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Saturday, October 25, 2014

Spread The Wealth

If Dr. Spencer in NYC was not contagious until he began showing symptoms of Ebola - and the first symptom (at least, the first we know about) was the elevated temperature on Thursday last morning - why are people going around disinfecting everything he has come into contact with?

It seems that he felt sluggish back on Tuesday. Apparently feeling sluggish is not a symptom. In my mind, it is a symptom of the flu, so maybe he was celebrating the onset of seasonal flu with a trip to the bowling alley across town.

Perhaps sluggishness led to extremely poor choices, an inability to think clearly. I have had those symptoms with the flu in the past.

Julia Ioffe has an article in the NY Times on the phenom of America's frenzied indulgence in germ-spreading:
From where I sit, it often looks like the other side of American individualism, which becomes selfishness when you lay it on thick. It’s the belief that you and your needs are acutely exceptional and important, and take precedence over those of the people around you. It’s the unspoken belief that your day radiating sickness at the office is worth a couple of your colleagues being bedridden with your flu for a week. 


Thursday, October 16, 2014

We Make The World

Through our conversation we make the world.

As we communicate, we are "negotiating" a common world view. We may not agree, and the common world view will contain contradictions and conflicts, but we are negotiating as longer as we talk and interact.

The world is not only our responsibility, it is our fault.

It can also be our creation.

There is a great fund of good in the world which we obscure by a mudslide of 24/7 bad news and political debate.
My wife says she watches NBC News and Bryan Williams because he ends the show every day with a story about people who are making a difference. However, it seems symptomatic of our dilemma: 27 minutes of conflict and hurt and 3 minutes of the good, when in real life, the opposite ratio is probably the correct one.

We are scripting a story of suffering and pain for all to see and participate in.

Let us do something else.


The Christians Of Iraq

I saw a car with a bumper sticker that stated, "Save The Iraqi Christians"
It did not say how that was to be accomplished.

(Keep in mind that our leaders are the products of the same educational system that is bringing us the daily examples of how to handle infectious diseases, such as Ebola.)

The removal of the Iraqi Christians is another step in decreasing diversity of religion. We are already into a process of decreasing biodiversity, and the concentration of wealth we witness serves to decrease social diversity.
Diversity is decreased by cramming everything into a smaller number of possible boxes; instead of a large number of boxes, some large and some small, we have just one or two large boxes: wealth or poverty, ISIS or the sword, feast or famine.


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

From Metropolis To Hitler: Fire and Clay

I have finished reading Thea von Harbou's novel Metropolis. I have seen Fritz Lang's film five times, three times in the past two years. I have spent a lot of time thinking about it, and I think that the leader of Metropolis, Joh Fredersohn, is a pre-archetype of Hitler, being an anticipation of the type of leader who actively seeks the destruction of the society he has created.

Joh Fredersohn's motives escape me, unless there is some connection between his wife, Hel, and the ancient goddess Hel.
There probably is.
The shrine to the woman Hel who was the mother of Joh Fredersohn's son, Freder, was in Rotwang's house, the strange continuum between antiquity and alchemy - Kabbala and the Star of David - mixed with Tesla coils and modern science.

At the threshhold between new and old, we see Rotwang striving to recreate Hel, who had died in the birth of Freder. Since both Rotwang and Joh Fredersohn had loved Hel, and since Rotwang is seemingly working for Fredersohn to create his robotic version of Hel, this is a very tight triangle of passion.
Yet, the scheme changes as Fredersohn seeks to undermine and kidnap a new religious movement among the oppressed workers by abducting Maria, the main figure of the new movement, and creating the robot using her as a template. The motive is to turn the pacifist religious workers movement to revolution, and then to turn the police and army loose to destroy them...

... none of which makes sense, because the city quite obviously cannot exist without the working class.

