Monthly Archives: March 2017

The Seven

The Seven
 
It shouldn’t be strange to think that many terrorists of our modern day, the homegrown variety, could in a sense be “made” by influential writings and propaganda presented on the Internet! It may have happened in the past in a very remarkable and devastating way—by a short book!
 
Evidently a short story by the Russian writer Leonid Andreyev may have been very influential in the start of World War One, as it inspired a group of revolutionaries to assassinate Archduke Ferdinand in June 1914. Andreyev’s story was called “The Seven Who Were Hanged” (1908), and chronicles two peasants and five revolutionaries as they reconcile their final days awaiting their fate of capital punishment by hanging!
 
I read that story this afternoon and while the human angst and existential reckoning the characters went through was insightful and made one reflect on the appropriateness of capital punishment, the glorifying of revolutionary activity as an action worth committing was not something which ran through my mind! Researching the influence of this book I was surprised to learn something quite dramatic, historically anyhow! According to one researcher, the leader of the group who planned and carried out the Archduke’s assassination, was influenced by Andreyev’s story just in that revolutionary way—and the plot of the actual  assassination actually mimicked Andreyev’s story story in many ways!
 
An interesting take on the major event of the 20th century, WW1, which became a precursor of many  decades of totalitarian nightmare and human destruction! If the Archbishop hadn’t been assassinated, would WW1 have started? If the book “The Seven Who Were Hanged” never came into the hands of the revolutionary leader who planned the assassination, and so never would have conceived of his plot, would the Archbishop have been killed by another group–and events still play out anyway? Impossible to know!
 
And…could a single book have really been the impetus for such a major action all the way back in 1914? Considering the facts of today, I would say that yes it could! 
 
And as others involved in stopping modern terrorism have noted, this homegrown kind of terrorism born and nourished by things such as the Internet, is nearly impossible to stop. One problem is the fact that one never knows what influence a story or book or speech, etc can have on the psyche of any individual…and never really will!
 
We have always lived in a world in which there are two sides to everything! In the sphere of technology, such as the Internet and everything else, the two sides are composed by a good use and a bad use—they can’t be separated! The difference today is one of degree, so many individuals can be influenced simultaneously for good and bad from the Internet! This doesn’t condemn the Internet but it is something which comes side by side with its good uses! 
 
More things change, the more they stay the same–still true!

Smiley/Sad/Perplexed Face?

Happy/Sad/Perplexed Face?
 
I am not a painter but I do enjoy looking at art and especially abstract art! It is interesting to see whether what one may “feel” from a particular painting happens to correspond with the intention of the artist!
 
Paul Klee has quite a few interesting paintings and I came across one of his which reminded me of a modern day iconic image, even a popular social media emoji–but further observation clouded the issue!
 
The painting is called “Tendril” and reading what one critic wrote explains the ambiguous interpretation:
 
“a lively emotionally charged impression although the linear elements do not form a face”.
 
This did strike a chord because my first thought was a “happy” face!— (Is this an indication of too much social media influence?)— But when I actually begin looking at the details, I begin to see a “sad” face, and then a “perplexed” face, and finally, maybe there is an indication of a “stern” face—the same critic also emphasized his  “cipher-like language of symbols”. 
 
Supposedly the work was actually intended to represent a plant shooting upward towards the sun. I don’t know if I would have ever saw that without being told!
 
I think I can see that now, with the nearly horizontal line representing the horizon and what seems to be the sun appears clear and the bottom curled line is the flower. What the other parts are I am not so sure, maybe the small dot above the sun and curved line represents the stars and heavens and the curly line cutting across the horizon represents the normal flora.
 
So a thought provoking experience for me and even though the intended sense now seems more clear!… I still see the “faces” as well. I guess that is what Art is supposed to evoke—Thought and Grappling!

PC Circus

Next thing you know the word “ENEMY” will be considered offensive! What then?
 
In other PC happenings the following just has to make one believe (satire intended!) in the future leaders of our society—especially our Liberals—you have to love their problem solving abilities, just change a word or a phrase and “pff!”, all is well with the world.
1. At Pitzer College some students want to make inappropriate for white girls to wear Hoop earrings—somehow that oppresses Latino and Black women. 
 
