she already liked a lot and followed, but had never seen perform live.  Coexist is the album they were sharing.

Indeed, concerts, rock or otherwise, have not been big on her radar.  We joined with Rose and Elliot beforehand looking for food, though on a Memorial Day our choices were more limited than on a typical Monday.  Parking was free.

My impression of The XX and the opening band,  Hundred Waters, was they were not in the "angry rebellion" school of rock.  That's just one branch in any case.  This group is more introspective.  I enjoy mellifluous and electronic, am a regular on SOMA FM, so these musicians were in my ballpark.

They're on a grueling tour playing all over North America.  The truck and bus were parked out back.  This is serious showbiz with lots of lights and lasers, with voices and sounds strong enough to keep it entrancing and tight.

Speaking of show biz, my thanks again to Uncle Bill for inviting me to La cage aux folles at Lakewood Center for the Arts, in Lake Oswego.  Residents of Willamette View Manor were there in force, packing the house and raising the average age.  Bill chatted with a woman of 94 who may not have understood the play, which is about non-nuclear and classic nuclear families and their attempts at coexistence.

Lindsey Walker continues to record in her basement studio.  Her anti-fossil-fuel-use philosophy means she has no big dreams of truck and bus tours.  Even encouraging local teens to drive to a local venue is something she's given up.  It's experimental music and out there for free.  Free Box is the title.

My evaluations at work have been positive, even though I've been challenging my bosses regarding some of the workflow designs.  We're all co-developing and many variables are in flux.  Consistently good quality performance overall is what allows space for adjustments and "exaptations" (experiments) to happen.  "Learning experimentally" is a Quaker theme and yet obviously not anti-science.  The myth that science and religion have to be at odds is just that, a myth (and not one of the better ones either).

Saturday, May 25, 2013

American Psycho (movie review)

I came to this movie after already having seen three seasons of Dexter.  That put me in a position to see the latter as inheriting from the former.  Both have opening credits involving food, mixing the ideas of human flesh and meat.  Likewise the Christian Bale character, Bateman, has an ongoing internal monolog (which we the audience hear), a prominent feature of the Dexter series.

I find it funny that Bateman differs from Batman by just one letter, Bale the player of both (how like Bateman is Bruce Wayne in enjoying urban luxuries and amenities).

This movie is about identity and how slim to none are the chances of having one in this world of suited clones.  We could be in the tortured mind of any one of them, a Vice President, feeling a kind of predatory power over weaker and meeker types -- yet these were the strongest reminders of Bateman's own sense of powerlessness and so he hated them, sometimes hunted them.

Dominance over others seems the only way to compensate.  Having the best restaurant reservations.  Having the best suit.  Business card.  Accounts.  The characters mistake each other for others and/or assume one another's identities, at least in Bateman's case, and how is his any different (he wallows in his supposed difference, the classic solipsist).

The tip off that we're living in someone's interior comes with the trapped feeling of closure, of not being able to come out with some "secret" as such, as it's a real secret only if it can be in principle confessed (told, shared).  As the Bateman rampage goes more extreme, reality fails to respond properly.  He gets to the point of lucid dreaming but not waking up.

He's getting away with too much right from the get go.  We're in a dream from the start.  He's an ego on steroids, the imaginary projection of some Wall Street dweeb, full of insecurities.  The ATM tells him about the cat in his arms.  Things have gotten ridiculous.  He who spends hours on makeup and body beautiful rituals, is haunted by thought pictures (day book doodles), just like any other VP in the Big City.

The emptiness of a lying facade is transferred to the television at the end and the masquerade that is Washington DC.  Reagan is on, the viewer veeps taunt, evince sincerity, dismiss, and otherwise go through the motions.  Isn't Reagan some king of the actors, a past president of the Screen Actors Guild?  Do we sense jealousy then?

He's apparently lying about some crazy stuff going on, wherein some secret war against people in Central America was being funded by sweet talk with Iranians holding hostages, and the White House just was not really tracking that well, improperly supervising the nuthouse.  Not that it's gotten any easier.

But given what we've just seen from Wall Street, who's calling the kettle black in this picture?  Talk about glass houses.

Willem Dafoe plays a great foil for Bateman's rising paranoia.  As the detective investigating a disappearance, he seems to be circling in, forcing a tighter and tighter story amidst a panoply of lies and speculations.  We had just seen him the night before in Lynch-directed Wild At Heart, another horrific movie.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Wanderers 2013.5.21

We packed two deep, including a bicycle (different meeting), one deep on the other, to attend to John A. Dougherty regarding the Matthew Effect, something newly named in sociology, but basically an ascending / descending spiral, the fact that change is often exponential and not linear, because self-reinforcing.

