Thursday, June 27, 2013

Toy Story 3 (movie review)

I've seen the previous two Toy Story movies, but long enough ago that memory fades.  However, like Harry Potter, like Jackie Paper in Puff, you need to grow older with your audience (or freeze in time like Peanuts or Simpsons).

Andy is going to college and is ready for somewhat darker themes, hinted at in a toy modality.

Buzz Lightyear, the most militarized, is the most easily flipped, once Book Worm delves deep to find his primitive psyche.  He turns himself into a thug for Boss Bear, a bear terminally angry at life for the abandonment he experiences.

This is the more horrific world of Scary Baby and Frowny Clown.  "One bright morning in the middle of the night..." topsy turvy.

Our migrant colony, trekking together after a family disownment, falls into a state of servitude.  The connotations might be Biblical, with Boss Bear as Pharaoh.  We needn't press the analogy too far.

Funny though, was how the soldiers were first to bail, seeing the reality of a mission accomplished, another boyhood done.

Although George Bush was ridiculed for his Mission Accomplished strutting and puffing, I think he was doing his best to deliver and bring this media extravaganza / violent orgy to an end.  Let's say "it's over" in a big patriotic gesture, with the president pretending to fly in, to land on that aircraft carrier -- so cinematic. 

The cynics just laughed at this silly swagger because they better knew how far from over this war would be.  They were just getting started it seems, never mind if the White House was happy to call it a win, and a day.

There'd be that trial of sorts, to give people catharsis.

The "conquering" attackers were of course not on trial.

So what was the big win supposed to be after that, or in Afghanistan, with its mission accomplished once again?  Bin Laden had been neutralized.  Later.  In the Obama term.

One could mock the whole farce on television, as a president, even them.  The "stove pipers" had set up a dog and pony show and sold the UN a bill of goods. Some of us watched it on television.  "Aluminum tubes..."

Anyway, back to Toy Story, Buzz somewhat redeems himself with "Spanish mode" wherein he makes eyes at the Cow Girl.  This is easier to forgive than his shill-for-Boss-Bear persona.

The recycling plant is a place to face death.  The very meaning of "deus ex machina" -- that plot device which delivers last minute rescue -- is in fact a machine, and piloted by ETs as luck would have it (fortunately the "toy tribe" is cosmically diverse in this alternative universe).

As we learn in History of Money, there's a circuit wherein the soldiers march across the land, buying provisions (not just pilfering) if planning to sew good relations, but then the sellers (including contractors) need to remit a portion in taxes (or call it tribute).

Contractors need the money, soldiers need the provisions.  The currency stays afloat.

Or call it "foreign aid through conquest," what Washington DC calls "spreading democracy".

The little girl receives the toys with proper ceremony.  There's a passing of the torch.  We've said good bye.  Toy Story 4 will not be necessary, at least not for this generation.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Iron Man 2 (movie review)

I'd been favorably impressed by The Avengers in Indianapolis a year ago, and knew then I had a hole to fill, the Iron Man movie preceding it.  A year later, I finally saw it.

Of course I'm glad I did, in part because it's redolent with Bucky stuff.  Tony Stark is like a Heinlein character, strongly individualistic (and narcissistic).

Connecting back to World Expo aesthetics, via the dad, a Disney-like character, takes us straight to Bucky domes and Spaceship Earth.  But what may escape more viewers is the epiphany Tony has when connects the dots:  a geodesic sphere materializes, somehow encoded in the positions of the pavilions.

I remember when they talked about Bf is like the discovery of an element.  Anyway that's what Tony is discovering in this scene:  a new form of unobtanium, a next fountain of youth.

Vibes of Superman in his Fortress of Solitude.

The superhero lore alludes to itself.  There's a Cold War theme, with the Russians contributing both the evil villain, and the attractive spy, Natasha Romanova, played by Scarlet Johannson, a character who gets stronger (psychologically) in The Avengers and in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, still in production.

These characters are coming from old comic books you understanding.  I checked out Iron Man 2 from the Comic Book section of Movie Madness.

