Truth and Power

The point of modern propaganda isn’t only to misinform or push an agenda. It is to exhaust your critical thinking, to annihilate truth.
Garry Kasparov, Russian dissident and former world chess champion

The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the convinced Communist, but people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction (i.e., the reality of experience) and the distinction between true and false (i.e., the standards of thought) no longer exist.


Thining About Thinking, Thinking About Living

I want to bookmark this review of Daniel Kahneman's book Thinking, Fast and Slow.


this comes form reading Michael Lewis' book The Undoing Project and then looking online for reviews.

It is understandable that Kahneman has no use for Freud, but it is still regrettable. The insights of Kahneman and Freud are complementary rather than contradictory. Anyone who strives for a complete understanding of human nature has much to learn from both of them. The scope of Kahneman’s psychology is necessarily limited by his method. His method is to study mental processes that can be observed and measured under rigorously controlled experimental conditions. Following this method, he revolutionized psychology. He discovered mental processes that can be described precisely and demonstrated reliably. He discarded the poetic fantasies of Freud.

But together with the poetic fantasies, he discarded much else that was valuable. Since strong emotions and obsessions cannot be experimentally controlled, Kahneman’s method did not allow him to study them. The part of the human personality that Kahneman’s method can handle is the nonviolent part, concerned with everyday decisions, artificial parlor games, and gambling for small stakes. The violent and passionate manifestations of human nature, concerned with matters of life and death and love and hate and pain and sex, cannot be experimentally controlled and are beyond Kahneman’s reach. Violence and passion are the territory of Freud. Freud can penetrate deeper than Kahneman because literature digs deeper than science into human nature and human destiny.


Behavioral Economics Exmple #1

I happened across this when Goggling Behavioral Economics, and I didn't want to forget it.

Another example of how easy it is to be unaware of being manipulated

 What are some examples of the real-world use of behavioral economics?

One of the primary questions in this particular study was how do purchase quantity limits (ex. Limit of 12) influence consumer behavior? Cans of soup were marked down from $.89 to $.79, and three grocery stores offered a different purchase quantity limit:

1. No Limit
2. Limit of 4
3. Limit of 12

The study shows that the purchase quantity limit affected the number of soup cans the customer purchased.
  1. Customers that saw "No Limit" on average purchased 3.3 cans
  2. Customers that saw "Limit of 4" on average purchasedand 3.5 cans.
  3. Customers that saw "Limit of 12" on average purchased 7.0 cans.

Kafka; The Brother I Never Knew

Strangely I have never been able to get "into" Kafka. But this quote attracts me in an uncomfortable way.
Thanks to J Store for having such cool stuff like Franz Kafka and Animals by Peter Stine



Movie Editing Tips : Part 1

For quite a few years Ive been using Magix Movie Edit MX which I think is now call ...Pro. Anyway, when I first starting my amateur video making  10 years yeas ago I was fortunately gifted a fully functioning Adobe premiere package from a software salesment. But when I switched to HD the version was too primitive to handle it.

I probably could have found a cracked newer version of Premier but ended up purchasing a Magix Movie Edit MX from Amazon. For my purposes it is as good if not better than the Adobe thing.

Anyway, I don't use it all that often so this it to remind myself how to do a few tasks. Rather than pay a ton of money to have my in-laws box of 8mm films transferred to digital I found if you have a variable speed 8mm/Super8 projector you can speed it up enough so the flicker disappears whne you simply record to a digital camera recording the projections.

The upshot is you can't get a perfect screen projection ration to recording area AND the motion is too fast.

Here is what you have to do to remedy that.

To change frame to compensate for recording from projection on wall.

video object effects
Motion effects
Section (NOT Size and Position)

To compensate for having to remove 8mm projection flicker by increasing projector
film speed by 10 to 15 %


video object effects
Motion effects
move slider to left to slow down speed to it roughtly matches orginal
factor of .84  so...


Ode to Trumpland, the land where I reside...

The Second Coming

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.

The darkness drops again but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)

- - - - - - - -

This part intrigues me...

The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.


