Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Yes Men (movie review)

A testament to the power and effectiveness of satire. Not that all satirists are effective, but these guys are. Last night's theater audience at The Laurelhurst was obviously quite amused. This is how to make dreary, dismal, dreadful economics come alive in terms people will understanding.

Let's hear some more about The Future of Textiles (like, where can I get one of those suits?).

Hard to imagine that the WTO still takes itself so seriously after this successful propaganda offensive. Hats off to Herb Alpert and his Foundation.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Archeology Project: The Media in Iraq

USA movie-goers saw a lot of archived video clips in the months leading up to the November election. Lots of documentaries. Mostly these clips were drawn from domestic media. A little Al Jazeera came through in Control Room.

What we haven't seen a lot of is Iraqi television under the Bremer and Allawi administrations. I'm told many average Iraqis are fed up with the propaganda they've been seeing. That spikes my curiosity. So where are my DVDs of recent Iraqi TV programming, with English subtitles, rentable through Netflix? We in the USA would like to see what's been going out over the air waves, especially during this time of coalition control over the media.

For example, have Iraqis seen any of the vast anti-war demonstrations on their TVs? Do they even know what Manhatten looked like on the eve of the GOP convention? Have there been any human interest stories about the history of Islam within the United States? Sufism has quite a following. Many African Americans discovered Islam a couple generations ago, through such leaders as Malcolm X. Such stories might be of interest to viewers in Baghdad.

How often does Iraqi television show images of mosques inside the UK or USA?

How the upcoming elections are treated will be of special interest. Do anti-occupation candidates or parties ever get air time? Are political ads allowed, even if they don't originate in the Allawi camp? If not, how democratic is that?

I bet the CIA has a lot of raw footage, recorded off embassy equipment -- all we need is some slick editing (not censorship -- we just need to get the highlights, representative samples) and a distributor like Miramax.

I encourage my fellow bloggers to spread the word that there's likely a niche market for this stuff. We want to see what the Iraqis have been seeing on their TV sets (including commercials). This isn't a FOIA thing -- the material in question has already been publicly broadcast. Maybe an enterprising Iraqi business could lend a hand.

Related post:
Show us the candidates (Sept 23 2004)

Kinsey (movie review)

Well acted, charming, and for the most part tasteful, although some scenes are about as appetizing as that guy in Super Size Me tossing his burger (another science project that made it to the big screen).

I'd never tuned in the Kinsey story nor read his books (we had plenty of psychology books on our shelves, but mostly of 1960s vintage, plus I'd look up sex words in the Britannica). I'm left wondering at the seeming mismatch between his desire to relieve human suffering, and the approach. Like, the guy is in serious boddhisatva mode. However, I personally don't think randomly sampling people's sex communications is going to unravel the mysteries any more successfully than eavesdropping on their random telephone conversations. The cross-section is too arbitrary, even if the common denominators (bed, nudity -- telephone?) appear strong.

That being said, he clearly did relieve a lot of suffering. Even today, when the clock is ticking counter-clockwise, and people fear the ghost of Joe McCarthy under every bed, youth culture stands to gain a healthy dose of antibodies from viewing this movie (I saw lots of teenagers in our audience at Fox Tower -- they seemed quietly respectful, if a tad shocked).

Anyway, I think he worked too hard. That funding fizzled on what would have been even harder work on ahead appeared merciful in retrospect. I hope I don't get that obsessed. Remind me to stop and smell the sequoias.

Great to see Tim Curry again. Those few who are unfamiliar with his performance in Rocky Horror will miss that he's here playing the perfect foil to himself -- a brilliant casting decision.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Quaker Politics

One story Quaker parents love to tell their kids is about this time when some native Americans (so-called Indians) barged into a Quaker meeting, tomahawks drawn, looks to kill. The navams were there to rumble, to get rough with the pale faced occupiers who were turning their lives inside out. Well, the story goes, the Quakers just sat there in silent worship, per standard practice, radiating a sense of peace and spiritual depth (OK, some were scared witless, let's be honest). The Injuns "got it" immediately; yeah, Spirit, cool. They sat down amidst the Quakers and together they had a gathered meeting. One imagines a potluck ensued, but the story basically fades out at this point.

Now, the point of this story is not that Quakers were skillfull at converting heathen to Christianity. On the contrary, the point is that Quakers are very clear that humans have this power to attend to the Spirit -- this is part of the generic design. This power is strongly expressed in many traditions, and certainly in pre-colonial North America. What happened, when anglos and natives worshipped together, was mutual recognition of that Inner Light within each individual. Buddhism calls it the Dharma, or Teaching. Personified, one might name it the Christ, or Inner Teacher (cite St. Augustine). In any case, all theology aside, the point of this story is my brand of Quaker considers the Spirit to be essentially innocent of religion and denomination, and all the attending claptrap. Humans (sometimes very gifted) invent these various brands, as much in the religious sphere as in the commercial (and yes, Quaker Oats was our idea: Floyd Schmoe's grandmother gets the credit -- see Lives That Speak, ISBN 2-888305-32-0, pg. 116).

Consequent to all of the above, I'm starting a denomination of Quaker that abandons "membership" as a category and recognizes only the various species of attender, as in "attending to Spirit." The word "Friend" in "Religious Society of Friends" (the more formal name for the Quakers), traces to a Biblical passage (John 15:15) wherein Jesus says he wants friends, not servants, i.e. peers, colleagues, people willing to do hard work without always begging him to boss them around (he's busy enough as it is). But friendship doesn't commensurate with the clubby aesthetics of a membership organization. One may fall out of friendship, stop attending to Spirit.

