Monday, November 10, 2014

INTERSTELLAR: The Stars and Our Selves

Went to see Interstellar last night, in glorious 70mm IMAX (2-D!) format.

Huge. Still digesting...

This film paints on a VAST canvas. It involves some PROFOUND reflections on high astrophysics, consciousness, ethics and Love. Right away, you can see the potential conflict here: How do you tell a story on such a scale, and not lose the humanity that must comprise its narrative core.

Answer: Like this.

The great achievement of Interstellar is that it folds the humanity of its characters (and its characters as avatars of Humanity) into the very quantum foam of its storytelling.

They are one and the same.

There is an intimacy to the thing that resounds in even the most sweeping of establishing shots, the most mind-bending of theoretical constructs. This is accomplished in subtle ways, like the POV, "rocket-cam" nature of most of the spacecraft sequences (this is happening to You, not to Them). There are really very few of the standard distant, 3rd-person-observer tableaux which are so ubiquitous in spaceborne cinematic SF (though the few that do appear are simply breathtaking!).

The objective here is not to point out how puny we are compared to All Of It. It is to establish that, puny as we surely are, we are still the heroes (and villains) of ANY story that involves us. Our hope and dread and resolve and Connection and Love are what propel us into the Big Black (or what SHOULD, so long as we 'do not go gentle into that good night,' so long as we do not succumb to complacency and despair, so long as we preserve and nurture our Explorer's Heart, our Will to survive). We bring the good and evil and valor and cowardice and nobility and cravenness with us, no matter how immense the journey.

"No matter where you go.....there you are."

And, in the end, in the funny things that happen to spacetime when its physics are pushed to their breaking point, we find that the nature of our consciousness, the purity (or putridity) of our intentions and motivations become (or, rather, reveal themselves to have always been) PART of the equation.

The most important part, really.

For the particles that form us still swarm in their entangled dance, indifferent to distance, be it a micron or a mile. Or a million-million light years.

We are, each of us, a world unto ourselves, and yet our trajectories through the N-Dimensional topographies we traverse are perturbed (and --if we are VERY lucky-- defined) by the gravitational forces that bind us to the Other(s) who travel with us.....even if they are separated by blood-freezing distances and durations.

It is LOVE --variously defined-- that sculpts space and makes a tinker-toy of time.

I suppose I could quibble about such unsplit hairs as coriolis forces in spin-simulated gravity if too short a moment-arm is utilized, I could bellyache about the VICIOUS radiation environment around a black hole with a luminous accretion disk, about the orbital dynamics that would have to pertain, in order for certain time-dilation ratios to apply, could grouse about a few overly-chatty scenes and a smattering of instances of strained dialog.....but all of that would miss the point by such a wide margin that the point would not be a naked-eye visible object from such a course.

And that Point is embodied in the gentle Hope that permeates even the darkest moments of despair in this film. It lives in the bitter tears that fall from the eyes of frustrated Love, in the serene but steely resolve that shines from those eyes at the chance to be of Service to that Love....even if the fruits of that Service might never be seen.

For if each of us is a world.....then our world is each of us.

And so long as the Blights that might afflict its soil are allowed to settle, uncontested, on the surfaces of our souls...that world begins to die, and inexorably to bury us in that very soil, while we watch in numb helplessness.

But so long as we rage against the dying of the light, remember who we are and to whom we are bound in Love, then that light may yet coalesce into luminous spherical portals, which resolve into the eyes of those whom we carry with  us.....wherever we go.

And that is a very encouraging thought.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Thursday, September 12, 2013


I've got nothing.

Every year, I steep myself in the memory of That Terrible Day. Every year, I strive to find something Meaningful, heartfelt, and as non-political to say as I can muster.

But I've got nothing.

In truth, 9/11 has barely been on my mind today. Every client's receipt I filled out made me utter a little "huh."  I scrolled down past Facebook posts about Remembrance (most quite lovely and, to a heart which was differently disposed than mine today, quite moving).

I was largely unmoved.

Jimmy Carter was responsible for the foolish appeasement and empowerment of the USSR with his prattle about our "Irrational fear of Communism." He demoralized a nation with his defeatist cardigans, appalling fiscal policies and blather about "malaise." He oversaw the gutting of our military, and of our Intelligence-gathering capabilities (particularly the HUMINT which would have saved so VERY many lives).

