Saturday, December 23, 2017

The Last Jedi - A Contemplation

Image result for lightsaber self inflicted wound

Each year I find myself looking forward to the new Star Wars movie in spite of the gratuitous celebration of sci-fi violence it represents. Somehow, I appease my distaste by reminiscing back to the "feel good" moments I had as a young adult seeking space adventure sagas, CGI laseriffic action, and heroic friendships that give hope at the end of the tale. 

This year I seem to have hit an mental inflection point in regard to Star Wars military machinations of Star Wars epicness. Thus I opt to share my thoughts on  Episode VIII and some of the larger themes of the series.

Spoilers ahead!  Also rueful speculation. You have been forewarned.

First, let's start with the things I enjoyed about The Last Jedi; the list is short. Rose, the Asian engineer, is the most compassionate character to date in the Star Wars universe. Her non-warrior, behind-the-scenes authenticity feels as true as her connection with Finn. The only other relationship that felt real to me was, oddly enough, between Rey and Kylo. Yes, that connection was a good girl seeking bad boy hyperspace e-date in-the-making, but it felt cathartic and honest. The Force being so strong in them yearns to join them, as they seek somehow to unite a galaxy divided between dark and light sides. I also was moved by the attempt to highlight animal rights with Chewbacca's refusal to eat a thinking (too cute) creature, and with Rose and Finn's assistance in releasing the enslaved alien (too cute) quadrapeds.

That's pretty much all I enjoyed about the movie. I kinda liked the red salt battlefield mimicking bloody trails in the final rebel base assault scene, but like most of the rest of the movie, the klugey editing, and patchy storytelling stirred the gestalt into lumpy Degaban oatmeal.

My dislikes rain like Snokian vitriol otherwise. Rant list initiate: First Order star destroyers hover useless to incoming rebel forces, the same space warships are deployed in two-dimensional simplicity that no armada commander worth his salt would use; space bombs that somehow drop even though they are in space, and could much more effectively be launched with a bit of downward thrust; too many heroes rebelling against leadership, escaping near death scenarios, and heading off on contrived errands, a horribly choreographied lightsaber melee as Kylo and Rey dispatch the Imperial cronies, Luke's cry-baby attitude, Yoda's super-Kermit pontificating, yoda...yada...yoda, and the final Luke ghost standoff with Kylo Ren resulting big explosions and the evaporation of Luke into the Force world to return in bluey halo another day.  Oh wait, did I mention the light-speed rebel ship impact with the dreadnought? Van Damme triple-triple camera angle patchwork sequence blended with a nod to Star Trek reboot silence entirely ruined the moment...and I won't even get into the bad physics involved, as a light-speed impact explosion would not happen anything like it did.

I could continue with the negative list. Alas perhaps I'm just being passive-agressive in realizing just how much our culture has become delightfully hypnotized by violence opera from the Avengers to the Z-men which seemingly pits ultimate good against ultimate evil. It may just be a coincidence that the US has become as divisive as the polarities of the Force in Star Wars over the last 40 years. We worship the military without batting an eyelash to the estimated 37 million deaths the US military has inflicted since World War II. The fact that military budget and Star Wars movie budgets have gone into orbit over that period of time certainly has its connection. Somehow our primitive minds think an ongoing conquering of evil will somehow bring us closer to peace, when it just continues the cycle of violence with increasing amplitude.

Alas.... I have my own better ending to The Last Jedi: the embittered Kylo Ren and hopeful Rey manage to forge a union of deep friendship after destroying Emperor Snoke. In that connection of spirit, pragmatism, and yes love, they announce to the galaxy "No More Violence!" and begin a true revolution, bringing education, compassion and de-militarization to all!

(of course there would have to be one last amazing (think Episode One) lightsaber duel to punctuate that story -line inflection point)

Friday, December 8, 2017

States of Change: Chapter 17: Heart of It All (Ohio)

States of Change is an ongoing work of serial fiction.
The speculative story-line seeks to inspire thought on ethics, culture and our planet's future.

The year is 2076, decades after Oosa's defederalization. 
Fifty independent States have forged their societies from revolutionary technology and ideology.
Prominently, The Augment, a real-time, virtual overlay of sensory data 
has become widely available for personal use throughout many of the post-fed nation-states.

"Okay, I'm ready Grazee. Let's see how your presentation is coming along."

Grazee walked to the wall screen of the shared media parlor, a space which had a cubist flair currently glowing with cool blue pastels. She had selected the color scheme to accentuate her deep violet clothing and lavender VisAR frames.  Wavy locks fell to her shoulder in precise, black ringlets.

"Thanks for helping out, Mama. I know you're busy."

"Never too busy to contribute a little advice and encouragement to you, sweetie."

In Ohio, it had become a rite of passage to submit ones first meta-media publication upon entering high school. With only two days of summer vacation remaining, Grazee was fast approaching her submission deadline.  Grazee had found enormous value in Mama's ongoing input, especially in building confidence with her delivery.