Yet some Quakers think they're Friends for life, just by virtue of membership in some Society. I say not. Jesus was friendly with all sorts of characters, outside his immediate circle of disciples (they gave him flak for it -- tax collectors? Roman soldiers?). Whether you're a friend of Jesus or not is really up to him, not some clearness committee or business meeting minute. Having served on Oversight for like seven years or something, I'm confidant in saying that Friends spend entirely too much time worrying about membership (who is, who isn't, who might become one, who should no longer be one). It's obsessive-compulsive at this point in history. I'd rather not bother. Attenders only, end of story. And I recognize that my brand of Quaker is taking the minority view here -- a fact which bothers me not one whit.

A side-benefit of tossing out membership is I'm free to export Quaker technology to others without suggesting that I'm seeking their membership in my religion. For example, the Quaker Meeting for Worship for Business is a good invention, has helped many a Quaker company steer its way safely forward through high risk conditions. It's a cybernetic system with Spirit in the loop. Go ahead and study our ways, use the technology, and don't worry that in doing so you'll be trading away Islam for Christianity (for instance). That's not the point. The point is to keep Spirit in the loop, or Allah, or Great Spirit -- use your favorite terminology, and see where it takes you.

Regarding Native Americans, I've suggested we go back to joint venturing, like in the old days. One vehicle I've proposed we evolve together is my Global Data Corporation. I've run this by the US Congress a few times over the years, lobbying for a special loophole that would allow tribal nations to serve in and manage corporate structures not strictly grounded in anglo jurisprudence. Like, we're imitating some of the branding techniques (logo, letterhead, commercials), but we're not an Inc. or LLC in the traditional whiteman sense. Making money for stakeholders is not our primary responsibility (long term sustainability is a goal). Also, we don't buy the doctrine of corporate personhood, a programming error (bug) which lacks realism, seems rooted in superstition.

I don't think my loophole is unreasonable: not everyone should have to master whiteman law before being allowed to do business in this world. Other traditions have their own sense of self-governance, fairness. Furthermore the whiteman model of corporate governance is manifestly broken in so many ways, is so deficient in the role model department.

Bottom line: whiteman legalese is already obsolete in large degree, although the anglos are slow to admit it. The Global Data Corporation is more into using engineering-savvy general systems theory instead. Economists, MBAs, corporate lawyers, may not have the necessary training and background to access our top management positions. That's why we'll need to start a lot of new schools. I'll post more about that some other day (plus there's already a lot on file).

Related reading:
My letter to Friends re becoming an attender (July 24, 2000)

Sneetches Tale

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Thanksgiving (continued)

The story of how America's anglo colonists were assisted by Native Americans (the Wampanoag to be more precise) through their first winter is standard fare in grade school. These colonists came to America with the aim of establishing what in their minds was a purer form of Christianity. Their landmark, and now hallmark, is Plymouth Rock (Cape Cod area in New England).

Around Thanksgiving 2004, the Anglos (UK) and the Americans (USA) launched Operation Plymouth Rock inside of Iraq, an undertaking so named in recognition of the timing. After the fighting, mass quantities of turkey were consumed. Some of the soldiers wore cowboy hats while they ate, which is appropriate, because the United States military developed much of its esprit de corps during the Indian Wars, a time when immigration pressures were pushing Europeans all the way to the Pacific Ocean in search of a brighter future.

That same religious fervor and sense of destiny which helped fuel the Indian Wars is evident in Iraq today. Iraqis are often regarded as heathens, a term referring to those who have not yet converted to Christianity (of course, many Iraqis do practice Christianity -- not a big topic on USA TV, too confusing). Many Christians look at the Middle East as a backdrop for momentous, even apocalyptic events, as they read their Book of Revelation and try to see which of its many cryptic prophecies might be coming true. There's always the hope that Jesus himself will reincarnate (that is, if he hasn't already, like in Korea or some place). This fascination with the Middle East dates back to the crusades and before.

Religious fervor has always been a potent recruiting tool for the various armies. Jews and Muslims use it too. The US military is theoretically neutral in the religious wars and open to members of any faith or practice. However, there's a huge temptation to fall back on religious themes when the killing of one's fellow human is the order of the day. Patriotism minus a strongly gung-ho, flag-waving deity just doesn't galvanize to the same extent.

Although the history of Anglo-Indian relations still resonantes in 2004, adult consciousness does little to perpetuate these memories. Thanksgiving has become a time for parades, usually with civilian and commercial themes, such as characters from children's television: Spongebob Squarepants for example. And of course it's a time for creatively stuffing oneself (see below) and watching football (more like rugby than soccer).

Native Americans currently have no real presence in TV land, except in old Hollywood movies about cowboys and their brave, romantic ways (a genre that doesn't attract large audiences any more; many of these films were grayscale instead of RGB).

The Friday following Thanksgiving still resonates with a sense of "the harvest" and the wealth of the land. USAers go shopping en masse on that day. Merchants count on mob psychology to more than make up for the lower prices; a buying spree mentality moves a lot of merchandize off the shelves that'd otherwise just sit there through the holidays. Some call this Black Friday, because it puts corporations "in the black." Corporations like black. Red, on the other hand, means you're losing money, which is like bleeding to death (not good).