And the Soviets invaded Afghanistan ("They lied to me!"). And the Shah of Iran was overthrown by Khomeini's goons. And NOBODY saw either one coming, or could do a blessed thing about it. Good Marines and Delta Force operators died in fire, in the desert outside Teheran, because our helos were ill-equipped to fly in sandy conditions, in order to rescue the hostages who should never have been taken in the first place. In a poorly-conceived scheme to make things difficult for the Soviets, what would become the Taliban was trained, armed, and empowered.

Communism enjoyed a burst of propaganda enthusiasm at the impotence of the Capitalist US, both Sunni and Shiite Islamopaths were emboldened and equipped to take their previously-merely-irksome Jihads into the realm of full-blown Global Asymmetric Insurgency.  And oceans of blood were spilled (are still being spilled!) because that imbecile miscreant was somehow elected to be President of the United States.

And he still won't shut that gangrenous hole in his half-melted, smarmily-grinning/sneering face about the dark fantasies he harbors in that singularity where a heart is generally thought to reside, when he belches forth about Israel and the "Palestinians."

And yet, at this moment, I almost feel nostalgic for the Carter years.

The unmitigated HASH which the 44th occupant of Penna Ave has made of this Nation's foreign policy, the sheer, mind-numbing amateurishness of it simply boggles what little of my mind I can stand to direct toward it (have ya noticed that I've been blogging about movies and tech lately...when at all?).

It all sounds so eerily familiar: An unnecessarily-empowered Russia, under Czar Vlad I, Iran inching toward nuclear arms, Syria gassing its citizens and launching cyber attacks against Western news agencies, China arming up, Eastern European allies left to twist after risking Moscow's wrath by agreeing to host subsequently-"Reset" anti-missile batteries against the aforementioned Iranians, oil prices unnecessarily high (and the aforementioned Islamopaths and Putin Syndicate kleptocrats rolling in the lucre), because gargantuan domestic energy supplies can't be tapped for fear of angering petulant environmentalists, a hard-won victory in Iraq slipping into ignominious defeat due to inexcusable neglect (thus further empowering both Shiite and Sunni Islamopaths)...

Again: Mind. Boggled.

The task of undoing the damage that two terms of an Obama Presidency have already wrought (and threaten to deepen further) will be the work of generations. Indeed, I am none-too sanguine that some of it can ever be undone.

And I think back to the 90s and the wholesale turning-away from geopolitics which the End Of The Cold War made everyone think they had the luxury to enjoy. And I think of how I've felt all day. And I shudder at the horrors which will all-but inevitably sprout from the seeds that have been planted over the last 5 years. And I try to find the words for my dread and anticipatory grief.

But I've got nothing.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Another Bold Go

Returned a while ago from the 11:00 showing of "Star Trek Into Darkness" (really liking the omission of the obligatory colon), with friends, old and new. It is difficult to believe that it's been four years since I reviewed its predecessor.

Clearly, JJ Abrams and his team have been using the time wisely and well!

There have been reviewers (who I am feeling heartily unmotivated to search out, and who, frankly, I do not believe deserve the traffic) who have decried this as a smashing action movie which has nothing to do with The Spirit Of Star Trek.

I can state with unassailable Trekker credentials that, whatever it is they have been smoking should be tested forthwith for all manner of unsavory additives.

This impeccably-paced, visually arresting piece of cinema is positively redolent with all that is finest in Trek. And I'm not just talking about the cornucopia of deft homages (I'll get back to that). It's all here: the Prime Directive, the needs of the many, the emerging triumvirate of Spock (Reason), McCoy (emotion/empathy), and Kirk (Will), the spectre of the Kobayashi Maru, the moral balance between expediency and justice, the triumph of the competent get the picture.

This. Is. Trek.

End of report.

Yes, the story blazes through set-piece after set-piece...but not in a jagged, fragmented way, and not just for action's sake. The fact that Star Trek may now be painted on a broader, more frenetic canvas does not diminish its fidelity to the franchise one jot. Sheesh!