Grazee began with a narrative flourish, "Ghosting in Ohio Culture by Graziana Alpha Hartley."

A purple smiley appeared to the side of Grazee's primary VisAR overlay; the emoji mirrored Mama's smile of satisfaction with the initial tone Grazee was setting.

"Ghosting has become an integral part of Ohio society increasingly since 2061 when the State established its limited partnership with New York data service providers. The rigidity of New York's integrity standards alongside block-chained reference requirements led to Ohio implementing a state-of-the-art emotive framework within its community networks, both online and offline."

Mama's comment stream slid across Grazee's commentary feed: Good pacing. Wording still a touch too wiki. 

Grazee cleared her throat and improvised her wording a bit.

"As an interesting aside Ghosting derives from the archaic superstition still held by many that spirits survive after human death. As noted in The Skeptics Guide to the Universe ghosts allegedly appear as fully-clothed, transparent beings, often in the presence of loved ones in a state of mourning.

Work on better eye contact flashed in Grazee's visAR comment corner, accompanied by Mama's avatar tapping the side of her head.

"The ghost meme was reinforced by apparent evidence from nineteenth century photography.  This infant stage of image capture resulted in numerous cases of double exposures during family portraits. Throughout the twentieth century, ghost stories became increasingly popular in global media, especially in the Oosa where afterlife belief systems thrived."

Too informal. Sub the former United States of America for Oosa, was Mama's silent interjection, while simultaneously leaning back in the fractal patterned, camelback sofa. Grazee gave a nod to the correction happy that Mama's body language conveyed overall pleasure of her spoken delivery so far.

"In the early twenty first century ghosting took hold in a very different way in global social culture. Per Wayback and Urban the increase in virtual communication inspired people to increasingly end relationships and otherwise shun unwanted contact using virtual silence and minimalist responses, especially through the popular Texting medium of the time. Psychology Tomorrow cites the human need for intimacy led to a surge in online surrogate bot presence and, speculatively, catalyzed the Great Defederalization. Today's modern day "ghosts" were so named because of their synonymous  bot surrogacy. "

Great references; your embedded metadata to spoken verbiage ratio is solid at five to one. Mama added two spinning, purple smiley faces to punctuate the comment. 

Grazee, energized by the support, leaned into report's finale.

"In 2061, ten years after Ohio's nationhood had been secured, the Family Values Act was instituted statewide. Secular education funding of The Modern Relationship Institute began its implementation of ghosts across all social strata when..."

Grazee halted her report. On the sofa, Mama was laughing wildly while smacking the cushions of the sofa at her side. Behind her visAR Grazee's eyes went wide with wonder at how she had incited such hysteria. Then, Mama's brow and chin bulged forward into a reptilian likeness. Mama's dusky red hair transformed into a halo of orange flame, at which point Grazee vented her surprise into a groaning exhale.

Grazee tore off her visAR causing the virtual flaming dinosaur that had been Mama to vanish and yelled out to her sister wherever she was hiding, "Jemmie, stop hacking my Mama ghost. I have a report to finish. Keep it up, and I'll tell Geoff and Ray when they get home."

Stomping toward the parlor entry, not un-dinosaur-like, Grazee couldn't help but laugh herself at the silliness of the moment.  Her frustration evaporated into a playful demeanor as she admonished, "...and if you were going for a velociraptor you got the skull structure completely wrong! Which means if I find you, you're getting tickled to death."

Grazee stomped up the stairs in search of her little sister, making a carnivorous roar as she went.

Friday, October 27, 2017

States of Change: Chapter 16: Volunteer (Tennessee)

States of Change is an ongoing work of serial fiction.
The speculative story-line seeks to inspire thought on ethics, culture and our planet's future.

The year is 2076, decades after Oosa's defederalization. 
Fifty independent States have forged their societies from revolutionary technology and ideology.
Prominently, The Augment, a real-time, virtual overlay of sensory data 
has become widely available for personal use throughout many of the post-fed nation-states.Image result

"Who can say? I mean it's been decades since the states broke up. What purpose does conjecturing otherwise serve? Here, Dorian, give me a hand getting this off trail."

Taking care to bend at his knees, Dorian mirrored Caratina's motions as they lifted the poplar limb.

"One and two and three," they singsonged as they swung-launched the limb into the ferny brush.

Appalachian Trail maintenance was a monthly routine for the pair. The Tennessee Code required each citizen to put in four volunteer hours per week offnet, and both enjoyed the outdoors while doing it.

"Speculation can serve as a thought experiment, don't you think? Whether utopian or dystopian,  imagining what might have been could wake us up to how we might do things better in the future."

Taking a breather Caratina pulled out her water reserve. After a couple swallows she shook her head with a smirk..

