Thursday, December 29, 2011

Wanderers 2011.12.28

We were a small group this morning.  Per recent trends, we veered into an eatery, this time Tom's on Chavez / Division.  A lot of our focus was geographic, the LA area.

George Hammond was teaching chemistry at CalTech.  He would later join Wanderers meetings at the Linus Pauling House on Hawthorne.

He was married to Eve Menger, of Multnomah Monthly Meeting, and daughter of Karl Menger, whom I never met, but whose mathematics I cite sometimes.

Jon Bunce had played with the Shaggy Gorillas (minus one Buffalo Fish), a comedy troupe (mentioned herein).  He and Steve remembered some clubs, Steve the poor grad student, worked with Hammond.

During the meeting, I mentioned my "true Russian novel" motif again, for these blogs, a playful oxymoron ("true novel").  I also play with "Russian" quite a bit.

Speaking of which, at Tom's I explained about the genre of training film I'm envisioning, that explains aspects of capitalism in exquisite detail (better than you've usually seen) so that those coming to assist might have more empathy and compassion for its many types of victim.  We could dub into English, serve on Youtube.

The AFSC work camp idea grew out of the CO movement ("conscientious objectors"), when civilians had fewer service opportunities.  During the civil rights movement, the work camp became a way to compare notes across schools and ethnicities.  Some exciting work in diplomacy was going on in parallel.

I'm not saying we can turn back the clock.  Given today's miniaturized components, a "work camp" might be more like a dispersed affiliation of anarcho-bosses drawn together by a spiritual practice or sport.  Look at FNB for example:  urban based, not headquartered anywhere, chaordic (like Visa).

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Alice in Wonderland (movie review)

This is a film about determinism, predestination, destiny, epiphenomenalism.

She's being swept along on fast forward, life overtaking her, drowning her will.  Time to hit pause, visit a wardrobe, race down a hole or whatever.  Check into a facility if you can afford it.

Being a star feels that way too, on the set, off, learn the scene, learn the lines.  Getting typecast, being born for such roles.  It ends in the pirate movie anyway.

The too big and too small is also about too fast and too slow.  And sometimes we do feel like the giants in some scenes, which could mean slow and oafish, but I'm saying so much older.

When you're a kid it seems especially pronounced:  we're off at the starting gate and then mature in different ways at different rates.  Sometimes it feels like they're all ahead of you.  James felt that way (thinking of a friend of ours).

I just want to say, a lot of imagination went into that, with the flashback built in, as the hero integrates and is reborn anew.  It's the archetypes adventure too of course.

The determinism is in the scroll or prophesy, with the dog giving one of the sternest lectures early on, about what is or is not predestined, and Alice having her strongest voice back, a dog like that being somewhat safe to tell off (unlike her mom).

Dogs hear a lot from us humans and their job is to just take it.  Some suggest inter-stellar affairs but that's always in the background among serious star heads.  Sarah-the-dog was on the couch at my feet.

The scroll shows faux Alice consulting the scroll, caterpillar making a pronouncement.  As the audience, we know Alice had those dreams, but our inner loyalties are conflicted as we decide whether we can take an older Alice into our hearts, through this vehicle.

From Alice's point of view, sure it'd be really easy to forget those dreams if they weren't in a universe that had made them a famous children's book already.  Her dad is kind and understanding, but the equivalent of grinning cats in parallel universes tend to fall by the wayside, lets face it.

We should empathize with her older self not immediately reconnecting with her childhood psychosis (psyche, crazy kid, goofy guy), her inner window in to a shared [mad] world, her private line. She's just remembering the "it's a dream" part from the earlier scene.

Audiences know more than the characters sometimes, but then don't really exist in some sense.

The twisted Alice videogame we had for Tara, the voice of the cat.  That was the cat, the cat and the hat.  Dr. Seuss doesn't just fade away in Tim Burton movies when you think about it.

The film succeeds because it doesn't try to do too much.  It tries to be the Disney film that shows our state of the art, with some of our best and most mysterious.  Depp is so used to getting made up as a scary bozo.