One of the things that has (to coin a phrase) fascinated me about this new Trek is the way that the alternate time-line allows for the opportunity to explore the Deep Question of what sorts of things will tend to diverge from an altered set of initial conditions (a la Butterfly Effect), and what sorts of things will display a more durable tendency to occur, despite those altered conditions.

Toward the end of the first movie, the characters' personalities --despite wildly different life histories, as a result of Nero's rending of the Trek Prime timeline-- had begin to coalesce into their familiar configurations (with a number of twists). The promise of this has put my fears to rest by receiving a wildly satisfying payoff in this second iteration of the new franchise. Each of the beloved characters is given something Important to do, something which allows us to see how they are both known and new.

Similarly, there are aspects of the Federation which resonate in familiar ways to those who are conversant in the various series and movies from the Trek Prime universe. But the rippling consequences of the changes which spawned this new timeline have had far-ranging consequences whose implications become clear as the film reveals its secrets (a privilege I am resolved to not usurp in this review!). There are resonances with the Trek which we know....but they are just that: resonances. These are not retreads, nor slavish repetitions. Echoes of events which unfolded as we know them from the familiar Trek universe are present (and many more foreshadowed). But they all bear the stamp of the new conditions under which they arise, and so they retain their ability to surprise. And surprise they do!

Naturally, this makes my inner Chaos/Complexity Theory Geek emit all manner of undignified SQUEES!

All that said, this is a very entertaining film! I had the pleasure of seeing a special preview of the first 9 minutes of it, attached to The Hobbit, back in December. Although the Peter Jackson Extravaganza that followed all-but obliterated those 9 minutes, enough of a trace remained that I was TERRIBLY excited to see what would follow. And I was not the least bit disappointed. The blend of genuinely funny humor and jaw-dropping eye and ear candy is very much still in evidence here.

You. Will. NOT. Be. Bored.

Could I predict a few of the plot twists ahead of time? Sure. Did it telegraph these a bit? Yup. But it was neither insultingly obvious nor maddeningly coy about this. Were there sleeper subplots which languished, unrevisited, till the story required them to re-emerge? Sure. But not every story needs to be told in detail, if the telling will derail the overall tale (that's what Deleted Scenes are for!).

Suffice to say that, long before the iconic Alexander Courage theme rang out at the end, I was SOLD on this New Trek's spirit, its reverence for its roots, and its...well...boldness to grow in truly different (but thematically consistent) directions from those roots.

It appears that the Final Frontier encompasses even wider expanses than we'd thought.

And I could not be any more ready to warp out and explore them!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Obama Champion of Gay Rights? Look Again

Bethany Mandel, at Commentary offers some badly-needed thoughts on the meme that a Romney Presidency will constitute a massive step back for LGBT rights in our society. And yet, prior to the POTUS' "historic" endorsement of same-sex marriage equality, he could hardly be counted among the most staunch advocates of that equality...not till his hand was forced by his running-mate, and an election loomed:

As Obama’s actions both before and after his gay marriage flip-flop have shown, his commitment to gay rights appears to be merely one of convenience. Four years ago, it was politically expedient to be against gay marriage, thus President Obama made statements to that effect. In May, after Vice President Biden blurted out his previously unmentioned support of gay marriage, President Obama found it politically necessary to either repudiate his own vice president or change his stance, and chose to do the latter.
I have no doubt that Mr. Obama personally supports marriage rights for same-sex couples. That is not the point, really. The point is what he can be realistically counted on to do about those beliefs. Obama is a Statist (albeit not quite as radical a one as many of his Conservative critics like to shriek); he believes that the proper role of the Federal Government is to wade in and fix and do things. Given that belief, and the very strong advantage he enjoyed in both houses of Congress, prior to 2010, does his all-but absent posture on the issue really inspire that much more confidence than might accrue to a Federalist, who believes in the distribution of power away from the USGOV, even if he does not share the beliefs of gay advocates?

It is a question worth pondering, and a much-needed moderating salve on the perpetually-reopened wounds of this debate, among those who are invested in promulgating decidedly immoderate assertions on the matter.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Al Smith Dinner: 2012

As lively and bracing as this election has surely been, I've been looking forward to the traditional Al Smith dinner like even the most avid Football fan looks forward to the Superbowl commercials. I just love this thing, for reasons which I'm sure the tapioca between my ears at the moment will likely fail epically to articulate as satisfactorily as I managed during the last go-round.