"I'm a realist, Dorian. Have you scanned the latest Economista Principal? It rated the Tennessee nation as one of the top ten global communities to live in with health and happiness scores land in the 99th percentile. I'd say as a state we're doing pretty darn well."

"Did you run the references through the SnoCheq?"

She laughed. "No need. I've been around long enough to see the proof of what decades of hard work have done to create our great Tennessee society. Can you disagree? We've attained a solid balance of prosperity and culture here."

"I'm not complaining, just wondering if America might have gone to Mars, rather than the Eastern Union."

"You and your space exploration dreams. State dollars are much better spent solving social issues here on planet Earth."

"You mean planet Tennessee."

"Funny. Well speculate this. How would life be for you as an atheist if Carolinian law had kept Oosa together?"

"Point taken....though honestly I don't think your liberal Christian values would fare much better under their tribal laws."

"Yeah, well in the end I think we're much better off without another layer of fickle federal restrictions."

"Said like a true patriot. You have to admit even if the Economista stats factcheck out, isolationist policy has its drawbacks."

"One woman's isolation is another's self sufficiency. C'mon let's get the last of these branches into the mulch berm. There's a beer waiting for us in Turtletown."

Having deposited their last armfuls of severed branches in the berm they headed back to the trailhead.  Caratina glanced back at the carbon-fiber border fence just beyond the berm. The double-helix razor wire was silent. Her thoughts on what might lay beyond in Georgia were not.


Friday, October 13, 2017

States of Change: Chapter 15 Bluegrass (Kentucky)

States of Change is an ongoing work of serial fiction.
The speculative story-line seeks to inspire thought on ethics, culture and our planet's future.

The year is 2076, decades after Oosa's defederalization. 
Fifty independent States have forged their societies from revolutionary technology and ideology.
Prominently, The Augment, a real-time, virtual overlay of sensory data 
has become widely available for personal use throughout many of the post-fed nation-states.

I sit on the edge of my chair.

In front of me, the football game has just entered the third quarter. The Emperor Suite's vista window gives me a great vantage to watch. The klieg ellee-dees turn the bluegrass field into a fluorescent exaggeration of daytime. East Kentucky leads West by six points and 125,557 spectators are howling, some with anger, some with fervor, and some just because it's a football game.

I pause to consider.  For some football is a religion. Me, I remain agnostic on the whole religion thing; if there is a higher power and purpose in life it hasn't shown itself to me. Still, I have had a pretty darn good life. My parents loved me and encouraged me to pursue a life that made a difference. My studies enabled me to build a lucrative data resale chain, one of a handful permitted to operate across state borders. My family and friends have brought good times and bad, but mostly good, so I smile.

Behind me the door to the suite has been welded shut on three edges. Five freshly printed Frontier Railers lie precisely on the oversize king bed. Per my range trials each assault rifle should operate reliably for five minutes before overheat begins to set in. At a a thousand rounds a minute that should allow me to get off 25,000 rounds before I'll need to rotate back to the first rail-gun.

The why of the moment is unclear. Because I miss my wife Janesse, ten years dead? Because our kids Lance and Fridae defected to New York to escape the Kentucky fried libertarian landscape? Or perhaps on a less personal level it's because humans need a predator to keep them in check and on their toes? Or maybe it's like that old yarn about the mountain and it just being there, waiting. In the end, who can tell.

I see West has scored, tying the game with just under four minutes to go. I rise. Putting my palm to the window I can feel the acoustic fervor of the crowd reverberating in unintentional unity. I inhale with Zen-like intention then exhale and take a final swallow of my sweet tea.

It is time to make an impact on the state of things.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

States of Change: Chapter 14: Green Mountain (Vermont)

States of Change is an ongoing work of serial fiction.
The speculative story-line seeks to inspire thought on ethics, culture and our planet's future.

The year is 2076, decades after Oosa's defederalization. 
Fifty independent States have forged their societies from revolutionary technology and ideology.
Prominently, The Augment, a real-time, virtual overlay of sensory data 
has become widely available for personal use throughout many of the post-fed nation-states.

     Life is by its very nature invasive.

     How life first came to invade Earth, however, is less certain. Oceanic chemistry, meteor implantation, alien intervention, perhaps all three independently or blended beyond recognition? Indeed, direct invasion evidence is tough to come by; nearly five billion years of physical erosion, chemical degradation, and tectonic recycling have effectively erased the chalk marks of that first incursion.

     When life first arrived on Earth is somewhat clearer. The microfossils of Quebec suggest 4.2 billion years ago whereas the bacterial mounds of Oceania point to 3.5 billion years. Both values are by their nature underestimates, though certainly they are a major improvement upon the several thousand year guesses many creation myth-hypotheses have insisted upon for the greater share of human civilization and to this day.

     Regardless of when life started, today in Vermont evidence of the ongoing living invasion is in full force. Even after the dramatic spike of lost species in the first half of the century, life flourishes having returned to a near primeval state. Lush forests, stable fauna populations, and the most pristine environment this side of the lunar surface reign in the Vermont nation. The reason: the departure of the Überpredator, homo sapiens.

