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Monday, December 31, 2012

Thoughts On 2013 and Yearend Reflections

This being New Year's Eve, I thought I'd let my head take its lead and wander over subjects at its own direction. I will not interfere unreasonably. Jonathan Swift famously wrote, "It is useless to attempt to reason a man out of a thing he was never reasoned into". And so I permit myself to garrulate on a broad theme. At my age, I do not know where it will end but it will begin, I think, in Arizona Territory in 1891.

Photo over this essay was taken of the town of Tombstone, in the 1880s. Old American towns, as you can see, differ from modern ones; they were blurry.  But in this particular town the modern psychological bromide was born. A theory that would find popular publication a century later as I'm Ok You're Ok began here at an outdoor clinic called the OK Corral.

Under the medical direction of Doc Holliday (a dentist who minored in 20th century pop-psych, which hadn't happened yet and wouldn't for 90 years.),  famed therapists, Morgan, Virgil and Wyatt Earp conducted a mental health session with the brothers McLaury and Clanton and, by general account, greatly improved them. But it's New Year's Eve now and getting blurrier. Oooh here's something:
What you see is an ascending or descending orbital geometric plane equidistant or maybe of expanding distance from an X-Y axis. Ok, you try describing a spiral without using your hands. I mean it. Try, I dare you. And don't be discouraged if your early attempts go astray. You can say the word, spiral, which if you join me in another glass of wine you'll see, contains its shape in its sound: Spiiirrraaalll, see it? That's psychology! And there's this:

Spanish and Portuguese Conquistador/Psychologists and several new kinds of idiots used to try to circumnavigate the world with maps like this one. It reflects the wishful thinking of many centuries, but mainly this one and the one the cartographer lived in. My beloved California was thought to be, assumed and hoped to be, an island off Nevada's Pacific coast. The chief explorer, not that one with the unlikely name of Cabeza de Vaca who explored something else but Brazos Largos, discovered the non-existence of the Nevada Channel. He was named Brazos Largos because he could tie his shoes without bending over --much to the admiration of his crew. 

Also, to the admiration of his crew, Largos found an early surfer culture in California that celebrated fitness, suntans and beach parties.  They forgot about the Lost Cities Of Gold and the Fountains Of Youth in favor of their new discovery, which they named Curvas Buenas and called its natives Sirens. Contrary to envious historical records, these Sirens did not cause any shipwrecks. Brazos Largos and his crew dismantled their own ship deliberately to make surf boards.

I would continue this examination of the history of psychology but it is not yet midnight and I have further preparations to make for my own mental improvement. I resume treatment for the jumps this week. To all, I wish a safe and sane new year.

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. 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.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Mayan Blowout?

My previous post (from 12-17-12) collected such intriguing comments that I thought the subject would reward closer inspection. As friend Willie knows, I am probably not the ideal person to do this. It was he who introduced me 7 or 8 years ago to the Mayan Long Count prophesies through a long-running discussion between his friend, Professor Hoopes, and  Daniel Pinchbeck. I became also slightly acquainted with Terrence McKenna's cosmological abstractions and with José Argüelles' artistic and philosophical efforts to devise a correct and biologically accurate calendar for the whole planet. 

I suppose it is unavoidable for researchers who freely share their findings to be appointed willing or unwilling pontifices of speculative subcultures. The calendric year is said to have started at some remote point in the past with the appearance of the Pleiades asterism in the east just before the dawn light, so there has been ample opportunity for this enthusiasm to assert itself. It  develops, after all, in response to mystery.

This collection of essays, Trainride Of The Enigmas, concerns itself with mysteries. Why? Because we need them. Voltaire said, of God, that if He did not exist we would have to invent Him. Indeed, as humans learn the language of the universe --Nature-- it follows we need to form some idea of its personality, what it expects of us and we of IT. This is invention and it is a very big deal. A Mysterium Tremendum --or some other skull-thumping thunderclap a phrase-- can round things off well enough but getting through life, quantum navigation, wants more detail than thunderation.

We need the little everyday mysteries by which we learn, learn to read, to do, to read the expressions of others. We need them for the next round of greater mysteries which, in solving, guide us into love, conscience, duty, and --as ALL diarists and bloggers discover-- an understanding of those forces that shape our lives. Then, and only then, can we examine tremendous mysteries to any useful depth.