David Koski phoned during the shoot out in the geodesic dome, or just before, which was appropriate.  I paused the DVD so we could talk for a couple hours.

This wasn't the first time there'd been a dome in the picture.  He'd called me from that TC Howard dome at Pycon 2012, right around when I was asking the ESRI guy to say more on the Fuller Projection.

They flirt with the Bucky stuff, these movie makers. It percolated into the movie Argo as well:  the science fiction theme park that he and Ray Bradbury were supposedly into, which Argo is somehow about (the movie, not the cover story about which the movie Argo was made).

No one says "geodesic dome" when they talk in The Making of Stark Expo (special feature) about integrating the climactic fight scene from its components.  That's Easter Egg stuff you get more of if you dig, i.e. if you do your homework.  Allusions to Cornwall and domes as arboretums (St. Louis).

They're working to capture a Zeitgeist here.  Comics are into that, tapping into that common vocabulary of shared mythology, that Matrix.

David has his up hill struggle finding peers to share with.  Most mathematicians consider "three dimensional volume" to be handled, not an especially interesting area.

You have the Archimedeans on the Poly list and Guy Inchbald, but the excitement Dave's subculture evinces, for a volume six rhombic dodecahedron, brands him an outcast and an eccentric.  Not mainstream.  The culturally literate don't use that dot much, when dot-connecting.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Public Assembly

I was emphasizing in come recent AFSC communique, intra-committee, about the importance of public restrooms:  "I think the City of Portland spends irresponsibly little on maintaining park bathrooms.  This was my standard at Occupy also."

I was also reminiscing about Teresina Havens and her service in Tokyo or one of those as a latrine cleaner.  She was in training as a high level Buddhist and later came to Portland with her partner Joe Havens to start a study group.  My wife Dawn and I joined.  Her husband later started a group as well, dubbed "Quaker Economics" though it may have had a more formal name.

When lots of people meet outdoors for a General Assembly that may take hours, there need to be facilities present.  Sometimes that means Kybos, for those familiar with an obscure reference.  Mobile units may be hauled away or deposited by truck.  However other solutions exist.  A museum exhibit specifically relating to municipal toilet facilities developed in the depression years, under FDR and Eleanor, would attract my attention, and I suggest the attention of many critics.

If your city has public parks with closed, run down, unmaintained public restroom facilities, then ask yourself where the money goes.  Don't your property taxes buy you public parks with facilities we might have pride in?  Perhaps an attendant or two needs to be present, rotating through other duties?  Park regulations should be respected, with all night campers only in the zones designated, with lit pathways to toilets, with sometimes subtle low-glow lighting.

When I say rotating through other duties I'm talking maybe duty aboard a commercial jet liner, hosting hundreds in small quarters as honored guests of an airline.  Park duty in rotation, at cities visited, would further establish the customer service reputation of these hospitable elites.

Join a Food Not Bombs crew and see the inside of a new temple, meet religious people.  These friendships may endure.  Or perhaps your crew is home-bound from disaster relief service in the Caribbean, a big storm having left a path of destruction.  Some people specialize in being there when needed and we honor their service.  At Rose Parade, and Gay Pride too.

I had dinner with a social worker this evening.  A lot of scared youth come to Portland because they feel rejected in their own neighborhoods.  The stigma of "being gay" or "trans" is enough to push people out of homes and into the streets, where social services have to pioneer a humane response.

My social worker friend is proudly and openly gay and suffers no loss of respect as a consequence.  But that such role models exist, though encouraging, does not provide any immediate solution for those drowning in the overwhelmingness of it all.  Some are pregnant.  Some are just being released from institutionalized care, perhaps because the insurance has run out and it is no longer profitable to test tomorrow's banned drugs on them.

Not that all drugs should be banned.  Military units dispense all manner of psycho-actives per this Time magazine cover story.  In some lines of work, you're expected to be "on" something, usually coffee which is both legal and unregulated.  Sometimes something stronger.  Athena's oracles at Delphi had their python vapors.  Some narratives say Apollo slew this "dragon" (a recurring meme), but I say the python escaped to Nashville (TN).