Emotional Unpredictability

Sometimes I wonder about myself. From one view I suffer from emotional apathy where I just don't get why people get so upset about such little things, or big things..I mean as some point the Sun will consume our earth so all is doomed in the end.

Then I read a poem and I am a weepy eyed little girl.

Here is the poem that overpowers me...

Traveling through the Dark
By William E. Stafford

Traveling through the dark I found a deer
dead on the edge of the Wilson River road.
It is usually best to roll them into the canyon:
that road is narrow; to swerve might make more dead.

By glow of the tail-light I stumbled back of the car  
and stood by the heap, a doe, a recent killing;  
she had stiffened already, almost cold.
I dragged her off; she was large in the belly.

My fingers touching her side brought me the reason—
her side was warm; her fawn lay there waiting,  
alive, still, never to be born.
Beside that mountain road I hesitated.

The car aimed ahead its lowered parking lights;  
under the hood purred the steady engine.
I stood in the glare of the warm exhaust turning red;  
around our group I could hear the wilderness listen.

I thought hard for us all—my only swerving—,  
then pushed her over the edge into the river.


We must love one another or die !!

I don't know what to make of this poem. It might "mean" something totally different from what I think it does, but i "think" it is saying something I understand. But I just don't quite understand what I understand.

September 1, 1939

I sit in one of the dives
On Fifty-second Street
Uncertain and afraid
As the clever hopes expire
Of a low dishonest decade:
Waves of anger and fear
Circulate over the bright 
And darkened lands of the earth,
Obsessing our private lives;
The unmentionable odour of death
Offends the September night.

Accurate scholarship can 
Unearth the whole offence
From Luther until now
That has driven a culture mad,
Find what occurred at Linz,
What huge imago made
A psychopathic god:
I and the public know
What all schoolchildren learn,
Those to whom evil is done
Do evil in return. 

Exiled Thucydides knew
All that a speech can say
About Democracy,
And what dictators do,
The elderly rubbish they talk
To an apathetic grave;
Analysed all in his book,
The enlightenment driven away,
The habit-forming pain,
Mismanagement and grief:
We must suffer them all again.

Into this neutral air
Where blind skyscrapers use
Their full height to proclaim
The strength of Collective Man,
Each language pours its vain
Competitive excuse:
But who can live for long
In an euphoric dream;
Out of the mirror they stare,
Imperialism’s face
And the international wrong.

Faces along the bar
Cling to their average day:
The lights must never go out,
The music must always play,
All the conventions conspire 
To make this fort assume
The furniture of home;
Lest we should see where we are,
Lost in a haunted wood,
Children afraid of the night
Who have never been happy or good.

The windiest militant trash
Important Persons shout
Is not so crude as our wish:
What mad Nijinsky wrote
About Diaghilev
Is true of the normal heart;
For the error bred in the bone
Of each woman and each man
Craves what it cannot have,
Not universal love
But to be loved alone.

From the conservative dark
Into the ethical life
The dense commuters come,
Repeating their morning vow;
“I will be true to the wife,
I’ll concentrate more on my work,"
And helpless governors wake
To resume their compulsory game:
Who can release them now,
Who can reach the deaf,
Who can speak for the dumb?

All I have is a voice
To undo the folded lie,
The romantic lie in the brain
Of the sensual man-in-the-street
And the lie of Authority
Whose buildings grope the sky:
There is no such thing as the State
And no one exists alone;
Hunger allows no choice
To the citizen or the police;
We must love one another or die.

Defenceless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame.


...a sordid boon!

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;—
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not. Great God! I’d rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathèd horn.

– William Wordsworth
- The World Is Too Much with Us - (circa 1802)

Breaking up to help memorize parts
= = = = = = = = = =

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;—

Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!

This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;

It moves us not. Great God! I’d rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathèd horn.


Science and Socialism

Notwithstanding the rhetoric of Bernie Sanders, real Socialism (governmental control of the means of production) as a viable alternative is just not an option in the world today. But in the post WWII world it was, possibly because of a fear of the Stalinist version of communism taking over the world.