And there is a sense of the Golem, made from clay by Judah Loew ben Bezalel, the 16th century Rabbi of Prague. The Rabbi brought the Golem to life to protect the Jewish community during a time of troubles.
And in the midst of the Star of David in Rotwang's house/lab, we see a woman made, not of clay like the golem, but of metal and electricity brought to life to destroy a community! The defender of the oppressed becomes the oppressor!

And there is a current children's book titled The Golem And The Jinni in which the Golem is a female and the Jinni male, the female made from clay and the male made from smokekess flame of fire, as the Jinn are created, as is written:

Where are we?
I feel lost in a maze of symbolic misadventures.

Why did we enter the twentieth century in dubious battle and why did we leave the twentieth century in the fog of wars?
Why does man imagine that he himself creates and he himself destroys? And why is man become intoxicated with his illusion of power? Where have God, where has Adonai, where has Allah disappeared? For they exist only as ideological signs... without the awe of the Holy.

We awe ourselves with our own cruelty and destruction.


Monday, October 13, 2014

The Parable Of The Talents

I refer to Wikipedia for a succinct account of the Parable of the Talents ("talents" being an ancient currency):

Parable of the talents

The parable in Matthew 25:14-30 tells of a master who was leaving his home to travel, and before going entrusted his property to his servants (property worth 8 talents, where a talent was a large unit of money, as discussed below). One servant receives five talents, the second two talents, and the third one talent, according to their respective abilities.

Returning after a long absence, the master asks his servants for an accounting. The first two servants explain that they have each put their money to work and doubled the value of the property they were entrusted with, and so they are each rewarded:

His lord said to him, "Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a few things, I will set you over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord."

— Matthew 25:23, World English Bible

The third servant, however, has merely hidden his talent in a hole in the ground, and is punished:

He also who had received the one talent came and said, "Lord, I knew you that you are a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter. I was afraid, and went away and hid your talent in the earth. Behold, you have what is yours."

But his lord answered him, "You wicked and slothful servant. You knew that I reap where I didn't sow, and gather where I didn't scatter. You ought therefore to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received back my own with interest. Take away therefore the talent from him, and give it to him who has the ten talents. For to everyone who has will be given, and he will have abundance, but from him who doesn't have, even that which he has will be taken away. Throw out the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."

— Matthew 25:24–30, World English Bible

This is a tough nut to crack, this parable. One needs to be there, to see the gestures and the intonations of the speaker's voice to know what was intended in places. For example, I could read the last quoted portion as:

"You !! You -oh, Einstein! - you knew that I did not sow !!??..." and so on. Sort of sarcastic-like.

Be that as it may, I read the money or talents as the Law, the Torah.

By hiding it in the ground, the servant treats it as a mere possession; precious, indeed, but still merely an asset of value to be put into a vault and guarded.

By taking the talents and putting them out into the world, by putting them at risk - for the money could have decreased as well as increased - the first two servants treat the Law as something valuable which yet must be changed in some way.

For me, this change is understanding.
Understanding changes not only the one who understands,  but it changes that which is understood, and - if the matter be weighty enough - it changes the world.

My own study of this parable changed my understanding of the parable, but also changed me, for I see now the distinct difference between the Rabbi of Goray and the Rabbis of the surrounding villages:
Women desiring divorce or a pronouncement of death for a husband (lost to war or pogrom for some years gone by) flocked to Goray because the Rabbi there interpreted the Law with great sympathy and understanding and lenience, whereas the Rabbis round about were stiff-necked and had little sympathy for the sorrows of women.

The Law is not something that sits upon the necks of mankind.

It is something which calls us on to understand, and blesses us when we do.

This is reflected in the desire of various types of people who wish to have copies of the Ten Commandments erected upon the square in front of City Hall; these people wish that the Law of God be seen by all people as cast in stone and unchanging.
But the Law of God can hardly be expressed in words, and each and every person and generation must struggle to come to an understanding, and as they do, the Law as it is perceived by mankind changes.