2. Yale wants to change “freshman year” to “first-year”—that awful word “man” just shows all over the place. God help me if I walk on campus and see someone and say “Hey man!” “How’s it going, man!” Talking about causing an uproar!
 
3. Evidently Virginia Commonwealth Univ. needs to hire more professors who aren’t “white”. One of the complaints is that white professors don’t attend “diversity” training classes enough! Hmmm…I wonder why?
4. In Chapman University has a workshop series called “White Identity and Allyship Workshop”. Supposedly whites, after being told to be better alllies, weren’t sure what that actually meant in terms of behavior and actions! 2 people showed up first meeting!
 
5. This one really shows how out of touch these folks are. At Gallaudet University one professor claims that curing deafness is a form of “cultural genocide”! The following is the quote justifying this:
 
“The argument goes like this,” professor Burke wrote. “The use of gene therapy to cure hereditary deafness would result in smaller numbers of deaf children. This, in turn, would reduce the critical mass of signing deaf people needed for a flourishing community, ultimately resulting in the demise of the community.”
 
And this mess is just the tip of college campus lunacy!
http://www.thecollegefix.com/post/31651/

Inevitability?

Historians answers questions about history such as “who”, “what”, “where”, and “how”, at least to the best of their ability. There is also a “why” question which can lead to some thorny philosophical thoughts.
 
I would think most tend to view history as a continual unfolding of consequences resulting from a myriad of choices made between possibilities! This scenario sanctions positively the study of history as an attempt to learn from that past and improve on the future. One of the main actions in this scenario is that we have choices, acts which determines the directions that certain events end up following. Though wrong choices cause major harm, there is a sense that most (maybe not all) things can be “corrected”, or at least,  not repeated in the future!
 
On the other end, there is a view of history as being illustrative of the power of “vast impersonal forces”, a phrase by T. S. Eliot. This describes a historical process which is totally predetermined and thus outside the realm of “free choice”. While the taking of one path as opposed to another appears to look like a choice, those decisions are actually caused by all the past actions leading up to that moment and so there is an inevitability to what was actually chosen. This view could quickly lead to a sense of fatalism with a mindset deteriorating  to an attitude of indifference towards everything.
 
How free are our choices and are we always held hostage to the “past”? Are we in the grip of “vast impersonal forces” outside our control and thus just puppets, following some invisible “plan”? What those forces could be is hard to determine and some philosophers have tried to identify them, but even if identified, the result would still leave us in the same position! If we really are in the grasp of some kind of “historical determinacy” then there are devastating consequences for any sense of “moral” behavior—after all, if everything is predetermined, then resisting the impulse for evil becomes superfluous, as well as worrying about what actions we should even call evil? Not a good philosophy to live by and there are many who resist such an “all or nothing” historical view.
 
Even for Christians, we believe in a God who sees all and knows all and sees things from a sense of eternity. And the Bible talks about predestination and foreknowledge, which to some, acts like another version of “vast impersonal forces”! Here though, God predestines not every individual act in history but just some things he knows will occur from his foreknowledge. This is still a very complicated set of ideas and has never been fully resolved, but whatever the final disposition of its meaning, it doesn’t negate our responsibility for right choices and the judgment which will occur for our actions! As far as the Bible is concerned, we have a will to make one choice as opposed to another—the past doesn’t excuse us ultimately and totally  “determine” us!
 
I say all this because in one realm of our nation, there seems to be a restricted version of “vast impersonal forces”  operating—and it is in our politics! Decisions left to the political process regarding the governance of our nation seem to have presupposed a kind of functional “historical determinacy”—in other words, we act like there are certain things in place and having been thus positioned, limit severely our choices! And it belies all common sense when at the same time we know that many of these things can’t continue the way they are and have to be addressed before catastrophe occurs!
The issue at hand now is the vast amount of spending we as a nation do and the increasing debt we have incurred. We can’t continue this path we are on indefinitely.  Right now the Obamacare replacement is being worked on and already there is a sense that some of the positive things which were created because of Obamacare, those things have to be maintained, no matter what! The problem is that it may not really be possible—if we really want to create some kind of system which really is the optimum! Somehow we must break out of this “historical determinacy” mindset and put everything on the table. Once a program is in place, there really is no “law” forbidding a reexamination of some program, with a result of eliminating or fixing any problems, and that applies no matter how long a program has been in place. How have we reached this place where our leaders act like a “vast impersonal force” is hindering the practical and pragmatic examination of the things we do?!
 