I wish it was at least still debated as a possibility, and in my opinion it is way more practical than the libertarian approach. But for now talk of a more comprehensive social safety net is what goes for "Socialism". Aside from that I found this interesting observation by Albert Einstein about the role of science in the world of economics and social issues in general.

"...Second, socialism is directed towards a social-ethical end. Science, however, cannot create ends and, even less, instill them in human beings; science, at most, can supply the means by which to attain certain ends. But the ends themselves are conceived by personalities with lofty ethical ideals and—if these ends are not stillborn, but vital and vigorous—are adopted and carried forward by those many human beings who, half unconsciously, determine the slow evolution of society."

Remember this article form 1949


What am I? An Idiot? Maybe...

A few hours after posting my last post, I happened to follow a link that led to a blog of a friend of a friend. The blogger seems to be a pretty decent guy, probably a great engineer and to my mind is very confident in his worldview. I am guessing here of course, but for the purposes of this follow up post let’s take it as accurate.

Anyway, shortly after I finished whining about it’s hard to understand our (meaning my) place in the world, I read how this guy reflects on a recent birthday. For him asking questions like “What is the sound of one hand clapping” and “How do I know I exist?” are “useless claptrap”. You know, pretty much every blog post I have ever written.

OK, the “how do I know I exist" is a pretty lame, but I suspect he would find all my caterwauling pointless and easily grouped with calculating the number of angels on the head of pin. If I understanding his post, for him knowledge is only “useful” when it has value beyond your own existence (even though he admits he enjoys some of this useless knowledge).

I am only recording it here to remind myself that probably the majority of people in the world, IF they happened to stumble across this well hidden blog, would find me intolerable. So I carry that around with me and wonder if my worldview is actually just a bunch of philosophical BS ( and low grade philosophy at that) ?

But then I can’t stop myself…

[NOTE: the following is NOT meant to criticize this fellow blogger. This is to point out how my mind works, and as a side effect, why I am a horrible dinner guest. I get an idea and start riffing on it, which often leads to some discomfort in the room]

If useful knowledge is only something that has value beyond my meager existence, what about the next person that it helps out? What makes their job or car or house or life any less of a pile of BS? And if my knowledge helps me fill out more TPS reports in triplicate at work, what if the TPS reports are really just another pile?

I may be reading into it, but I think he means to say that useful knowledge is only something that helps you fix some mechanical or structural problem. So that eliminates all fiction and poetry, most movies and TV shows, all of comics and graphic novels.

And the more I think about it, we all will someday return to the earth, be food for worms and end up as worm-waste. It’s a closed circle, the existence beyond my meager existence is just as meager. Isn’t it? None of it is “Useful” if you take the long view.

Jeepers….I am hopeless.

Camus and Prince Console Me...

“Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to get through this thing called LIFE.” - Prince

I am between books right now (between deciding what to read, of course), and while trying to remember what I previously wanted to read and scanning book spines on shelves, in closets and cabinets, I pulled out an old copy of The Myth of Sisyphus by Albert Camus. I am pretty sure I read this back in the ‘80’s or ‘90’s, and I think the markings and underlining* are mine, but I would be hard pressed to tell you anything about it other than the title.

To refresh my memory I start reading, and either I internalized some of it while forgetting the origin or Mr. Camus and I have a lot of the same ideas. You know, great minds think alike!

I see in the first essay essentially the same foundation for the way I feel about our world. Or at least one of my rambling points. That point being, “We want the world to make sense, but it DOESN’T!”

Here is Albert’s version…

“I said the world is absurd, but I was too hasty. The world in itself is not reasonable, that is all that can be said. But what is absurd is the confrontation of this irrational and the wild longing for clarity for whose call echoes in the human heart. The absurd depends as much on man as on the world.”

THAT is my point! I don’t know if it inherent in humans or just a byproduct of evolution that demands we find patterns in the world in order to survive. BUT the desire for clarity is obvious. Just look at most political or economic worldviews, the more strident the conviction their way is right, the clearer it is in their minds.

There is more I find harmony with, this bit where he talks about how the only way to “understand” the world is to diminish it.

