Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Staying Weird in Portland

The title for this entry alludes to a recently published Weird Science slide show in the on-line version of The New Yorker (magazine) as well as to Portland's Keep Portland Weird slogan, maybe pirated from Austin.

Here's how I linked them, in a post to Synergeo (#40427), subsequent to a fine Wanderers meeting, full of lightning talks, Thai food after (hyperlinks added):
The whole 4 page article is there too, just finished reading it, by Elizabeth Kolbert, a talented and eclectic writer (was just checking into some of the other stuff she's written, like on CCD, some "disorder" that makes bees not respond well to major changes in their environment (like, let's blame the bees, make it be their problem)).

The missing thread in this account is how his back to the drawing board near suicide experience led to vows about doing one's own thinking and starting up with this deliberately remote vocabulary and way of thinking, the word "Dymaxion" just a superficial aspect of this somewhat crazy-making language reinvention project.

But whereas postmortems focus on all the "failures", how many men both wrote great philosophy and scored all these engineering breakthroughs? Is that because he knew how to "think different" (recalling Apple's marketing campaign)? Could be. Just maybe.

Also, people make far too much of Brand's damning the dome. They don't all leak, lots of expensive radars entrusted to these skeletons. Yes, some domestic custom builds had problems, but here I think J. Baldwin tells the better story, about smuggling still unverified numbers out of Joe Clinton's lab. Some of the tables in Dome Handbook had significant errors, hence the propensity to leak. Of course there are other reasons some domes lack integrity, but is the goal to be boring, or to tell a good story?

Mostly I think North Americans squander their opportunities to tell good stories around Bucky. It's all about what a big failure he was, whereas he got to be good friends with some of the most interesting and engaging folks on the planet, Marshall McLuhan for example, very generous in crediting Bucky for his ideas. Arthur C. Clarke, Werner Erhard... what a trip! Not my idea of a "failure story" no matter what these cold case autopsies show.

On the other hand, I appreciated the light touch, the humor, the fact that we're not doing hagiography here (Applewhite never liked that genre much).

On balance, I'm happy to see something in the pages of The New Yorker, giving analysts a reality check on where we're at in some circles, when it comes to party talk, even pillow talk ("did you remember to empty the drips bucket dear?").

Good to see what people are thinking, a whole quarter century after his passing, to sample some Talk About Town in some towns. Also, given our Keep Portland Weird campaign (in tandem with Austin's), I'm happy with the "Weird Science" moniker -- definitely something we can work with. So thank you Elizabeth, for the kind and welcome boost.