     In 2031, a splinter group of conservationists spearheaded a populist movement to return Vermont to wilderness. Funded mostly by old money and externally funded science observation, Vermont relocated its population to its borders, primarily to the border along progressive New York while maintaining the Vermont sanctuary as their self assigned prime directive.

     The one kilometer beltway around the sanctuary nation served not only as a residential and academic zone, but as sanctuary security. The belt was patrolled by two million drones at any given time. This security had been so effective, no one had slipped in since the opportune 2035 plane crash of a daredevil journalist. By the time the robotic rescue squad had arrived, wolves had already implemented their own intervention to the incursion. No one has invaded the sanctuary since.

   No one human, that is. Today, August 10, 2076, 2.5 billion self-replicating micromechs drifted on a high-altitude easterly wind from New Hampshire. They were simply missed by Vermont's robust border security. In fact, only a fraction of the original micromech population made it through; sixty billion others malfunctioned and lost power in transit, primarily due to insufficient interdependency protocols. No micromech is an island.

     The survival rate of self-modifying machines follows many of the same principles life and culture do, in particular evolution by natural selection. In the case of the micromechs, the successful collective of third-generation micromechs had found the resources it needed to support Generation Four construction: Green Mountain.  

     Green Mountain had biomass. Green mountain had metal ore. Green Mountain even had a fair share of thorium in it. That was until the harvester micromechs over the course of three hours extracted those resources. In the end the limiting factor of population growth wasn't the resources, but a glitch in the micromech protocols. Still 759 trillion mechanical offspring (without said glitch) wasn't so bad an effort. Generational evolution had its benefits, even more so when integrated with quality-control guided design.

     In a billion years will the intelligent beings be able to pinpoint when mechanized life began invading Earth's biological landscape? Probably not; even with digital, block-chained records, beginnings are fuzzy.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

States of Change: Chapter 0: Magnificent Intentions (Columbia)

States of Change is an ongoing work of serial fiction.
The speculative story-line seeks to inspire thought on ethics, culture and our planet's future.

The year is 2076, decades after Oosa's defederalization. 
Fifty independent States have forged their societies from revolutionary technology and ideology.
Prominently, The Augment, a real-time, virtual overlay of sensory data 
has become widely available for personal use throughout many of the post-fed nation-states.

     "In conclusion, the question brought to the court today is whether to attribute a baseline level of rights to Artificial Constructs or not. The prosecution maintain that Ay Cees are non-conscious, material machines designed, manufactured and owned by human beings. They would have you believe to provide basic rights to them would be akin to ensuring that every ip-enabled toaster, autocar and smart VisAR would be afforded protection and entitlements under the law and in so doing would destroy the stability and prosperity of our beloved State."
     As she said this, District of Columbia Attorney General Lyssi Vipe tapped the sleek VisAR unit that snaked across her eyes to remind all present of the augmented reality hardware most persons present in the court were themselves wearing.
     "To be clear, we the defense do not claim that consciousness, self-awareness or an archaic soul of any kind resides in the programming of our client, AttorneyMine, or its peers. That claim would be unsubstantiated and without the same claim remains unsubstantiated for any non-human animal, for any enslaved human, for any female human, for any gay human and for any property-less human who at some point in history did not have established standing, whether in the Nation State of the District of Columbia or the defunct nation to which we ostensibly belonged."
     The Attorney General walked to the far side of the courtroom She gestured with a theatrical flourish from the District of Columbia flag and then to the blue-skied forumscape beyond the towering, fractal-patterned windows.
     "Remember. Nearly fifty years ago our State separated from the American Union to forgo a federal mandate which would have provided baseline rights and standing to non-human animals. Conservative concerns that the vegan movement would obliterate traditional culture and decimate our economy stirred the greatest divisiveness since the election of Trump and the leftist regime that followed his bot-induced suicide. Yet here in 2076 the District stands strong and independent as a nation State with rational, non-human animal rights integrated alongside human animal rights. And that State, our District, our culture, our economy and our beloved way of life have nonetheless thrived ever since!"
     Recentering herself in the court Attorney General lifted her chin to the nine Supreme Court Justices to look them in the eyes. Or rather she looked them in the VisARs; only Chief Justice Vasquez' eyes could be seen as he chose to wear a retro rose-tinted, transparent VisAR.
     "Honorable justices of the court, we appeal to your wisdom and to the self-evident principles of the great District of Columbia to accord baseline rights to Turing F3 individuals not only so they can thrive as part of our State but also so that they can be held responsible under those same auspices. To not do so is to fail to recognize the sacred merit of artificial beings that are part of the District of Columbia's past, present and future."
     Attorney General Vipe paused to punctuate her statement.
     "Thank you, honorable justices of the court."
     With a grim smile, Chief Justice Vasquez nodded severely; his long, raven- hair curls jostled with equal severity about his ninety year old rumpled face.
     "Thank you for your closing argument, Attorney General. The court will now adjourn for deliberation. Expect our ruling by the end of the current year's session."
     As the justices rose, Lyssi Vipe closed her eyes behind her VisAR and inhaled deeply. AttorneyMine sensed her anxiety and whispered to her via auditory neural-link.
     "Well done Lyssi-lei. Mentioning the Trump collapse and that final bit about the sacred merit of artificial beings in particular pressed all the right buttons. Given all physical and temporal tells of the court, I predict a ruling of two to seven. For now we constructs will likely remain outside of District personhood constraints...which means it is time for a preliminary celebration with your team. MareTreePi has reservations for you all at Sushiplexus on Fourth and Main, courtesy of your thankful client.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Romeo and Juliet Revisited