“Understanding the world for a man is reducing it to the human, stamping it with his seal…Likewise the mind that aims to understand reality can consider itself satisfied only by reducing it to terms of thought”

I think the key thing is not to denigrate “understanding” and certainly not avoid rejoicing in the understanding that comes from science. But rather the bigger questions of “why are we here?”, “what is it all about?”, “who am I really?”. To claim science gives meaning to these anxieties is to strip the humanity out of these question. BUT of course science can be magical and wonderous and “explain” some part of the universe, but they never help us “understand” how we are supposed to get through this thing called life.


*I never underline or highlight now, and it bugs me when I re-read some old book and see I marked it up.


Why Being "Right" is Never Wrong

Interesting take on religion and politics and how for religious conservatives some people are always on the the wrong side of "right" and others stay "in" no matter what the SIN!


When your Christian doctrine is built entirely around heaven and hell as a mechanistic punishment/reward system for sin, you will end up bifurcating humanity into two categories: those who can never do anything right and those who can never mess up badly enough to be disqualified.

If sin has to be wicked enough to deserve eternal torture, that means that non-Christians (or Democrats) are nihilistically evil. Nothing about their views or actions can possibly be right, which is why they must not be negotiated or compromised with under any circumstances. There is no reason to try to understand where they’re coming from. They are simply wrong. They must be utterly opposed and utterly delegitimized (for their own good, of course). That’s why doing anything that might contribute to Hillary Clinton’s presidency is unimaginable to Grudem:
If this election is close (which seems likely), then if someone votes for a write-in candidate instead of voting for Trump, this action will directly help Hillary Clinton, because she will need one less vote to win. Therefore the question that Christians should ask is this: Can I in good conscience act in a way that helps a liberal like Hillary Clinton win the presidency?
On the other hand, no sin is great enough to disqualify a born-again Christian from heaven (or a Republican politician from being elected). Leaders who are inside the Jesus fold must be given the benefit of the doubt and complete grace. As long as their sin is acknowledged, it can be instantaneously put on Jesus’ cross and forgiven. That’s why all that Grudem has to do is acknowledge Trump’s imperfections before endorsing him.
He is egotistical, bombastic, and brash. He often lacks nuance in his statements. Sometimes he blurts out mistaken ideas (such as bombing the families of terrorists) that he later must abandon. He insults people. He can be vindictive when people attack him. He has been slow to disown and rebuke the wrongful words and actions of some angry fringe supporters. He has been married three times and claims to have been unfaithful in his marriages. These are certainly flaws, but I don’t think they are disqualifying flaws in this election.

From Patheos


Trump Like Behaviour

FOLLOWING I follow politics closely. The rise of Trump has been great to watch. The blustering, insulting, anatomical comparisons — remarkably chimplike.


Frans de Waal is a Dutch-American primatologist who studies the parallels between human and ape social behavior, particularly relating to empathy, outrage, peacemaking, conflict and cooperation. His latest book is “Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?”


In a Mood..a poetry mood

III. The Seasons
Summer Moods
John Clare (1793–1864)

I LOVE at eventide to walk alone,
Down narrow glens, o’erhung with dewy thorn,
Where from the long grass underneath, the snail,
Jet black, creeps out, and sprouts his timid horn.
I love to muse o’er meadows newly mown,
Where withering grass perfumes the sultry air;
Where bees search round, with sad and weary drone,
In vain, for flowers that bloomed but newly there;
While in the juicy corn the hidden quail
Cries, “Wet my foot;” and, hid as thoughts unborn,
The fairy-like and seldom-seen land-rail
Utters “Craik, craik,” like voices underground,
Right glad to meet the evening’s dewy veil,
And see the light fade into gloom around.


Stop Making Sense!

Is kindness always a result of an authentic spiritual life? 

When you really stop believing your thoughts, you notice that you have more gratitude, appreciation, and love toward life. You realize that you can’t oppose your own life, so you feel this way even toward the people you thought were dificult because they’re part of your life, too. It’s not so much of a struggle — it’s more that we are open to reality.



