Friday, June 18, 2010

More Documentaries

Every Child is Born a Poet. The autobiography of Piri Thomas, author of Down These Mean Streets, is well made. If schools were a place to grow by watching films, this would be one to show, for the sake of inspiring discussion and sharing (articulating) one's experiences.

Documentaries are (or can be) a serious art form and watching them should count as study, as much as reading does. Watch them for academic credit (it's like this at PSU). You might need to take a train somewhere to see it. Maybe it's only out in IMAX?

Taking the train: that's for math credit maybe? Navigating the topology of your city's subway system, learning to use GPS... does your school campus and/or base issue GPS devices to members of your unit?

Amandala! is a documentary about the role of protest songs during the struggle against apartheid in South Africa. Like Every Child... there's a retrospective flavor, of the situation improving for some of the protagonists, and yet the backdrop is one of ongoing poverty. The ghettos and shanty towns haven't gone away. Perhaps those gallows are less in business? Many heroes in Amandala! were hanged for questioning authority (authoritarians tend to arrogate that right of retaliation, as a prerogative of the nation-state -- or corporation in some cases (we also watched Rollerball)).

I watched both of these documentaries with a Laughing Horse collective member and Portland Free School organizer. Both seemed to be about caving to conventional authority was one view expressed, with both films portraying their respective heroes as role model citizens of their respective Euro-style nation-states.

Like when Native Americans learn to depend on a casino: how is that really a victory? How is wearing a suit and carrying a brief case to work a big win for a free people? Another view: it might be (a big win), if worn as one more costume. When in Rome... or on the set (a period piece perhaps, lots of funky SUVs in the background).

Were consumerism and materialism more existentially meaningless, more individuals might find it an interesting challenge to better balance the world's energies. Alchemy could become full time work. Why should organized religion have all the fun?

If there's a role for geeks in "world domination" then here (on Planet Earth) might be another opportunity to stage a design science decade, more consciously than before. Getting that sponsored shelf of Bucky books at Laughing Horse, mixed with some free software movement tomes, and DVDs such as Revolution OS... How are things going in Africa, with free software these days? Any sponsors out there?

A war on poverty isn't out of altruism, so much as out of having nothing better to do. We've been sentenced to Earth to improve the human condition, which means working on ourselves as well (jihad etc.).

I'm depressed about the response of mathematicians. I expected a little more excitement about those Mites, Sytes and Kites, just because of their streamlining potential. Why aren't we screening about these things in prisons, given that's where so many people get sidelined and warehoused? Piri gets some geometry behind bars, but it's all so rectilinear. The war colleges shouldn't have a monopoly on these newfangled materials, just cuz they're closer to Martians (grays or whatever).

Regarding Every Child... the part about Spanish "blood" mixing with African and American "blood" was annoying. Talking about "blood" is the old racist language, which imagined these racial "essences" floating around in the plasma.

That's faux-science, just like much of Social Darwinism, which couldn't be bothered with any detailed look at real genetics. When it comes to tracing ethnicity, there's not that much interesting going on in the genome. A few skin color bits flip here and there, some nose shaping proteins -- superficial stuff, like what dog breeders care about.

Ethnicity is more about "memes" than "genes" (why all math is ethno-math) but even your average Harvard prof seems reluctant to spell that out in any detail (or is that just my imagination?). The word "meme" just isn't taken seriously enough, is too close to "commercial ditty" (the awesome hypnotic power of which, they'd rather you not think about too critically, any more than filmmakers want you guessing their tricks at every turn (spoils the atmosphere, when you see through the illusion, know what makes it tick (some say))).