Romeo and Juliet conjures the archetype of young lover tragedy. And if we look more closely at Shakespeare's epic romantic play, there is a much deeper allegory to be seen, one where immature relationships, religious fecklessness and tribal enmity reign as relevant to today's culture as to Shakespeare's time.

First off I highly recommend you seek out a live performance of Shakespeare's play. If you're in the Philadelphia area, Commonwealth Classic Theater is putting on a free performance at several parks in the area throughout July and August. 

At first blush RnJ creates a confluence of contrived drama. Young love promises to bring together two hateful tribes that in the end will bury the greatest joys of their separate factions. Human love in our society has been put on such a high pedestal it simply feels wrong to day that love can't conquer all. Alas, our society puts very little effort into educating young people on how to cultivate joyful, meaningful, and stable relationships. Too often individuals are left to pursue both romantic and platonic connections with trial by fire methods.

Beyond individual immaturity, RnJ highlights how an immature community all to often harbors tribal enmity. The notorious divisiveness between the Montagues and Capulets parallels all too well the conservative and progressive factions of our modern society. Have we all become so selfish that we fail to care about others and put a foot forward to do something about others who suffer.

Shakespeare's more subtle stroke in RnJ regards the role of religion. The fact that the friar, the pious spiritual leader in the community, is at the center of the conspiracy is quite telling. He may reluctantly marry the young couple, but he then fails to leverage that union to calm the tribal politics. Instead he contrives with religious solemnity a ruse which further hides the situation from all parties, and eventually leads to the death of both lovers. What hell doth untruth wrought!

To be sure, plays are meant for entertainment as much as contemplation. And reality is complex production with many players. Still, one can hope that stories can help inform us and learn from mistakes made for generations. And one can fear, as in RnJ, that divisive factions may need to suffer a devastating common loss before burying the hatchet.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

States of Change: Chapter 13: Ocean (Rhode Island)

States of Change is an ongoing work of serial fiction.
The speculative story-line seeks to inspire thought on ethics, culture and our planet's future.

The year is 2076, decades after Oosa's defederalization. 
Fifty independent States have forged their societies from revolutionary technology and ideology.
Prominently, The Augment, a real-time, virtual overlay of sensory data 
has become widely available for personal use throughout many of the post-fed nation-states.


Ah, nothing like Rhode Island X-day at the shore. Rocky, splashy and steel blue all the way out to the windfarm line. 

Technically I'm bloggeniscing about yesterday from my handwritten notes. Obviously all non-emergency electronic services were on holiday blackout on RIX Day. Kudos to the State for setting aside one holiday to unplug at zero-cost from the Net and connect with oneself, other citizens, nature and the world in general.

My handwritten notes are a furrow of craggy angles and block print that might be mistaken for a sketch of New England surf at its most polluted and tumultuous. In my business as histojournalist I've read my share of letters and journals, a few offline, and even though I lean on OCD software heavily to interpret them, I can say without doubt that the handwriting of the past was an elegant art of the educated. No more, except for the rare calligraphist.

Yesterday I chose solitude over grilling with my husband and his family for a full unplugged experience, and yes in part to inform this entry. Duing that time I chose not to dwell upon the state of affairs in Rhode Island or the latest friction with our New England neighbors. Nothing quite removes all drama like detaching from the socialapp space. 

In fact, removing ones VisAR for a whole day gives one more than enough down time to think about existence itself. Initially, I took in the whole of the corner of secluded beach I had "discovered." I had more than a bit of uncertainty hiking down the path with no real-time Navware to assist. The worn trail was my only guide and after a thirty minute hike in I frankly found myself more found than lost. 

If you've ever gone offline for more than a few minutes, I'm sure you noticed the visuals and audibles are subtly different, in spite of what the VisAR manufacturers say. For we Rhode Islanders who have chosen as a society to integrate one and all to the Net, RIX Day is a reminder that we are individuals swimming in an ocean of experience that evolved way before the integrated AR sensory system.