The servant with much understanding changed most, the servant with less changed, but less in the same period of time.
The servant who treated the Law as an unchanging asset to be stored away and hidden gained nothing, changed nothing, and was cast out in the end.

pix: Wikipedia

Friday, October 10, 2014

Futility's Exercises

Futility is electing a Republican majority in Congress in 2014.

If we want anything done, we should elect Democratic majorities in 2014, and turn them and President Obama loose to accomplish something, anything!

Then, if you still don't like it, elect Republican majorities and a Republican President in 2016.


Thursday, October 09, 2014

My Brother

My younger brother passed away last weekend.

It was not entirely a surprise, but that only eliminated the element of surprise, not the element of grief. Yesterday I saw the real meaning of "Infinity", which is never to see again; never, never, infinitely never will the touch or look be there.

Drugs may have been involved.
Thus, he belonged to the under-class of our brave, new world. Even though many of us have read and heard the Gospels say that our human judgement is a perilous project:

- Judge not so that you may not also be judged;
- Let he among you who is without sin cast the first stone;
- As you measure, so shall it be measured to you;

we always ignore such scriptural clap-trap and render our judgements, probably with the feeling of great satisfaction that we are once again showing Jesus of Nazareth who's boss.

All elements of the "good" people involved treated me with respect and my brother's memory with disrespect. From the police to the medical examiner's office to the landlord of the apartment where he lived, deftly, surely, respectfully, with great sympathy...  and some without even a vestige of sympathy, casting out his belongings... they let it be known that my brother was really not worth my time.

The police went to great lengths to make sure I was informed not only of his last moments, but of a parade of events earlier which cast him into a bad light. They did not know that I usually saw him every week or two; that we would go to the bank and the store; that we would go to the coffee shops; that we would drive down to the river and watch the river traffic and talk.

The "better" crowd wanted me to know that he was riffraff, just in case I were one of those relatives who, after having ignored the black sheep of the family for years, now pops up out of no-where to act in a pious manner.

I do not judge their actions. I merely state that I was appalled by them, and I continue to be so, even though I fully understand them.
What I cannot understand is the vast desert of ignorance of any religious teaching underpinning our everyday activities... for if someone acts in a manner we consider immoral, then why would we jump at the chance to add a judgement which is discountenanced by Scripture?

Not to judge does not mean to approve of. It merely means to be silent. It means to seek understanding of our lives of happiness and suffering.

A judgement is cast in stone. Understanding is deep change, for to understand something we previously did not understand changes us and our world. That is why I hate "belief" systems: they are dead and buried in a vault. I would rather seek understanding and be surprised by the world and by God...  for I do not question existence, but I realize my grasp of the Nature of the World and The Holy is grossly imperfect.

Those who make judgements are the "good" citizens who seek to have the Ten Commandments propped up in front of the City Hall: the commandments are Laws, cast in stone, unalterable.
If we put up the Golden Rule to do unto others as we would wish them to do to us in front of City Hall, we might cause people to stop and ponder. Thinking deeply might cause change. Insights might fly in like a flock of flamingos, and we would be changed.
Perish the thought!

Those who judge now reflect that he who was of little value has now died, punished by death and the barbs of our condemnations, while the "good" live on in sanctity.

Those who understand now look about like the Prince of Verona at the end of Romeo and Juliet, look about at the dead and the living, and say:

"All are punishèd...
    All are punishèd ! "


Sunday, October 05, 2014

Detroit Tigers Win The Central Division !

At the end of the regular baseball season, I was present at Comerica Park to watch the Detroit Tigers play the Minnesota Twins. There was a close race with the Kansas City Royals to the championship of the American League Central Division.
Earlier in the week I had listened to the local TV news by some gross error on my part, and if was reported that there was a weird machine of statistics that was non-Gould-computable (after Stephen Jay Gould, baseball nut and fine scientist) which said that any combination of Tigers wins or Royals losses that equaled 3 would mean the local boys would win.