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Thanksgiving for Dummies

Many of my readers are outside the USA, even outside North America, and don't have all the insights I do, into the customs, rituals, practices, norms, predelictions, of the local folk. Not that the USA is defined by any one culture. It's a synergetic stew.

Apropos of today, Thanksgiving, do a google search on turducken (or follow my link), to get some appreciation for the science and topology of "stuffing." In this example, we stuff a bird inside a bird inside a bird, plus some put a ham at the core.

Another aspect of Thanksgiving, or Turkey Day as some call it (Ben Franklin speculated this could become the national bird -- and he was right on many levels), is traveling long distances. For example, I've put over 300 miles on my Subaru since yesterday, and have a lot more to go.

Thanksgiving is a lot about Anglo-Americans feeling grateful for the hospitality they received from the Native Americans, before the immigration pressures became enormous and tribal lands were extensively re-zoned at gun point.

Native Americans had many strong, proud, and already well-established cultures in this age, shortly after the so-called New World became popularly known to landlubbers. The Europeans romanticized them, even learned from them; at first, basic survival skills, and later some ideas about self-government. By the time we get to Mark Twain's unflattering portrayal, some centuries later, the stereotype is scarcely recognizable.

Today, many in North America are discovering more about their heritage, are learning that native cultures have twisted many strands into our rope. The health of the tribes, though improving thanks to casinos, is still in a precarious state and continues to suffer from neglect.

Yes, Anglo-Americans have been slow on the uptake (among the last to "get it" about living ecologically for example), which is why Thanksgiving continues to be one of our most important national holidays. We're reminded of who we really are, and might therefore become, as Americans: proud and strong, more like our ancestors.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Dan Rather

I think CBS should offer to buy him a well-appointed BizMo, like Charles Kuralt had, but higher tech (decades have passed, after all). That wouldn't preclude doing non-BizMo work of course.

I bet small town America would be thrilled to have an exAnchor of Dan's reputation show up, dish antenna ready to uplink whatever's of interest. He might make it to our Project Earthala someday -- a high tech community in the hinterlands (provided our site is road-accessible -- if not, there's the helicopter or small jet option).

Anyway, I think Dan should have a lot to look forward to, even though he's had one of the most interesting jobs in the world (he's right about that -- right about a lot of stuff).

Related post:
King Lear (mentions BizMo)

Canadian Tech: SpringDance

Waterman Polyhedron in SpringDance
(click for larger view)

SpringDance by Alan Ferguson is a Delphi-based implementation of Gerald de Jong's Struck concept. Above is a Waterman Polyhedron (#2002), defined by all vertices in an isotropic vector matrix out to some maximum radius, and including those of lesser radius which preserve convexity. Their volumes are always whole numbers, vis-a-vis the standard of unit volume: an IVM tetrahedron.

Relevant Links:
Archived copy of Karl Erickson's SpringSpace
Record of Alan's AWStruck -- an educational ActiveWorld
Background re Elastic Interval Geometry (EIG) on a Squeak list
Blast from the Past (re more Fuller School graduates)
Gerald de Jong re his Fluidiom engine

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

DoD Claims Victory in Fallujah

Yeah, I caught that segment on CBS, 22 Nov 2004 too. The carnage of Fallujah is actually this giant torture chamber wherein American hostages were held, now exposed. A hollow find, given said hostages were already dead. News flash: police find empty torture rooms, destroy city in process, kill untold numbers of anonymous bystanders.

Of course the point of such video is to boil the blood and remind viewers why Fallujah deserved to die. The neighbors just didn't know this was going on, heard unexplained screams, "but now it all makes sense, and yes, of course you needed to destroy our city," say our ever-patient Iraqi friends. "I mean, yeah, torture chambers, can't allow 'em" (blood spattered refrigerator, corpses everywhere). "Now we hope those insurgents don't come back -- but they probably will, damn them."

Some viewers eat it up, nod to the music, raise their glass to a job well done. Others drop their forks (clatter), and stare, shaking their heads: since when was CBS just a DoD spin toy? Well, for quite awhile now, if you really want to know.

One way the civilians are fighting back is to say: gee, wouldn't it be nice if they'd reform the goddamn intelligence system as promised so we didn't have to air this kind of stuff at gun point? But, we learn, Rumsfeld is worried about being "handcuffed" (wasn't that the word?). It's a chain of command issue (this was the top story on CBS, same date).

Kinda funny that it's a chain of command issue, given that GWB is lobbying for the new intelligence system (Cheney too), and he's theoretically at the top of this very same chain (commander in chief, right?). Yet members of congress in his own party are blocking the reform, because the DoD (supposedly under the president) says its chain is unhappy with the new prospectus. Curious ("fascinating captain" -- Spock with raised eyebrow).

The problem with torture chambers is all you need is four walls, and lots of cities have those. Michael Kinsley is like flipping out in the LA Times. Like, this is fucking crazy, and yet even John Kerry wasn't promising he'd end it any time soon, reflecting the conflicted state of the voters -- like surely we still have some reason for getting our kids killed over there, beyond capturing Saddam and verifying compliance (couldn't trust Blix with that job, right?).

Invade to liberate, then start razing entire cities, because control must be complete. Resistence is futile. We are borg. You will have elections in January. You will be assimilated.

It's entirely understandable why so many Americans are on their knees right now, praying for intelligence reform.

