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So, as of the beginning of October, 2007, this journal has gone Friends Only. This applies to anything posted after 2004, a wholly arbitrary date.

Why? Several reasons, actually, not the least among them that I am now part of the Communications team for my school, and since I may have an official web presence I'd rather restrict the profile of the unofficial one. (There is a good chance the journal will revert to its more public nature circa June 2008, when the contract ends.)

Frankly, if you're not on the list you aren't missing much. If curiosity drives you, feel free to ask and you'll likely be added.

[edit] Since I've grown both more opinionated and slightly more paranoid over the last few years, I'm not unlocking the entire journal. From here on out (circa the beginning of 2010) about half the entries will be Friends Only. Feel free to wander about. I'll be over here in the corner muttering to myself.


Apr. 11th, 2017 11:43 am
wileypeter: (Default)
Here lies the former LiveJournal user known as wileypeter.
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The popularity of tripe like The Secret and similar books and sales pitches has always rankled.

Why is the book The Secret popular? I'm guessing it's because we as a species hate the idea of being at the mercy of random chance and forces beyond our control. We want to think we had something to do with our fortunes. In some cases we're right. But to apply that to ALL of one's life? Foolishness.

Oprah, one of the book's biggest boosters, is a prime candidate for this. She's someone who has amassed quite a fortune. Put yourself in her position, and isn't it more fun to think your drive and positive thinking had a lot more to do with that than random luck? Hell, thinking that way is self-preservation in a way. If blind chance had a good deal to do with success, then wouldn't failure be a blind chance away at any moment? Who wants that? As well, if we had something to do with these wonderful events then we can enjoy them as the fruits of our labors and our actions, not as something someone else may have deserved but we have because it just worked out that way.

The problem here is that if, as the book/movement would have us believe, our visualization and positive thinking are at the core of our success then the opposite principle is equally true: Bad things happen to you because you bring them on yourself via a bad attitude and negative visualization.

I suppose on some superficial level these things apply. If you go into a job interview with a good attitude you have a better shot than you would if you go in surly and pessimistic. If you meet the challenges in your life with a smile you may well do better in getting past them than you would have with a more timorous stance.

But that's not the idea here. These people would have us believe we have real control, over economic realities, over disease, over fate. Were this phenomenon based in even the tiniest shard of reality would Francis Ford Coppola have had to wrest a happy-ish ending from the dour tale of Preston Tucker? And how in the world would depressives like Kurt Cobain, Ian Curtis, Elliott Smith, Phil Ochs, F. Scott Fitzgerald or Carrie Fisher manage to achieve any success? Really, this is a collection of people who had massive creative and (in some cases) commercial success, and I'd posit few of them were positive thinkers. And would a sunny child like Ryan White have died young? Because (in essence) cancer patients, people with MS, folks who lose their home in the current recession, these people all brought it on themselves by not thinking positive thoughts. That's the crux of it. Little kids with leukemia can blame themselves.

Yes, I know, that's taking things further than the authors/motivational speakers/snake-oil salesmen would have us go. That's not because it's not part of their belief. It's because it'd turn off too many people, so they rarely say it out loud in public. But the movement is a slap in the face of anyone who has already suffered the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. It is patently offensive, and is so on several levels.
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I find this interesting-
Target donated a pile of money to the Gubernatorial campaign of Tom Emmer, the anti-Gay Marriage, pro-Drunk Driving* candidate for the Republican Party in Minnesota.

Meanwhile, his opponent is Mark Dayton. Why is this significant? He's the great-grandson of George Dayton. George founded Dayton's department stores in the first decade of the 1900s, and in 1962 the company's CEO opened the first . . . yes, you guessed it, Target.

Target's past vs. Target's present, really.

* He's not really pro-drunk driving. Rather, he's tried to soften the penalties for driving drunk. Might have something with the two times he was arrested for it, might not.
wileypeter: (Beg pardon?)
Let's see.

So Target donates a pile of money to support the campaign of Tom Emmer*, a strident opponent of Gay Marriage. This money comes from consumer spending at Target, of course. Consumer spending is in no small part driven by advertising.

What song provides the theme for Target's new TV ads?

The hippie tolerance anthem "Free To Be... You And Me."

To quote wikipedia, "The basic concept is to encourage a post-60's gender neutrality, while saluting values such as individuality, tolerance, and happiness with one's identity."

I think this may qualify as irony.