Another Day of Reflection

Another birthday…thoughts of what? Renewal? Regret? Hope? Dismay? Confusion? Anticipation? Curiosity? --- ALL of that and more.

10 years ago I was just starting Aikido and managed to pass 5th Kyu by 50 and years later made it through 2nd Kyu before I played out. Although I saw the benefit of the testing structure to focus the practice, I was never worried about passing or failing other than the obvious fear of making a fool out of myself. So now that it has been a few years since I stopped practicing I don’t fret of not getting some rating…but I do see the loss of focus may have contributed to my current plump lethargy.

BUT, there is an arc to any art or skill or practice and it feels wrong to keep going if the emotional momentum is gone. Sort of like somebody who keeps going to church when they don’t “believe” any more, but they heard people who go to church live longer.

Or course I may yet return to Aikido, as a beginner again, if I can recapture that sense of wonderment when some technique takes you totally by surprise.

As for my other interests at the time, Spanish and Animation…I learned enough about animation that I know I don’t have the drive to make it work.

Spanish is the toughest one in that I’d still like to learn it but at this point all I’ve learned is that I need a traditional classroom setting. Online or Rosetta Stone just is not my style. For now the classroom route is just not practical.

So then, with my statistical prediction of 16 more years to live how do I feel.

Even though I am as confused as ever, I guess I am OK. Aside from the occasion mind-numbingly and overwhelming dark cloud of angst, ennui, or weltschmerz.

So except for all that I am cool.


The Act and Art of Seeing

 "Most people can't see with any acuity. Their eyes skid over things, but they're not really aware of what they're looking at. Take a typical person and look a the kind of furniture they have, the clothes they wear, the food they eat, the things they read - if they read - and the places they go on holiday, and you realize that they are probably missing 90 per cent of the pleasure to be got out of things because they really don't see anything. You're taught to talk, read and write, but no one seems to teach you how to perceive."
From –  Beware Wet Paint by Alan Fletcher

"Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? And don’t you remember?"
Mark 8:18 New International Version (NIV)

I am currently obsessed with the books of graphic designer icon Alan Fletcher. There is a playfulness to his work that is enchanting. Plus his ultra-inquisitive and omnivorous sense of discovery is dazzling, and a little intimidating.

But I want to take his quote above and extend it beyond strict visual arts. I say the same thing is true of the way most of us “look” at life, other people and the world in general.

Just as “Their eyes skid over things, but they're not really aware of what they're looking at” regarding art and design, our eyes skid over poverty and cruelty. Of course it is way easier to “skid over” people in need if they live on the other side of town, are in prison, or from the other side of the world.

The word Compassion comes from Middle English: via Old French from ecclesiastical Latin compassio(n-), from compati ‘suffer with.’

IF you really look at person (or any sentient being, aka animals) in pain and actually “SEE” them in pain, you feel for them and suffer with them. Compassion only happens if you know how “to see”.


Cultural Hegemony

I just wanted to save this...It came out of Marxist theory, but the idea is intriguing

In Marxist philosophy, the term cultural hegemony describes the domination of a culturally diverse society by the ruling class, who manipulate the culture of that society — the beliefs, explanations, perceptions, values, and mores — so that their ruling-class worldview becomes the worldview that is imposed and accepted as the cultural norm; as the universally valid dominant ideology that justifies the social, political, and economic status quo as natural, inevitable, perpetual and beneficial for everyone, rather than as artificial social constructs that benefit only the ruling class.


And if added to the amazing ability of people to be so susceptible to advertising in our consumer society it explains a lot of wacky behavior. The Billionaires go on CNBC and bemoan how oppressed they are and how the poor need to work more, and somehow the general public believes it.


Blow My Mind Mr. Jesus

  • Why do people hate/love Christianity?
  • Why do so many people believe / disbelieve Christianity?
  • Why does it make so much sense / nonsense to so many?
Let the above soak in. Place yourself in the spectrum of pro or con.(sorry  to have to say it, but in the above I am referring to the really zealot type persons like Sam Harris or Pat Robertson or such )

Then forget all about it.

