Thursday, September 27, 2007

Money As Debt

Moving on from the Credit Crunch post I made the other day, I'd like to post in this video called Money As Debt by Paul Grignon. I can never get people interested in Monetary Reform, but perhaps if you spend 47 minutes with this we could start a conversation?

More Resources on the Money As Debt page.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Only Maybe

In continuation from previous post, I suspect that my shrug annoys people a lot, and they mistake my study group for a bunch of people who can't make up their minds!

The Maybe Logic Academy has nothing to do with indecisiveness ("Do you want to go to the party?" "Maybe, I'll see if I feel like it nearer the time" "Grrr, just say Yes or No!") and more to do with realizing that the world does not easily resolve into Good/Bad, Right/Wrong, Left/Right, etc, etc. The concerted attack on false certainty that we mount has more to do with preferring if people showed a little humility in their judgement, and accepted the possibility that other views might prove equally valid or more likely, etc.

"Maybe the evangelical religions start most of the wars"..."maybe human activity causes global warming" (it seems fairly likely that it contributes to it) "maybe smoking causes cancer"...

Stated that way, investigation and the assignment of probabilities becomes possible. "Maybe aliens visit our planet" "maybe the rich and powerful are actually giant lizards" (low probabilities, but not impossibilities, in my view). "Maybe there 'is' a God". Of course, then we have to query the word 'is'. Korzybski, and General Semantics, tackled this very subject.

You could also say 'in my opinion', or 'from my point of view' to acknowledge that looking out from your particular nervous system, with your own set of past experiences, and through the grid of your language and culture...such and such a thing may appear 'true' (well, very probable), to you.

A Chinese farmer had just one horse, and one day it ran away. The villagers all said how unlucky he was.

"Maybe," he said.

A few days later, his horse returned, leading a herd of wild horses into his corral.

The villagers all exclaimed how lucky he was.

"Maybe," he said.

Having so many horses around encouraged his rather reckless son to learn to ride, and he fell off and broke his leg.

The villagers told the man how unlucky he was.

"Maybe," he said.

Shortly after that a war broke out in a distant province, and all the able-bodied young men got sent off to fight. Thanks to the broken leg, the farmer's son was excluded from call-up.

Robert Anton Wilson expressed all this a lot more clearly than I can - both in his writing and in interviews. Here's a sample:

Maybe Logic is a label that got stuck on my ideas by filmmaker Lance Bauscher. I decided it fits. I certainly recognize the central importance in my thinking -- or in my stumbling and fumbling efforts to think -- of non-Aristotelian systems. That includes von Neumann's three-valued logic [true, false, maybe], Rappoport's four-valued logic [true, false, indeterminate, meaningless], Korzybski's multi-valued logic [degrees of probability.] and also Mahayana Buddhist paradoxical logic [it "is" A. it "is" not A, it "is" both A and not A, it "is" neither A nor not A].

But, as an extraordinarily stupid fellow, I can't use such systems until I reduce them to terms a simple mind like mine can handle, so I just preach that we'd all think and act more sanely if we had to use "maybe" a lot more often. Can you imagine a world with Jerry Falwell hollering "Maybe Jesus 'was' the son of God and maybe he hates Gay people as much as I do" -- or every tower in Islam resounding with "There 'is' no God except maybe Allah and maybe Mohammed is his prophet"?

The Snafu law holds that, the greater your power to punish, the less factual feedback you will receive. If you can fire people for telling you what you don't want to hear, you will only hear what you want. This law seems to apply to all authoritarian contraptions, especially governments and corporations. Concretely, I suspect Bozo knows factually less about the world than any dogcatcher in Biloxi.

The Cosmic Schmuck law holds that [1] the more often you suspect you may be thinking or acting like a Cosmic Schmuck, the less of a Cosmic Schmuck you will become, year by year, and [2] if you never suspect you might think or act like a Cosmic Schmuck, you will remain a Cosmic Schmuck for life.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Oh Really?