* Emmer, by the way, has tried to repeal the Minimum Wage laws in Minnesota (probably why Target and Best Buy are fans), allow pharmacists to refuse to sell contraceptives (not just morning after pills, contraceptives) and he's tried to soften anti-drunk driving laws (which seems odd until you read about his guilty plea for DWI). Sounds like a real prince.
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One of my favorite jazz albums is Money Jungle, a trio album with Max Roach and Charles Mingus backing up some guy named Duke Ellington.

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So the current hubbub about the Civil War, specifically about VA's Governor declaring April Confederate History Month. The defenders of the Governor's actions (basically to ignore the role of slavery in the origins of the conflict, then when called on it issue a wishy-washy quasi-apology) generally default to one specific defense: It was about States' Rights.

Utter Bullshit.

I direct you to the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. In it the South managed to get Federal law passed requiring non-slave states to return escaped slaves, regardless the states' own laws. So the South used Federal Law to force the North to participate in the slave economy and, in the case of law enforcement, become human traffickers.

The South was perfectly happy to use Federal Law to trump that of local law, be it state, county or city, in pursuit of the furtherance of slavery. Then when it was clear the tide had turned in Federal Government they claimed States' Rights? Hooey.

And anyone claiming that, anyone asserting the South was fighting for some Jeffersonian Principle of Democracy rather than fighting to keep human beings as property, is either ignorant of the truth or lying.

And in case anyone was wondering, the debate about States' Rights vs. Federal Government over [insert individual cause here] is nearly as specious.

Abortion opponents push for State law to ban abortion but are also trying for a Federal ban with the realization some states will never go their way. Environmentalists or their sympathizers (like, say, Me) see California's State legislation on the subject as superseding weaker Federal law but want Federal stronger to force other states to regulate coal plant emissions. On pretty much every side of the fence we care about our issues more than we care about a particular theory of government, and that hasn't changed. I'd say there's nothing wrong with that.

What is a problem is using those theories to justify an armed revolt that killed over half a million soldiers when even a cursory look at history contradicts you.
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"Americans are like fish that can't see water. Although human life requires the constant support of complex surroundings, most people in the United States do not consciously notice their everyday environments. Universal schooling in science and dozens of television nature programs have begun to sensitize Americans to animals and ecosystems. Yet, even Americans with advanced degrees rarely have concepts for pondering, discussing, or evaluating their cultural environments. These people are in danger of being poor appreciators and managers of their surroundings."

Paul Groth, "Frameworks for Cultural Landscape Study," from the book Understanding Ordinary Landscapes, Groth & Bressi, editors.

For these purposes (and to quote Professor Groth again) the word "landscape" denotes "the interaction of people and place: a social group and its spaces, particularly the spaces to which the group belongs and from which its members derive some part of their shared identity and meaning."

As you might have guessed, I've decided to attempt to re-engage the part of my brain that thinks in terms of architecture's larger place in the city fabric. I've been largely housebound for the last year, and I need to allow the city to reassert itself on my thinking patters, even if only in an academic sense.

While I was at Berkeley I only managed to take one class with Professor Groth, but it was awesome. (I use his title not out of obligation, but respect. In class he had us call him Paul.) This was the oft-referenced Summer class, all day on Fridays. Seven hours of class in one day, but it was the least punishing, most enjoyable experience of my college career (undergrad or grad school) because each class was a day-long walking tour of some chunk of the Bay Area. And we looked at everything in our path. Ethnic churches of all stripes. Coffee houses. Apartments. Parks. Everything from monuments to hovels to suburban tract homes, and it all threaded together into a narrative we only barely began to explore by the end of the semester.

I need to get those eyes back. If I still can.
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Leno's ratings will exceed those of Conan O'Brien.


Not because he's better.
Not because he's funnier.
Not because he was popular in the first place.

Because he won't be facing the handicap O'Brien faced.

Leno's ratings will exceed those of Conan O'Brien because he won't have to follow the Jay Leno Show at 10pm.


Jan. 11th, 2010 09:12 pm
wileypeter: (Doomed!)
Rest in peace, Miep Gies
wileypeter: (Erosion)
So, I'm not much of a journaller of late. There are a couple reasons for that.

First & foremost, by day I take care of my son, and evenings and weekends I do in-home sales, which means I have little time to compose anything of a level I'd want to post.

This also means I have not a whole lot I want to post. The minutiae of parenthood, while rewarding, makes for less than compelling reading. The little I do want to post about it I forget while cleaning up after a diaper change and *whoops* it's almost 2010. The job is simultaneously painful and boring, and utterly purposeless. (My poor sales pitch carries that over to the financial side as well. I'm shocked I still work there.) As well, they have a "no blogging" clause I signed, so unless I reach the status of disgruntled ex-employee I don't see a point in pissing them off for what little reward I'd get venting.