It went down to the wire.
So here we were on a fine, warm Sunday.
My friend required a free parking space, so we parked a mile and a half away from the stadium in a George Romero-type neighborhood. I knew this because a large abandoned building had "Zombieland" painted across the upper floor facade.
This did make it easy to find the car after the game, since Zombieland was visible well beyond the ball park, a feature that made up for the fact that there were so many buildings with boards over the windows - just like the fenestral barricades in "Night Of The Living Dead" and "28 Weeks Later" and other memorous flicks of the nouvelle onde de zombies ( I don't use "nouvelle vague" since that has been patented by earlier Frenchies, and I hate to pay des royalties !!)

I had worn my least comfortable shoes, my docksiders. It was a tough walk until the pain numbed me up. Even my "Milkman" shoes would have been better. ("Milkman" shoes is what I call my flipping Tevas, since the name reminds me of "Tevia", who happens to have been - and still is - a milkman.)

My friend bought peanuts on the outside of the stadium, significantly cheaper than those inside. This fact of life was significantly established by Dr. Carver years and years ago. Same goes for beer and bottled water.
I eat the entire peanut; I just throw the whole thing into my mouth and chomp away on it. Since there is a good deal more salt on the shell than on the kernels, I do not eat many peanuts this way... unless there is a bottled water monger nearby.

Speaking of which, we sat on the third-base line about five rows higher than the top of the home team dug-out, and about 15 seats from it away from home plate.
These were great seats until the 5th inning when the crowd became thirsty from the sun and wind and the beverage mongers I mentioned - water and beer - decided to encamp between ourselves and home plate, waving bottles of refreshment in their hands, two or three cans or bottles per hand, waving them like plastic date palm fronds in a frenzied oasis.

My friend and I had decided to make a bet on the outcome of the game.
We both picked the Tigers to win - probably based on the irrefutable fact that "they were due!" - so we had to modify the wager.

He said to pick how many runs they would win by.
I considered this. One run or two runs seemed to hardly register in my mind. I saw three, four, or five runs, and nothing greater than five. Then four and five faded, leaving a big old  staring right at me with my own mind's eye.

So I held up three fingers, saying that the Tigers would win by three runs.

Long story - or at least 9 innings duration - truncated and made brief, they won by precisely three runs.

We went to eat afterwards. I ate a club sandwich with an enormous wooden "waif-pole" crowned with curlicues of plastic clingfilm. I was thinking of  Ahab, Tashtego and Dagoo, not my extraordinary prowess at prognostication.
When we left the eatery, my friend said he had left my winnings as my portion of the tip.

I told him first that he was a scoundrel's sibling, and then that when it comes to betting on future events, I valued being right over the money involved.
Since he could not thimblerig me out of that, he decided to drive home by way of the Past.
He drove through the sketchiest neighborhoods, then by the street where he was born, then down Chandler Park where I was born.

I hungered for a madeleine to nibble, but the Cadieux Cafe, the neighborhood Belgian bar, was closed and eerie, wild grasses trespassed lawns in a drunken stagger, and I took solace in being right, for the joy of youth was lost in the translations from concrete isle to concrete isle within the asphalt archipelago.

photo: James D. Griffioen

Saturday, October 04, 2014

Friar Lawrence's Blog

Arms and the man... the love of man for woman, the woman and man for the child... and of all for the black powder and firearms

These violent delights have violent ends
And in their triumph die, like fire and powder,..

I cannot find any reports of children shooting and/or killing other children in the USA for October 3, 2014.
Nor any report of a child killing their instructor in firearms.

Huzzah !


The Digital Revolution Becomes The Digital 18th Brumaire !

Is there anyone there who has any sense, common or otherwise?

From the highest priorities - protecting the President, keeping the country safe from Ebola, governing the country instead of squabbling, running a banking system without destroying it - down to the everyday matters such as health care idiots, banking buffoons, and cable TV incompetents, we are being worn down into a formless, quivering mass of people who are mad as hell, and may not take it anymore.