I have always had a rather quietist approach to life, trying to accept both highs and lows without attachment. My heroes remain people like Hakuin. I should rework the story in my own words, but will act lazy for now, and just grab one online version:

There was a great Zen Master Hakuin who lived in a small hut, doing zazen. He was greatly revered in the village and known as a wise and saintly man. One day a village girl became pregnant. The father of the baby left town and she was alone and frightened. As she did not know what else to do, she told the entire village that Master Hakuin was the father.
All the townspeople were shocked. They stopped bringing food and offerings. Instead of praising Haikuin now they blamed him.
"You are the worst of all beings," they said.
"Is that so?" replied Hakuin.
The baby was born then the village girl brought the child to Hakuin to be cared for. "This baby is yours," she said. "Is that so?" Hakuin said and took the baby gladly.
Hakuin cared for the baby lovingly for several years. Then, one day, the father of the baby returned to the village and wanted to marry the mother and take back the baby. They told everybody the truth about what happened.
The people were astonished. They all began to praise Master Hakuin and return to his hut with offerings.
"Is that so?" said Master Hakuin.
Soon after that the couple returned for the baby. "Is that so?" Master Hakuin murmured and gave them their child lovingly.

Such an approach to life does not endear me to the pro-active, ambitious modern type of person at all, at all. I suspect many see it as laziness, or slacking, or wishy-washy hippie shit (going with the flow, man), but I have always found it the best approach for me. My attempts at planning or controlling or choosing have often ended in laughter, chaos, etc - but rarely taken me to an outcome I would have chosen. The shrug seems important - whether abandoned on a beach with no passport or money and thousands of miles from 'home', or treated as a star-for-a-day.

Universe, however, seems to have a sense of fairness (and maybe a sense of humour) and has given me plum jobs (film work) and sometimes left me by the side of the road...I rarely visualise the future, beyond expecting the unexpected. Hey ho. When Universe doesn't need me any more it may toss me aside like a straw dog. I would expect no less. While I can offer some service, I expect just enough to live on...and the 'environment' seems to do that for me.

Magical thinking, perhaps.

And no sooner do I mention universe, and nature's indifference to human plans, than I hear that Christine Hewett has died. Sad to hear that. We did not know each other back in filming days (she was one of the Tonnika Sisters in Star Wars), but met several times at conventions, and she was a charming woman. She did seem fairly frail last time I saw her, but it still comes as a shock. My thoughts go out to her partner, her family and her friends.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Credit Crunch

Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

George Santayana

The overspend of the last few years, the enormous debt of the West living way beyond its means, has finally started to come unravelled in the UK.

Of course, as money is entirely a confidence game (in both meanings of the word) 'they' will continue to talk up the situation (to try to avoid further panic) but it sounds less and less convincing all the time.

I don’t write this merely as a hippie anarchist anti-capitalist (whatever that might mean) but as someone who doesn’t even believe in money (or what Robert Anton Wilson calls bio-survival tickets). That doesn’t mean I can survive long without them, of course, but I don’t have to believe in them. Bucky described wealth in terms of the number of future days it would 'buy' you.

"Wealth is our organized capability to cope effectively with the environment in sustaining our healthy regeneration and decreasing both the physical and metaphysical restrictions of the forward days of our lives."

Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth - Chapter VI Bucky Fuller

Just before Bob died we invented a currency for him - called 'Patatows, for various obscure reasons to do with Irishness and Joycean puns - RAW patatows, in fact. The most excellent Bobby designed them, and we put some into circulation. They have any value that his fans might give them. [see the RAW Deal blog posting - for other cash whimsy, from Duchamp to Boggs, from Warhol to Emperor Norton]

Ultimately, the bill is not a dollar at all, at most a representation of it. The bill is real, but the dollar itself is an abstraction… just like God. Indeed, it is remarkable how fundamentally modern monetary systems are grafted onto religion. According to Boggs the invention of both money and God date from the same era, and the traces are still visible in our own days. Just think of the double meaning of words like "redeem," or the root of the word "credit"--it is a direct derivative of the Latin word for believing. The side of Dutch coins reads "God Is With Us," while "In God We Trust" is printed on American bills.