Sales job & new child aside, were I to express the remaining thoughts I'd use up my yearly quota of expletives in about two weeks. Really. The state of the world, at least the bit in which I live, is not conducive to polite contemplation.

One reason? Politics. I'm not going to bore you with whats and whys, but I find myself yelling (quietly, so as not to upset my son) at the TV, at websites, and at chain emails I receive. The volume level for the endemic stupidity of the population seems to be stuck on eleven and it's giving me a headache and making me all sorts of cranky.

Another? Architecture. Or rather, my inability to find gainful employment therein. I realize it's no real fault of mine, save my astoundingly bad timing in entering the profession now. 2008 was really bad for architecture. Every construction job you saw go away? The architects lost their jobs about six months before that, if not a bit earlier. And now two different people have sent me this link:

9 Professions That Saw Most Job Losses in 2009

WooHoo! We're Number One! Woo...oh, wait.

Yes, the folks I sent resumes to this year fired/laid off/downsized a greater percentage of their workforce than any other industry.

Like I said, nothing but expletives. The article does say the industry ought to see about 10% job growth, which means I'll only be competing with all the firees from 2008 and a little under half the firees from 2009. So, woohoo for me!

Here's a sincere hope that 2010 is much better than we have any right to expect it to be. For all of us.

Be well.
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Or rather, it came to a screeching halt when I actually engaged the issue.

What? A relative sent me one of those "THIS IS THE TERRIBLE STUFF HIDDEN IN THE HEALTHCARE PLAN!!!!!!!!!!!" emails. So I scoffed, as I am wont to do, and was then sent the plan itself with a "Read it!" admonition. Fair enough, though I'd actually read it once already. So I went through point by point for the first third of the email and either A) pointed out that the original emailer either was lying or hadn't read the passage they were citing, or B) for every "DEAR GOD!! THEY'RE TRYING TO INSTALL A ONE-WORLD GOVERNMENT" alarmist interpretation there was also a less histrionic, we-won't-have-to-wait-a-week-for-medical-records-so-we-can-be-treated interpretation.

Dead silence in return. I'm sure each of us thinks the other has drunk the Kool-Aid.

BUT! My point in posing this is to provide you with one simple litmus test as to the debate over the existing Congressional plan. Verbatim, from the email:

Page 50 Section 152 in HC bill: HC will be provided to ALL non-US citizens, illegal or otherwise.

The first words in Section 152 are:
"Except as otherwise explicitly per-
mitted by this Act"

Which leads us to page 143, where we find:
5 Nothing in this subtitle shall allow Federal payments
6 for affordability credits on behalf of individuals who are
7 not lawfully present in the United States.

So, it is "explicitly permitted by this act" to ban Illegals, and they are so banned. Period. That line of the email is an outright lie. It does provide a simple litmus test, though: Anyone citing that either hasn't read the whole document, distrusts the government to a degree that debate based on the document is a pointless exercise, or is, for reasons I won't speculate upon, not above lying to make a point. I get not wanting to read it (though I did so before now). I get the distrust, though it makes citing negatives pointless, as they carry no more weight than the parts that discount them. Lying about it, though...

In retrospect, I'm not too surprised the debate ended there. It's more diplomatic than I'd wanted to be in the first place, but on rereading it the wording isn't kind to the overly-credulous FOX viewer. Which would describe the emailer...
wileypeter: (Erosion)
The G.O.P., in its infinite benificence, is talking of putting forward an amendment to the Constitution limiting Congress to a maximum of 12 years, both House of Representatives and Senate. I have a few thoughts on the matter.

First! The G.O.P. is so often heard to say government ought to be run like a business. I've never really agreed, in that I don't see where profit ought to be a motive for a public institution, but let's go with that. Now, what business in its right mind fires experienced workers that don't get any more pay than a new hire? Epically stupid, bad business sense and lousy governance.

Second! We already have term limits. They are called elections. You may be familiar with the concept. Now, color me reactionary but I'm not all that sure telling the electorate they can choose anyone but that person, the one they clearly already chose more than once for a reason seems somehow antithetical to a free and open democracy, even a representative one like ours. Put up a qualified candidate and I'll consider them. I've voted for incumbents and I've voted them out.