These are the mysteries to which we apply our whole minds and give our minds meaning. And to those who are disappointed tomorrow, there's a spare in the trunk.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Mayan Long Count, Duck and Cover vs. Four Horsepower Apocalypse

I have dealt with the end of the world before. In the first of a series of essays on fabulous beasts I described those singular events encountered on Patmos Island. They were noted by St. John,  a keen observer, and contributed to the overall Apocalyptic picture in the Book Of Revelations:

This painting, by Victor Vasnetsov, is typical. It shows four riders, two of whom don't look at all well, determined to lay waste to the world. They are listed as Famine, Pestilence, War, and Death, and are intended as allegorical forms, manageable forces, which makes sense. Even more sense is made if the student of prophesy consolidates them as avoidable, correctable evils humanity inflicts upon itself in the privatization of greed, conquest and insensitivity.

An increasingly industrialized populace realized four horsepower will run a small rototiller but falls far short of plowing a planet.

On the other hand, we have this:

It is a central detail of the Mayan Calendar. It is from Mesoamerica, a region extending from central Mexico to Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and northern Costa Rica. Like all ancient Mesoamerican calendars it relies upon pictographic guidelines, arithmetic and is really really heavy. Here is the Aztec version:

It is called, Piedra del Sol, Stone of The Sun. When somebody slams the kitchen door and makes them fall off the wall, ancient Mesoamerican calendars can level a house. Under increasing fear of the remote possibility of everybody slamming their kitchen doors at once, thereby destroying civilization, banks and other businesses down there quit handing them out free to customers every year.

There is an apocalyptic community, surrounding pre-Columbian Mesoamerican calendars, currently enjoying its cultic phase. Its followers are numerous and quite sincere in their efforts to accept universal cataclysm and  frighten children. But doubters point out there are very few of these things still in use; not nearly enough to end the world even if they do fall down. These doubters believe energies would be better spent avoiding unnecessary Famine, Pestilence, War, and Death --and I agree, but it couldn't hurt to close kitchen doors more gently too.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Fabulous Beasts #6 Rodan

Rodan is a mutated pterosaur. His name was originally pronounced ラドン , or Radon --like the unfabulous, vaporous, beast that gets into some cellars and makes everybody sick-- and he worked for Toho Studios in Japan. His Japanese name, Radon, is a contraction of pteRAnoDON. But when his name is written in English in Japan, it is written as Rodan. In  America, where my brother, Frank, and I went to see him in a movie in 1957, his name was pronounced:
However, in French, although his name is pronounced Ro-dan, it is written "Rodin".

I don't remember much of the movie. It might have been about Rodan trying to get downtown for art supplies. He was larger than many cities, which made for difficulties in everyday activities, and caused much speculation in the arts community. They wondered how a gigantic flying reptile could do such fine work in bronze, like this:

But we must consider the evolution of this outdoor sculpture. It is heavily influenced by Michelangelo's statue of Lorenzo Di Medici,

which is recessed into a Florentine alcove, a kind of box.There is a compelling body of historical argument maintaining they were the same sculptor who, in later life and advanced mutation, expressed the importance of not only thinking but also thinking outside the box.

My research has just now raised another aspect of controversy. There was, it seems, a French sculptor named Rodin, who looked like this:

And, as I delve further into the enigma, I find this man, Rodin, and Rodan often got each others' mail.

This leaves the Medicis. They had a reputation for cleverness that long outlived them. Could  they have created a subterfuge of such duration? Clearly, any calculations conducted above Florentine radon have little relevance to modern politics. So I must conclude this essay with a cautionary moral: If you are tempted to affect the future specifically, remember, although the days of reward seem limitless, the days of the calendar are by definition numbered --an imbecility, I know, but it gives onto a future post about the Mayan Long Count, which I'm sure will encourage us to think outside the box as soon as I read up on what it is.  

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Apocalyptic Apology

Last December, I wrote a poem, Rewiring An Old Starship, which included this picture:
My friend, Willie, opined that my work was metaphorical --renewing contact that energized happiness and reliability. A favorite actor, Harry Goaz, wrote a comment saying I looked very brave. Apparently they thought I knew what I was doing. And I did, mainly.