BoB (as treasurer) even signed a few rare notes, and auctioned them on eBay (to help pay his rent and medical bills). It doesn’t seem that bizarre to me. I sign photos and trade them for small profit. However, most people seem to believe (even in this day and age when cash hardly comes into most transactions) that money exists in some sense. You might as well try to disillusion them as tell the Judeo-Christian-Muslim lot that not only do they all worship the same book /story, but that God is a concept, by which we measure - pain. My philosophical/religious education (say the word ‘spiritual’ and I reach for my metaphorical revolver) came entirely from teaching tales, folk tales, parables, myths, legends, and all the tools of the storyteller’s trade.

Somewhere in a cave, Ug borrows three rocks…and promises to bring them back later. As Ig has a lot of rocks (and therefore a lot of friends) Ug scratches three slashes in a soft piece of clay, for Ig to keep as a reminder.

Later on, Ig is playing knucklestone with OOg and as he didn’t bring all his rocks with him, trades the little clay tablet for his bet.

And so off it wanders, this little clay promissory note, wandering down the years and across the plains. In the desert it seems high value (no rocks around here, I’ll give you a camel for it!) Eventually, an Eskimo, who needs some rocks to hold down the edge of his tent, tries to cash it in for rocks. No rocks on an iceflow! Ug is long dead, and the rocks have all ground to sand.
We've come to take our rocks back
So this morning, we see the first ‘run on the bank’ at Northern Rock. People queuing around the block, to be handed yet another piece of paper! It would seem laughable if it didn’t seem so serious…not quite hyperinflation yet...(when burning banknotes to keep warm is easier than trying to buy fuel). Bizarrely, you can see pictures of the queues of desperate people on the front of every daily paper in the UK, but their website stays up calmly offering to lend you vast sums of money, that you can pay back over the next 25 years. heh. Magic, or indeed magick. Those 'economists' and market players (a voodoo 'science' at best) continue to try to shore up the levees, or hold the card castle together, but it sounds more and more vacuous to me.

Of course, most people don’t think pension schemes spend all their money on skyscrapers with smoked glass walls, and then go bankrupt. Most people don’t think Insurance firms could just turn around and refuse to pay (Act of God! Oh, you smoke, that invalidates your claim…) or that banks (having lent out over ten times what they actually ‘own’) could go broke.

And then the good news. When we find ourselves up to our knees in flood water (water water everywhere, and not a drop to drink) some guy has invented a portable bottle with an incredibly fine filter, that even stops viruses passing through. I guess you end up with pure water, with no chemicals like chlorine or iodine. They go on sale next week, (Thanks to Keili for that story). LifeSaver Systems.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Will it never end?

I flipped to the letters page of The Guardian today only to (sigh) find people discussing atheism and religion. Myself, having never had a god to get rid of, lose faith in, or deny, etc - I don't even define myself as an a-theist. Why would I describe myself in the negative? I'm not an a-Muslim, a-Christian, a-Zeus, a-Voudoun or anything like that. Just a sane, uncluttered modern human being. I don't even claim 'humanist' because that seems like human chauvinism (I don't think of us as the 'crown of creation' at all).

That doesn't make me a skeptic, a fundamentalist materialist, etc. I accept that universe still contains many mysteries...but I prefer to retain my capacity to accept that fact, rather than dash to some reassuring explanation with little evidence. In that sense, I agree with Dawkins (that the mysteries that science has explored and revealed seem sufficiently glorious for me, especially as they always lead to furthr mysteries) but I can see why his humourless zeal in trying to stop people 'being religious' puts some people off. It's that "I am right, and you are wrong" thing that zealots of both sides have.