The vorpal sword needs to fight the Jabberwocky, we all see that coming, the scroll does not lie.  But what we don't expect also happens around the edges and warps the plot.  Who ever thought those two would become friends?  They know it's their fate at some level.

The dream is hard, is the hard part.  The feeling of expectation is palpable, when we all look back to the castle gate, expecting our hero.  She's under that pressure to perform.  That's life, it's cosmic.

The funniest scene is the dark knight (bad guy) coming on to the giant Alice, saying he really likes big girls.  That's too literally true here to not be hilarious at the same time it's on the scary side.

Shades of Spirited Away with the warring sisters and their castles.  A Disney callback to Miyazaki (yes, we're here too) who had to authorize the Disney dubbing.

We projected in the living room.  Walker took a break from recording with R2D2 (the drum machine).

Tara and I had gone to Movie Madness earlier.  Gattaca, Tara's top choice, was the one we watched before Alice, the one I was most desperate to see.  Both blew me away.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Dropping a Few Balls

I've just been making contrite phone calls, as in the thick of the action I dropped the baton at a certain place in the schedule:  I'd been invited to talk to the elders in my "church" (we don't actually call it that) about my world domination schemes (as a geek, I'm expected to have those) and about Bucky Fuller in particular, with whose plans I tend to dovetail mine.

Well, wouldn't ya know it that the bookkeeping computer would go into perpetual reboot at the same time as my brain.  Paralyzed with misconditioning, thanks to the Three Kings (thanks guys), I went pell-mell on Hawthorne buying up a storm, from the Dollar Scholar and the high end Tibetan shop a few doors down, Tara my adviser and accomplice, getting some gifts, and books by Asimov.

That was my karma.  My karma is my dharma.

I've got voicemails in with Sonya Pinney and Audrey Metcalf (cherished elders), apologizing and offering to do private interviews instead, if anyone wants to know.  Invite me again by all means.  What I get for being a space case sometimes.  I fight it, that absent minded professor thing.

How can one be mentally present yet have an absent mind, just not possible.  I prefer Buddhism's mindfulness trainings, in my striving to stay on the rails, however often I fly off them.

At least I got some gifts out the door in the game of spinning airplanes and transportation services.  It's a workout and juggling act, that's for sure.

Out with the electric boats last night, with Trish and the gang, noticing all the FedEx flights coming in, laden with Santaware.  The story going around teendom these days, thanks to Facebook etc., is that Rudolph and peers were all girls, as only girl reindeer still have antlers this late in the year.

Not sure if so, but makes sense in a way.

Like with chinlone (a sport), guys just would not have the patience for some crabby old guy in the back with a passion for chimneys.  Same in computer science.  The male egos only managed to grow really big once the ground had been prepared by the patienter sex.

Apologies again y'all.  I have my world dom / mir plan at the ready, when you're ready to audit.

Thanks to Leslie Hickcox for reminding me, inadvertently.  She's with Friendly Care and well knows how to deal with people like me (those who've misplaced their minds somewhere, or their wallets, or passports...).

I bought ten "splat rats" from Dollar Scholar.  I don't know how to rhyme those in the "five golden rings" song but then these were for Hanukkah anyway.  That's our main party this time of year.

We used to do Solstice more, but that's when I had Dawn to help organize things.  I dropped by Alex's (Lindsey and I walked over together) for good food and company.  Tara stayed home applying for college and reading her new Asimov books.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Mystic Ball (movie review)

:: burma night ::

I enjoyed a somewhat optimized venue for viewing this movie.  Alex and his friends had organized a Burma Night, spontaneously conceived the week before, and shared at this Nepalese Buddhist compound that shares the same block as the Linus Pauling House.

I somewhat jokingly introduced myself as being from there (the Pauling House), whereas it's not really a residence, unlike this place.