In the article, some of the mandates in Obamacare are mentioned. These mandate certain costs being shared by everyone who is covered. So this particular Congressman asked whether men should have to purchase insurance which covers prenatal care–for obvious reasons! It is a legitimate question-as well as the question of having to carry pregnancy insurance! Mandates are one of the more controversial aspects in Obamacare and deservedly need to be addressed!
 
Three lines in this article about the mandates are what provoked my thinking about this whole thing:
 
“What about men having to purchase prenatal care?” Shimkus said.
At that point, one could hear the room start to stir.
“I’m just . . . is that not correct?” Shimkus said. “And should they?”
One could sense that the anti-woman card was going to be played, sexism will be raised, and on and on and on…!
 
So instead of allowing the question to be asked and addressed, will this instead be the last time we hear of it? It shouldn’t be!
 
There is no inevitability which forces us to have to accept that those things which are in place in our government can no longer be touched! If we are to really be able to address the problems we face in this country, we have to accept the responsibility that we do have a “choice” in whether things can be improved—the question is the courage! We are not yet trapped by the past! Although one day we could get there!

0.7 Grams

0.7 Grams
 
Sometimes you don’t know what you don’t know until you find out! That does make sense in a way! I was reading about some of our nation’s close calls with nuclear material. Mixed in with those stories was the history of nuclear power beginning with the first atomic bomb, called “Trinity”, detonated  July 16, 1945. Then followed the 2nd and 3rd detonations, the ones over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan.
 
And then I bumped into something I thought I should have known–the firebombing of Japanese cities from Jan 1944 to Aug. 1945, when the atomic bombs were dropped. The result was that many  of Japan’s cities and their six main industrial cities,including Tokyo, were literally laid waste and hundreds of thousands were killed, and that was before Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Horrific yes, but Japan had experience in mass casualties which China and neighboring countries could attest too as they were on the receiving end from Japan’s actions!
 
I felt I should have known and maybe I had just forgotten, but it was still compelling reading nevertheless! The US was planning a ground invasion and the atomic bombs were an attempt to get Japan to surrender before that invasion could occur, in which hundreds of thousands of US casualties was predicted! After the first bomb on Hiroshima, Japan refused to surrender and even encouraged survivors to rise up and defend! After the second one though, reality forced itself upon Japan and they finally surrendered!
 
Were the bombs needed? Was Japan on the verge on surrendering soon anyway? Would a ground invasion have as many casualties as predicted or would Japan have given up knowing it couldn’t counter the US forces? And the hardest of all questions—was it moral? Good questions all! All but the last one is impossible to answer with assurance since we can’t go back in time. The morality question though……..I don’t know if that can be answered either!
 
What impressed me though was the amount of  nuclear material, for example, which ultimately devastated Hiroshima. The bomb was named “Little Boy” and 98.62 percent of the uranium was blown away before it could “ignite” and thus only about 1.38 percent of that bomb went “nuclear”!
 
Of that, a small amount, about 0.7 grams of uranium, less than a dollar bill, was converted into pure energy!
 
And Nagasaki’s bomb, called “Fat Man”, was actually detonated a mile off its designated point, but still about 40,000 were killed!
 
Japan surrendered!
 
An atomic bomb being used as a weapon has never been repeated since, which is amazing to me as well! But when material the weight of a dollar bill can wipe out a city, humanity has least exercised some common sense when nation has gone against nation since that time.
Trinity
Little Boy
Fat Man

Judges Breaking the Law

Unbelievable—but if this continues, the sense that laws can be ignored, hence broken, will trickle down into the minds of each of us with the thought that we can become a law unto ourselves! (Some are probably looking for an excuse)
 
Everyday citizens may conspire among themselves to ignore or break some laws, e.g. speed limits, income taxes, etc. But there is an attending fear that comes with those actions, as in, getting caught and facing consequences.
 
But if “law” is now being broken or ignored by judges themselves, and in a blatant, public manner, then why should any of us care about any law at all! It won’t take many people, who after absorbing this “disrespect” for law coming from the highest officials, to manifest publicly a growing attitude of anarchy in society, along with its subsequent disorder!
 
Def. of anarchy:
 
“A state of disorder due to absence or non-recognition of authority or other controlling systems.”