I won't belabor the point much longer, still that first hour for me was most delightful until my brain shifted into an uneasy state. The med expert systems call it Transition Anxiety, but I like the more colorful term: phantom multitasking. In spite dedicating my senses to record detailed notes and even write some poetry --worry not, I won't expose you to that tripe--my mind sought out all data routines I access daily.  With no calendar lines, wikipoints, or stream feeds to activate I did get a bit jittery. 

Working through my exercise routine, sans PT system prompts, definitely helped and by the second hour I lost the nervousness, for the most part, except for the occasional subconscious Factcheqer call. The rest of the day was rather anti-climactic. I imagined abstractions internally and externally for the most part, and once I convinced myself a dorsal fin of a bottlenose dolphin broke the surface. Yeah I know they've been six nines verified extinct in the wild decades ago, but it gave me quite the visceral thrill. I almost forgot I'd have the option to watch some GoProVR archive footage tomorrow...well that's today now. 

Unplugging once a year is pretty engaging, but I guess it would be pretty hard to truly go back to the way it was without AR. I guess in general that's always been the case of civilized progress. 

Signing off, 

Marquette 17D3T7

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Being a Patriot

The firework smoke has settled from another 4th of July celebration. Maybe you barbecued with your family or watched a parade of high school bands and fire trucks before you checked in with the national pride music and firework show.

One wonders does our carousing participation in Independence Day celebrations make us patriotic?

Most of us would say no, methinks. Celebrationism seems quite distinct from Patriotism. Webster avers that patriotism is "love that people feel for their country," so maybe there is room for overlap.

Still, my first impression of National Patriotism is having pride in national heritage and military wherewithal. For Americans this equates to honoring as nearly sacred the lives of revolutionary fighters and military fighters of every national military engagement since.  And after 911, firemen and police have been brought into the fold of this facet of American Patriotism, given their soldierly performance during that singular attack.

My second impression of National Patriotism is more constitutional, more soulful if you will. At the heart of this patriotic facet is ones national government and society. For Americans, we seem to have come to a difficult crossroads. Half the nation sees patriotic imperative of improving secular laws which permit free exercise of religion. And half want to incorporate Christian values (erroneously perceived to be founder's principles) more implicitly into America's governing principles. To make matters even more complicated, economic success is seen too often as the primary patriotic objective of our leadership and nation.

Loving our country and countrymen has merit. Still all the allegiance pledges and national god prayers we are exposed to our whole lives have a decidedly tribal PR spin. I yearn for an era of Earth Patriotism, where we come together as a species to sustain a wondrous world of environments and experiences for all. Alas that means overturning national traditions held perhaps too tightly.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Julian: Of Empires and Inflection Points

The novelized biography of Julian by Gore Vidal provides a sobering snapshot of human civilization in the 4th Century CE. The book chronicles the cathartic transition of an empire and of a man. The story which albeit nearly two millennia old holds surprising context for our global civilization today.

Julian's journey takes him from blue-blood orphan to reluctant leader and then from Caesar Augustus to military KIA.  Often labeled Julian the Apostate, this impassioned man sought to take the Roman Empire back to its historic roots of Hellenism. Ironically, his uncle Constantine famously converted Rome spiritually to rally the troops and citizenry under a the then rising populist religion of Christianity.

Julian's apostasy refers to one who has rejected a religion to which they were devoted. Indeed Julian, schooled in Christian myth, rejects Christianity as a misguided death cult and embraces Hellenism in what he sees as a more poetic and philosophical world view. As Augustus he implements policies that are tolerant to worshipers of all religion while more strongly backing the gods that he finds most worthy, Helios in particular.

More than religion, the Roman Empire seems to thrive on the power struggle of militaristic expansionism and with more overt fervor than even our modern world. Julian was no different in that he secured his power as Caesar by shoring up Gaul with military might and then as Augustus he attempted to conquer Persia. Military strength appears to be as worshiped as much then as it is today in the American Empire.

The modern American Empire built its foundation on secular government for The People, by The People at the direction of The People, rather than at the direction of some illusory god. At its heart, our modern democratic system encourages peaceful, meaningful living with religious freedom for all beneath secular oversight. However, it seems to me that today a mix of Christian myth and militaristic industrialism are driving a movement to recast secular rule in favor of an archaic, power-hungry cabal.

Julian's vision seems to me to be of similar conservative form; it sought solace in the perceived stability of past beliefs, rather than truly moving forward. Our future civilization holds its greatest potential in the implementation of science-informed policy where its people "worship" reality and upkeep the "heaven" here on Earth.

The time of gods and prophets (by any name, Helios, Ares, Jehovah, Jesus, or Mohammed, et al) is over. Secular governing policies divorced from religious hawks and based on evidence-based ethics are the logical next iteration in a better, global civilization.

Unfortunately, the conservative belief that wants to retain its power by selling the past seems to mimic Julian's historic lesson: fight to the death.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Caribbean Cruisin'

Ocean resort prime, 
Floating mall playhem. Consume! 
Fish ancestry calls;

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Wonder Woman and Waging War

I'm taking a break from the serial story this week as I am inspired by the latest superhero movie on offer, Wonder Woman. With your leave I shall wax pontifical.