Related posts:
Pentagon: Public or Private?
Memo to Pundits

Sunday, November 21, 2004

The Geek Channel

This could be big. Here's a short description from edu-sig, a Python elist:
Imagine a new Geek Channel on cable or via satellite, where kids can tune in to see vid clips of their heroes in the open source community, talking kernel design, futurism, hardware. Slashdot for television. OSCON 24/7 (repetitive, like Sesame Street -- segments for different ages, different shows). Twist in elements from scifi. Get some authors on, like Vonnegut. Radical OK. Clowning around OK. Both Python *and* Monty Python. Plenty to bliss out on, and for both boyz & girlz. Synchronized websites. Blogs.

Damian's lecture on thermodynamics, the game of life, and programming using a Klingon version of perl -- there's an audience for this kind of thing.
I know c|net did TV for awhile (do they still?), but there was little attempt to communicate much computer science. Marketing trends and gizmo lust shouldn't be the focus. This isn't InfoWorld and button-down IT culture. We'd rather watch Donald Knuth (or a puppet double) share about MMIX than hear Steve Ballmer trash some technology he doesn't like.

Ala the Sesame Street model, I envision a growing data base of video shorts recycling thematic content, punctuated with longer episodes, ongoing serials, perhaps with their own niche-market sponsors.

A DVD aftermarket might develop based on student demand (e.g. one DVD distills segments on TCP/IP, subnets, routing, DNS, wifi, ethernet...). Good example of a video short: Warriors of the Net (many would be shorter). I've shared it with 10-to-18 year-olds, and received lots of positive feedback.

Some segments and shows would help geeks learn Python, Perl, PHP, and so on. Tutorials with high production values. Lots of animated exploding diagrams of gizmo internals (not just PCs), lots of retro stuff, museum technologies (Enigma, ENIAC, John Logie Baird).

The content may be, should be, over your head half the time, and yet entertaining nonetheless. How little I know! How big my world! These experiences aren't turn-offs -- the kind of viewer we want to attract will keep coming back for more.

We must not let this become another home shopping channel. Advertisers (IBM?) should often showcase technologies that are too expensive for individuals at home i.e. lots of B2B messages, piggy-backing on the content, earning good will for sponsors.

Parents won't feel like their kids are being brainwashed to always want the latest gizmo. We won't indulge so much in fetishizing expensive "sharper image" accoutrements, ala Wired. For example, we'll often screen role models using free software on recycled computers. The emphasis is on what works, not on glitz for the sake of glitz. We're bridging the digital divide by spreading knowledge and literacy. Skills and a willingness to always learn more, not loads of cash, is what gains you access to this vibrant community of innovators and developers.

As Arthur Siegel put it on edu-sig, citing Bucky Fuller, this is all about doing more with less (ephemeralization).

Follow up threads:
math-teach in December 2004
classes list @ Free Geek in December 2004

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Protestant Fundamentalism

If PBS Frontline ever does a documentary on the televangelists and their flocks (700 Club and like that), I hope they'll use Karen Armstrong as a talking head. Her Battle for God makes some interesting points, plus I've heard her live, and she's a good speaker. On the other hand, maybe Frontline has already done this story, and I missed it.

What interests me especially is the Darwinism angle. Superficially, it looks like they're against Darwinism, and some of the faith academy videos I've seen do a lot to link Darwinism to Marxism -- two corrupting influences we must avoid at all costs. But I wonder if they've succeeded, really.

Social Darwinism, which translates to an industrial age ethic (usually laced with racism, a holdover from slavery days), still informs a goodly portion of middle management in the USA (so-called "main street"). I seriously wonder whether the Christian Right has broken free of Darwinism in this form, even as it rushes, on paper at least, to embrace Intelligent Design (the latest and most sophisticated challenge to secular materialism).

Were Fundamentalists truly free of Darwinian influence, I'd think they'd be very receptive to Fritjof Capra, for example, who talks about the web of life, but with a strong emphasis on cooperation and networking, versus combat operations. The "every man for himself" ethic of the dog-eat-dog crowd is effectively countered in his rap. It's brains over brawn from here on, and the brainy thing to do is build networks (e.g. his new civil society, using ecodesign principles to supplant a moribund form of capitalism).

You'd think anyone trully serious about brainstorming faith-based initiatives would be paying close attention to such talk, as the denominations which most concertedly organize (especially on chaordic principles, ala Visa/Mastercard) are going to reap their reward in heaven, while those continuing to plant seeds in flood plains won't necessarily get bailed out (last I checked, God wasn't selling insurance).

In sum, if Social Darwinism is your game, and you're mired in dog-eat-dog, you might wake up one morning to discover that your televangelist leaders are losing the ratings war big time. That translates into fewer donations and mass defections, as the flock suffers a brain drain (what every church fears: no new recruits of any real caliber).

The moral of this story is replete with irony: the churches most into countering Darwinism may be the ones most likely to be done in by it, simply because they're not taking their own alternatives (e.g. Intelligent Design) as seriously as they could be. In allowing Social Darwinism to linger between the lines (with all the racism this entails), they're cutting themselves off from future funding and followers.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Open Source Voting

Of course an open source solution is what makes the most sense. As I posted to a Quaker list recently:
As a data base programmer for many years (tip of hat to colleagues I've seen posting), the open source focus overlaps with the voting infrastructure focus. It's a no-brainer that vote counting and tabulating should be done using open source software and designs IF it's to be computerized at all.