Delightfully, one of the Guardian correspondents quoted something I often paraphrase in this situation:

Suppose one were to assert: The gostak distims the doshes. You do not know what this means; nor do I. But if we assume that it is English, we know that 'the doshes are distimmed by the gostak.' We know too that 'one distimmer of doshes is a gostak.' If moreover, the 'doshes are galloons,' we know that 'some galloons are distimmed by the gostak.' And so we may go on, and so we often do go on.
-- from "The Meaning of Meaning" by C.K.Ogden and I.A.Richards

And he concludes: That's Theology.

I found the quote quickly online at this rather wonderful collection of Paul McGuire's, who says:

So now that we have inferred that 'one distimmer of doshes is a gostak,' and that 'some galloons are distimmed by the gostak,' do we really know any more than we did at the start?

And although I don't believe in Gostak, I certainly don't waste my time calling myself an Agostak, and arguing with people who claim to believe in doshes, gostaks, galloons - and even more improbably attribute personality, intent, and the creation of the world to them! And murder people who don't share their belief.

I find all that behaviour quite incredible, but remember that Robert Anton Wilson always said we were living on The Planet of the Apes, and to be careful not to rile them up by challenging them.

Though Hitchens, Dawkins and Dennet seem to have put themselves in the front line, I liked Jonathan Miller's tv series best, of recent attempts to explain the sort of position I hold.

And if you remain unfamiliar with the work of Robert Anton Wilson (who manages to retain his sense of humour while ploughing through these issues, and avoids zealots of every persuasion of certainty) you will find him echoing The frammisgoshes should be distimmed in this piece of his on Wilhelm Reich.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Information Overload

I seem to have gotten busier and busier this year. I have less time to sit a read a book, and realise that some people have virtually no time to really read, or browse, or research, or click-through when on the Web.

I decided I needed a web presence (to grow old disgracefully) back in 2000 - and working in the library, and as content manager on a website, and studying in an online 'university', and teaching remotely (library staff), etc - means that I have become fairly fluent at navigating.

It doesn't mean I have improved my design and layout. The website has become the equivalent of a box of memorabilia in the attic - having started out with just a FrontPage 2000 template, and grown as I learned things. It is more like a coral reef of dead shells, with just a crust of new growth on the surface. To completely rebuild it would need a month off work! Now that I have a 4 Gb memory stick hanging around my neck, I can't even keep that organised (sigh).

Anyway - my assumption that people follow links, and click around may well prove unfounded.

Assume Nothing!

So, some people may remain completely unaware of the blog I use for my magic notes, or the Circus Arts Forum that I work on, or the creative group at the MLA that I have studied and worked with for the last three years (particularly Bobby Campbell - who I have collaborated with on some projects - and whose amazingly prolific output you can see samples of here)
Bobby's illustration of part of Joyce's Ulysses

Of course, like many people on the web, I have cultivated some sub-personalities (avatars) but I haven't tried to hide my trail or anything.

Just as (when I performed) I used my real name (unlike actors, who pretend to be someone else, variety acts pretend to be themselves) - so I tend to let people make the connections, if they choose to. This does lead to bizarre cross-overs, for instance, when Star Wars fans work out from research that I have a connection to NoFit State Circus, so send me mail at the circus PO Box address (I do wish they'd stop doing that, as mail can easily go astray in a long chain). On my front page I offer an email address to I am not hard to contact!

Back in the days I had access to The Stacks in the library (sadly no more)At the same time, please remember that I have a low paid job in a library, and have no desire to pay for pictures, mail costs, etc., just to keep other people happy. I'm not driving an SUV around my ranch, just because I had 6 weeks work on a film in 1982, and I don't work in show-biz any more, and don't have a publicity budget!

If people want a signed picture, I consider it reasonable that they at least cover the costs (and bear in mind I also have to go queue up at the Post Office, etc) even if they don't want to actually pay me for my signature! I agree it's a bizarre thing to do, but at the same time my sig goes on eBay for anything between £10-£60, so sending me (say) four pix to sign for free seems a bit pushy, expecting me to send them back at my own expense...some such communications I just ignore.

