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Saturday, November 26, 2011

OWS: An Autopoundical Dogmatic View

Today I received a dispatch from the ACLU about Senate Bill 1867, the National Defense Authorization Act bill, with which the Senate will deal Monday. It was drafted by Senators Carl Levin and John McCain. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) explained the bill will “basically say in law for the first time that the homeland is part of the battlefield” and people can be imprisoned without charge or trial. Another supporter, Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), says the bill is needed because “America is part of the battlefield.”

This is awful! Thing is, the military requires no modification to carry out this directive. All tools, equipment and methods for rounding up citizens in their own yards and carrying them to detention are on hand at animal control branches in every town and city. Nobody wants to die in the pound but this is the sort of legislation that makes me want to stand in my yard and bark all day --or the park or Wall Street-- and that's the kind of behavior they're after. Thinking some rich people will view the cages and take me home is just delusional. I'm simply not that adorable any more and I fart.

I will not even address the idiotic notion of a "battlefield".

Perhaps I overreact. One gets older and remembers less draconian directives. One insists upon treatment as a human. One finds it harder to express opinions without frequent use of the phrase "by cracky!". But, by cracky, we are under surveillance now by pilotless flying drones, furnished with joyless artificial intelligence, studying our little lives for sedition, insubordination and political outrage. This constitutes a metaphysical distress far beyond childhood's neatly packaged boogeymen.

Machines that promise conformity and enforce domestic obedience are surely the most saleable of modern technology. And what, do you think, will become of us poor products of natural selection under such stewardship? Where machines obtain there is invariably a scrapheap. Indeed, I overreact. Surely artificial intelligence may be trusted to recognize the harmless eccentricities of its biological precursor. There will be no scrapheap. But, by cracky, I'm still worried about the pound.

I realize this has been a departure from the sort of enigma toward which I usually turn my attention but I can't help wondering if our senators, nomographers and engineers might be swayed by discussion, by inquiry. So I use an increasingly unpopular word: humane. Is it more humane for our robot masters to round up old intractables like you and me --mainly raised in captivity-- and impound them, scrap them, or release them into the wild?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

10 Things

The insignia above was awarded me by Lady Austan. It charges me with the task of revealing 10 things about myself that never enter my blog and seldom intrude socially upon anything else. I have read her excellent treatment of the project and admire the general candor of the thing. I have to admit things, 10 things, which is hard but worth trying. Let's see:

1. Everybody has a favorite Marx quotation. I have two:

"I am not a Marxist." -- Karl Marx

"Outside of a dog a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read." --Groucho Marx

2. Perhaps while watching a parade in childhood, I got the idea that if life got serious enough people would stand at attention ALL the time.

3. While governor of this state --and while president of all of them-- Reagan had a legal advisor named Meese. I always wondered if he was sensitive about it in grammar school. "Now Eddie, can you tell us the plural of 'moose'?"

4. I have always secretly and guiltily enjoyed watching a new boss come into a workplace and develop sick relationships with toadies.

5. No matter how accustomed I think I am to growing older, when someone asks my age my answer always feels like a slight exaggeration.

6. Best business advice I ever heard was: "My sole professional secret is to make profit agree with principle." I don't know who wrote it but it was delivered by the character of Paladin on "Have Gun Will Travel".

7. I have always thought jet planes sound like somebody is dragging them across the sky. When they were still pretty new, I remember being frightened of them. As a little boy I would run inside the house whenever one flew over. My older brother told me I was overreacting, that I should just stay outdoors and hide behind a tree like he did.

8. In a recent conversation with my wife the fact emerged that in our 30 years residency in this house neither of us has replaced the light bulb in our bedroom closet. It still works fine. This amazed us and we decided to talk oftener.

9. When our kids memorized their multiplication tables through 10s we gave them money.

10. My favorite cartoon strip is Mark Trail by Jack Elrod.

The second insignia means I should call upon 7 other people to write 10 things about themselves. I will simplify this task by inviting anyone who reads this post to do so. There might even be as many as 7. One never knows.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Word List #9: PAREIDOLIA

[Norma photo taken yesterday]

Thurber had poor eyesight but managed to use it to his advantage as a cartoonist. He'd imagine what things might look like beyond his limited physical ability to see them, draw them large then leave the printer to reduce them for magazine pages. This became communication, funny communication --true communication because it was accompanied by laughter-- and beautiful. For beauty we must consult Francis Bacon: "There is no excellent beauty that hath not some strangeness in the proportion." It is this same strangeness that makes you beautiful. But yes, it's the truth!

You know what truth is. It's what you learn as a child from your elders --like your big brother who took you to see "The Sword And The Rose" in the mid 1950s:

Me: So why'd they call 'im Eight?
Him: There were seven other kings called Henry and he was named after them.
Me: Why were THEY Henrys?
Him: They were named after each other.
Me: So who was the first Henry named after?
Him: The rest of them, I guess.

This makes perfect sense to me, even now. Truth is also what you learn from yourself in childhood, like imagining what Grampa was up to when he dressed up and drove his ancient Ford into town. I knew Grampa used to run a saloon in the Old West, and I followed westerns on the radio, the movies and our primitive TV set. I knew Grampa was off on high adventure, getting his dag nabbitted and horn swoggled, maybe drygulched or beheaded by an English king but would somehow triumph and bring me back a candy bar. And I could reinforce this truth by watching "Train To Tombstone" on TV.

In 1955 my father brought home our first TV set. It was a Zenith Portable, which meant it was about 100 pounds but had handholds on each side of its sheet-steel cabinet so two or three people could lift it. It was full of vacuum tubes and heated up half the front room when we turned it on. It got two channels, both would play the same old oater every day, "Train To Tombstone". My brother and I would watch that a lot and got to where we could blurt the actors' lines before they delivered them. Then, one strange day, something peculiar happened after we turned on the set, waited and chatted while it warmed up and got ready to recite the script. Cowboys were flying off the ground, getting shot then running away backwards! The whole movie was running backwards. I was horrified. "What is it? What is it?" I cried to my brother.

He replied in awe: "Train FROM Tombstone!"

These are examples of the human brain seeking ever-expanding regions of organization. We sublimate much of what we find. Visual part of this process is called pareidolia, psychological perception of random stimuli composing maybe a face in a cliff side, or a mountain looking like three presidents. We see, recognize, then seem to forget but recognize more readily later. The mind is constantly conducting a Rorschach test with disappearing ink.

Consider the photo over this essay. There is a tree and a roof line, but the mind insists upon morphing leaves and branches into a figure. Its arm and paintbrush are undoubtedly branches and twigs. Observe the face closely, especially the brow and nose, and you'll see the figure is really leaves and tricks of sunlight. Why it is wearing my hat is an enigma I shall address in another essay.