Sunday, August 26, 2018

Summer Rollercoaster


As we sail through August, mostly hot, today raining at last, I'm mindful of the ups and downs.  Time on the farm with Brenda and company was definitely up.  She's building the workshop.  We discussed Julian's success at getting his sculptures moved around, keeping the studio ready for more.  What a cornucopia.  Linus Pauling House was a first beneficiary, with Alpha Helix.

I've blogged about Brenda's farm before.  We took the picturesque route on the way out, towards Damascus, coming back through Boring on Hwy 26.

Today was Hawthorne Street Fair.  I always get steamed when Saturday Market vendors think they can impose "photos by request" values on a public street and filed a complaint about the one booth with such signage.  No, it's not one of the rules.  Steamed, but not doing much about it, and heading back to my charging cell phone, knowing Carol would be fine.

However, Carol was not fine.  She came back knowing someone had stolen her money, credit cards and cell phone.  What a disaster.  I canceled the lunch with Glenn and started dialing, thinking I would kill the cell phone and credit card first.  Just as I was making my choice to suspend with or without billing, I saw a red sack and knew intuitively she had prepacked these items with the intent to stow, but hadn't stowed, i.e. she'd left the house without 'em.

I reupped for the lunch with Glenn.  We also watched a National Geographic documentary on the Gospel of Judas, really well done, with professional reenactments, like the genre demands.

Apparently though, the phone robot got the message I wanted to suspend, so now it's up to me to restore service.  I'm in the middle of that process.

I'm active on Facebook these days, and on Medium.  I have a toehold in some alternative tech.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

BlacKkKlansman (movie review)


In a stroke of genius (the kind of stroke we like) I realized I could invite people seeing this 3 PM matinee at the Bagdad to adjourn to my place for discussion.  I put out an invitation through the Meeting listserv working on racial justice.  That worked.  We had some interesting conversation in my living room, which gave me a lot more perspective.

For example, as the movie opens, we're panning back, revealing a tragic vista:  war wounded as far as the eye (camera) can see, with some woman picking through them looking for her doctor.  I remarked how this scene seemed obviously phony in the sense of cinematographic, a no-brainer observation on my part, given film had not evolved to this degree by Civil War times, duh.

Lori explained this was a scene lifted directly from Gone with the Wind.  That set the stage for a number of film excerpt citations, most notably from The Birth of a Nation, the Mein Kampf of Yankee racist films, President Wilson among its fans.

I sensed Spike Lee, the director, was keeping it obvious and in our faces that this is / was a film, which achieves authenticity not by fooling us into thinking its some kind of documentary, but by framing a tale and making sure we understand its message, its morals.

There's a clear cut villain, with a veneer of respectability, sewn together from the remnants of a shattered way of life.  In the meantime, the heroic blacks are still struggling to gain a sense of identity, starting over with new names in some cases.

We hear a white cop sneeringly refer to Muhammad Ali for opting out of his more local heritage, and taking a more African-sounding name.  We hear blacks express ambivalence and outright hostility to the Vietnam war.  Why fight "for freedom" overseas when it's really the home front that needs heroes?

Our black protagonist has always wanted to be a police officer and indeed he has the personal skills to fit in, his parents having raised him in a disciplined, military-flavored home.  He'd been to college instead of Vietnam, but shows signs he'll be obedient.  He gets along with his peers and quickly earns their respect, although the token bad apple cop is not going to earn ours.

We're glad when the bad apple cop gets his comeuppance.

The audience gets a lot of what it wants in this movie, if predisposed to support the Union and its melting pot values.  However in watching Klansmen cheer and hoot at The Birth of a Nation, we're aware, again, that movies are in the business of programming, using our biases and emotions as their raw material.

In acknowledging its own role as a movie with a point of view, destined for the pile of what gets re-watched a lot on Netflix (a film for the ages) it gives itself permission to hit our buttons and make its points, what movies do.

The choreography, almost musical, comes to the foreground near the climax, as the camera switches back and forth between an all black and all white audience, each in the act of propagating their lore.

The blacks are in a teach in listening to Harry Bellafonte describe the horrors of lynching.

The whites are inducting their new members by means of religious ritual.

