All aboard. People I very much appreciate:

Monday, January 15, 2018

Is Resistance Futile or Futility Resistant?

Let's begin with two opposing operations of the internet, a collective used for human relations. On one side we have the free exchange of information. On the other we have fragmentation, reorientation and conversion. I invite you to spend the next two minutes watching this clip of Star Trek The Next Generation --a tv series broadcast from 1987 through 1994. It prefigures our dependence upon digital interconnection for the advancement of  the human adventure but also the threat of being brainwashed into an inhuman (and inhumane) collective.  
(Star Trek NG Picard kidnapped by Borg)

An apposite quote;  Cicero (106-43 B.C.): "We are obliged to respect, defend and maintain the common bonds of union that exist among all members of the human race." Does this mean we should oppose sociopathic despots rattling sabres? Yes, I suppose so. Does it mean we should persecute people accused of legal offense without witness or evidence? You tell me. Laws are always under revision. What is constitutionally or legally actionable? When I think about it, it feels like the first digit of my I.Q. has fallen off --and I have been on juries!

When I think back to all the consensual energetic 1960s activities people were swept up in , I can assure you, the best-known names weren't the only ones making decisions that day or this day --one distributes culpability. Likewise, I have need of the internet because it's just too hard to maintain this high level of political stupidity on my own,  but I refuse to join a collective because they presume to be less exact than I am. 


Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Uncle Eyeball Revisited

I decided to kick off this year with a repost --from 4 years back-- because it's late at night here and I was perusing old posts about hopes and progress --but found this and thought it came close. Please enjoy, and do your best to make this year wonderful too.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Ask Uncle Eyeball

Having received today this artful creation of eyemuscle muttonchops from Daughter in Chicago, I decided to test a format I have not attempted since writing for the Kerr Courier in 1964, an advice column. It is New Year's Eve and I am not entirely in possession of myself, so I don't know where these questions are coming from, but I shall in all my best respond.

Dear Uncle Eyeball,
I don't usually consider myself old but lately I have seen my grandfather's face in the mirror --if you know what I mean. What should I do? --Boomer

Dear Boomer,
No, I don't know what the hell you mean but my grampa was born in 1872 and I had the same problem. I kicked the old boy out of the bathroom and told him not to monopolize the mirror. If, however, you are speaking figuratively and your mirror makes you feel old, just move it farther away until it conforms to your youthful self-image. I have done this repeatedly and successfully. My bathroom mirror is now located somewhere in Japan.

Dear Uncle Eyeball,
We are thinking of buying our first home. Please advise!--Normal Guy

Dear Normal,
If you really are normal, you should watch out for things realtors never tell you --like hardly anybody in any neighborhood they move you into is anything close to normal. In fact, current sociological studies show that every fourth house on Earth is full of creeps. In densely populated tracts you'll have neighbors borrowing  tools to permanently remove mufflers from their cars and motorcycles. This initiates tingo*, an Easter Island word defined as borrowing things until nothing is left. You may wish to save up until you can buy two properties on either side of you, or move out of town. Even in the peaceful panorama of the bucolic countryside, the statistic holds, there's just more room. I opted for the latter and you can see how happy I am.

Dear Uncle Eyeball,
What is New Year's really? --Janus
Dear Janus,
I thought you had this settled long ago. New Year's is an heroic annual attempt made by the Cosmos to bridge the awful gap between you, me and fabulous wealth. Each year brings promise and hope, hope for peace, prosperity, tolerance and understanding --but mainly for compassion and love. These may sound like magical qualities with little chance of success and proliferation, but I assure you it is at least more than what every fourth person in the world wants. Perhaps you could get with the other gods and narrow that down.

And so to business. Let's all treat each other decently and have a Happy New Year!
Best wishes,
              Uncle Eyeball

* I don't usually do footnotes but must give credit to my copy of  Adam Jacot de Boinod's excellent book, The Meaning Of Tingo and Other Extraordinary Words From Around The World (Penguin Press, New York, 2006) for this Pascuense word.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

"Wishes" --Norma

The installation over this text is furnished by Norma's Yule overbaking and has been pressed into service as illustration of her worldview.  It also illustrates a view of Thomas à Kempis, who said, "First, keep the peace within yourself, then you can bring it to others." I consider the combination of Norma-installation and
Thomas à Kempis quote to be axiomatic. Let's not be deceived by warmongers and saber-rattlers whose methods increase alienation, threaten life, environment and futurity --all that sustains us. Norma's wish, my wish and I hope yours is peace on Earth.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

New Computer, New Problems --Enigma of Progress--and Cortana

It was my birthday, my 68th escape from spiritual detonation. I was having lunch and there was a keyboard on the table. There was also a half-glass full of Woodbridge  Pinot Noir. Let us draw a curtain over that inevitable spillage and examine the enigma of progress.