You have tried to fix a mistake on an invoice or statement. After a few rounds with a mechanized phone menu system which asks you to enter "1" or say "Yes", and which interprets your clearing of your throat as a response, or which eavesdrops on you speaking to your wife when it is giving you a long list of choices, and takes your words and says that it does not understand them, you finally get someone who takes an hour to clear things up... and then signs you up for some gizmo or plan that you expressly turned down.

The Electronic and digital revolution has left us prey to business and hucksters, governments and scammers, hackers and hijackers...

The Era of Multi-Tasking has left us with people in charge who cannot even do one task anymore: they cannot perceive the whole and they cannot formulate the steps to go through and they cannot monitor nor evaluate the results... even though those results are delivered in real time.

We have a country where half the people have bizarre constructs called "belief systems" about newspapers, TV, the time of day, and the nature of angels.
Half the country cannot comprehend science, and the other half distrusts it.
The educational system - what is left of it - is being delivered into the hand of dogmatists and people who value politics above learning.
India has a satellite circling Mars. The people of India value science and religion; they do not choose one over the other. We hitch rides to the Space Station on Russian rockets.
We have constant battles of buffoonery, where various reincarnations of Snopes, Darrow, Bryan, and our Sciences and our Religions fight in the fog of war over little understood "belief systems".

We have Memes that run our lives, and "Memes" are nothing but Great Attractors of the random Brownian pool of concepts and idea we have floating through our echoing craniums.

When the ferment of the French Revolution - that great period of dissipation of the energy of Aristocracy - came to an end, it eventuated in the new growth of Napoleon as Emperor.

The breakdown of the pre-digital age has come to an end, and it has led to the new empire of Wealth Concentration, Dysfunctional Government, Incompetence based on the Illusory Ability conveyed by the speed and flexibility of electronics... and the list goes on.


Friday, October 03, 2014

Texas Hospital Ship Of Fools

 Ship Of Fools
(Possibly Texas Hospital Ship Of Fools)

I have come to the conclusion that the people in charge of this country are indeed aliens.
They are not very intelligent aliens, either. They are Stephen King's Tommyknockers with the added attraction of not being able to jimmy rig.

How difficult is it for a medical person hearing that a man who has arrived at the hospital with a fever - a man who states he had been in Liberia, where an Ebola outbreak is raging.........

... how difficult is it to quarantine the guy until the CDC gets there?

The people in charge of this country form a hierarchy of stupidity.
They are as stupid as the rest of us, but we do not get the Power nor the Money they do for their brand of stupidity.

Yesterday there was an article about NASA doing some work on handling rogue asteroids headed towards Earth.
NASA has had its poor moments, but I feel they will make a good effort that will far exceed anything the CDC has so far done about Ebola in the USA.

If the CDC were running NASA, they would give a pass on the first asteroid headed towards Earth, saying they'd double up efforts on the second planet buster.

If the UN were running NASA, they could not get the group of gifted and powerful imbeciles that make up their membership to agree on any measures to take.

If the US State Department were running NASA, they'd add fire power to the asteroid, hoping that it would hit Bashar Al Assad's office.

If the Congress were running NASA, they go home on recess and reconvene at some future date, after they had cut NASA funding.


I was reading about someone interested in the history and understanding of the Warrior archetype in our society.


There is the Hero / Heroine. The Hero is Odysseus, unwillingly thrust into someone else's war, and living by his wits and skills until the day he can return to normal life.
In his journeys, he goes is transformed from Everyman into the Hero. This is accomplished by his or her ability to find deep sources of energy and knowledge within themselves.

The Warrior is Achilles or Ajax.
The live for war, and the blood they spill boils on their red hot skin. The best Warrior is the beserker, a war-machine.

We have been mislead by movies and books into thinking Warriors are anything but those members of society which serve our communal blood lust.