The relative sanity of coffee shop world gives me some hope.  There's precedent for sharing controlled substances responsibly, taken to higher levels in some capitals.

True, hippies flocked to Kathmandu and maybe made a negative impression in some cases. Drug abuse did occur.  They came from a culture of under-privileged, under-served by their cities (e.g. check the public restroom scene) and oppressed by their schools.

The social worker and I coincidentally wore matching jackets, somewhat business oriented but also causally "night out" in flavor (I wore a dark blue buttonless shirt with no tie or collar, subdued compared to her colorful and tasteful tattoos).

 Our venue was upscale Ethiopian, yet homey, not overly institutional.  Ethiopian restaurants tend to be like that, clearly family affairs, with you their guests.  I liked the sort of Southwest Airlines swagger, a joking informality, within a framework that's all business, in the sense of keeping things running smoothly. I paid with Alaskan Airlines visa.

Speaking of keeping things running smoothly, I salute Saburo's Sushi House, where I went for the first time on a Father's Day, with Tara.  We dutifully waited in line like they say you usually have to, and lucked out getting in on a first serving.  We felt well served and privileged, plus the fare was fantastic, right down to the tea and miso.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Two Meetings


I'll try to tie these two meetings together.

The first was a presentation by Allen Taylor at Linus Pauling House about some of the things going on in the private sector around space exploration.

Planetary Resources, a new company interested in mining asteroids is raising money, via Kickstart, for the million dollars needed to add another mini-telescope satellite, this one to offer its services to the public.

You'll be able to get your picture flashed through the on-board camera, with the Earth or Moon as a backdrop, given the external LCD to which the photos will be uploading.  For $25 or so, you can get a wedding picture with a cosmic backdrop.

The second was a presentation by an Iranian-American from Tuscon, AZ who thinks relations between the respective people would improve were more people in the US aware of what a cool guy Mossadegh was.  He has his Mossadegh Legacy Institute to help spread the word.  He's on tour thanks to this vision.

The Veteran for Peace introducing Moji was the same guy who gave a speech at the Eagle Scout ceremony on Saturday.  This was at Portland's Peace House

The Huntworks live there, an older couple who raised their family in Iran and have Farsi-speaking children.

Many Iranians have a fascination with space exploration and appreciate that, with a more cosmic perspective, there's a withering of fascination with nation-states.  Human beings and their planetary saga becomes the focus.

The break-down into "nation-hoods" with many humans falling through the cracks as "not documented",  is breaking down.  We have leaders in each nation working to be responsible for a global context, even if their particular position in that context is ethnic-flavored.

I agree with Moji's view that the Persian lineage has much to contribute to the ethics / aesthetics of "modernity" and ongoing "modernization".  What has hurt Persian civilization, set it back was the absorption of modernization within the context of colonialism.  China went through a similar chapter, as have others.

"Future shock" has been real enough (Toffler was right to predict it) but is not a one way street.  As technology continues to morph our civilizations, unexpected synergetic effects of cultural inter-mixing will continue to make us all better off.

Some see such "multi-culturalism" as a threat, as if the mixing of cultures were something new in this world.  That all depends.  So far, Portland is integrating well with Persian culture.

Friday, June 07, 2013

Esoteric Languages

Before I forget this happened, no photos were taken (by me -- there was video happening), let me recall the meeting of the esoteric computer language society, with a name that I'll look up in a sec.

I ran into Dr. Dave DiNucci at Pepinos and he was preparing, getting things ready.

Dekum Building, downtown.

Great talk.

Bart from CompSci / PSU was the opener, with a talk on M4.  He brilliantly made it look hard and easy at the same time.

Then Dave hit us with his Flash and interesting shop talk he invented, with diagrams, to help people manage parallel processes.  He's worked on this a long time in professional settings.

The roles and resources feed into atomic actions which figure into plans and strategies -- all technically defined in a tight system.

He has a new book out on it.

We've discussed it at Wanderers.