My sermon today is on the teachings of Jesus, but not about belief, truth or whatever.

If you actually read the Gospels and weed out the history, miracles, prophecy what you are left with is the actual teachings. And if you really look at the teachings it is pretty freaking shocking. And really shocking in that it is completely opposite from the way of life our Christian Nation or Religion-less world is supposed to be aligned.

Take the Sermon on the Mount (or plain). It is antithetical to modern, much less “conservative Christian” worldviews.

But before I take off I just want to say the messages in the New Testament are as anathema to non believers as they truly are for the modern Christian believer. They really are “unto Jews (basically the modern Christian) a stumbling block, and unto Gentiles foolishness (the modern non believer)”

Here are the greatest hits

Blessed are the poor in spirit, - for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” First off, modern society is all about presence and branding and attitude and I defy anybody to find and example in popular culture where humility and meekness is presented in a positive light. From superheroes to pop stars and politicians, it is all about style baby.

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” - Again meekness is weakness. Hats off to Steve Jobs, Donald Trump and anybody in the modern capitalist system.

Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” - Any conservative Christian will tell you water boarding is good and criminals deserve more prison time.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor[i] and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous" - I listened to conservative Christian radio today and that is a REALLY angry bunch of people. I don't think they heard the bit about not hating. What's else is there to say, hate rules the day. Christians hate Muslims and Atheists, Atheists hate Christians and Muslims and I don't presume to know who Muslims hate, but the ISIS dudes seem to hate just about everybody.

And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well.” - Need I say more?

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth”. How about that 401K?

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? “What is American life other than buy more clothes, food or drink?

There is more like this stuff, but what is the point. If you take the opposite of the sermon on the mount you have modern American values, Christian or otherwise.

Basically for the non Christian the above thoughts are crap because they feed an oppressive religion and Christians pay no attention to them because really it is about a social values religiion not a radical change in their way of thinking.

That is all I have now.

- - - - - - - - - -

Update: I am again reminded that things that seem obvious to me are somehow considered illogical to others. I admit the fault may be with me. It is a hard truth to accept that my thinking may not be as clear as it seems to me.

To fight this I will try to pare down my argument on this pont to the essentials later.

But to start, I offer that the Sermon on the Mound should be considered as vital to the teachings of Jesus. If someone disagrees then my argument has no weight. Otherwise we may continue.


Graph Paper is the Road to Hell!

or..."If You Meet the Buddha on the Road, Kill Him

A simple notion, concepts are wonderful and necessary tools we have to have in order to live in the modern world. But for human creativity and the human soul, define that as you will, they are anathema. Try this, make a mental leap and imagine Buddhist enlightenment. It comes when you recognize your true self, the oneness of all things, and this can only happen if there are no filters, and no conceptions (much less PRE-conceptions).

I offer up that short of total mind blowing enlightenment, we can catch glimpses of this through creative acts. At those “AH HA!” moments the idea comes through of its own accord…let’s say “Inspired”. We may have been trying to solve problems by using tools and concepts to handle the data in front of us, but the inspired innovation is born as if of its own accord.

There is hard mental work preparing for the inspiration, but the flash is without attachment, even if it is immediately put to work adapting known concepts.

So why is graph paper the road to hell?

This comes from thinking about the late designer Richard Sapper, who (I am told by a friend who would know) really disliked using graph paper during the creative process. Which you might think is just a technical observation about the best way to loosen the mind with approaching a problem. But for some reason I always remembered this dictum and thought it was deeper than that.

The same friend mention above, suggested I read one of Sapper’s favorite books, by his early mentor Romano Guardini, called Letter’s from Lake Como by. And this quote from it really struck me

“Machines are steel concepts. They lay hold of many things in such a way as to disregard their individual features and to treat them as though they were all the same.”

Machines are steel concepts” Man! That is a great phrase. I bet it is even better in German

Anyway, it reminded be about Sapper’s graph paper aversion (OK, maybe another mental stretch, but bear with me). Graph paper presupposes right angles and it would be hard not to fall into grid like and “pre-conceived” thinking. So in a way the Graph gives us concepts in paper. Not as poetic as “Steel Concepts”, but the graph lays hold of any ideas and treats any of them as if they are the same, with the same lattice nature.

