Archive for April, 2016

Spring!

17 April 2016
dandelions

Dandelions: The yellow harbingers of Spring.

This year we had a mild, wet winter, followed by a late cool-down, then a sudden warm-up. The result: Everything seemed to bloom at once!

This made available many non-showy tree flowers, which don’t get photographed very often.

All these photos were taken last weekend.

Nature area trees

Ash flowers

Ash flowers.

Maple flowers

Maple flowers.

Willow flowers

Willow flowers.

Fruit trees

flowering fruit trees

Flowering fruit trees.

In this area, most fruit trees are introduced. I haven’t tried to figure out here exactly which types of tree these are. All the showy-flowered fruit trees are in the Rose Family (Rosaceae) along with familiar fruits like raspberries and strawberries.

meadow by the bike path

Meadow by the bike path.

fruit tree flowers

Fruit tree flowers.

Bees (present but not pictured) pollinate all Rose Family plants. In contrast, most of the non-showy tree flowers are wind-pollinated, and their seeds wind-scattered.

urban fruit tree

Fruit tree in an urban setting.

Daffodils

Pullman daffodils

Pullman daffodils.

Somebody planted a lot of daffodils! I have never noticed them as much as I did this Spring. They are all over the place in the more recently developed areas. And I mean , really all over.

daffodils in runoff management area

Daffodils front runoff management area, Bishop Boulevard.

redwing blackbird

Redwing blackbird guarding his domain.

Walmart embankment

The “Walmart Embankment” and more daffodils.

daffodils

Daffodils up close.

Introduced urban trees

Aspen flowers

Aspen flowers.

I found this white-barked aspen near the top of the “south hill” in the hospital’s garden. It is not native to this area, nor is the birch pictured below. Birch, besides being somewhat delicate trees and preferring the protection of a forest, don’t seem to do that well in this area, but that doesn’t prevent this specimen in the middle of downtown from doing the best it can to reproduce.

birch flowers

Birch flowers

Advertisements

TED busts out…

10 April 2016

…and other developments.

I got my usual weekly email from the popular TED Talks site last week, but it was oddly different.

Perhaps it was because they had started releasing videos from their latest event in February, or perhaps it was for some other reason. But not only did all the featured talks seem interesting – including an interview with Linus Torvalds, the original developer of Linux – but the featured playlist on “secrets” included talks as old as 2005 that I had never been aware of.

I downloaded about 20 talks, filling up my C: drive (but happily emptied into my “network storage” computer, which I finally got back up and running last week).

The presenters were mostly “journalists.” This category seems to include a very wide range of people these days. Several “techies” besides Torvalds were also represented, including a lady who works at Pixar Studios (they make completely CGI – computer generated images – movies), and another woman working to bring the US federal government’s digital services into the 21st century.

Topics included the search for life in outer space, understanding shifts in global development, the recent growth of organized crime and other “non-traditional” economic and social changes.

I was introduced to an extremely esoteric photographer / journalist named Taryn Simon who had some interesting things to say, a journalist named Will Potter who has been documenting government’s complicity in the crackdown on anti-corporation activists, and Robert Neuwirth another journalist who specializes in the study of “alternative” urban social structures growing up across the Third World.

 

Vaxxed

In other news, a film made to document the story of a Center for Disease Control doctor who claims he was pushed into going along with a plan to hide data linking some vaccines to autism, has been getting considerable attention.

It has been taken off the program of a high-profile film festival in New York City, and more recently, another showing in Houston, Texas was stopped.

In the eyes of the “common man” the whole narrative, starting perhaps even before the development of Darwin’s theories into a sort of new religion for academia, is becoming worn out and useless.

It is obvious that the general population is being lied to, and this film just points out another example of this.

Without a firm understanding, though, of how this whole situation came to be, it is very unlikely that any popular movement, no matter how well-intended, can succeed in turning the situation around.

As Taryn Simon tried to express in her own words, the human race seems to be on a collision course with its own past mistakes. Until the ignorance is lifted, the planet has little choice but to dramatize a past we have all lived through yet have almost totally forgotten.

Star Wars episodes 4, 5 and 6

3 April 2016

I never went to see Star Wars in a movie theater when it originally came out. Later, I saw parts of the earlier films (not sure how that happened), and some of the later films, complete. What with a new one recently released, and some talk of it on forums, I thought it was time to add the original three films to my collection, and watch them all the way through.

I found somewhat to my dismay that the original films are not available in digital format; newer sequences have been added (replacing the original ones) in almost all digital releases except for maybe one that is almost impossible to get a copy of. Star Wars devotees have gone so far as to reconstruct digital versions of those movies that are closer to the originals, risking copyright infringement attacks.

I settled for a modern copy – blue-ray plus DVD – from Walmart. Friday night I sat down and watched them, one after another.

Background (per Wikipedia, of course)

The first film in the series, originally entitled just “Star Wars,” was released 25 May 1977. It was created by a man named George Lucas. He was a filmmaker and had already made some other films, but had been working on the Star Wars idea for quite some time. He had always envisioned it as a series, but could only land a contract to make three films. Thus, he modified the story of the first film (the fourth in his series) so that it could stand by itself if it had to. He then sought help from other writers to develop the follow-up screenplays. His first helper was a woman named Leigh Brackett, a legendary science fiction writer who was over 60 when Lucas asked for her help. She had been married to and collaborating with Edmond Hamilton, a man 10 years her senior, since 1946. Hamilton was associated with the editor Farnsworth Wright who worked for Weird Tales magazine, was a Californian born in 1888 and had seen action in World War 1.