The questions had to do with living standards and whether the "tails" were spiraling out of control and maybe breaking up the middle.  Or was "middle" something of an illusion to begin with and on what scales?  Much of the discussion had to do with both the power and powerlessness of being "monied" i.e. wealthy in terms of that scoreboard.  People attend to various scoreboards and ostentatious consumption is certainly not a prime criterion of taste, even among many reputedly wealthy.

I harped on what I call "institutional wealth" (someone else made the link to Star Trek) thinking of living on an aircraft carrier at sea.  You don't go to a bank window to cash a check to live on board, but rather bunk and wifi come with the job, as does flying the plane, firing the torpedoes, landing the helicopter or whatever -- those playing with these toyz do not fork out for the privilege nor do they own the toyz.  Uncle Sam owns the Tomahawks.  Some call it socialism (see Critical Path).  Uncle Sam is a lot like Bob Dobbs, Alfred E. Newman, or Betty Crocker, in terms of serving as an iconic person.

When priests wake up in the morning, it may be to a campus, a bevy of buildings, a set of walk ways and facilities.  Their relationship to this shared wealth is again not one of having title (entitlement) or even a share (as in some entitlement to a divvy of the profits).  The relationship is developed through church documents and literature.  In some eras, church management services have permeated the countryside.  Copernicus was one of these church fathers, tasked with everyday administrative tasks such as divvying land amongst family members in the wake of a death, like a lawyer would.  Which is not to say these jobs had no income.  They came with a stipend.

Anyway, I digress.  The point is the wealth of new understanding brought on by the Copernican revolution is incalculable in monetary terms.  The exponential vortexes people create may change the invisible landscape wherein investments happen.

I like how the narrator (see trailer below) disabuses us of the notion that "money powers film" in his opening to a fifteen hour documentary on film history.  The powers we most value are not what money can buy.  You have to put in the investment in other dimensions.  The sewing and reaping is in banks we don't see, "in heaven" if you want to sound naive about it.

John is performing valuable service with the Thirsters these days, helping the group and set of conversations continue performing a switchboard function.  Adding fluoride to the water went down to defeat again in Portland.  One may sway votes and influence outcomes without actually casting a vote oneself, and not even be hypocritical in my view.  Negligent?  Maybe.  It's also a statement of position, although in the case of Oregon, I think vote-by-mail is a proved technology that should spread to the less enlightened states.  That being said, holding secure, highly reviewable (replayable) elections in Cyberia remains of core interest.  I hope to make the next meeting of DemocracyLab in that regard, in the same venue as Thirsters most likely.

In the tradition of Thirsters, John's formal talk was only about 10 minutes, like a Lightning Talk in some ways, and designed to catalyze discussion.  True to form, the ensuing chatter was indeed quite free ranging, with people piping up from many points of view.  This is what Wanderers is good for, so I think we all got our money's worth (the coffee fund is all we keep, Jon Bunce in charge, and he made two pots last night, even though I represented we could stop at one -- glad he ignored me).

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Approved: Long Distance Membership

Multnomah Meeting took an important step today in accepting a request for membership from a person who lives in closer proximity to other Meetings than ours, in another country.  This made the request somewhat different from that of a would be Isolated Friend, where local meetings do not exist, by definition.

What is established by this move is a precedent whereby Oversight is empowered to usher through membership requests, minus the criterion that everyday attenders and/or members of the Meeting need to be able to visit with and/or serve on committees with X before X's membership is considered and accepted (or denied).  Perry recommended that our Faith and Practice be amended accordingly.

Rather then give average attenders equal opportunity to meet X, it is sufficient for a smaller group within the Meeting to proffer a recommendation of membership and to go through a seasoning process, whereas for many in the Meeting, the person is "sight unseen".  This precedent could be useful if the prospective member is in prison for example (e.g. Chelsea Manning) and cannot be expected to travel to Portland, Oregon.

Another important precedent associated with this membership was our preparedness to accept X as a Quaker, a person within the Religious Society of Friends, with or without membership in a specific Monthly Meeting.

As someone privy to the Oversight meetings, I can attest that those who were most concerned that membership be primarily a geographically based institution were prepared to say denial of membership in Multnomah Meeting did not constitute a rejection of the claim that this person was already a Friend based on other criteria besides membership, and indeed the Oversight Committee was prepared to embrace X as such even if the business meeting had accepted its recommendation to stress geographic criteria and deny membership (for now, unless / until X relocated to Portland).