Contrary to uninformed opinion, making the designs open does *not* make them easier to hack. On the contrary, transparency and transparency alone is what protects us from fraud. Too little attention is given to the fact that some of Diebold's top employees came to their jobs with a resume of coding back doors for embezzlement and other nefarious purposes.
Small NGOs with open source savvy should start prototyping, with R&D infusions from wannabee commercial vendors of tomorrow's voting technologies. On a small town scale, we could start using the stuff. And in the schools, we need more practice with voting and counting votes, so that when kids grow up to be precinct captains, or whatever we call them, they don't get panicky and run the same cards twice, or whatever some did in Ohio (yes, mistakes happen too, over and above whatever organized crime is up to).

Quakers wouldn't be a good denomination to test the prototypes because we don't use secret ballot accounting. Everyone with a strong leading makes bold testimony, so it's no secret what the process was, by the time a new minute is recorded. And yes, when the spirit moves, positions change, sometimes drastically. That's what makes a Quaker Meeting for Business so exciting (sometimes -- dull as dishwater other days).

The senate and the house were designed to work more on a Quaker model. This "voice vote" thing is somewhat nefarious, in that it allows senate or house members to "pass by hubbub" -- a kind of mob psychology thing, where you don't get held accountable the next morning. Why should we let a low ranking rabble (i.e. mere voice voters) increase their own borrowing authority is beyond me.

As for this most recent election, it's bound to be studied for years to come. The universities have the means to burn DVDs with raw data. We do have source code for many of the proprietary models (some of which contains back doors or easily subverted controls -- especially if you designed these controls yourself). Computer science teachers are already rubbing their hands with glee, given all these real world examples of how not to code. So many object lessons. The police have a parallel curriculum.

Future generations will be amazed at the primitive, low quality, shoddy and downright ugly infrastructure we tried to run our vast democracy with in 2004. The beginning of this millenium was indeed a dark time in USA history. Only a few leaders stand out, for having worked hard to address the situation (thank you Bev Harris).

Related blog posts:
USA Veeps Debate

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Office Party

We celebrated my boss's 30 years of service today. That's a long time. Lots of reminiscing. I joined this crew in the late 1980s, but in a different division, and across the street. Lots of different pizzas -- the good stuff, gourmet -- and salad, cookies, diet pop.

I didn't bring back the giant cancer basket because I was on the train today and didn't want to look like Little Red Riding Hood -- or the wolf who ate her.

On the floor: a box full of dolls (no barbies). A staff member had started a collection, having learned through her church that Marines were running out of toys for girls -- still plenty of soccer balls for boys apparently (girls can't play soccer?). Had we known, my daughter would have certainly donated some Beanie Babies, of which she has quite the collection.

Not everyone there knew me by sight, maybe just from paperwork, so I got introduced by my boss a few times as 4D Solutions, which was fun.

I forgot my digital camera, but others had them. Lots of pictures were taken. I hope to get copies.

I saw stuff about pCraft and MIRV on the whiteboard in the conference room, now being used for the pizza buffet. I'd intended to get some work done out there today, but that just wasn't practical, given we'd become such party animals.

No problem. Besides, I had a major shipment to take care of before 4:30 PM.

Fortunately for me, the trains were running on time.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Weather Reports

A quiet purpose of weather reporting is to remind people what their country looks like, and to provide a sense of community. In this jet age, the concerns are likewise practical: a portion of those viewing will actually encounter weather on the opposite coast later that same day.

An interesting aspect of international travel are weather shows which encompass more of the globe. Sitting there in your waiting lounge, you see what's up in Dubai, Dhaka, Jakarta, as well as Paris, New York, Rio De Janeiro. CNN specializes in these kinds of weather reporting, and has a lot of market share in airports.

What's interesting about USA TV is how immersed one gets just in some meticulously devised parochial consensus reality. There's not much global data. USAers have to go to the movies (e.g. Bourne Supremacy) to see much in the way of major capitals. The isolationism and inward-focus of the USA psyche is extremely evident on the evening news. If you've just flown in from the UK, where the BBC is far more aggressively global in its coverage, the contrast is enlightening, and some would say frightening.

The promise of multi-channel cable and satellite was more exposure to the "big world out there." Ted Turner experimented with this, in the early days. But these experiments seem to have dried up of late, as more channels turn to home shopping, reruns of syndicated sitcoms or cop shows, and sports. And then, of course, there's the weather channel -- and the food channel.

Another venue through which USAers get some whiff of the outside world (beyond camera shots from embedded journalists, looking over the shoulders of US Marines), is so-called 'reality TV.' These are game shows, typically competitions, played out against the background of the world stage. The site scouts do a good job coming up with romantic or engaging backdrops.

A question I have is how long we'll be able to perpetuate the cognitive dissonance that comes from these two forms of 'reality programming': through the lens of the game player, and through the lens of the demolition engineer (aka soldier). The spectacle of USAers playing with fast cars, cavorting in luxurious resorts, doing "fun stuff," goofing off, "surviving" in a completely phony, made-for-TV set of circumstances, contrasts very sharply with the War on Terrorism programming (lots of swoopy graphics, battle maps, retired generals, sanitized death). These seem like two different planets: the inviting one we goof off in, and the one we demolish, because it scares us.

The rest of the world wonders: how do these USAers manage to play in the sun, cavort in phony realities, while at the same time they enjoy bloody rampages through Fallujah. Between these two extremes, they seem to consume very little programming about the rough politics and complex economics that might bring some realism to either genre. Are we looking at two sides of the same coin? Neither reality TV nor the War on Terrorism seem very grounded in rational thought. We see two basic currencies at work: longing for the good life, and fear.