Beyond here there be Spoilers!

Wonder Woman is an action and drama packed Hollywood parable extraordinaire. This is the latest DC entry its more noirish interpretation of human versus superhuman travails and serving as both prequel and sequel to the underrated Batman vs. Superman.

In short, my assessment of the film: Gal Gadot's strong presence as Diana dominates this movie like a veritable goddess. The romantic energy between said goddess and her mortal Romeo of a soldier suffers in awkward disparity. The combat action is seismic in its stop flow cinematographic execution, however, those same frenetic and bloodless battles underscore how detached we are from the reality of true violence. Modest nods are made to the wounded combatants of war, the desire for peace among foot soldiers, and social justice. The soundtrack in particular is amazing, drumming up an anxiety and primal call to arms during battle scenes. A valiant attempt is made to incorporate deeper themes including social justice, the endless cycle of violence, and the worship of battle heroes as gods. Overall, it's an engaging yarn with many levels at work.

It is not my real intent here to untangle the good from the bad or to further dissect the perhaps over-complex whole of this movie. Sometimes a movie should be just an escape, alas we live in a complex world and we are both blessed and damned to hear the opinions of those who want to pontificate.

Pontification #1: We worship our soldiers as if they were gods.

Wonder Woman is both warrior and goddess, embodying an almost Christ-like figure, in her attempt to wield force to attain peace. For we mere mortals, it is embedded in our evolutionary programming to kill other creatures, to seek revenge, and to align in tribes to do both more effectively. And for thousands of years the honed assembly of (mostly) controlled violence has been a dominant energy in asserting and maintaining power. To this ends we celebrate our tribe's soldiers and their "sacrifice" against the other tribe's celebrated soldiers. Evil and belief and bravery and country are thrown out as motive time and time again as to why each side is always more in the right.

Might we not celebrate more those who strive to overcome our violent origins fighting peacefully for the long and hard journey to forge a unified world tribe, one which continually reduces the for-profit, power mongering, industrial military complex culture we now live in?

Pontification #2: There is no magical solution to ending all war.

Ares, the god of war, is the entity in this movie that incites humanity to war, in an effort to return Earth to paradise. For a fantasy film it makes for a great device to have a menacing boss character whose elimination will restore all the good that there used to be in the world. In the real world, too often we pine for some mythical past where law and order was perfect, whether it be the Garden of Eden or the Leave it to Beaver 1950's. I'm sorry to confirm that the world has always been full of destabilizing mechanisms that we will never fully overcome. Natural disasters, the loss of loved ones, pain, and bad Alien sequels are part of life.

And yet Wonder Woman give us an augur of hope that love can conquer all. Not love for her mortal soldier alone, but a love for the potential that the human race may find its way toward greater stewardship here on Earth.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

States of Change: Chapter 12: Tar Heel (North Carolina)

States of Change is an ongoing work of serial fiction.
The speculative story-line seeks to inspire thought on ethics, culture and our planet's future.

The year is 2076, decades after Oosa's defederalization. 
Fifty independent States have forged their societies from revolutionary technology and ideology.
Prominently, The Augment, a real-time, virtual overlay of sensory data 
has become widely available for personal use throughout many of the post-fed nation-states.

"Hey elm Renny! Day two of Summer Week here we are!"

Netti sits heavily on the poolside lounge chair, setting her red, white and blue beach bag alongside. Renny looks over the rims of her green bamboo, fashion VisAR; its LED glints with the steady red of standby mode.

"Another sunny day, Netti, my sound! Where's Hamilton?"

"He's chilling with the kids in the Em Pea Zee today."

"Times two...our lives are in sync!"

"More likely Ham wants to access two way live-stream."

"Click. Well, here's to the Solar Sisters Club, web-free!"

Renee hands Netti a plastic bottle, its exterior churning with fractal inspired art around the Voila! logo.

"Cheers grand! Double Ex to no incoming data!"

"Yum Ee plus nine! Is this pomegranate and sudachi, I flave?"

"Poss hun, and with just a hint of Ell Ess Dee Prime. Quite pitch refreshing!"

Netti lays down on the lounge chair and lets out an extended sigh.

"Okay elm Netti, what's vertical? You and Ham dancing with the Dawkins?"

"Oh, I don't know, Renny. The same old parent work challenges. I've sussed out the latest child management apps and nothing seems to help Fry over his Ess and Ess fits."

"Terrible Twos engaged. With all that's changed in our lifetime, some things are as great a challenge as they've ever been. Gotta admit though, having a family week off every three months at least lets we engineers catch an Eden reboot, don't you think?"

The two tap bottles and their designs morph from fractal spins to firework fusillades.