Appropriately, I've been in touch with John Driscoll of late, erstwhile denizen of the so-called Voodoo House (Santo Daime) I used to write about -- same zip code.  Old Portland homes lend themselves to becoming religious establishments.  Something about all that wood maybe.

So Burma has this pervasive pass time and sport called chinlone.  It's a lot like hacky sack in that you're trying to keep something in the air, cooperatively or solo, but in this case it's a woven hollow ball of rattan.  Alex, who was quite a good hacky sack player, assures us chinlone takes a whole different skill set (one which he doesn't have).

Greg Hamilton, the director and star of Mystic Ball, is a handsome world citizen (also Canadian), your archetypal Global U student.  He's very athletic and is a disciplined martial arts teacher in Toronto.  He sees some guy playing chinlone in the park and is mesmerized.  Something clicks.  The rest of the film traces his increasing obsession with this sport and how it draws him into the cultural life and mind of the Burmese people.

The story line is so simple and innocent, like a children's book.

This doesn't mean there's not a beautiful girl to offset the handsome man.  She's one of the best chinlone players in the country and performs solo.  She's ridiculously talented and a sweetheart.  Watching her in slow motion, kicking that woven ball, rivals any martial arts sequence.  The guys are good too, really good.

The room was a hubbub of interesting conversations.  As a somewhat large guy, I can't just "flit about" like Tinkerbell, but I did my best to tune in a number of fascinating threads, about Buddhism, Alex's coming of age stories, and remarks on the new movie about his mom (none of us had seen it yet).

My wife Dawn would have loved this community and I'm sorry she didn't live long enough to enjoy it with me.  She was serious about her practice, and loved sharing about the dharma (teachings) with her shangha (community).

Terry of ISEPP has this vision of how the Pauling Campus might one day encompass this whole city block.  He publishes the artist's conception of this campus in the various programs handed out at the Schnitzer.

These drawings predate the temple though.  It would make a lot more sense for any peace-focused campus to include this Buddhist HQS as a core campus institution.

The synergy with the Paulings, in terms of connecting their anti-nuke pacificism with a world religion of many branches, looks really propitious.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

My Reincarnation (movie review)

This was a movie about family, somewhat reliving a dream for me as so much of it was set in Italy with people speaking Italian. That was my boyhood.

But the focus is a Tibetan diaspora family, which takes me back to Bhutan, and the matter of fact way in which reincarnation is dealt with there.

To top it all off, I met family by happenstance at Andy & Bax earlier. Alexia and David were shopping for esoteric sporting supplies. I was drawn there by rather strong visions and ended up going from army to navy in my surplus look.

With the new boots (Bogs) I look like some fisher fleet captain, maybe a lobster guy. I should wear this outfit on Meliptus. Anyway, we ended up all going for Thai food, Tara too, at the new place on 38th and Division (first time for us with the new owners -- good dishes).

I took a break after ordering appetizers to buy mice from Twin at Rose City Reptiles, for Barry-the-python, so even more of the family was included.

Back to the film: the son of the Rimpoche is not that easy with his reputation for being his dad's reincarnated uncle or brother or teacher, or one of those. He's just another Italian kid wanting that kind of warm Latin family, a dad more there for him.

But dad, a Rimpoche trying to keep Tibetan culture alive, has somewhat heavy responsibilities, in the sense of lots of people looking to him to not drop the ball. He'd been pressed into monastic service early, as a reincarnation himself, and had escaped Tibet when the country was invaded and occupied in the 1950s.

Dogzchen is an important lineage, including in Italy these days by the looks of things, in Russia too.

The son grows into a man, marries, has kids of his own. He works for IBM. He's a hard driving executive. The cameras don't follow him into his business life much. We talk to the dad a lot, who likes floating in pools. The years fly by.

Having a documentary made of oneself, somewhat in the style of the Up series, does have an impact. The family is self-conscious anyway though, so the addition of cameras doesn't seem that obtrusive. These are unpretentious people willing to make a lasting document with their lives.

Flash forward and the son finally decides to go with his gut and his visions and start practicing his Buddhism more. He'll let his dad be his teacher in this chapter.