The Klan scoops a lot of memes from Christianity, including its stereotypical attitude towards Jews, who killed Jesus (himself a Jew, as one of our Quakers pointed out).  The film is almost as much about hating Jews as hating blacks, and the impact of this hate on its targets.

The phoniness of the opening scene is traded for actual footage from the now infamous Charlottesville episode, a murder scene, towards the end.

We're given to understand that racism, and how racism impacts the police force, did not somehow die in the 1900s.  Not that anyone in our audience suffered from that illusion.

We would love to grow beyond this karma, but seem to be stuck in a lot of vicious circles, to put it mildly.  Feuds have a way of not fizzling.  Some in our discussion group expected things to get worse, before they get better.

Interestingly, David Duke is still around to give us reaction shots and is popping up on Youtube with his own analysis.  I've done some poking around, and will of course be doing a lot more.  Data mining in Youtube is what I do for a living it sometimes seems.

Having viewed this film, I'm now better positioned to follow the debates that bring it up. I would encourage others to view it for the same reason, as shared heritage.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Borg R Us

I was reading about demoralization in the workplace a lot of today, focusing specifically on Carrier and Amazon.  For contrast, the National Geographic documentary on Coca-Cola bottling plants showed presumably well-paid workers proud of their responsibilities.

The Carrier people know their furnaces are in demand, but don't sense the parent company values them as people.  Mexicans know what that's like.  Corporate personhoods don't always relate to flesh and blood humans that well.  Welcome to the matrix.

I got a free AWS T-shirt at OSCON this time, and wore that around N. Mississippi, playing the part of a techie moving into one of the new apartments and gentrifying the hell out of that part of town.  In fact, my personal experience trying to drive an AWS go-cart (metaphor) was a wipe-out.  Nonetheless, I do promote the infrastructure to my OST-RU buddies.  That's a science fiction template code school built on the model of a travel agency booking charter flights (classes).

In other words:  we are Borg.

I allude the that sense of complicity, of collusion, we all feel as Amazon Prime users.  I canceled mine but that doesn't count, as I piggy-back on family.  The physics books I got through the Amazon database recently was not shipped Prime, but it was definitely paid through Amazon.  Someone, somewhere, had to run around some giant warehouse at my behest, maybe needing a break, a vacation, a little job security.

What the AI people miss is the worker is not so much feeling apprehension about the coming AI revolution and the jobs that will steal, as they feel the robot takeover is already complete and their existential worth as human beings is null and void.  They feel like wage slaves. Meanwhile, we are Borg.

Friday, August 10, 2018


I've been using my Facebook profile rather publicly, giving the world more insights into my state of mind.  I may go back to using it that way down the road, but for now I'm removing Facebook from my blog links and closing the profile to the public.

Thursday, August 02, 2018

Updates from PDX

Regarding news of the day, I'm happy to have joined Truckers without Borders on Facebook and am seeing lots of interesting posts.  I'm looking forward to a meetup with my "truckology" mentor in about a week.  By then I'll have started teaching a next class.

The Portland-Shiraz sister cities discussion has to do with more than just high tech and roses (also high tech) in my book, in that I'm eager to compare notes on pure geometry.  Mathematicians like to play sometimes.  We already have a large body of mathematical art collected.

The business was notified by the IRS that my documents have been received.  They're still mulling stuff over.  I'll be sending in some self-withheld self-employment taxes soon.  I need to keep enough to pay the local property tax, which is pretty steep in Asylum District.  I'm a homeowner there.

I'm still thinking about OSCON and what I learned.  Open Source is at the heart of a lot of the economy, doing closed source things.  That's not a new paradigm.  Everyone has screwdrivers and drills, but what they do with them may be shrouded in secrecy.  That being said, unless you show people what you're doing, they'll happily learn from someone else.  Invest in future friends.

Speaking of future friends, I understand that focusing on election outcomes can be a waste of time, when the politicians in question are pretty much stuck at the Common Core level.  Qualifications for political jobs are minimal, as we've seen.  DC is pretty vain, thinking social engineering has to be focused on them.  Just saying.

That being said, I'm following the local campaigns and do plan to exercise my voting rights.  In my region of Cascadia, we vote by mail.