Wednesday, October 20, 2021

The Design Way and Dissipation

Back in the day, and even still, I've written of "designer religions".  Wicca comes to mind. A designer religion may be just right for the times, the perfect catalyst, and then, its job completed, it dissipates. That doesn't mean something bad happened to the followers.  They let it go, with a sense of completion.

My attitude somewhat carries over from my skepticism regarding corporate immortality, and whether even that is a worthy goal, in and of itself.  Put it another way:  what's the scandal, what's the controversy, when a big company, such as Kodak, diminishes or goes out of business.  

Kodak performed great service in getting the world of photography popularized.  That it didn't turn into the world's top digital camera maker should have surprised no one.  That wasn't Kodak's area of expertise.

I think of movie companies.  These may come together to provide enough structure for the template called "making a movie" to be pulled off, in one form or another.  Once the movie is made, other dynamics kick in, and the original production company may disband.  Is that a tragedy, and must we go back and analyze all the so-called mistakes?  If the default position is "immortality is the norm and anything short of that is failure" then yes, maybe we must.  But why that default position?

The above ruminations bring me to The Design Way, a book, which has been a convergence topic for several interconnected meetups across Zoom world.  New York and Philadelphia have been doing most of the talking, with Portland, i.e. my backyard group in Oregon, listening in.  

I also catch up on my own, sampling Youtubes on Louis Sullivan, Buckminster Fuller, and some other names most familiar to architects.  Shrikant (52 Thinking Ideas) has found himself drawn to architects, likely thanks to their polymathy.

The Design Way opens a space wherein conspiracies may develop around client desiderata, whereby design teams form, and under the direction of designers, make something (some vision) real, according to ideals (idealism) and in cooperation with useful truths (pragmatism).  The process is according to schemas, which develop over time as a designer gains experience bootstrapping a designer culture within which to strive and perhaps thrive.

That sounds a lot like the movie industry to my ears, likewise steeped in the logistics of special skill sets. In Martian Math we learn the story of Orson Welles, and of the partially overlapping scenario of Agnes Moorehead, in the cast of Mercury Theater company at that time.  

The troupe enacted "Mars attacks!" in the format of a CBS radio news story, but for entertainment, creating an aura of authority and credibility that fooled many.  Hollywood recognized their talent and the rest is history (Citizen Kane etc.).  

Orson Welles gets to be a designer-director in this story, the client being RKO Studios and, more invisibly, the movie-going public and future connoisseurs of film.  

Companies come and go in Design World,  because they're "designer companies" meant to fill a niche and then go on a shelf.  Like a rock band, a company may in some cases jump off the shelf and reform, but if it doesn't, that doesn't negate the work it accomplished.  

Kodak moved mountains in many dimensions.  Don't believe business school teachers, or preachers, who hold up "immortality" as a necessary criterion for success.  Dissipation in a clean designed way, without a lot of loose ends, may be a beautiful part of the overall performance.

Thursday, October 14, 2021

World Game: A Psychodrama

I grew up in a hayday of tourism for Americanos. As a then-resident of Rome, I saw tourists more from outside the bus, as one of the urchins playing on Trevi Fountain.  Got pix?  I'd sometimes go there with my friends from near Trastevere, after school or on weekends. 

My sister claims we tried taking the money at one point (tourists throw coins) and got in trouble -- however I have no recollection of that and don't think we ever did. I had plenty of lira for Mars bars and bus fare.  Rome has a fantastic bus system.

If It's Tuesday It Must Be Belgium typified the American Express debt card whirlwind so many Americans would go on.  They'd shoot oodles of pictures and go home to share slideshows. Kodak was King.  The Japanese middle class couldn't wait to get on board, joining our world of fat families with diabetes.

Then comes another form of "touring" as in "tour of duty". These personnel arrive in camo, live on bases, and tend to expect obedience from the locals, who are in some sense under their authority and jurisdiction.  Those who take orders for a living like to be obeyed when it's their turn to command respect. Sexaholics have a field day if lucky, the whole point for some adventure-seekers.

When tourism gives way to tour of dutyism, as happened in Afghanistan (we went through as tourists, from Peshawar to Kabul on a local bus, out on Aeroflot to Tashkent), the locals get to stirring up trouble, triggering a need for "special forces" and so, another "dirty war" begins.  

The Pentagon encounters insurgencies no matter where it tries to invade, including in Lower48.  Many vets swarm to the police stations, and meet many of the same characters who refuse to do their bidding. "What's wrong with these people?" who came to the New World to escape all types of establishment-arianism, most especially the authoritarian type (tyranny).

One wishes one could turn back the clock, to those confidant days in the 1960s, with Americans offering a freshly optimistic face to the world, after decades of gruesome wartime and some far out futurama ala Montreal 67. 