What drove him to this decision? For one thing, the job stress is getting to him and he needs to trance out while driving just to stay sane around work. Then come the dreams again, like when he was younger. Pretty soon he's realizing he might be on the path to becoming a Rimpoche himself.

The expectation that this reincarnated teacher might someday return to Tibet, to a major homecoming and welcome, is never far from the surface.

One might compare it to the fictional Little Buddha (I just did), but it's a much more in-your-face documentary about the everyday messiness of life. It's a teaching, a lesson in keeping it real (with forays into the surreal).

The Buddha's story is alluded to, but we don't escape into the big budget mythographic portrayals with Keanu Reeves. Instead, we have a real, worldly family, of wives and mothers, husbands and fathers, siblings, children, grandparents, the whole nine yards. And lets not forget students, colleagues, peers.

We get older, we get sick, we get well, we die, then we get young again and start over. Did the subtitles get it right, saying "conscience" instead of "consciousness"? Would either work? Lucid dreaming plays a role (something Dawn was into too).

The human family has gotten a lot smaller all of a sudden, and a lot bigger. We number in the billions, yet the planet is so small.

I thought maybe the funniest line was when the reincarnated Italian-speaking Tibetan Buddhist community organizer IBM executive is trying to get things going in Moscow, and says: "why are you Russians so complicated?" Who's calling who complicated again?

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Foray to Washington

Washington is our neighboring state, nowhere near Washington, DC if you're hazy on local geography. Ridgefield High has an impressive fleet of buses and gathers eligible teens from all over that area north of Vancouver. Yes, Washington has a Vancouver too, a continuation of the same I-5 corridor metro area snaking twixt here (Portland) and Seattle.

I mention Ridgefield High, home of the Spudders, because I was judging there last night, driving our car with Lynn Travis of Bridge City Meeting. Her guy Timothy was just on a first conference call regarding that "should we join FGC issue" that I'm not involved with. She sat in with me as "judge in training" (ironically, as she's the former college-level CRX contestant, and actual lawyer) in her first Lincoln Douglas debate.

Resolved: individuals are morally obligated to assist people in need.

This was the same resolution I'd judged at Clackamas High a few times the weekend before. I was getting to know the territory. My general impression is the neg has the edge on this one, or that the meaning of "morally obligated" is deliberately weaker than "legally", in terms of punishments. Then Lynn got to judge Congress, a whole different event that sounds like a real can of worms.

Meanwhile, Melody / FNB was assisting the Reverend Billy of the Church of Stop Shopping at the Lloyd Center Mall. Security was busy barricading the doors, having plenty of advance notice. The Rev really looks like one (I've not met him) and Melody was in love with his sense of showmanship, which she shares.

This per the account I got after getting back from Washington, after 10 PM. Clearly she'd had fun, dressing up in a wig and doing a long running gag. Melody: "Just laugh at his jokes, and have his meals ready on time, as the good Lord ordained it." Lindsey: "That just sounded so real, I felt like I was in a trailer just now." These women, with long experience between them among the Righteous Forgiven, know whereof they spoof.

In the car on the way up, Tara was talking about some of the connections between the National Forensics League and the Ayn Rand Foundation, also Model NATO (vs. Model UN). Kind of corporate, she thought.

For Gonzo, our coach, whereas NFL is interesting and he much enjoyed going to National Championships with Tara and Griffin this summer, it's really state level he's focused on. That's the more open / democratic form, with lower barriers to entry, in terms of disposable income.

One can borrow pant suits and ties, do fund drives, develop a wardrobe (like in theater). Journeying all the way to Indianapolis (this year's NFL) is more a privileged persons game, those with money for debate camps, the whole nine yards. We got some help from BurgerVille, other sponsors.

We were joined in the judges room (the home economics classroom, 206) by a 25 year veteran retired debate coach who'd taken his California team to fame and glory, with lots of non-privileged youth. They were budgeting $50K a year by the time he retired, but it was up to him to raise it, and that became tiresome. The program died when he quit, and this was his first judging event in 25 years since then. LD was new, as was Congress. Tara is back there again today, her team continuing to compete.