Sorry if I sound mean-spirited to some enterprising youth with a get-rich-quick scheme like blagging free pictures from all the Star Wars actors and selling them online! Sorry, kids, it's been done before, and we all got a bit wary. I don't even feel sure about the charity requests I get, either...even when I have sent a bunch of free pictures in the past I haven't had a word of thanks, which does make me suspicious...

I do get into a frivolous or generous mood at times, but sometimes not.

Jabba? Generous? I think not...

At the same time, I do make friends easily, I enjoy chatting and trading with people...and happily swap pictures for information, or old magazines, or DVDs of maiking-of, etc

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

You Gotta Move...

I know Julie doesn't appear in my blog much (and the website is shamefully out-of-date) but we still carry on our busy lives out here, together.

As she works nights and I work daytime we don't meet for long these days, and since we threw a doggie into the mix we have even less time to ourselves, or alone together, but hey...

I don't like talking about the future much (I belong to the "If you want to make God laugh, tell Her your plans!" school of thought) but Julie has recently made an offer on a cottage in a remoter part of Wales, North and West from here. I don't understand a word of this mortgage lark, and I only know that when my own limited credibility got thrown into the mix the price went up! Yikes!

It's not like we actually showed we had more cash, I suppose...(like I say, I don't understand) age, attitude, habits and income just increase the risk for a lender - and these days lenders are getting a bit cautious, unlike the days when they were forcing loans on people. With the US recession looming like a black cloud (a large chunk caused by the junk mortgage market, not just the war in Iraq) and the tendency of the UK to follow America's lead a few years later, they have every right to consider me a bad risk, I guess.

But I'll just drop my usual rant - and cross my fingers... Superstition seems like all I can bring to the table. I'd better start buying lottery tickets, I guess.

Devil's Bridge
The name seems to acquire and drop hyphens, and I feel sure I don't say it right yet (!) but it looks something like Pont-rhyd-y-groes. Near Aberystwyth, and close to Devil's Bridge, Ceredigion, it seems like a good investment which will appeal to anglers, bird-watchers, walkers, cyclists, etc. I haven't seen the place yet (well, we don't definitely own it yet) but our current house is filling up with beds, and cutlery, and cupboards, and hat racks and lights and tea cosies and crockery, and tables, etc - ready to fill it!

Of course, I have always lived in rented places, out of a cardboard suitcase, so I find the whole prospect of a second home quite daunting. Perhaps a great holiday option (out of the season for it making money to pay for itself) but still quite a scary thought as a place to go and live. Mostly because I don't drive, and have stranded myself in the country without work before now (back in the 1980s). Hey ho.
Pont-rhyd-y-groes - photo by John Luckhurst
It seems to have formed as a village in the 19th Century - because of the lead mining industry, but the next village, Ysbyty Ystwyth, appears rather older, at least it has agricultural roots pre-dating the mining. Its church is dedicated to St John the Baptist (for you esoteric alternative history types). Some of the surrounding cottages probably belonged to squatters from the 19th Century. So that didn't just start with the hippies and the mushrooms!

Panoramic view of surroundings, from Castell Grogwynion (but you don't have right-of-way to walk all over it...)
Map Reference
Pen Glog-fawr Panorama
Maenarthur (Arthur's Stone) Panorama

Still, this is a long-term plan, and I guess if Voltaire got it right in Candide, after all the journeys and trials,"Il faut cultiver notre jardin" - and if Lao Tse got it right, then retreating to a small place and never going to the next village, even, might prove a great way to round off a life. Personally, I lean to Chuang-Tzu, as Western philosophy and religion seems to contain so little humour, and ease.

A small country may have many machines,
but the people will have no use for them;
they will have boats and carriages
which they do not use;
their armour and weapons
are not displayed,
for they are serious when regarding death.
They do not travel far from home,
and make knots in ropes,
rather than do much writing.
The food they eat is plain and good,
and their clothes are simple;
their homes are secure,
without the need of bolts and bars,
and they are happy in their ways.
Though the cockerels and dogs
of their neighbours
can be heard not far away,
the people of the villages
grow old and die in peace

Lao Tse ch. 80

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