Obama's comic chops continued to earn honest props. It's a thing to behold, the way he plays against his signature oratorical cadences, executing a really masterful Aikido twirl between what he knows to be perceived as vanity, and the humility of joining in with the mocking of it.

But what really, honestly surprised me was how readily Mittens was able to morph into a very decent comedic groove. His self-referential ribbing of the "Richy Rich: The Android Years" vibe was right in the pocket (and a deep one, at that....badum-CHING). His bit toward the end, about competing without disliking, and his praise of the President and his family were both gracious and conspicuously sincere.

Both candidates, in fact, ended on notes of elevated and edifying good-fellowship, even as the roasty bits before made clear that It was still On. That's what these things do: they sit between the crusty bread slices of the debates, like a nice schmear of Nutella.

Worth taking a bite; leaves a badly-needed good aftertaste.

Monday, October 1, 2012

My Path From Port To Starboard: It's Complicated

So, what business does an agnostic, non-affluent, socially-liberal, post-graduate-educated, Northeast city-born, suburban-dwelling bloke (technically a Minority, to boot) like myself have in calling himself any kind of "Conservative?"

This is a question to which regular readers of these pages (all three of them!) know I have bent my thoughts for a number of years now. After all, in the Summer of 2004, I still defined myself as someone who believed that it was the government's responsibility to engineer society such that the needs of its citizens could never go unmet. Further, I believed that the national nature of that project was a mere stepping-stone toward the time when Westphalian nation-state borders would all-but vanish, and a new World Government would create a seamless, just, and intelligently-designed global community. Even now, the ideas still have appeal.

It is understandable that some might perceive a deep irony in the fact that, having undergone such profound change, I should now subscribe to a domain of thought which is often dismissed as being merely the resistance to change. Further, it is just as understandable that a similar irony could be found in a non-theist aligning himself with a political philosophy which has become so enmeshed with hard theism. Finally, some may see a contradiction in the fact that, as someone who works in a helping profession (Clinical Psychology), I should have thrown in with those who are perceived as being all-too ready to throw the weak to the wolves.

As ever, the reconciliation of apparent paradoxes lies beyond the edges of the screens onto which they're projected.

Uncharacteristically cutting to the chase: I am a conservative because I am a Complex Systems thinker (link, by the way, is to a SPECTACULARLY useful site for the layman to get up to speed on these theories).

As a student of complex, non-linear, edge-of-chaos phenomena, I have learned to look with deep humility on our capacity to characterize --let alone control-- complex, open, evolving systems. From ecosystems to economies (but I repeat myself), nature finds a way to flow like water into spaces that are un-dreamed-of in our philosophies. Flocks of birds self-organize into fantastically elaborate patterns as they swirl through the sky. There is profound meaning to be found in the the fact that they do so without the aid of any rules more complicated than "keep a certain distance from adjoining birds, steer around obstacles, and travel along basically the same path as your fellow-flockers." The pattern is an emergent property of these simple, strictly local rule-sets.

This quality of emergence is apparent throughout nature. Traffic patterns arise from local interactions on the level of individual cars...yet they can achieve complex forms which span miles of roads, reacting to (and anticipating) assorted perturbations as though they were subject to some superordinate intelligence. But they're not. Molecules of oil in a shallow dish can align themselves into a regular lattice of hexagonal columns of fluid  (BĂ©nard cells) when heated. It almost looks like these molecules are executing a pregiven program. But they're not.  Populations of cells act in concert to form and maintain the function of an organism, and those organisms arrange themselves into cooperating and competing biomes and ecosystems, all as though they were cogs in a fantastically-designed clockwork. But they're not.

These collective behaviors arise from the interactions of local agents, whose activities are regulated at a dynamic cascade of system levels...but with nary a Central Planning Authority to be found. Indeed, I have come to see that the most brittle, least adaptive systems are those which are organized around a strictly "top-down," hierarchical architecture of energy and information. A brain (a self-organizing system) can suffer grievous damage, and yet still  regain substantial portions of its previous function by routing around the damage...whereas a computer can grind to a catastrophic crash, owing to a misplaced comma in thousands of lines of code (usually the night before an important presentation is due!).