I guess a question for TV executives right now is whether this kind of programming is going to have much of an aftermarket outside the USA. How tolerant of USA-style entertainment will the world be? Do they really care who "survives" in some romantic faux-Thailand, even as Fallujah burns? Perhaps executives in the UK might like to brainstorm a more grounded and intelligent hybrid that mixes heaven and hell using a different alchemy.

I propose more of a futuristic and hope-inspiring approach (I go with longing over fear, any day), wherein high tech industries show off their ability to enhance civilian life, including in difficult circumstances (shall we stage episode one in Southern Africa, near Cape Town perhaps?). This proposal might be something to meet about on my next trip to the UK.

If the USA is hell-bent on remaining parochial, and wants to push its schizoid mix of "fun in the sun" and "bloodbath in the sand," let it. I bet the UK television market could use this poor planning as an opportunity to signal its greater sense of realism -- an important signal to send, given the proximity of other European markets nowadays finding USA TV increasingly alien, bizarre, a horror show from another planet.


Notable improvements in CBS News by mid-December, e.g. check Dec 14, 2004: note the more global perspective; the far healthier groove.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Some Political Swerves

There was a time when this school in Tehran had cloned much of my since-relocated teleport.com synergetics website for its engineering department. All traces of that seem to be gone by now, but 't'was fun while it lasted, and I thought a good sign. Thanks to the home-spun links, I learned that the Ayatollah Khomeini's tomb features an octet truss. I even traced some of the contractors (Iranians do geodesic domes too).

Fuller schoolers have already given us some blueprints for working on a joint jihad/crusade with Persia and environs, focusing on architectural synergies (mosques with geodesic domes for example).

For all his faults, I don't think Saddam Hussein's focus on building lots of palaces was necessarily one of them, ditto re King Idris of Libya (pre Qadafi). When you don't see a broad solution to the living standards plight, you concentrate on public works that stand out as a showcase of native talents. Sure, it looks avaricious. But it's also a way of leaving a positive legacy. Just leaving stockpiles of WMDs is nothing to boast about.

Sure, Saddam imported a lot of non-native furniture, art works and the like, but the basic architecture and construction were Iraqi and kept a lot of people employed, a lot of families fed. We've seen this pattern at work since the ancient Egyptians. One could argue that many of the USA's "defense industry" programs are no less wasteful (and no less a form of socialism, ala Newt Gingrich and company -- he talks about a "culture of ownership" but profitable shareholding in prime defense contracting depends heavily on tax subsidies, we shouldn't forget).

None of this is to mitigate Saddam's flaws as a dictator, but to the average Iraqi, those flaws are starting to look pretty OK in hindsight. Saddam never declared war on his own people to such an overt degree as Allawi has, to the point of leveling one of his own cities. Yes, there was awful retribution for the armed uprising in the south, and against the CIA-supported Kurds in the north (Kurds make up much of the fighting unit attacking Fallujah), but with nothing like this level of fire power, half-ton bombs and so on.

To have an occupying military use this level of technology against an indigenous para-military is really something new in Iraq, and it's quite apparent that the ranks of those overtly hostile to the corporate military have just multiplied, are on an exponential growth curve if present trends continue.

I call it the corporate military (with the corporate media transparently doing its PR) in concert with President Eisenhower, who clearly saw the possibility of a private sector takeover of the Pentagon ("military-industrial complex" was his coin -- the Vietnam War was the beginning of the wholesale privatization, which many WWII vintage career soldiers didn't like or trust). Fuller extrapolates through Critical Path (LAWCAP etc.), and we find contemporary write-ups of the phenomenon coming from the think tanks, even from within the beltway.

The community of top shareholders, newly advantaged by the GOP, and with tax and borrowing authority, has taken all branches of government and delegated foreign policy to a small, select few. Innocent Americans, completely out of the loop, are being set up to experience the consequences, given the scale of the blowback this foreign policy entails.

One may hope that profit-hungry CEOs will do the math, and realize there are wealth-producing alternative scenarios involving a more collaborative approach to world affairs, vs. these unilateral Fourth Reichian assertions of global dominance ala the New American Century. The so-called RINO's have made a deal with the devil, in signing away the soul of their party to the Apocalyptic Right.

A sign of sanity would be to talk openly and factually about the Israeli nuclear arsenal. Today's terrorists are terrified within reason too much of the time -- their worst fears keep being realized (why?), as the tanks keep rolling through their heartland. This "Axis of Evil" business is really childish cowboy stuff. Neither Iran nor Iraq needed to be transformed into mortal enemies (nor Syria). Moderates in the Islamic world are finding it ever harder to make their voices heard, as fanatics clash with fanatics preaching a gospel of violence and destruction.

There's still a chance of a new more stable equilibrium, but given how far this ship is listing, to the point of taking on water, it's a miracle that we're still afloat.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Hero (movie review)

Now this was an interesting film, beautifully choreographed in gorgeous settings. If a westerner made this film, she might be accused of over-simplifying in broad brush strokes. But the calligraphy is very Chinese, which speaks to the authenticity of the model.

As a user of the Fuller Projection, I'm of course plunged into the analogy 'Our Land' = 'Spaceship Earth.' We're faced with the same problem of too many warring states, each pushing an agenda, none feeling responsible for the whole. But of course I'm not interested in addressing this problem through the agencies of a warlord or tyrant, ala the King of Qin in the film.