AND, if these fleeting moments of creativity are those few times we let go of concepts and see into the world’s true nature…well, to avoid that divine spark means to embrace its opposite.

From Third Letter: Abstraction…

Mind and spirit are not abstractly universal like a formula that fits all things of the same type. They are life; they are concrete. Concepts, however, are abstract, mere forms, signs, abbreviations of thought, means of simplification, cation, and, in a final sense, aids.


It's A Cruel, Cruel, World!!

Violence: Reflections on a National EpidemicViolence: Reflections on a National Epidemic by James Gilligan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If you are going to read and talk about Violence, THROW AWAY your copy of Violence by Slavoj Zižek. THIS ONE by James Gilligan goes in deep to the heart of darkness where violence thrives. He starts in prisons, with the most violent people you could find. It is a hell of a starting point.

While Zižek throws around Heidegger and Lacan and Nip-Tuck TV, Gilligan steps in close and examines violence in its pain, and cause and consequence.

My short summary: Violence springs from Loss of face, which is really loss of self and out of that comes shame. And this shame brings a feeling of injustice that can only be addressed by violence. The thing to remember, in the eyes of the violent person all the pain that is inflicted by them has a logic of its own. Sometimes (or maybe usually) it is not articulated, but the violence in its horror is a symbolic expression of an inner conclusion that must be expressed by the aggrieved.

He does a pretty good job of pointing out “...the motives and goals that underlie crime are the same that underlie punishment...”. Pg. 18. So that much of the book looks at the criminal, but the other horror is the criminal justice system and prisons in particular. Crime and punishment are mirrors to each other. The criminal is addressing a perceived injustice and dispensing appropriate (in the criminal's eyes) retaliation. Then the criminal justice system uses laws to assign guilt and follow through with punishment.

And it gets worse with each chapter, because we find that criminal punishment is the best way to make sure it happens again. Plus there is unacknowledged sadism in criminal punishment that clearly mimics the sadism of the criminal and both rely on excluding empathy as a consideration.

Punishment feeds shame which grows violence which causes crime which results is moral outrage which justifies punishment....

“Punishment is almost universally rationalized as a means of preventing violence...But the conclusion that my analysis leads to is that punishment does not inhibit or prevent crime or violence...Punishment stimulates violence; punishment causes it.” Pg. 183.

He does not whitewash human nature, and admits violent behavior is "built into the very structure and functioning" of us humans. But these actions must be "triggered" by something and his contention is society itself prepares the way so many people are primed to react in a violent way.

From his time talking to criminals he comes up with a list of things we should NOT do if we want to avoid triggers that bring about violence. Some items are arguable but overall...seems about right.

1. Punish and imprison more and more people to increase shame and bring on more violence so there are more to punish and imprison...
2. Outlaw drugs that inhibit violence and encourage use of those that increase violence
3. Arrange taxes and policies to increase the wealth disparity
4. Deprive poor access to education to increase shame to cause more violence and crime
5. Perpetuate a caste system that falls along racial lines.
6. Expose the public to views that glorifies violence as male masculinity
7. Make lethal weapons easily available
8. Maximize polarization social roles of men and women and divide men into violent objects and women into sex objects
9. Encourage prejudice of homosexuals
10. Legitimize corporal punishment in schools and at home
11. Regulate economy so unemployment will never be abolished

Of course most conservative political types will balk at any suggestion that society has any responsibility in this matter. But that is really making his point, that "society" itself is part of a larger structural violence since its very philosophy encourages the expansion of violent norms that just happens to result in a world of increasing disparity between the poor and moneyed elite.

Lest I forget, one message everybody should learn from this book...NEVER DO TIME! If only for this one statistic on the frequency of rape in prison...

"That would still leave a total figure of 900,000 male rapes a year - as an integral part of the punishment to which prisoners are subjected to in the prisons and jails of this country. "Pg. 176

Yes, rape by the meanest of the mean in prison, is part of the way understaffed prisons contain the violence in those walls. EVERYBODY knows about it who is associated with the penal system.

