An Otherworld

An Otherworld

I'm not "Trading"

by Daniel R. Hirtler on 01/28/11

It is a week since Keith Olbermann was fired from MSNBC, and I still feel the loss of his perspective; it helped me cope with the disgusting nation we have become. My boycott of MSNBC, NBC, and Comcast has created an information black-out for me, which has had the effect of insulating me from needing to see our fellow citizens' appalling behavior, and I am calmer because of it.

Sadly, one cannot be left alone indefinitely; I received an email with a link to an article written by Leslie Griffith from Reader Supported News, whose perspective it was that it was time to say goodbye to Keith Olbermann since he had devolved into a personality, like Glenn Beck, who inflames the public. She finished up by suggesting that Fox sacrifice Glenn Beck in trade. What shit!

First of all, There is nothing wrong with inflaming the public, as long as you speak the truth. Keith Olbermann did tell us the truth, and often qualified the truth he was telling us.

Second, his perspective is not one which is easily found in the Mainstream Media, and we are all bombarded by media, and our subconscience is affected by it. Even public broadcasting is so afraid of being defunded that they are so careful not to say anything that moves against the current social tide. Without media that supports our self image, our self image languishes in self-doubt, or worse, in desperation.

Third, who gave Leslie Griffith the right to trade my icon for another that many would like to see disappear? It wasn't enough that Countdown had good ratings in competition for its time slot, now my icon is subject to the forces that want to silence dissent? I am sooo over being american! I share citizenship with a crew of ignorant, selfish, boorish bastards (and I mean that literally), most of whom are not even benefitting by the selfishness they support.

I am not willing to take what the mainstream culture is offering. I expect my culture to be tolerant, inclusive, progressive; not hypocritical, not bigoted, not destructive.

Individual silence under these circumstances is equal to participation, and I am not going to participate (or for that matter negotiate) with the antisocial behavior that is being a 21st century american. 

Sighting of the Empty Ness Monster

by Daniel R. Hirtler on 01/21/11

During the past couple of days, I have felt that all the stuff I have inside of me which needed to get out had actually even gotten away. Of course this has left me lonely, and wondering what what internal friends I should make next.

While I was in this state, I found a project to occupy myself which involved computer graphics. The project depended on using the graphic tools which I have access to, to communicate information to another person who was to make something from the graphics. The subject matter needed to be transmitted accurately, and the art needed to be changeable enough that the finished work would be a success, even though there was a minimal control over the process. Still waiting for the product to appear, I think the project will be a success.

During the process, I had to acquire some new skills with the tools I use: how to fracture graphics in files to convert the parts to the needed form; how to work around incompatibilities between computers; and how to see the components of the graphic to be able to present them differently in the cases where incompatibilities occur.

This morning, while having my coffee in the presence of an art installation of digital manipulations, it occurred to me how my understanding of the pieces and interactions that compose those pictures was really incomplete. I opened my graphics program to see exactly what one can do with a photo to merge graphics and mold them. I was in a good state of mind, evidently, because some of the structures of the graphics program that I never understood became clear to me, and I can now manipulate images in a more flexible and conscious way.

Happily, there is another something inside of me that I can occupy myself with figuring out how to let go.

Precession of the Equinox Idiot

by Daniel R. Hirtler on 01/14/11

So they are starting to degrade magickal thought the same as they have been doing to ordinary thought...jerks!

Shifting the astrological signs and adding a new one is an error based in a complete misunderstanding of astrology itself. Proposing a whole new cosmology could be a reasonable proposition, however, arbitrarily gumming up an old one only serves to disable it.

First, astrology is not based in the stars; we use the constellations to mark the position of our earth to the sun and the other planets, and it is that relationship which is associated with qualities of our sensible world. the marking of the astrological signs is out of sync with the constellations because of the precession of the equinox, where every 2000 years or so, the constellations move one twelfth of a revolution out of sync with the images we have associated with the constellation markers. The qualities do not change; adustments are made in reading the markings; the disparity grows over time.

Second, the division of qualities into a system of twelve serves us to integrate the magick of our number system, our languge, and other psychological patterns into a system of understanding and prediction that the number thirteen can never parallel.