The American Express generation wanted to "buy the world a coke" and celebrate its freedom and autonomy, vs-a-vis those poor oppressed communists.  But then the Empire stumbled, electively entering various quagmires, to prove itself worthy of the Imperial mantle, starting with war in the Philippines and continuing through the Korean and Vietnamese Peninsulas.

If freedom-loving Americans had really wanted to assert their values and have the world be safe for their kind, then more tourism is what was indicated.  

Putting more boots on the ground is a way to self alienate and self weaken.  That's called putting the wrong foot forward or waking up on the wrong side of the bed.  Americans don't lust for empire the way some generals imagine they must.  Their recalcitrance has more to do with their cognitive powers than with any inherent cowardice or unimaginative view of their destiny.

Americans need to train their young to enjoy the challenge of rugged travel, as work-study students and faculty on a spherical global campus, dotted with superfund sites and other mementos of man's folly. A major role, a calling for many, is that of cleanup or sanitation engineer.  Undoing the damage of previous generations has gotten to be a priority undertaking.  

A janitorial and/or care-taking role is nothing to sneer at.  Course catalogs that offer no such relevant coursework are maybe fair game however, as targets of mockery.

Monday, October 11, 2021

Lunch With a Philosopher

I don't get to have lunch with other philosophers that often.  

By "philosophers" I mean those up on the gossip of Philosophy.  

Take Rorty for example, my prof at Princeton.  Was he unhappy at Princeton because the Anglos always want to be Analytic?  My impression of Haack's critique of Rorty is that it has to do with the latter's lack of appreciation for Peirce.

My take on that front is Rorty took the later Wittgenstein seriously and didn't see a future for Logic in the sense of Fundamentals ala Bertrand Russell.  

So a fourth volume was to take up geometric beginnings, and Whitehead was to write that one?  Whitehead is classified as an American philosopher because of his focus on Process?  I hadn't heard that.  

Peirce's inability to score a lasting position at Harvard wasn't Rorty's fault at least.

Propositional Calculus kept the seat warm for electronic modeling languages to come, in some respects.  Boolean Algebra came into its own during the silicon circuitry revolution.  If the pragmatic task at hand is to model the workflows of a busy airport, then isn't Python way more competent than anything from the age portrayed in Logicomix

To what extent is the formal logic of the 20th Century an art form, on which little of practical value now hinges?  Computer languages, and computer science, have relieved the logicians of their "heavy" burden.

Some detractors say Rorty's skills as a logician were too limiting, which is why his contributions to philosophy were at best mediocre (mean). 

Others say his focus, on Continental authors, and on ethics and aesthetics, areas irreducible to logic, were consistent with his view of philosophy as a branch of literature, less a STEM subject, not a science.

Friday, October 08, 2021

Shades of Invisible Landscapes

Age of Radio

I like this exercise of drawing mind maps.  Our textbooks have well-evolved conventions for both 2D and 3D displays.  Sometimes I like to see Synergetics as encouragement to the biz community (aka buzz community) to get off the plane and do org charts in space.  Use planets for orgs.

Where to draw inspiration:  Little Prince.  Sun Ra.  Star Trek. 

To tune in a system is to pull up alongside a planet, another spaceship, an encounter of a "we-to-a-WTF" kind.  

Newspapers always gave us The Daily Planet.  Thinking in the round about our planet is nothing new, I think I hear Bucky saying, just that we've always had landlubber flat-earther types, and they're not necessarily only the "out" ones you'd think of.  

Like he'd like "tongue-lash" professors at MIT for their obsolete "sun comes up and goes down" jargon, though I think "tongue-in-cheek" is also apt.  His outbursts were cartoonish, as in politically animated.  He did some cannon balls off the diving board into our public swimming pool, making waves at 90 degrees.

One may say one is "apolitical" but on the world stage that just makes one another type of actor.  Earth to Little Prince: "Welcome to PolyTiks Planet".  I'm punning on "poly" as in "polyhedron" and "poli" as in "polis police politics" -- a pseudo-etymology, a form of wordplay.  The Tik sounds like TikTok, suggesting all TikTokkers are political actors. That's what I'd call "spin".

I do enjoy TikTok BTW, as well as Instagram. Lots of design related stuff goes on through these archives, continually sifted-through by mind-guided brains.

The inevitability of our "playing politics" is that same inevitability as of our playing World Game. We want "the right" to get off the boat so to speak ("don't judge me as you would a world game player"), and maybe protest too much about it.

I just got Architecture in the Age of Radio delivered by the Borg (Amazon), and flashed it around, still shrink wrapped, on camera with Shrikant, during the pre-meeting yesterday.  (picture of the book, still in plastic)

I was in lurk mode during the event, given other Wanderer types were gathered in my backyard, with the iPad like our flickering fire, complete with storytellers. I later moved the show indoors when it got dark. 

The "analog background" versus "digital foreground" theme was hugely front and center last night, as you might hear from the upcoming Youtube.

Still Shrink Wrapped