However, this last point is hardly a dramatic shift in policy as we have increasingly come to see the institution of membership as but one way among many to signify one's commitment to the Religious Society of Friends.  To become a recorded member is to manifest a type of team spirit that not all Friends may choose, perhaps because not living close to an ideologically compatible Meeting (although if other meetings follow our lead, this may become less of a barrier).

As I wrote in my internal email to Oversight and shared later with Anne Hyde:
Members are telling the world that they will not hypocritically and unaccountably contradict themselves and say they're NOT a Quaker, e.g. if the going gets rough and Quakers seem more unpopular in some circles, for their unwillingness to countenance slavery, or dropping bombs, or whatever.

In becoming a member, one is publicly and in a communitarian spirit, saying "I am a Friend".  In contrast, someone who does not choose the badge of membership is freer to do like Peter and deny his friendship with Christ.  "Are you a Quaker?"  "I attend, but am not a member" -- that's an "out" (a distancing) you don't have if you've publicly recorded yourself as a member (in a "world readable format" as we say in these days of the Internet). 

A member is publicly demonstrating a level of commitment. 

Non-members are free to demonstrate a high level of commitment in other ways of course i.e. membership is not our only measure / criterion whereby commitment is measured.

People often compare it to marriage, versus simply living together and keeping whatever vows / commitments private.  Membership is more like a public vow of loyalty, though I won't say oath.
Now that we have "membership at a distance", I think the doors are more open to geographically distant individuals to enjoy membership status, even where Quakers and Quaker meetings are close by, but are perhaps of a different lineage or tradition.

This freedom gives individuals more ways to customize their membership, by possibly choosing a "home base" that is not close to one geographically, but does seem closer psychologically.

In the age of cyberspace and Cyberia, it stands to reason that distance is less of a factor.

From Oversight minutes from our last OC meeting (before today's Meeting for Business):
Kirby emphasized the institution of membership could be designed differently to permit long distance affiliations, and that we were somewhat closing a door.
That door is now open more widely than ever before.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Spring Breakers (movie review)

I've started on a plan to watch a lot of Harmony Korine films.  The Bagdad kicked it off with Spring Breakers, but Christine (a film maker) showed me Gummo first.

The film somewhat mocks the Spring Breaker as a type, a species, that never wants to break character.  Once in a swim suit, they stay in a swim suit, or partially out of them, as if clothes really had no protective value (and they don't, against bullets).

There's a Survival aspect in the way these girl survivors winnow down to the two we're warned are baddest at the beginning.  They're bad all right (as in "bad ass" thinks the Breaker), hard core.  One might segue to Thelma and Louise at the end, given no good may come of it.  They think as one unit, as Borg, or two Debbies from The Oblongs.

One might think of this as the R-rated sequel to that It's Friday music video.

Now watch the first four minutes of this Occupy film.

You've just learned a lot about how hedonism and consumerism help contain the tribes.  "What?  Contain?  They're out of control!".

The Breakers proselytize, but aren't missionaries, and they have no standing army or sprawling priesthood.  They do not rape and pillage or set fire to small villages in Southeast Asia.  Yes, the girls enjoy the fundraising aspect, which is both thrilling and extortionist.  Girls with guns get awfully cocky.

With "gangsta girls" in charge, you go up a rung from imperialist Patriarchy.  Many will frown at that contention and say good Christians are more benign than this orgiastic frenzied devil-worshiping mob.  No, these were the good Christians, look how they call their mothers.  It's the men who seem more corralled and inhibited (not subdued, not unduly oppressed), and I'm saying that's a step up.

Girls are better at "going wild" in some ways, less Fascist-Apollonian, more Athenian.

How much like Burning Man (Burners) or the Country Fair near Eugene (Cascadians), or Rainbow Gathering?

The desert is less forgiving than sunny Florida, and hippies mix in their studies more, versus swinging to both extremes.  Protective clothing is likewise far more necessary in the forest.

Those hippies and punks tend to geek out more (Tarot anyone?), are more DIY, plus maybe use a different mix of controlled substances.

None of these "live forevers" (like in Groundhog Day) seemed interested in learning scuba or marine science.  Their inability to get passed eternal frolicking marked them as still bambi-like in those bathing suits.  They'd get older, if not badder.