What you see in the photo above is the meeting of two interconnected technologies from about 40 years ago. They are keyboards. Top one is my 100 year-old Remington typewriter, which I used to submit poems and articles to a local "New Age" magazine and was told by the editor that if I was serious about writing I would get a computer and blah blah. I last used the old Remington Typewriter to get published elsewhere --most happily at NSA, National Stereoscopic Association; wrote historical articles and had a great time on the old thing. Manual typewriters are always played fortissimo, and you can spill anything on them, even glue or cement, then hose them down and they work fine. Not so with electronic keyboards. Spill wine on them and they stay half-swacked forever. 

So we went out that afternoon and bought a new laptop. I was happy; it was my birthday. 
We took it home and I started it up. An operating system introduced herself as "Cortana" and guided me in a nearly human female voice toward activating my new laptop. It worked. Then, after shutting it down and enjoying another libation, I tried reactivating the system. Couldn't even access the device! 

I know one prominent definition of idiocy is trying the same procedure over and over again in hopes of producing a different result. However, I returned the new laptop and exchanged it for one exactly like it. My faith knows no bounds and rationalism no longer applies. When data meets pinot noir and goes to dash and scatteration, I find my own reason impaired. I write this post on the second exchange.

Yes, Cortana has misled me as few people have --she is so friendly for an operating system-- but I believe my pleas and tears have ignited some compassion in her. She at least allows me to reaccess this system to make more mistakes --and I still can't use my webcam!

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Boxing Day 2012 Revisited

What with the world and one thing and another, I thought it might be prudent and encouraging to repost a jolly assessment of disaster in the spirit of Christmas past. The following scholarly essay appeared on Boxing Day 5 years ago. I recall its aim was to tell my beloved fellow Americans how we Californians deal with government, the need for a sensible worldview, tule fog and other adversities. It involves the capitol, which is a building in the  capital --basically the same word spelled two importantly different ways to avoid confusion while verbally promoting it --capital idea, I think, or don't I? I will add one more thrillingly indecisive fact after this post.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

California Politics and Frozen Fog. Run!

On the map below there are three distinct features: the green Coastal Range, the snowy Sierras and, between them, a great fog that has come to symbolize the true Californian's view of the world. But here, we will discuss only frozen fog.

It was my brother, Frank, who first told me about frozen fog a long time ago. He moved out of state to escape it, but I remained to research the phenomenon, and have been much improved by this study. I have amassed a lot of data, but will confine this essay to one representative incident of local historical importance.

Sacramento is situated on an inland corridor, a river valley from the Sierras to the sea. Much of it is flat grassland under rain shadow. There, into the Coast Range, the river cut a cleft that gives onto San Francisco Bay, through which wind drives tule fog up the delta and into our city. On cold days, fog freezes.

Frozen fog is, in most regions, another name for rime or hoarfrost --ice crystals of supercooled fog. It resembles snow and doesn't last long under normal conditions, but conditions in this region are unusual. A freezing day here is often followed by intense and sudden sunshine. Fog has not time to disperse. It dehydrates and leaves a solid bank composed of 2% hydrocarbon lattice and 98% air, the chemical composition of Styrofoam. Here is a deposit of historical significance:

You can see that municipal workers and volunteers had already got to sawing parts of it away but, as often happens in this state, they became bored and silly. I was there and think that describes the general feeling pretty well. We went at the thing with handsaws and pocket knives mainly, but some artisans from midtown arrived with power-sanders and those really good Heinkles and Marples chisels. Within hours, we had the middle done and vibes directing us toward a single goal.

Here is our final product. We were nearly deaf from all the squeaking and crackling but had hacked a dignified and beautiful state capitol out of Styrofoam --a renewable resource provided by nature from frozen fog banks. It is a building containing a half-million square feet of floor space while weighing only 22 pounds. We were justifiably proud.