Obviously, if astrology is used to give people a cocktail party badge, then it does not matter what the system is, because people take any such badge and mold themselves to it. In fact, the less identifiable the badge is, the more comfortable it is to wear. Leaving astrology at knowing only a sun sign is like that now, however, cocktail conversation is not the purpose of astrology.

On the sinister side, just as the degradation of literacy, the elimination of vocabulary, and the fungibility of definition has made intelligible conversation more difficult each following day, scrambling ancient systems of knowledge to destroy correct record keeping, and to make understanding and predictions based on them trivial, is making the world a less safe, and less controllable place for ordinary people to occupy and in which to try to live.

Point of View

by Daniel R. Hirtler on 01/13/11

I am reading a book about the the conditions of living within a civil war, in Belfast, Northern Ireland in the 1980s. It is creepy to see the similarities between that dysfuctional environment and ours, in the United States after the first decade of the twenty-first century. All the methods of dividing people, extra-legal actions of the government including torture, the deliberate antisocial and partisan actions of the just about everyone, and the use of unchecked violent speech to incite violence are just some of the parallels between that time and place, and ours. The result of their condition was ungovernability at all levels from cultural to personal.

At the same time that I sense that I am reading about our time and place in this book, it also strikes me that, because of the universality of the human condition, that any story mirrors all times and places, if the hearer of the story choses to let it. Having just finished a biography of Montaigne, the description of the french religious civil wars of the late 1500s sounds much the same as the story I am reading now.

In both those stories, the plot is violent. I bet there would be a relief of the emergency we feel at this moment, and an attendant change in the world around us, if we sought stories about these issues where human beauty, trust and strength were the focus, rather than temporal power.

National Insanity

by Daniel R. Hirtler on 01/12/11

Yesterday's proposition that the way to control the frequent gun massacres that occur in this country is neither to control access to multiple firing weapons and their ammunition, nor controlling hate speech in our culture through cultural disapproval, but rather to treat the mentally ill medically, so that they will not react to the hate speech using automatic weapons is a sign that our society is, itself, insane, and cannot manage its own affairs any longer. 

How to Live

by Daniel R. Hirtler on 01/11/11

A friend of mine sent me a biography of Montaigne told through the guidance offered through the Essays of how to live well. Living well is defined, in this case, as how to exist with a stronger and stronger connection to one's humanity. The biography, and the Essays, which I plan to read next, seem to explain something comforting about rich existence which should be more obvious than it is. Our humanity is multi-dimensional with much depth in each dimension. In order to experience it in its grandeur, we need to live in it as it comes to us, and hold back our minds from constructing a simplified, poorer version of it in which to live instead.

Reparing netting

by Daniel R. Hirtler on 01/07/11

I heard John Boehner profess to be in favor of our country maintaining a social safety net for those who cannot compete, but not available to those who refuse to compete. Aside from the fact that this assertion is not borne out by his and other Republicans' other statements and actions, it made me think about the social safety net itself and the cliche it has become.

First the cliche; having been asserted somewhat recently as the name for those programs that we have put in place to protect ourselves from economic hardship, it is important to realize that the name itself leads to a skewed thinking about such programs. Unemployment insurance is obligatory insurance, like auto insurance. There really is nothing social about it. Payments are made in, and in the event of particular conditions of unemployment, one is entitled to payments during the unemployment for a stated period of time. As with all insurance, it is possible to take more out of the system than goes in, but even then, that is the bet that is insurance. People who are covered by unemployment insurance need to have been employed during the previous statutory period, and after the statutory time ends, the payments end; need doesn't figure into it. Extending the time period of benefits at certain times does not change this basic concept.

Welfare has receded into some murky place, with lifetime caps to support it will provide, if I understand anything about what it is today...Food stamps might be a help, in the nature of a social program, but, if I understand it correctly, one uses it to increase buying power; it is not a system to eliminate hunger.

The thing that interested me most was the talk that I heard about this social safety net during the Christmas holiday. As the extension of unemployment benefits seemed to be in jeopardy, people would talk about the extreme sadness of that happening at Christmastime, because the tradition of gifts and celebration would be taken from these people. The issue is really, cutting off anybody's income stream at any time leads to homelessness and hunger. A social mind would see that immediately.

