abuddhas memes - November 2003

abuddhas memes


November's Nubbly Nods

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I'd like to take you on a spin through Propaganda Land.
"The information revolution has led to information overload, and people are confronted with hundreds of messages each day. Although few studies have looked at this topic, it seems fair to suggest that many people respond to this pressure by processing messages more quickly and, when possible, by taking mental short-cuts.

Propagandists love short-cuts -- particularly those which short-circuit rational thought. They encourage this by agitating emotions, by exploiting insecurities, by capitalizing on the ambiguity of language, and by bending the rules of logic. As history shows, they can be quite successful."
By way of Beneath Buddha's Eyes I found Black Elks World - an invaluable historical resource.
"And so it was all over.

I did not know then how much was ended. When I look back now from this high hill of my old age, I can still see the butchered women and children lying heaped and scattered all along the crooked gulch as plain as when I saw them with eyes still young. And I can see that something else died there in the bloody mud, and was buried in the blizzard. A people's dream died there. It was a beautiful dream."
Thanks to mousemusings for returning to attention what we all viscerally know to be true. Wellstone was Murdered; an opinion.

Dr. Menlo points to yet another diatribe of sense from Robert F. Kennedy Jr., in which he outlines yet another despicable and surely indictable offense as George W. Bush commits Crimes Against Nature.
"George W. Bush will go down in history as America's worst environmental president."
How Cosmic Forces Shape Our Destinies is a remarkable essay by Nicholas Tesla that demonstrates his polymathic spirituality.
"Thus, everything that exists, organic or inorganic, animated or inert, is susceptible to stimulus from the outside. There is no gap between, no break of continuity, no special and distinguishing vital agent. The same law governs all matter, all the universe is alive."

For my love, without whom I know nothing,
and altogether said too much.

One day I felt my heart break. Not a slow tortuous disintegration easily rationalized by time's irrevocable alterations, but a sharp snap; a tear in the space of me-ness and very much now.

Once every 500 years
The gates of heaven are opened
Just a little way
Just a little light
Just a little
Just enough
They will close again
Missed it
Ah well
Another 500 years

Dear Readers,

The radical change in my current ability to access the internet means that abuddhas memes will temporarily become a journal/blog, within which I will follow my every opinionated whim; though when have I not? Bear with me as it shouldn't be long, and I'll do my best to project clearly. Um...

I am back home in the Yukon, unsure of anything other than the relative northern timelessness is tempered by immediate requirements of the most basic sort. As I look out the window of my temporary lodgings the snow has begun to gently swirl and the needed trip to the outhouse in -16C chilliness with a windchill of -31C seems onerous. Aurora the Siberian is prancing about with Demo the Furball, and I have to go.

Strategic Reactions to American Preeminence: 
Great Power Politics in the Age of Unipolarity

A new blog by an indubitably observant, highly attentive Inveterate Bystander. Yes!
"There is hopeful symbolism in the fact that flags do not wave in a vacuum."
Sri Clarke
Kurt Vonnegut - Knowing What's Nice
" And hey, listen: A sappy woman sent me a letter a few years back. She knew I was sappy, too, which is to say a lifelong northern Democrat in the Franklin Delano Roosevelt mode, a friend of the working stiffs. She was about to have a baby, not mine, and wished to know if it was a bad thing to bring such a sweet and innocent creature into a world as bad as this one is. I replied that what made being alive almost worthwhile for me, besides music, was all the saints I met, who could be anywhere. By saints I meant people who behaved decently in a strikingly indecent society. Perhaps some of you are or will become saints for her child to meet."
Mr. Vonnegut doesn't ask for much, so I am happy to follow his (re)reading suggestions. If this isn't nice, I don't know what is: Alexis de Tocqueville - Democracy in America
"This book is written to favor no particular views, and in composing it I have entertained no design of serving or attacking any party. I have not undertaken to see differently from others, but to look further, and while they are busied for the morrow only, I have turned my thoughts to the whole future."
An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge
by Ambrose Bierce
"A man stood upon a railroad bridge in northern Alabama, looking down into the swift water twenty feet below. The man's hands were behind his back, the wrists bound with a cord. A rope closely encircled his neck. It was attached to a stout cross-timber above his head and the slack fell to the level of his knees."
Industrial Crops: Let's Revisit Hemp - consumer groups would be thrilled

Electing a Future-friendly President
"We need a checklist for transhumanist legislation, but such lists are a lot of work and not all the presidential contenders were legislators. As for a point-by-point description of presidential candidate positions, however, I'm willing to give it a shot:"

Courtesy of SciAm, Brian Greene enters the world of string theory through the back door. Have I made a quantum leap in understanding? The Future of String Theory -- A Conversation with Brian Greene
"Can we understand where space and time come from? Can we figure out the fundamental ideas of string theory or M-theory? Can we show that this fundamental idea yields a unique theory with the unique solution, which happens to be the world as we know it? Is it possible to test these ideas through astronomical observations or through accelerator-based experiment?"

The Reality Club - One Half of a Manifesto

"What should reassure the technophiles, and unsettle the technophobes, is our world of lousy code. Because it is lousy code that is bringing the digital universe to life, rather than leaving us stuck in some programmed, deterministic universe devoid of life. It is that primordial soup of archaic subroutines, ambiguous DLL's, crashing Windows, and living - fossil operating systems that is driving the push towards the sort of fault embracing template - based addressing that proved so successful in molecular biology, with us - and our computers - as one of its strangest results.

Let us praise sloppy instructions, as we also praise the Lord."