It's a short, short trip from "You're too stupid to vote for anyone but the incumbent, so we're taking away that option," to "You're too stupid to vote, so we're taking away that option." Gentlemen and Ladies of the G.O.P. establishment, if you don't like who gets elected either run better candidates or leave the damn country. Pick an option. Either one's fine with me.
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Yes. My wife bought him a Lion suit, so I suggested she be a Witch. I was, by default, the Wardrobe.
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In late August the FBI indeed raided the duplex next door to us. We were out. We got home to, like, twenty unmarked police vehicles, lights on in every room, agents in vests reading FBI and IRS-CID rummaging through the dressers and closets (all visible through the open curtains 10' away from our bedroom). We were only told we had no cause for concern at that point. No info about the raid (big surprise).


Last week the matter became considerably more public:
Like here.
And here.
Also here.
Plus this.
And this

So. A drug trafficker connected to the local Crips ... excuse me ... an alleged drug trafficker connected to the local Crips was living next door, and moving $300,000 of cocaine through a month. It'd be easy to say something like, "You know, I always wondered what was up there. I knew they were up to something." Technically I did wonder what was up, but not really any more so than with any other neighbor. In fact, I met one of the guys supposed to be involved, Larry Matthews. He seemed neighborly. I had no idea. If indeed the whole thing turns out to be what it seems to be I can't honestly say anything other than I thought one of the younger folks next door needed to stop using our back yard as a path to the street.

I realize my house is on a relatively major street, but the neighborhood's not terribly bad. Next door? Really?
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Landscape Architecture has lost one of the few true giants of the profession this week. Lawrence Halprin died at age 94 this past Sunday.

For those of you unfamiliar with him, some of his more notable works include Stern Grove Amphitheater, Ghirardelli Square and Levi Plaza in San Francisco, Sproul Plaza at UC Berkeley, the FDR Memorial in Washington, D.C., Nicollet Mall in Minneapolis and the overall plan for the massively influential Sea Ranch development.

Here in Portland Halprin wove Lovejoy Plaza, Ira Keller Fountain and Pettygrove Park through the South Auditorium area. Had the urban renewal scheme surrounding them been anywhere nearly as well planned or designed the developments would have been the jewel of Portland. As it is, the parks still shine even when the adjacent buildings are flat and dull.

He was at the forefront of landscape design even before he opened his own firm, working for Thomas Church on Donnell Garden, the prototypical California landscape (complete with the prototypical kidney-shaped pool). He opened his own firm in 1949 and was active (though less prolific) up to his death. Sixty years, and he was always doing important work.

His wife, Anna Halprin, holds as lofty a place in post-modern dance as Lawrence did in Landscape, and the two fed each other's creative impulses over the course of a 68 year marriage. Just this past May, Anna choreographed a piece dedicated to her husband, "Spirit of Place," performed in Stern Grove by (among others) the amazing Shinichi Iova-Koga.

One half of that partnership is gone, now, as is a man who shaped how many people see and feel the spaces around them. The works, though, those spaces, those are still here. For me, right now, that's enough.

I'll be visiting Ira Keller Fountain soon.
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This one goes out to Mr. Charles Durning. No, he’s not dead. At least not to my knowledge. I just wanted to salute him.

When he appears at the door in the original When A Stranger Calls you honestly don’t know if he’s the killer or an arriving cop. His eyes are dead, and it’s no small amount of creepy. He makes the burnt-out detective utterly believable, and between them he and Carol Kane elevate what might be a cheap potboiler to some real suspense.

That same year, Durning was Doc Hopper, the villain stalking Kermit The Frog in The Muppet Movie. Oily, unctuous and determined to force Kermit to hawk Doc’s French Fried Froglegs, he is nonetheless able to dial the menace down enough for a kids’ movie. (An aside: The Muppet Movie also featured Carol Kane in a recurring joke bit.)

Durning is equally skilled at playing an intolerant, by-the-numbers priest, an enjoyably slimy politician, or Santa Claus. He’s always fun to watch.

But beyond his acting, I want to salute Charles Durning the Veteran. Durning was drafted during WWII. He went ashore at Omaha Beach on D-Day. In the course of the Allied Campaign he was wounded three times. The last time was when he and his unit were taken prisoner by a column of SS, marched out into a field, and summarily shot near Malmedy*. Durning was one of about forty survivors out of roughly 120 prisoners, and was later returned to the scene by Allied authorities to help identify the dead. It took years to recover from the physical wounds. I can only imagine what kind of psychological toll it must have taken.

Here’s to you, sir. Thank you for your service, and thank you for the great movies.

*Which I suppose means it was Durning that Bill O'Reilly accused of war crimes for, you know, being a victim of a war crime.
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