Unfortunately, naughty children became fond of carrying the building off and hiding it, leaving our appointed and elected officials no place other than nearby saloons to conduct the government. However, after each inconvenience, the capitol was found and returned to its mall. The governor himself finally solved the problem by gluing it to the lawn.
I felt compelled to mention (here in 2017) that capitol, as a building housing the seat of government, is only capitalized (?) in reference to the federal Capitol in Washington D.C.. All state capitols are lower-case. So, although the various capitals are Capitalized --like Sacramento-- the capitols are not, and even less capitalized if they are made of Styrofoam and serve as flotation devices during floods. 

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

The Darwin Of Our Discontent

"Hello, Darwin."
"Hello, Geo., it's December, isn't it?"
"Yes, my friend, the coldest month."
"I know. I know. You may have noticed I am naked."
"Don't you hibernate, Darwin?"
"Yes, I huddle up with other treefrogs and sleep for months."
"Then why are you out sitting on a leaf?"
"I am old. I got hungry."
"It reminds me of church."
"What is this 'church' ?"
"Darwin, when humans are little they often grow up in religious sects that offer Sunrise Service on special holidays. These are the same churches that purport to help people into Heaven..."
"A pleasant place in outer space."
"Go on, Geo."
"Well, I always wondered what impelled churches to get people congregating at sunrise --which is pretty close to hell-- and expecting them to be dressed up is even worse."
"Worse than being cold and naked on a leaf, waiting for food?"
"Point taken, Darwin. We did get a drowsy breakfast before sun-up."
"Geo., that's where your empathy with treefrogs ends."
"Where, with the sunrise in stained-glass windows, enlightenment?"
"No, with breakfast. I eat bugs, Geo."

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Time Travel Revisited

It is the last November day, and I felt it apposite to revisit the past  --180 degrees across the zodiac minus seven years-- to an outdoor cafe with my friend of over half a century. Somehow the gist of conversation and Rasputin Beer seems appropriate. The enigmas discussed over that summertime table seemed to bear on the present --a chill winter, December tomorrow, and a world in contention. I was recently reminded of Thos. Wolfe's line: "You can't go home again."  In fact, even if you do go home, it's nearly impossible to find a parking place.  Time travel seems the best solution. I am privileged to travel at least this far and relive a warm and delightful day. 

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Time Travel

[Lunching with Willie. Trying to remember the name Rasputin so I could order another stout. My hair highlights caused by misfiring synapses.]

Time travel, with its paradoxes, enigmatic loops and plot lines is a staple of science fiction. Wellsian machineries cast our thoughts swiftly back and forth through time. We are thrilled in incomprehensible forces. We should also be thrilled to know time machines actually exist.

Real time machines fall somewhat short of imaginary ones. They travel slowly and into the future only. They do last a lifetime, but tend to go to pieces before the journey's end. I refer to the normal process of ageing, which goes forward in reality but only virtually into the past. One recalls the past --a memory, a figment-- less precisely as time goes by.

This by no means presages mental weakness. I have devoted much work to getting older and can attest, the power of progressive memory loss should not be underestimated. Most of politics and all of public opinion are based upon it. With practice, we can persuade ourselves it is not always what we remember that interests us, but what we forget. And, of course, there are some experiences for which amnesia is simply the most accurate memory. Wisdom stirs.

It does not stir quietly. How distressing to find the wisdom of age predicated on a falsehood, not upon experience so much as just keeping one's mouth shut. One has something to contribute to discussion but exact names and places are on back-order. Time is not travelled uniformly, and prudence demands a dignified, alert silence. Happily, this can serve to sensitize us to truth.

Age quiets us into keen observers of truth. We tend not to view it as ultimate, absolute good but as something quite dangerous, best rationed out over a period of time. Time. As we recognize truth, especially in places where it is neither expected nor plentiful, possibly not even welcome, we gain some control of our time machine. If we keep our own counsel, we can explore undisturbed.

There is a freedom in restraint. Perhaps it comes from gradually concerning ourselves less and less with the good opinion of young people. The reasons we older people go about things need in no way trouble them. Let's consider that a prime directive.

Young people are in better repair than we are, mechanisms less encumbered by the past. I have said the past is virtual, and it is. It has no mass, no weight, yet if we dwell on it overmuch it can crush us. This new world, with a few jarring differences, is much like the world I was young in. I spent considerable resources learning how to have a past and am qualified to advise a policy of non-interference.

These new time machines are tuning themselves over our imperfect past, a dream in which the floor moves and the house keeps coming down. They have much to contend with, but it is more likely during their spans of operation than ours that the secrets of time will be solved and all our journeys explained.