No review of this movie would be complete without some mention of the soundtrack and the "loading gun" swipe sound. What could so easily be an amateur's touch proves an effective suspense builder.  It also sounds something like a camera (lots of shutter action).  The camera itself is a weapon and or precision tool, a scalpel perhaps, for this skillful postmortem.

The editing style is also worthy of notice, with short repeat loops, a kind of "going over a few times" (like "scratch" in DJ world), mixed with flash backs to longer ago.  Events emerge in collages versus one strict chronology, a scrap book effect, jumbled-frenetic.  Blended memories.

Monday, May 06, 2013

Terry Talks


Some will think of TED talks, reading that title, and indeed ISEPP's Pauling House now has a videographer who produces for TED.  However Terry's run longer and the live audience still gets the immersive experience.  ISEPP's venues are less of a studio, though sound mixing and video recording are happening.

Terry's talk is of course cosmic in scope, but also perfect for Portland, a boom town these days.  We're rational optimists out here in Oregon, still surrounded by an undefeated spirit that feels at home here.

If this were football I'd say Terry is making an end run around the defending Scientists by separating out the disgruntled engineers, less appreciated, and making them an opposition.  There's deliberate tension in setting up the dialectic that way, with Fatalism fading to Defeatism owned by science, with Engineering still a throbbing heart of possibility.

As a consequence, religion is both shut out, and shut in.  But you've got a discourse, with heroes, and philosophy.  Terry flashed through a sequence of champions versus the dunce cap B Team.  Paul Erlich is definitely B Team, along with all the other waiting-to-say-I-told-you-so pundits believing we'd be dead by now, instead of at 9 billion.  Paul Romer, on the other hand, another big picture speculator, is A Team in Terry's playbook.

Terry scoffs at apocalyptic doomsayers more than most, and urges some of the loudest of such to retire from the podium, given their track record is so bad.

How he gets there, to his position of Engineer-Optimist, is more through Karl Popper and lets say Hegel.  He's happy to admit he's not the first one to truck out a dynamic Noosphere (not a term he used, something I picked up through Princeton) that has direction, towards some "good" (how that's defined is maybe less important than agreeing there's direction, an alchemy of fear and longing, not just value-neutral "trying stuff at random").

He doesn't much lean on Bucky Fuller or even American Transcendentalism back to Whitman.  He relies on Pragmatism instead, with lots of emphasis on John Dewey.

He'd just given this talk, or one like it, in China, and he freely admitted out at outset that his Engineer Ascendent memes maybe had a receptive audience there, not just because of recent great leaps forward, but because of a Marxian schooling in the background, wherein history plays out against a backdrop of a larger evolutionary tale, seamlessly the same thing, Nature a steering committee.  We could say Marx absorbed some key memes from Hegel, much as did Schopenhauer, and these memes resonate in Chinese thinking as well.

To get to this pinnacle minus Bucky or Wittgenstein is all the better for me.  I'm not going to be accused of just cribbing from Bristol, nor he from me.  We're coming from different foothills. Yet we both understand synergy and more-with-lessness.

How many man-hours does it take to produce one lumen's worth of power?  We effortlessly channel light, ergs, straining our spines relatively less per unit.  More like the PR around magic in the old days: as though you could wave something called "a remote" and choose "a channel" (or frequency) -- we know how to do that today, even from a young age.

Thanks to my board member valency, I was able to replace a cancellation and bring Trisha in for both the talk and the Heathman Dinner (a yummy slice of salmon with accoutrements).  She's a working mom, artist, hard worker, free spirit, just the right kind of Oregonian to appreciate Terry's upbeat hypertalk.  Glenn, Don, Steve and I joined her, closer to MHCC, from which she hails, for a reunion of sorts (not the first time at Pub 181), and a visit to her newest digs.

Suburbia and the Global U.  New circuit designs...

We stayed pretty late for old guys, but I had my morrow's trek to prepare for:  a long drive to Florence, Oregon by way of Big Bear Camp, and thence to a Girl Scout camp for our WQM gathering.

During the Q&A, both in the church and at the hotel, Terry was on his best diplomatic behavior.  He knows how much distrust there is for myopic, self-aggrandizing, environment-despoiling "engineers".

The proud / loud industrialist who leaves an eco-disaster behind, hiding behind a sham, self-justifying ideology, is a stereotype, and Terry is doing his best to dodge attempts to stick him with it.

He knows we've been awful.  He's not denying that humans are mistake prone.  Trial and error is not banished from his equations, just he thinks there's "cosmic genius" in the trying (noncomputable), or there's what the Quakers call "that of God" in each participant (some sense of the whole).