You see where this is going.

As I said (and meant), the ideas from my Transnational Progressive days still have much appeal. I like the idea that society can be designed in such a way that it can remain viable, yet responsive to the needs of all its citizens. I like the idea that smart people can apply those smarts to engineering a setting in which all people can be positioned --well-fed and educated and healthy-- to thrive and create and live well. What kind of person wouldn't?

The trouble is that those smart people would have to have access to the kind of comprehensive information which the universe simply does not provide, when it comes to the structure and function of complex systems. There is a hard complexity barrier between the unfolding of such systems, and the algorithms we might devise to describe and predict (again, let alone control) that unfolding. As such, all attempts at planning and administering a system as complex as a society and an economy will result in a GARGANTUAN bureaucracy, cobbling together policy after policy, growing and accruing more and more system energy (or, if you prefer, power) to manage the cascade of unintended consequences which it will spawn like metastases as it frantically strives to put even the very noblest of intentions into practice. It happened in the Soviet Union. It's happening in the Euro Zone. I have come (reluctantly!) to the position that it will happen wherever Central Planning is tried.

F. A.  Hayek --pre-dating Complexity Theory by decades-- wrote that it is the Smithian, "Invisible Hand" of myriad individual choice-making agents which enables an economy flexibly to assign value to goods and services, and to enable the most efficient flow of energy/capital through that economy. He wrote (during the days leading up to and closely following WW2, when many of these ideas stood in VERY high relief) that efforts to plan and manage the operation of an economy were subject to insuperable obstacles, owing to the invariably imperfect knowledge to which the Planners would have access. (and, since it seems I can't go a full month without linking to this bit of brilliance, here's another way to discuss this). It was his thesis that a mechanism which would assume such a level of control over what is essentially an evolving system will lead it to steal more and more energy from that system, till it becomes self-perpetuating and parasitical. He posited (again, not in a vacuum) that both economic dynamism and liberty would erode under such conditions.

Now, of course a "purely" non-interventionist government (if such a beast could ever be said to have existed on this planet) would not be a tolerable scenario. There are aspects of human welfare which simply must be placed behind a judiciously-applied set of firewalls, if a society is to be a just one. However, the Social-Darwinist view of free-market capitalism which is so often set up as a straw man by advocates of Planning is by no means a necessary correlate of the thing. The difference, if you will, is in viewing government as the control rod or the reactor core.

Thus, I choose to align myself, to as great a degree as is practicable within the Real World, with those who work to create an open, fair marketplace, within whose raucous, generative, evolving, and frequently messy parameters prosperity will arise. Since no pure form of such an approach can be found in our political landscape, in anything like a configuration which is tolerable to me (and which stands a snowball's chance on Venus of achieving the White House), I'm stuck with the GOP (and only then, because I live in a State with closed primaries, in which Independents cannot vote).

I recognize that this puts me in the company of folks who hardly see eye-to-eye with me on the position that, say, homosexuality is merely a normal (if relatively rare) variation in natural human pair-bonding (and that, thus, it is absurd to deny people access to a central human pair-bonding ritual and status, just because they so vary). I know that there is a (deeply paradoxical!) thread within the party of insinuating uncomfortably high levels of Christian theology into the laws of the land...which flies in the face of the ostensibly liberty-oriented approach to government's footprint in people's lives which is proper to the party's orientation. What can I tell you? We live in a universe where the Perfect is inevitably and irreducibly the enemy of the good, if we choose to hold out for it.

But the Democratic party has seemingly irretrievably aligned itself with the tradition of Progressives and other Planners. And, for whatever tactical gains it (admirably!) strives to bring about for its constituents, it does so at the price of strategic losses to our society's ability to sustain the benefits it promises. It simply does not fit within my frame of reference that this is a good idea (nor, in the end, particularly humane). So, I ride herd as much as possible on the more pernicious aspects of the GOP's posture (if, the gods forbid, Michele Bachmann, or Rick Santorum had gotten the nomination, I would have had a Very Difficult choice to make...see why I want to be able to vote in the primaries?), while advocating for those parts which move our society in what I judge to be the direction in which it remains most vibrant and viable (which, to paraphrase JFK [who all-but-certainly would have been Liebermanned into obscurity within today's Democratic party] would create the rising tide which lifts all boats).