How these people got their inspiration for their work and story picks is not much discussed in their online biographies, yet is of interest to me.

But to continue with the background story: Lucas is a Californian from Modesto, about 10 years older than me. After he graduated USC’s School of Cinematic Arts with a Bachelor of Fine Arts (1967) he tried to join the Air Force and then the Army. They turned him down due to disqualifications. He resorted to instructing a documentary cinematography class for the U.S. Navy. I find this fascination with the military odd and unexplained. It has been noted that many artists who began their careers in the 1960s were connected with the military.

Lucas is said to have been influenced by Joseph Campbell, a scholar in comparative religion who in turn was influenced by many noted “modern” thinkers. Lucas has characterized himself as a “Buddhist Methodist” and lives in Marin County, where there is a sizable enclave of successful people from the entertainment industry and related activities.

He ended up being the principle writer on all three of the original films, plus the prequel trilogy, produced much later.

The Story

Superficially, the movies are strictly Space Opera, Buck Rogers style, to a degree approaching camp. [Camp: banality, mediocrity, artifice, ostentation, etc. so extreme as to amuse or have a sophisticated appeal – my dictionary.]

They trace the adventures of one Luke Skywalker, a young man first unaware of his previous political connections, but sympathetic to the cause of the Rebel Alliance, a group opposed to the vicious rule of the Galactic Empire, which has developed a planet-killing weapon known as the Death Star which they hope will quell any remaining resistance. The Alliance has a plan to destroy the Death Star, and Luke ends up being key to its ultimate success.

An extensive string of major and minor additional characters fill the story with an almost unending stream of twists and turns. Ray guns are constantly being fired, space battles regularly occur, and ancient secrets are revealed, as the rebels and their antagonists chase each other through a universe (or galaxy) filled with a huge variety of beings, stars, planets and moons. Superluminal speeds are commonplace!

At the end of the first movie, the Death Star is destroyed, but the evil Darth Vader narrowly escapes the blast. This episode is now entitled “A New Hope.”

In the second episode, “The Empire Strikes Back,” Luke begins his training with Yoda as a Jedi knight, but interrupts it to go out and save his friends. During this episode Luke learns that Vader is his biological father.

The third episode, “Return of the Jedi,” first involves the group’s attempts to rescue Han Solo – a rascal but skilled pilot – from imprisonment, and ends on a moon called Endor, with a huge battle that, at the last minute, allows the rebels to destroy the second version of the Empire’s Death Star, incomplete, but functional. Luke learns that the rebel leader Princess Leia, is his twin sister. At the end there is great rejoicing as the area emerges from a long period of spiritual suppression.

According to the sequel stories, which begin 30 years after this (as all the actors from the original are now 30 years older), a new suppressive group called the First Order has emerged and attempts to gain control of the galaxy. This group is overtly inspired by the Nazis, according to writer/director J.J. Abrams, including the stories that they survived post-WWII in exile at various secret locations.

What I see as the most important theme

Superficially, this is just another epic Space Opera story. Its popularity, which has been almost unprecedented in the history of the film business, could be attributed to its central theme of good versus evil (where good always wins in the end), the skill of its story telling, and the attention paid by its creators to the details of cinematic art and technique.

But we should add a few other factors to the phenomenon of popular appeal: marketing push on the one hand, and on the other, the true depth of the human psyche.

What other films stand high on the list for popularity (by gross earnings)? Gone with the Wind, Avatar, Titanic, The Sound of Music, ET. And by franchise: Marvel (comic book superheros), Harry Potter, James Bond, Middle Earth, followed by many others involving magical powers.

Magic

To me, magic is the key theme in all these popular works.

I have been taught that at one time we were all capable of what today would be called “magic.” It can be broken down into a long list of spiritual abilities.

The appeal of stories involving magic lies, I think, in the abiding – if subconscious – question: Why don’t we have those abilities any more?

Almost all these stories address this question in a similar manner: Magic can be used for good or for evil. And because it can be used for evil, it is best left alone.

Most people, as much as they love these stories, would probably agree with this.

But is it true?

It is possible we are mistaken in some way about this. Star Wars gets as close to any popular story I know of in addressing this issue.

The Force

In Star Wars, the power of “magic” is in The Force. We are introduced to this concept in the scenes involving Luke’s Jedi training. The idea of such a Force is an ancient one, though I am by no means an expert in tracing the idea. However, its name betrays the slant of its namers. Force, in our language, is a physical phenomenon. However, the concept in one of its forms – that used by Frenchman Henri Bergson – √©lan vital (translated by materialists as “life force”) was translated by Bergson’s English translator as “vital impetus,” which is similar to Hubbard’s idea of a living urge, or an urge to be alive, or the simple essence of Life.

Thus, the whole Jedi concept may be purposely (or unwittingly) misleading. As a being becomes more and more disconnected from himself (or itself), and its own abilities, it will turn to material technologies to make up for its own loss of power. Its only power then becomes the threat of using those technologies on those it wishes to dominate. Those who refuse to be dominated can be exterminated, but that does not kill their love of freedom. Thus, most criminals end up concentrating on ways to substitute the love of freedom with more material attachments.

As the highest-level storytellers, we may suppose, are not interested in the spiritual freedom of their audiences, these films are not meant to help anyone achieve that, but only to “teach lessons.” And the primary lesson is that there is a Dark Side that is very powerful.

LRH has discovered that there is much more to this story than what these movies are showing us. I recommend his work for this and many other reasons.