Sunday, June 02, 2013

Murder Mystery

Princeton Alumni Weekly

The Kennedy Era comes into different focus as the generations fly by.  Peter Janney has done a lot of groundbreaking legwork for this book, including digging up and reacquainting people with a cast that has mostly exited by now.  In some cases he's finishing work others started.  As an investigator he tells his story with great proficiency as I am guessing Seymour Hersh would agree.

I see a few names I know in the book, going back to times in Washington / Georgetown and friendships stemming from my deep dive into Fuller School Lit.  Plus I've done some reading in the Kennedy Conspiracy bookshelf, of course taking in the Oliver Stone film.

In particular I've studied the writings of Col. Fletcher Prouty and bought his CD.  Prouty talks a lot about the U2 incident which Janney casts as the CIA engineering its own downfall for some reason.  To derail a peace conference?  That's the story.

Eisenhower was suddenly on the defensive, with Gary Powers on Russian TV.  Allen Dulles didn't seem so in control of the situation either and really needed that "shot down" coverup lest he be seen as outmaneuvered.  He needed to boss the Warren Commission as well, more the outsider than the insider on some days, but loyal to what was obviously the official line.

The whole business of violating the USSR's territorial integrity was creating blow back.  The Cold War would continue, with no peace while one superpower acted like it owned the place and lorded over the other.  People push back in the face of insecurity.  Proxy wars would be waged while a "Third World" struggled to step away, not get sucked in on either side (more like Switzerland).

Prouty also focuses on the Kennedy assassination, but from the point of view of someone more connected to the mixing of American and Southeast Asian intelligence.  He makes it clear that Hanoi Jane was not the first to find these people poetic.  The OSS (called the OS by Janney) had some serious admirers of Ho, an ally against Japanese imperialism in those days.

The foreign policy whereby Vietnam would be handed back to the French and colonialism continued was not the way every school was thinking it should go, especially among America's elite Asia-philes.  Enlisting Nazis to fight the Soviets was likewise not a universally popular move.  Truman came to distrust the CIA as much as anyone, as Janney makes clear.

A key passage in Janney's book is where he portrays JFK as deeply upset upon learning of Ngo Dinh Diem being murdered, with Robert McNamara the source.  This scene should be contrasted with A.J. Langguth's account in Our Vietnam: The War 1954-1975 wherein Gen. Lansdale, ever hopeful of returning to Vietnam, maybe serving as ambassador there, was brought before JFK earlier as perhaps a candidate to orchestrate Diem's demise.  It's not like the Kennedys were any less capable of plotting murders (Lansdale either), or at least wishing for them to happen.  Dragon tears for a fellow Catholic? Lansdale said no, Diem was his friend.

Prouty does not claim Diem's murder was according to plan -- on the contrary, he was supposed to fly to Belgrade that day and got as far as the airplane before turning back, perhaps realizing a coup was likely in his absence and not wanting to face that outcome?  Gen. Krulak's Pentagon office, where Prouty worked, had everything to do with that planning.  Prouty was sent to Antarctica as a military escort shortly thereafter, while JFK went to Dealey Plaza.

McNamara in this scene is livid with Lansdale afterwards when the latter declines such a mission and charge from his commander in chief.  The Secretary of Defense (coming over from Ford) hisses that no one should deny and defy a president (top boss) like that, his survival instinct as middle management lashing out at a relatively quiet general who'd spent a lot of time in the Philippines already, where the US fancied itself the latest landlord in a series (Japanese earlier, with Americans before that -- this was Part 2 with MacArthur in a starring role -- Spaniards before that (though they ate Magellan (my joke from when we lived in Magallenes Village)).

Lansdale's purported idea to scare Castro with the prospect of a second coming (of Christ) also reads like a reminder of Catholic catechism (Colby was also Catholic).  But according to Helms in Veil, Kennedy had other ideas, more prosaic, at least in the early days.  Johnson saw it as "Murder, Inc." i.e. lots of people were getting snuffed or "disappeared".  Yes, that's the way it still was in the 1960s and I'm not saying it all stopped in the meantime.  The US had been a gang land all along, from the Streets of New York to Chicago to Vegas.  Organized crime is a serious power, when you make some of the most wanted things in life also illegal (or too scandalous to talk about in adult fashion with your polity).