For me, the answer lies in generalized principles, which key players in the movie access through calligraphy, to the point of bending natural law (or participating in its extension). The martial arts derive from these first principles.

A foe from Zhao, in a position to stop the king, comes to share this vision of 'Our Land' through his study of the living word. So ultimately, the creation of China (a concept) is owing to a shared vision, a communicated realization, not the private megalomania of one particular cult around some super-idol personality.

The final sacrifice in the film is by the king's co-equal (he too comes to comprehend the big picture) -- the network, in death as well as life, is peer-to-peer (democratic).

Fuller's vision of a bloodless transition to a more supranational psyche, wherein pre-existing nation-states become the provinces, is likewise democratic, a result of massively parallel networking, by humans and their machines combined.

There's no emperor per se (or posit God if you want a monotheistic model), only a shared science shining up through the calligraphy, informing the arts (including the martial ones).

Hero is also good at implying that the martial arts have a big pscyhological component (Fuller's "psychoguerilla warfare" -- cite Critical Path). One sees this in the black and white takes near the beginning: the battle rages, but the principals are really just standing still, with their eyes closed, meditating.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

The Matrix

A B2B code we're using, signifying a shared philosophical commitment, involves recycling imagery derived from what Bucky called his 4D matrix, or IVM.

Clever rebranding aside, it's a well known framework in crystallography and architecture: just pack spheres together ala Kepler and you've got it (the CCP, the FCC) on your screen. The underlying computer graphics likely use the well-known 3D matrix libraries, which is not a problem. 3D embeds seamlessly in 4D.

Note that 4D as used above is what today's thinkers'd call a "meme" -- a take-off on "gene" but "of thought" instead of "of DNA" -- meaning it transmits much more quickly, and takes part in a more kinetic and mutable economy, that of language and culture.

In Bucky's youth, 4D had been recently coined and resonated with many thinkers, including Einstein of course, but also P.D. Ouspensky, a Russian, and many cutting edge artists (Linda Dalrymple Henderson has a good book on this). Bucky grabbed onto 4D (the meme) and combined it with architecture: newfangled and futuristic ideas about assembly line housing. Turns out Alexander Graham Bell was into using it as a space frame as well.

In hindsight, the once-volatile 4D meme appears to have settled into three stable compounds:

  • In Einstein's domain, it meant 3D plus Time. "Time the fourth dimension" became the pop culture hallmark of relativity, both general and special, and from this meme complex we inherit the lingo of "three spatial dimensions" (before Einstein, you wouldn't need to say "spatial" because "temporal" hadn't been set off as a fourth dimension).

  • In Euclid's domain the 3D coordinate system (also known as XYZ) has become extensible to n-dimensions (nD), e.g. you might have a 9D sphere with a center at (0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0), and a bunch of other spheres touching it, each with a 9-tuple address of its own. In this meme-pool, 4D does not connote Time. All the dimensions are "space-like" and get the same treatment. The great Canadian geometer H.S.M. Coxeter operated in this domain, the realm of nD Polytopes (e.g. the tesseract or hypercube).

  • Fuller's 4D is neither Euclid's nor Einstein's. He went from hanging houses (houses and skyscrapers suspended from central utility masts) to geodesic domes by way of sphere packing investigations, similar to Kepler's in many ways (the rhombic dodecahedron is key). For Bucky, the tetrahedron, with its four faces, became tightly bonded with 4D. The tetrahedron is the simplest cage or container, made from the fewest bars (only six, compared to the cube's 12). Despite all this talk of ants crawling around spheres or donuts, with limited degrees of freedom, we're still thinking in volume. Flatland is unimaginable. Conceptuality is volumetric at its Kantian core. Rather than characterize space as "3D" based on "height, width and breadth," Fuller, ever the contrarian, labeled it "4D" -- because of the tetrahedron's having four corners and four faces. "Height, width and breadth" never really come apart as isolate or atomic, are more codependent than independent.

So there you have it. Three meme complexes, each fairly stable, exchanging message traffic back and forth. The B2B communications define interfaces or APIs.

Signalling you're "4D" still connotes futuristic, high tech, long term, invested in over-the-horizon possibilities. Fuller's meme complex is especially easy to translate into attractive eye candy -- it's been good for that for years. So watch for it, and maybe you'll see what had previously been invisible to you, because you didn't know what to look for.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

A Catholic Economy

I've heard people complain that devouring the host upon transubstantiation is cannibalistic: "this is my body" and like that. But that's the point: it is (cite Love's Body, one of my favorites -- thank you NOB). And now more than ever.

When you fill'erup with gas, think of the innocents going to feed your exoskeleton, babies included, ground up and gone. This was my body. If you feel some guilt over that -- well, if the shoe fits, ya know.

It's trully a sinful world order, I think you'll agree. Doesn't need to be this way (our error is willful). The fate of your eternal soul hinges on what you plan/intend/will to do about that (yes, I'll sermonize -- we Quakers call it testimony and yes, we lay people have been authorized to stand and deliver, not just the clerics).