Eye Balloons and Drones

Eye Balloons and Drones
 
“The Eye Like a Strange Balloon Mounts Toward Infinity” is a work by Odilon Redon completed in 1882. The balloon has an eye looking upwards to the divine, and is lifting a skull below it. The “sense” is related to the spirit of man emerging from a swamp. And while that can be amplified quite a bit, what struck me was the physical aspect of the object itself and its resemblance to actual instruments of our modern technological society—an “eye in the sky” object!
 
I first thought of satellites, which look down upon the globe and performs various spying functions. But that didn’t quite satisfy what I was really sensing, and then it struck me that the emergence of drone technology which is accessible now to individuals for personal use, captures what I was sensing from the artists picture. Probably the reason all this has struck a chord for me is that I am considering my own drone, a Phantom 3 model, for photography purposes!
 
The skull which the eye balloon of Redon carries also applies here as well. My thoughts along this line is the ever-present “two-sidedness” of technology! Coins automatically have two sides due to the nature of its shape and in a conceptual sense, technology takes on that characteristic as well. The two sides for technology concerns the usage, will it be for good or bad! And we understand from history how technology can be intended for good but twisted into a nefarious end as well!
 
Large military drones are obvious concerning the good/bad distinction, but the personal ones need to be evaluated as well. For fun, photography, and those things, it shouldn’t be arguable that they are good things. How then can they be used for negative ends? The initial fear among commentators is the possible loss of privacy, I have had drones “sneak” up on me before. It wasn’t intentional (I don’t think), it is just they are fairly quiet and with background noise,  one can look up and there they are! The possibility of flying around neighborhoods seeing what can be seen, is a bit disconcerting! To me, the skull could represent a loss of that privacy!
 
I remember a NCIS episode in which a criminal had escaped in a small plane, impossible to track. A social media alert went out to those who had cell phones to keep an eye in the skies for that plane. There was a virtual spread-out mass of eyes on the ground keeping an eye  on the skies and the plane and location was eventually discovered. This was just a script but conceptually it is a workable scenario, at least in a rough sense. Countless drones in the skies would be countless eyes above looking down on countless “things”. Eye Balloons–looking down instead of looking up!!!
 
This is the problem with technologies–intentions can be good but bad actors begin finding ways to distort the uses for illicit purposes. I think the general sense of privacy we enjoy is a major concern, I may not be doing anything wrong but as I wouldn’t want people looking in the windows of my house as a general practice, I don’t want cameras in the sky immediately above my property as well continually searching!
 
That “two-sidedness” of technology will never go away, but  a strong “will” from society will be needed to minimize the “bad” uses of technology, any technology. I am going to buy a drone myself—there may be things that technically I could get away with, laws relating to  drones and its uses are not fully worked out yet, so the guiding principle would have to be moral in nature! Drones shouldn’t allow me to do things I felt were wrong to do by other means!
I wonder what Redon would have thought of our drones?

Chess and Democrats

Chess and Democrats
 
“suffers from a neurosis of self-protection, where a defence outlives its original purpose and becomes a destructive force—at first a citadel for the protagonist, then his prison, and finally his torture house.”
 
I came across this quote in a review of a book in which the main character was a man whose life was hidden behind the game of chess and thus his actions mimicked some of the strength and weaknesses of chess strategy. The quote illustrates a negative aspect—an overreliance on a particular strategy which the character could not shed even after it no longer proved useful!
 
I couldn’t help but think of the Democrat Party generally, and especially so with their pathetic attendance of Trump’s speech last night!
 
The Democrat’s worldview and power, now known to have been partly contrived and fixed due to the likes of the Democratic National Committee with its dishonorable actions towards Bernie Sanders, was a citadel of power, holding sway over many organized groups.
 
Now they are a sad caricature of the past! Left with puzzled looks on their face, and a mindset unable to conceptualize what went wrong! During the speech, their inability to even clap at things which were obviously good for the country shows that they are now trapped by their own ideological nightmare. They have fallen off a cliff of respectability, landed, and they can’t even see it!
 
They are now in a torture house of their own making. Everything Trump does is like another dart causing just enough pain to remind them of the mess they have made—and there are plenty of darts left! Oh well, like chess, sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, sometimes you draw! The Dems didn’t win and they didn’t draw!
 
Checkmate!