As someone who spent more than thirty years experiencing the Canadian model of democracy, I can appreciate Michael Moore's use of Canada as counterpoint to the American Republic. His speech the other night was structured around the disparities between the two neighbors - Canada's five major parties, socialized health care, generally liberal culture (gay marriage, decrim. marijuana etc.) - but the differences are not really between Canada and the U.S.A. The problem is that Americans are squarely out of step with the rest of the western democracies, including Canada.

Sri Moore's singular focus on Canada, by far the U.S.A.'s largest trading partner, may reflect that Americans are widely and wildly under-educated about our planet's other countries; apparently including Canada. (In an on-stage game Michael pitted the crowd's "stupidest" Canuck against three straight 'A' Americans, asking them simple questions about each other's country. Through thirty-nine cities in twenty-three days the Americans had never won.) Better comparisons with even greater contrasts could have been made with Germany, France, Denmark, Switzerland, Sweden, Spain, and even Britain.

Michael Moore's canary is still singing in the coal mine of the American Dream, but the voice will fall silent unless democracy comes to the U.S.A.

The Center for Public Integrity graphs the sheer magnitude of largesse as U.S. Contractors Reap the Windfalls of Post-war Reconstruction
"More than 70 American companies and individuals have won up to $8 billion in contracts for work in postwar Iraq and Afghanistan over the last two years, according to a new study by the Center for Public Integrity. Those companies donated more money to the presidential campaigns of George W. Bush-a little over $500,000-than to any other politician over the last dozen years, the Center found."
How to Save the World (Nov. 3rd) raises some very good points. This fine Canadian weblog hypothesizes an alternate, perhaps counter-intuitive reason that we are a violent, stressed-out people. Check it out, make comments, ...got any answers?
"Well, it's just a hypothesis, but it makes more sense to me than any other explanation I've heard, rational, psychological, religious, scientific, social or moral, for the epidemic of human violence in our society."
Despite the expected protestations, I suspect Noam Chomsky has changed his mind in the last five years. Rogue States
"The concept "rogue state" is highly nuanced. The U.S. does not fall into the category despite its terrorist attacks against Cuba for close to 40 years."
Enjoy (!) the Harpers Index for October:
"Number of Democratic legislators absent for this year's 213-210 vote restricting workers' overtime-pay eligibility : 7"
November ! GY3

A perennial beef of mine has been that we raise our children backwards. I don't mean in the physical sense, as this is wisely governed by natural ability and is not amenable to anything but the crudest manipulation, but rather that we introduce advanced cognitive gymnastics to babes barely able to walk. Take religion, please. David C Keenan - Children and Religious Beliefs
"I will now list a number of religious beliefs in three categories:

1. Prevalent beliefs whose non-mystical interpretation I don't I want my children confused by (and a non-mystical interpretation is the only kind they can make):

2. What I tentatively believe but don't intend to bother my children with unless they ask me, or unless it is at the last possible moment in defence against the nonsense they are bound to understand from other people, and then only as "what I currently find most believable", not as fact:

3. What I do intend to indoctrinate my children with as early as possible.

I don't expect you to agree with my categorisation of these beliefs, but I do hope you will respect it, particularly if you come into contact with my children."
Let's Say: A Child's First Calculus
"The activities laid out here can be done quite independently of the regular curriculum, beginning at no particular stage of it. It is for the bright, the bored, the ADD (like me and most of my family) and the dyslexic. It is for the teacher wanting a sustainable, perennial, coherent enrichment activity for them without worry over prerequisites."
The above bit of fun is an refinement of GSB's Laws of Form, seemingly immediately intelligible by children (well duh!, dad) and yet often befuddling to well educated adults. This is a certain effect of qualifying people (making less than whole). Who were the Gurus in the Mud at the Esalen Institute in 1973, and why should you care?
"I was as lost as the rest until Heinz, at the end of his lecture, illustrated the formal nature of Brown's calculus by singing us a couple of the mathematical expressions. This is not as silly as it may sound. Written music is, after all, simply an agreed-on set of notation in which musical intervals are represented by steps on a scale. All Heinz did was map certain notations in the calculus into musical scales, assign values to the notes, and read the music.

Later he and I discussed this idea privately, and even managed to harmonize on some of the expressions in the calculus; and from these exercises I got my first inkling of what Brown meant by Laws of Form, not thought or idea or physics or anything else, simply form -- and how it was represented -- and of how powerful a tool it was to isolate purely formal values.

While still enchanted by the idea of setting the calculus to music, I providentially encountered a group of musicians who were staying at Esalen. They picked up on the process immediately and had no trouble whatever understanding the process of making music from mathematics. We found rehearsal space and began to compose; our initial (and only) work, based on Consequence 1 of the Laws of Form, was performed at the closing session of the conference, Sunday morning on the deck at the main Esalen lodge.

Despite this minor triumph, however, the mood on that occasion was anything but clear. It had been, we all agreed, a most interesting time, quite stimulating, a great deal of fun -- but what had we really learned? No one was willing to commit. The prevailing emotion was relief at not having to think about Laws of Form any more."
A last mention is needed here for a Book Proposal: The OMasters, by Cliff Barney and Kurt von Meier. Tomorrow I will review the speech I saw last night by Michael Moore at Eastern State U.; best wishes Michael.
" The OMasters is an imaginary adventure framing real events: the sudden appearance of a teacher or teaching that tokens the radical reformulation of a prevailing world view. The fantasy story is about a group of children from the present generation with an extraordinary capacity for embracing paradoxes--logical and psychological--who enter higher orders of complexity motivated primarily by aesthetic delight."