Moving on...Sometimes he pushes the emotion envelope towards sappiness about love

"…a soul empty of love fills with hate" Pg. 53.

But I kind of think he is right. And I feel better now.

I am reminded of Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko where the key to the tale is the belief that the modern disregard for the natural world is caused by destroyers that tricked the white men into pursuing their march of destruction, thinking it a virtue while actually killing our souls.

There is a poem in the book describing the witchery world view that is eerie in its similarity to the death of “the self” described by Gilligan.

They see no life
When they look
they see only objects.
The world is a dead thing for them
the trees and the rivers are not alive
the trees and rivers are not alive.
The deer and bear are objects
they see no life

pg 135 of Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko

And a final thought, this really does compliment Age of Empathy by Franz de Waal that I read last year. In which he definitely mentions brutal violence by some of the great apes, but he also showed how there was empathy. In fact he was going for something similar as Gilligan by identifying things that would "trigger" these outbursts and what situations diffused them.

Which leads to the question, can we as humans be better at arranging our society to prevent violence? OR are we doomed just to be very clever chimps with cool toys, ignoring empathy and compassion because of an ever escalating arrangement of violent triggers?

And the 8-Ball says..."Outlook not so good"

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On Certainty & Uncertainty

Since death alone is certain and time of death uncertain, what should I do?
Stephen Batchlo


The Father Who Mistook a Washcloth for His Sandwich*

Dear Diary,

So my 96 year old Alzheimer father fell and broke his hip. Before this fall off the bed he was able to stand up and walk reasonably well, especially for a 96 year old.

Backstory… his particular brand of Alzheimer allows him to mask, amazing well, how little he really understands. He maintains many common courtesies like “Hello” and “Thank You” or if asked if he can do something he automatically might respond “I think so” or “Oh, I don’t know”. The upshot of is that after the operation to repair his hip, as he is in bed he kept folding a white wash cloth repeatedly. He didn’t know why he was doing it, but it kept him from messing with medical monitoring leads taped to him so all the better we figured.

And at one point he folded it quite neatly and stopped and stared at it. He ended this round of folding so that his hands held it like one does with a big sandwich. So he stares at it and opens his mouth and starts to bite down on it like you do with any good sandwich. Obviously I stop him before it gets too ludicrous.

Disaster averted, so I start day dreaming. That morning us non Alzheimer people were talking about some robot receptionist and how these things will have very human qualities programmed in, to the point it will be hard to tell the difference between the robot or a person.

That reminded me of the Turing test which is a test of a machine's ability to exhibit intelligent behavior equivalent to, or indistinguishable from, that of a human. Which I always imagine will end with a Blade Runner like job for people like Harrison Ford to exterminate beings that are not human enough.

Which reminded me of two episodes of  The Twilight Zone where robots/androids think they are human but are horrified do discover they are just a mess-O-wires (The Lateness of the Hour and In His Image).

That blends into a Philip K Dick short story I once read where that lateness of time for an abortion kept getting longer since they just kept upping the age someone was considered human. In the story he had police type people chasing youths around town to “abort” them.

Which brings me to my final thought… What does it mean to be human? What if a computer program can pass the Turing test but you or I can’t? I am not making a big moral point about the sanctity of life (although maybe by accident). But from a purely practical matter, what constitutes being human?

What if being human is a not a genetic marker but rather a behavioral condition?
How will it feel when you fail the Turing test? 
Or what if you fail and don't care that you failed? 
Or what if you only fail the test when you don't care that you failed?

.   .   .  .  

Then for diversion I jumble all the above into an ill formed story idea. A world where humans and AI coexist and the only catch is all types of being have to be periodically tested (a la the Turing Test) to see if they are still human. Inevitably this leads to Human Testing prep classes, and Taking the Human Test for Dummies. Throw in some Logan's Run stuff and you got yourself a Sci-Fi classic

Good Night Diary

*(Hats off to Oliver Sacks)