The idea that a strong woman was fighting for JFK's soul, trying to "hippify" him, is highly believable.  CIA wives were trying to be a vector for a psychology sweeping the nation (universities especially), and that included using more psychedelics.  The conservative old codgers whom Ed Applewhite assured me made up the bulk of the CIA (akin to Ralph McGeehee's "football players" (Ralph had been one)) would not be at all comfortable with JFK's hippification, and the military-industrial complex was indeed seeing dollar signs in endless proxy wars with a familiar ideological basis:  the defense of "capitalism" against "commies" (this was before the "dot commies" and "software libre" etc., which capitalism has embraced).

They (the industrialists) got more of what they thought they wanted with their man Johnson, a chance to try out napalm and other weapons.  As made clear in the book Human Smoke, the itch to try new weapons is almost irresistible.  War is a spectacle, it's theater.  Some people love it dearly, from the angle they get.  A grand sport (Hunger Games -- like that blockade against Germany).  A great game.  If life is a battlefield, then what's the alternative to loving your fate as a warrior?  These metaphors go back to the Crusades and are more than just metaphors -- people live by these credos, good Christians included.

Prouty is clear that an underlying pessimism and fatalism was acting as an invisible hand in this picture.  He quotes Buckminster Fuller as someone saying astute things in that regard.  Applewhite moved from Mockingbird to retirement to working on Synergetics, per Cosmic Fishing etc. Fuller would continue to write about the CIA (Capitalism's Invisible Army he calls it) right up through Grunch of Giants, mostly as a vector for post-WW2 business interests as inheriting from East India Tea (his own father was a "company man" in that sense, i.e. in the tea business) -- to be followed by the age of networks and networking (the one we're still in, lots of Web foo).

These were scary times and the Kennedy brothers were fighting Irish, not afraid to make some serious enemies.  Having a president who seemed subject to blackmail depended on the sense of scandal that would erupt had the truth been known, about the trysts, the drug use.  The movie industry had yet to do much to crack the surface of "aristocratic lifestyles".  The public was believed to be too child-like, too puritan, too soft, to really face reality.  This seemed a theme in Hyde Park on Hudson (movie) also.

I'm thinking that might be a fair assessment, but in retrospect we let ourselves see more and more, and it's actually a relief to get some of the misinformation out of the system.  Fuller's Critical Path seems an unbelievable fairy tale in some dimensions, as many in the West have a self congratulatory story about their ultimate victory in the Cold War.  Books like Janney's paint a somewhat different picture wherein Russian penetration was more complete. Telling Americans what they want to hear makes 'em shop more (is better for business); they buy more Coke and Pepsi.  So why not pander to a thirst for more truth if they're ready -- and maybe put some coke back in Coke (just a little) while we're at it?  Could be good television.

After some years of pretty edgy TV, I think the general polity is more conditioned to look reality in the face, as Chögyam Trungpa ardently advocated.  Looking at the Kennedy Era with the eyes of hindsight, there's a willingness to see "that of God" as the Quakers put it, in this cast of players upon the stage, on a Titanic in some ways.  This was a time of great turmoil and disappointments, with many killed in wars overseas, but also many in outright urban warfare in the USA's own meaner streets.  "America eats its young" -- sometimes it's well to see it that way.

I'd like to dial back to the scene where Rufus Jones is saying something positive about Cord Meyer.  What was it about World Federalism that failed to stand up under pressure?  There are more routes and trail heads to explore here, thanks to this new groundbreaking.

Of course a lot has to do with archives that are independently managed, estate affairs.  Historians don't get made privy to everything.  People have secrets.  However it may be a cowardly thing to keep too many and Janney is bold about lashing out, being harsh with the dead even.  He sculpts himself as a character for future scholars, and enters the drama himself, not only an investigator, but an affected individual who also had sincere love for the murder victim (as Jack Kennedy did).  He wants to be remembered in that light as well.