Lynn recommends the documentary Resolved, shown on HBO, available through Netflix, for more insight into this culture. Maybe Movie Madness has it. Yep.

Elizabeth Braithwaite has also been kindly playing an important role in Tara's growing into adulthood. They've been practicing driving a lot. Eliz taught David pretty recently. Tara is signed up for formal classes as well, which Eliz is helping sponsor. She also arranged to get yearbook pictures. I am grateful for these ongoing relationships.

I'm continuing to monitor Bob Fuller's condition through CareCalendar.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Starry Night

I got this link from City Hall, Mayor's twitter feed, and find it appealing on a number of levels. The idea of time lapse is set up in broad daylight, helping make the leap to starry night.

I'm reading Dava's book on Copernicus these days, and was reminded of that passage where the visiting acolyte gets a ride in some homemade Stellarium and only then realizes Copernicus is serious about his revolution -- it's not just a short cut to make the math easier.

Remember, in my high school math curriculum, you don't graduate if you haven't seen the night sky like this for real. Not just movies will count, though they go a long way in getting you somewhat oriented, in a simulation science.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Protecting Lawyers

:: pbi meetup ::

Lawyers tend to be front lines advocates for something called fairness. The idea of some rule of law, other than the monarch's, is quite alien in some regions of the world. Nepal for example, a Himalayan state not far from Bhutan. The transition to more democratic forms is not being easy.

My horizons were expanded by a young lawyer, Jit Man Basnet, a human rights advocate who stood by the disappeared in Nepal, until he was disappeared himself, held incommunicado while the generals denied he was in their custody. For 258 days he was held, mostly blindfolded, and in danger of being beaten if he said any words beyond the authorized three. Transgressions by his mates resulted in the entire group being punished.

We were hearing of these unfoldings at the Quaker meetinghouse on Stark Street. Peace Brigades International is celebrating its 30th anniversary. This nonprofit sends brave souls to stand witness to activists, many of whom would be or in some cases have been killed. The PBI volunteers themselves have so far escaped murder, if not injury. They extracted Jit from Nepal after deeming it too dangerous to escort him in his home country. He could write a book and be on the speaking circuit, and live to fight another day. That's the strategy being pursued.

PBI is somewhat like Friends Peace Teams, except the latter are more into providing a therapeutic process amidst feuding parties. That might be just the ticket today in Nepal, as so-called Maoists and the remnants of the Royal Army are supposed to integrate. After what amounted to a civil war, starting in 1996 and resulting in the end of the 200 plus year monarchy, getting these elements to combine will take an alchemy like AVP's. PBI fields guardians, people of conscience, in hopes that those undertaking elections, reforms, adjustments, might be allowed their freedoms per the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, for starters.

I found myself thinking back to A Spy for All Seasons for its forays into Nepalese politics. Had Bhutan's expulsion of ethnic Nepalese tipped the balance at all? Barry asked why the term "Maoist" had stuck. There was no agenda to create a single party system. The unfairly advantaged would still have their human rights as well, although those perpetrating the crime of torture and illegal arrest would find their names in the database of violators. Their identities would not be kept secret.

The discussion that followed was dominated by Barry (not Barry Redd of Wanderers, another guy), and included plugs for Greg Palast and his new book Vultures' Picnic, and for Amy Goodman of Democracy Now. Actually, Amy Goodman is quite popular with PBI staff and volunteers, as is Amnesty International, which supports PBI work.

We talked about Occupy quite a bit. The problem of homelessness and poverty in the USA is not so often discussed in Nepal and it's an eye-opener to see how there's blowback here as well, against the selfishness of the brute force lawbreakers. Some people seem to not mind ruining it for everybody else. That Americans too have hopes for a brighter tomorrow, a better world, is news to some people who'd given up on any American dream having real meaning.