The way we count the unemployed (remember we count the jobless instead of the people in need). Those who stop the active search for work cease to be counted. They become the unadvertised poor. People who take jobs that cannot support them are not counted. It would appear, as we look at the people we intend to catch in the safety net, to be dragged to social safety, that it is more about protecting the property of people in danger of falling out of the system, rather than protecting the people (men, women, children) themselves. Once they lose their stuff, we cease to even count them as a problem.

We do this because that severe loss for our neighbors, emperils our own personal position, our hold on to our own stuff, and our safety within the society as competitors, not because we actually care about what happens to our neighbor as a human being.

Continued Camping, eating in style

by Daniel R. Hirtler on 01/06/11

After finding a rightful place for oneself, establishing access to the means to perform basic living functions in peace is the next order of business in transcending mere existence. First to be discussed is making a place to prepare and consume food soulfully.

Whereas homelessness, and homemaking are equally the object of questions about living well, recreational camping gives us a louder clue as to the basic qualities of making a good place to eat. In recreational camping, the issue of finding a rightful place has already been accomplished, and one's personal condition is not desperate or hurried. Eating is admitted to be one of the high points of a camping trip.

As eating becomes a social event, its role in existence pushes to move into the realm of living. Social eating requires a structured relationship between the food, and each of the people in the group. The more unified the event, the fuller the experience becomes. A table or a blanket, set up at an adequate size and arrangement to allow the whole group to sit and eat comfortably, would be the binding feature of the meal. Presentation, and access to the food over this surface in ways that makes it psychologically accessible and consumable permits the focus of the group to move to the qualities of the meal, and the kinship with the others of the group. After a successful social meal, the whole person is satisfied.

Preparation of healthful and memorable food requires a surface to clean, arrange, and alter it to become something that will attract the group as well as nourish it. Tools to carry out the preparation tasks are important, but, just as important is the size, arrangement and access to the surface on which the preparation is to be done. Camping accentuates this need in that there may not be an existing feature that meets it, and an element such as the blanket of a picnic will not work as a good food preparation surface. The usual picnic solution is to carry food which is already prepared (this is the homeless, and busy worker solution as well).

A place to cleanly and safely store the materials for the meal is required. Guarding the material personally is the lowest level to be achieved, having defensible containers is the better approach. Perishable food needs a container that can have its temperature controlled adequately.

There needs to be a way to clean the tools vessels and food. This should be a clean place to rest the material to be cleaned and access to clean water (hot water and detergent perhaps).

Making a flat, level cleanable surface at a comfortable work height, with access to it on all sides allows the preparation of food to be a social activity. Preferably there would be a single surface of this type. There should be a receptacle to collect waste material from the preparation.

If the food is to be cooked, (and if hot water wants to be produced for cleaning), a source of heat under a level grate would be useful.

Each of these elements is separate and, when camping, it matters very little what the spacial relationship is between them, because the number of meals and the responsibility for making them is not endlessly repeated. The best, most enjoyable meal will come from each of these elements being well created.

The same can be said for the occasional party meal in someone's home. If each of these elements, to prepare as well as to eat can be created, then the party will be a success for all. Those elements which are lacking will degrade the quality of the party to the extent that it disrupts the desired effect.

Ordinary meals, in the interior of a home, if they are to enliven those in the home, have the added challenge of needing to work well outside of a social context. Often the meals are produced by one person, alone. Directness of preparation substitutes for the social enlivenment of the party, when one is cooking alone. This means being able to interract with the food without alot of extraneous actions so that the actual transformations in the food can be one's company. The materials should be easy to find and lay out; there should be an easy way to clean the materials; there should be adequate space to transform the food; a heat source with workspace around it to change the food in that way; and a place to gather it together in vessels to be brought to the table. Each of the elements should be usable at the time they are needed, even when others of the preparation activities are happening at the same time.

Enlivened eating inside a home requires a surface around which all who eat together can sit, facing each other, with enough space on the surface to hold the vessels of food, as well as the plates and implements to serve each diner comfortably. An additional element of an indoor dinner is circulation. Each diner should be able to access their spot at the table without the help of other diners.