I was trying to connect a 220 volt line to a different breaker to accommodate a new hot water heater, but there were a lot of wires in that box. There is a distinct difference between electrical service wired in parallel, in which each appliance operates on a discreet circuit, and series, in which they do not. I knew this, and completed all connections accordingly. But I didn't know the entire country had not yet complied. Edison and Tesla began the upgrade over a century ago on the east coast and I thought it was done.

Last week I flipped the breaker on and thought everything looked good. Then NASA posted this photo:

As you can see, everything east of the Mississippi is fine. City lights are bright, festive, Christmassy. But darkness in the west is broken only by about a hundred people with flashlights. All I can say is, I'm sorry. There were indications I ignored, like the streetlights dimming when I use my electric shaver. But I will put off shaving until daylight now and be carefuller in general.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

California Weather News #2

For the following report, I have relied upon photographic data downloaded from my PMCD, an instrument essential to local weather evaluation. These wonderful devices are quite dear and cannot be paid off in a single lifetime. The serious student of weather must gain its trust and banish all thoughts of ownership.

The current report from this state begins with the following readout:

It is dated two days ago and predicts wind. At this point of operation, the Portable Meteorological Computing Device assumes a fluid coordinate in space and time. Its range reaches beyond the moment into the past and future. How far, no one knows, but it extends itself as a kinetic force that causes one to make surprising decisions from young adulthood and throughout the future. I shall expatiate further on but for now, let's examine PMCD's record of current California weather emergencies:




This is, indeed, California weather at its worst.  But I also rely on my PMCD for information about interior conditions. I am cautioned emotionally, that a shirt that insists upon being inside out is no reason to believe the world is against me. There are surely several countries that have never heard of me and have no opinion at all. I am also reminded to be polite and eat my vegetables.

There are storms within as well as without. Nightmares are dispelled. This versatile instrument calms me from them and assures me I will never be attacked and eaten by puppies. But reality is not avoided or ignored. Here is a readout warning me not to attend outdoor picnics organized by my relatives:

But hark! The roar recedes. California's storm alert has been downgraded to "fragrant, with a chance of petrichor". I must go lie down.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

[Norma Photos] RAIN!

Norma's pluvial invocations earlier this week have brought weather, so much weather in fact that we are

becoming andromedous. I am reminded of life off Dana Point, in the fishing village of Cayucos, where my people were lobster lifters. As I may have mentioned elsewhere, lobsters love to be lifted and set down repeatedly and pay highly for this recreation, so most of my Portuguese relatives made good. A few did not; they couldn't progress from pilchard fishing, which brings only poverty and despair because there is no such fish. More recently I hear everybody has gone into boogie-boarding followed by luaus and pajama parties --for all of which I am now too old,  disproving my Dana Point relatives' advice, "Geo., you can't leave too soon."

But I digress. Norma's immediate response to sustained pluie was alarm for crushed chrysanthemums, which she dashed out and harvested for display in a surrealistic section of our kitchen.

The wall mural is Norma's work. The red, much-foxed, oft-repaired French/English dictionary is crucial to our relationship. The bluish volume of Great letters is mine and rests upon The Monk And The Philosopher, which is jointly owned. These books reflect differences in our backgrounds. She studied truth, translation and everything nice, while I majored in flummery,  tarradiddle and puppydog tails. In my defense, I thought I had entered a cooking school and should have suspected its motto: "You're only as good as the last person you fooled." But I digress.

Norma's picture returns us to our subject. She said nothing but her expression conveyed intense concern and alarm. I knew what she was thinking, WET THERMOMETER! Something about it reminded me of medical equipment.

"Colonoscopy find anything, Doctor?"

"Some plaque on the back of your teeth but your dentist can fix that."

"Well, I bet it left a big hole in my wallet."

"No chance, we took your pants off."

But I digress. Patterned objects resting upon surfaces of echoing patterns fascinate Norma. She remained in the rain to arrange this:

Wet pine cones collected on a wet table on a rainy day --an irreducible pattern from which I find it impossible to digress. To all, a pleasant December!