And I wouldn't pretend decrying abortion gets you off the hook, if I were you. Oil into Blood. That's not just a tiger in your tank. That's some fresh squeezed from Fallujah, some Body of Christ, at only $2.89 a gallon.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

The Forgotten (movie review)

Not such a good flick. One of those in which the psychosis turns out to be the reality, but with too many loose ends. The cool thing about reality (and science exults in this) is that it cross-checks to a high degree. The Pythagorean theorem holds: know a few things about a triangle, figure out the rest. Detective work, police work, works. Fuller's omnitriangulation. But The Forgotten spares itself the hard work of omnitriangulating the alien reality revealed by the NSA. Let's itself off the hook, delivers cheap goods. That doesn't mean it's not entertaining. Just not 'great art'.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

The Pentagon: Public or Private?

To what extent is the Pentagon privately owned and operated? USA taxpayers don't manage to cover expenses (cite deficit). A lot of the management is outsourced.

This move to electronic voting without even the possibility of audits is further eroding the sense that the American people have any real say with regard to ongoing military adventures.

Big media will be tasked to glue these two together (a national will with a military force), but then, big media is likewise privately owned and operated -- with some of the same Pentagon players waving the flag on television. The War on Terror remains essential programming.

What's kept it together in the past was a set of principles. The claim that bombing Fullajah is part of a principled campaign to bring freedom and self-determination to the people in Iraq commits big media to some very thin ice. People increasingly call it "corporate media" with good reason. Our legal contrivance called "the corporation" has outstripped government institutions, in terms of global influence and command over assets. The private sector rules.
"More than two centuries of law have been enacted to protect Americans against Big Government. These laws begin with the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, and include ethics and transparency laws, restrictions on the political conduct of officials, limits on official pay, and the uniform military code of justice. These laws apply to officials, not contractors, on the presumption that officials are in control. The rules do not apply—or protect the public—when, as is increasingly the case, contractors are doing the basic work of government, and government lacks the expertise and experience to control the contractor workforce." Commentary by Dan Guttman, The Shadow Pentagon: Private contractors play a huge role in basic government work—mostly out of public view.
Of course, it all comes back to private individuals at the end of the day (no one here but us chickens). Fortunately, many of us, including those with businesses, and of various political and religious persuasions, still have faith in those same principles which guided the USA's original founders. We should not be expected to follow blindly, when other enterprises and schools of thought, including much bigger ones, decide on a course for disaster. Computations show some reason for hope, even yet.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Won't You Join Us?

I invite disaffected USA dems to join our global jihad/crusade against hunger and dire poverty. We're planning to use high tech, sophisticated media, new civilian prototypes, per the Project Renaissance and World Game models.

This is strong moral high ground and there's certainly plenty of limelight to go around. So don't despair. You too may choose to play a starring role in fulfilling this divine plan to render humanity a lasting success aboard Spaceship Earth. Audition today!

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Campaign Begins: Recruiting Talent Now

Excerpt from my post of today to math-teach:

What I think the world needs are more venues for people to audition. They go to temp agencies, do a typing and 10-key test, maybe a personality profile, then get sent to a cube to do some clerical stuff. The Hollywood and TV venues are cram packed with aspirants, many of them quite talented. Theater languishes (I just saw a guy play all parts in King Lear, and do it well, with only about six people in the audience)....

I'm hungry to employ all the natural talent I can get, and I really don't have time to provide a lot of compensatory training. The situation is too urgent, too ugly. The kind of fairness you're talking about is just unaffordable right now, in light of all those global university students who get no opportunity to audition whatsoever. Their situation takes priority.

The curriculum is broken (witness Sudan). Let's recruit the most creative, imaginative, and talented people we can to fix it (and just because you're already a college professor doesn't necessarily mean you have the most aptitude for this work (but you should have ample opportunities to audition, certainly)).

Here's a link to the complete text -- part of a couple much longer threads.

Theme song for this campaign: On The Turning Away, Pink Floyd

Relevant link: GST Global U

Monday, November 01, 2004

Great Pirates

No word yet on if/when the radio interview re Great Pirates will become accessible. Not my decision. I suppose we could have mixed in some actual audio clips from Bucky (fair use), citing his Everything I Know as our source. Here's a link to some printed transcripts wherein Fuller mentions pirates (lots more in Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth). Perhaps it's not too late for this. James?

Einar's CD (Introducing the FANG) came in the mail. Cool! I'm always scanning such works for toy and puzzle possibilities, which at least in times gone by I'd raise with Stu Quimby of Design Science Toys. He has limited resources to commit of course, so most toy ideas end at the one-of-a-kind curiousity phase (he has a great collection).

Nowadays, with the big box stores taking over the toy market, there's precious little room for speciality items, esoterica of all kinds. Thanks to the web, however, there's still some possibility for parents to find these rare gifts for their kids. Yes, that's a commercial (or call it product placement, whatever).

So tomorrow is election day in the USA. I voted days ago, by mail, thanks to Oregon's enlightened way of doing things. Of course I'll be interested in the results, even though I don't consider contemporary USA presidents to be among the great pirates, usually.

Like, even Winston Churchill didn't feel he'd penetrated the inner sanctum. To quote Prouty:
"There is, in Lord Denning's book, The Family Story, a most pertinent reference to the words of Winston Churchill during a heavy bomber attack on Rotterdam during World War II. Denning reports that Churchill, during a conversation among friends, made reference to a High Cabal that has made us what we are. In that sense, Churchill's High Cabal equates with Fuller's Invisible power structure... For a man in Churchill's position, and at the war-time peak of his public career, to make reference to a high, or higher, cabal defines the subject. We live under the influence of such a cabal today, whether we realize it or not."
OK, so that sounds like a conspiracy theory. When the topic is great pirates, that's somewhat inevitable, no?