Yes, conservatives would find a great many of my positions positively heretical (and, of course, the feeling would be mutual). But no complex system is without internal contradictions, even as its overall organization is coherent. Nature is not kind to Purists. So we choose among imperfect options, in as-educated-as-possible hope that the highest-viable good will emerge.

It's the worst possible system you could imagine....except for all the others.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

"Cabin In The Woods"

Just finished watching the Joss Whedon-written, Drew Goddard-directed Cabin In The Woods. Had the misfortune of never having had the chance to see it in theaters, despite most of my therapy clients assuring me that if I missed it, there'd be a strong argument for switching places with them. Now I see what they meant.

Writing a review for this movie is a difficult thing, since what makes it great (along with the crackling, Jossian dialog, the insanely brilliant production design, the surprisingly effective acting, and...stuff) is the way it reveals its secrets, like unlocking levels in a cracking-good video game. Not about to step on that process here.

On the surface, this is as familiar a story as you could imagine. That's the point, really: the "Teens in an Isolated Forest Cabin" simulation has been run so persistently in our culture that even the self-referential, oh, so Po-Mo deconstruction of it (care of the "Scream" series) has become an idiom of its own.

What Whedon's been able to do in "Cabin" would be nothing short of astounding...if it were anyone but Joss. Somehow, he's been able to take not only our familiarity with the assorted horror movie tropes, and fold it in on itself yet again, but he escapes being merely clever in doing so by creating a framework for understanding how  (and why) these meme clouds have become so archetypal in the first place.

Now, that's what Meta's for!

I don't even want to go through the characters and describe their stories and how they fit together here. First of all, I don't have to; you'll know them right away. More importantly, though, going into this with too much foreknowledge would be a disservice to the experience of it, the way it turns your expectations and certainties on their heads (which may or may not be attached to anything at the time...), and forces you to reflect on yourself reflecting on the story as it reflects on itself...then takes you where you least expected to end up.

Now, don't worry: I'm not talking about "Inception"-level complexity here (GODS, did I love that film, but man, was it dense!). You could write dissertations on this movie...but it doesn't try to be one, itself. At a mere 1 hour and 38 minutes (less credits, which [a little surprisingly] do not contain an Easter egg at the end), this thing moves along with no lags or hangs in its masterful, relentlessly entertaining pace. You can't get away with not thinking...but you'll never be bored as you do it!

If you have a penchant for inky-dark humor, a strong stomach (!), and even a casual acquaintance with the vernacular of horror movies (which will be rewarded with a swarm of very excellent visual and thematic homages), you'll see how the seasoned team of Whedon and Goddard have served up a bubbling beaker of Instant Classic.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Pretty Rock-i-stan

A recent walk-on in the Military Industrial Complex Conspiracy Cavalcade is just in time to supplant the Michael Moore absurdity about natural gas pipelines as the Real Reason (tm) for going into Afghanistan. Namely, the discovery of  A TRILLION DOLLARS OF PRECIOUS MINERALS!!!1!!1!

Yes, I've been aware of the apparently prodigious mineral finds in Afghanistan since 2010. To the best of my knowledge, there is still insufficient data to confidently support the claims which are made about these discoveries. VERY promising-looking outcrops of mineralized rock have been spotted, but they have not yet been fully characterized as to their extent or purity (and thus their value, regardless of amount). It is not at all uncommon for substantial surface outcroppings to represent the last remains of past deposits which have eroded away, leaving only the *bottom* and not the *top* of a once-rich mineral concentration.

Getting this information is a laborious and hardware-intensive process of drilling and sampling and drilling some more. So, it is not surprising that it took until last year to get any "ground truth" on the deposits. It does look very good so far...but there are non-trivial issues in proceeding to extraction (lining up bidders to undertake these vast projects in the arid, infrastructure-lean, frequently-embattled --especially in the South, where most of the rare earth metals are-- land-locked primordial  moonscape of a "country." And that's not even getting into the near-certainty of enormous corruption and very messy jostling by regional warlords to control the most promising territories).