Most of us think we know what it takes to perform our life functions well, modelled on things we have seen, but I would argue that simply modelling a new behavior on one that has been shown to work, does not always yield intended results if the components, the context, and the intent are not consciously understood and reproduced too. Living, instead of merely existing, requires that that understanding be made, and in our own existences, it would help us all to see what is common, good and essential in all the things we do.


by Daniel R. Hirtler on 01/05/11

For awhile, I have been considering the components of dwelling, to determine the base level at which one goes from Existence to Life. One understands that it is possible to exist homelessly, and it should follow that one can live at the level of complexity of a house or apartment. We see examples of the opposite often enough to make one wonder what minimal external accommodations are needed to sustain a rich life.

I think the primary element which would permit a satisfactory life is a rightful place, meaning a place that one can safely stop and rest . Without this need being met, it is impossible to consider any of life's higher issues.

The second most important element which would open up the possibility of a happy life is the access to the means to perform basic functions like eating, bathing, and sleeping in peace. Following this closely, would be a way to moderate one's immediate environment to a level of comfort. Fourth, would be access to privacy. Finally, the possibility to secure one's possessions would complete the conditions that could open up the possibility for a happy dwelling. Lacking any of these qualities would add resistance to one's existence. Adding more to these qualities could likewise add resistance to an otherwise happy life.

These are the qualities we can understand when we talk about camping, but looking at our home lives in a similar, reduced way might help us throw away the extra expectations that we accumulate along the road of existence. Meeting these simple needs with style rather than seeing how much support we can afford might direct us more directly to a full, happy life.


Nurturing Skill

by Daniel R. Hirtler on 01/04/11

I have been reading a book on small houses by Ernest Flagg, "Flagg's Small Houses, Their Economic Design and Construction, 1922". It is a fascinating book, at first for the drawings, and second for the proposition in the text, of an architect's world, entirely self contained, which, in addition to drawing and writing about, he seems to have made real, on Staten Island.

The premise is at best local, if not entirely delusional, in that his idea of "economic" differs from "economical" in its current usage today. His conception of small refers to architectural scale, rather than total size, and these houses are run by servants, so the economies talked about are not economies of necessity.

The drawings are amazing, in their penmanship, their layout, method of scaling, and conceptual completeness. The conceptual completeness hides that there are any number of geometric difficulties with the 3 dimensional forms as they are drawn in some of the designs, but the idea of altering the way residential design is presented on one sheet of paper, as a complete and large idea, able to be taken and built with all its architectural planning issues resolved is wonderful to see.

The drawings are schematic in their design, but the text of the book describes the method of thinking about their planning, construction and use. Seeing the whole together, they form a complete idea of houses which are tied to their culture and time as well as their site. Flagg presents his idea as somehow universal, although all the designs are planned for a single development on Staten Island.

Flagg designed these houses to have exterior walls made of a stone and concrete composite, where the stone facing was positioned inside a slip form as the concrete which would lock it in place was poured behind them. He made a point of describing the labor used to set the stones in the form as unskilled labor. The only consideration he stipulated as important was that the flattest side of the stone be placed against the face of the form. The resulting locked stone face would be pointed, assumably by more skilled workmen, although he minimized the difficulty, even of this step.

I have used a similar system to his, in my library project in Burdett, to make the rubble exterior walls. The difference was that my walls did not have any human arrangement to the material as it was put into the forms. Mine had some of the same intent as his; to reduce the construction time and to permit me to build the walls with people who did not have any of the necessary building skills before they started on the project. The people who helped me became skilled in this process as the walls progressed, just as Flagg's people must have become quite good at building his stone walls.

I do wonder about the motivation of reducing tasks in building to the point where they require only minimal skill. Is it to be able to govern the workers with minimal oversight? Is it to compress all needed knowledge into an amount that can be held by one or a couple capable persons, to be doled out as necessary to people who are not invited to to become connected with their work?

I think that the role of the architect in building is to be a repository for building methods and their reason, and that workers of general knowledge and skill in building should be employed to make particular buildings. The architect should be able to coach the workers to enhance their general skill to particular ones, to realise a well-built building while maintaining and enhancing the body of skills in the working population for the future. Stinginess in employing knowledge is a  false economy.