In short, this thing is a long way from a paycheck.

As for why there were geologists with the Army ("Proof! PROOF!! I say, that all is going as They have Foreseen!"): it is SOP for a battlespace to be characterized in minute topographical detail, via aerial and orbital reconnaissance, in preparation for insertion of forces. This becomes even more critical when supply lines are VERY limited in their access to personnel who must combat a foe who is, himself, widely distributed around a *most* unforgiving AO. Given the extent of the deposits --as evident in the USGS map in the article I linked above-- it is not the least bit surprising (nor does it make it at all necessary to posit some shadily mercenary intent), that these surveys would also have revealed these VERY attention-grabbing mineralogical aspects of the landscape.

Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


When I was a kid in NYC, the local TV station, WPIX Channel 11, was commemorating an anniversary or somesuch, and arrived at a creative ad campaign. Actors would play assorted people throughout the city, who were asked to help out Channel 11 with finding a proper symbol for the station. Invariably, over their shoulders, the towering endeca-digits of the WTC mocked their perplexity.

One of the dwindled but enduring artifacts of my college-era obsession with the ancient Greeks was a deep admiration for the geometric simplicity, the sleek, unadorned, cyclopean sincerity of those Towers. They were edifices of frank, unapologetic Commerce (which, in those days, I conceptualized more as a linear juggernaut, than as the nimble network I envision today). Of course, at the time, I also thought the Chrysler Building was, by comparison, a grotesquely baroque bastardization of Deco and Gothic and Neo-Fascist architectural indecision and pomposity. What can I say: I was, in so many ways, a thoroughgoing ninny back then.

Like those New Yawkahs from the WPIX ads, the Towers were an axis mundi for me, ubiquitous as the Moon. I remember going over the Queensboro Bridge in my parents' car, gawking at that impossibly high constellation of construction lights. Those brilliantly-silvered or celestially-coruscant or mist-wreathed binary reminders of the power of intelligence and will were ever part of the semiotic scaffolding which defined my world.

That billowing dust cloud contained a little something besides the (immeasurably more precious) molecules of my fellow humans. It marked the atomization of one literal and countless more abstract nuclei of my scheme of organizing my experience of self-in-world. It was like that character from "The X-Men," the one who teleports, and the air which had just been displaced by him would slam into the sudden vacuum with a "BAMPF!" They were gone. And, in ways both subtle and gross, nothing would ever be the same. If nothing else, the Phantom Skyline Syndrome is likely to be a life-long affliction.

I've striven to keep these Things as trans-political as could be, and I'd rather like to keep that up. Suffice to say, then, that the forced conceptual and emotional reconfiguration of things did not stop at the local space surrounding me. Rather, it spun vortices outward into my most far-flung theories of how nations and cultures and ideologies and power-flows were arrayed on the whole of the skin of this Globe. And the BAMPF is still echoing, as those views evolve at a pace which would make Stephen J Gould --rest his bones-- really proud.

This past July, I was on the Circle Line, with Ma'am 'Cyte, and the Li'l Cyte, and had my first close look at the construction of what I hope someday to stop referring to as the "Capitulation Tower."  Of course, any project of such scale and scope will evoke wonder, but the new WTC simply leaves a sour finish on my palate. Am I like a disgruntled denizen of Radio Row here? Or is it the absurd delay, political wrangling, failure to be configured as a reproduction of the Towers (11 floors taller, their footprints transposed with their fallen forebears'), its misleading altitude tally (a number of stories of non-habitable space --complete with token wind turbines)? Or maybe the residue of the wrenching realignments of the geopolitical context which are woven into its DNA simply by virtue of when it arose. I don't know.

I just know that I feel myself to be in a holding pattern as to the larger implications of That Other Tuesday (as the unusually self-referential nature of this year's post will attest). Maybe this is the Equilibrium before the next Punctuation (again, with the Gould). Maybe that's just an artifact of the election season. The many gods forfend that the next surge of change should be predicated on so calamitous a happening. May it be so that, whoever is wielding the ordnance, the feeder streams of the torrent which obliterated so many worlds that morning are being drained with implacable and irreversible efficacy ("Truthers" need not comment. It will not go well).

In the meantime, I suppose the news station "New York One" might have something to think about.