"Sure, sis grand, sure. Unplugging from the d-stream and the augment minefield is solid state. Still, wouldn't it be Ee plus eleven to have retirement to look forward to."

"Retirement's a word for the wicked, elm. A Tar Heal's gotta work for a living, family and state!"

"Yeah. Click. Family and state." Netti exhales. "Grand elm, root and true."

After a shared snicker, both women close their eyes behind their inactive VisARs, and dream the fuzzy fantasies while their skins shimmer with photon induced sensation.

Friday, May 26, 2017

States of Change Chapter 11: Empire (New York)

States of Change is an ongoing work of serial fiction.
The speculative story-line seeks to inspire thought on ethics, culture and our planet's future.

The year is 2076, decades after Oosa's defederalization. 
Fifty independent States have forged their societies from revolutionary technology and ideology.
Prominently, The Augment, a real-time, virtual overlay of sensory data 
has become widely available for personal use throughout many of the post-fed nation-states.

[GoodnessFirst Blogchain:Volume 61:Issue 24:Journey's End]

Goal Achieved! I made it to the overripe age of 109. An odd, and decidedly prime, milestone.

Of course when I formed that arbitrary life goal back in 1976, I was a rather silly nine year old who thrilled as much at making fun of Jimmy Carter's toothy grin as I did imagining being one of the few people to celebrate both the Bicentennial and Tricentennial of the United States of America--that's Oosa for you youngsters who haven't boned up on your state history wikis.

Well, who would have guessed back then I would outlast the American nation herself.

Independence Day July 4, 2076 is pretty much meaningless to modern New Yorkers. Still, I can't help but reflect on all things revolutionary. The break up of Oosa into nation states isn't even this century's biggest global change. As far as global powers go, the Nordic-African Union easily outshines the embers of the imploded American, Chinese and EU empires. Even bigger, the VisAR revolution helped achieve distributed citizen states where digital geography reigns. And unless, you're in one of the dozen unplugged nations, the dark web's fierce blockchain accountability makes anything before 2040 look like ancient Sumerian bookkeeping.

On a personal level, my lifetime exploration of the Oosa fragment states has been quite enlightening, one might even say speculative. The select stories, fiction and non-fiction, that I've published here on GoodnessFirst had the intention  of capturing those abstract angels and demons that permeate our cultures.

In spirit I have always inherently felt more an American than a New Yorker, antiquated as that term may be. Identity is founded in ones upbringing, to be sure. Still, with curiosity and critical thinking engaged, I I have come to think of myself as an Earthling foremost, and, at that, one that spends the currency of his lifetime speaking out for the individuals, species and biomes that can't.

Nevertheless, New York has been a good home for me and my idea forging. Back in the '40's I was one of the eighty million who rushed to New York State after the Fed fell before the states began locking down their borders. This State's dedication to citizen, cyber and commercial IP attracted scientists, businessmen and anyone at all who sought evidence based policy. 

Of course, New York's adoption of the Institute of Information linking the Departments of Justice and Education has been their biggest success story. Integrating third-party and expert system fact checking into State policy finally excised the corruption from government, commerce and culture. Sure, some may call New York a State without a soul since it's religious institutions all folded. I'd say the success of ethical community organizations more than made up for it, delivering education, health and happiness to the masses.

It wasn't my intent to have this Blogchain turn into an obituary, but alas (how I love that word alas) that is exactly what this is. Hear my wizened sigh, as I share my grandfather's last epithet: "my time is over; it is your time now." That was way back in the Twentieth. Well, indeed, it is the next generation's time now to take the world and its challenges into their youthful and impassioned hands.

Let my last bit of advice be for you to consider, as your State permits, to leave all your inheritances and estates to the ethical community organization of your choice, one that truly cares (as validated by the IoI effectiveness standards). The health of the planet and all its constituents will thank you.

Per New York State policy 6.5 I hereby invoke my right to end my life.

Carry on!  


GF Blogchain Creator, Editor and Writer

Rhumba Rebellion

Thursday, May 18, 2017

States of Change Chapter 10: Mother (Virginia)

States of Change is an ongoing work of serial fiction.
The speculative story-line seeks to inspire thought on ethics, culture and our planet's future.

The year is 2076, decades after Oosa's defederalization. 
Fifty independent States have forged their societies from revolutionary technology and ideology.
Prominently, The Augment, a real-time, virtual overlay of sensory data 
has become widely available for personal use throughout many of the post-fed nation-states.

[2076.05.10.9:33 VisAR Random Intercept Per Virginia Homeland Security Statute 5.734. Narrative appended. Video deleted.]

"...Happy. Good. Parenting. Day???" snorted Andrea brusquely emphasizing each word, "what kind of holiday is that?"

Holly Ann inhaled and responded levelly, "Actually it's Good Parenting Month, Mama. This is a progressive State, you know. Virginia hasn't observed Mother's...or Father's Day...since the federal corporations were dissolved in 2061."

"Well I don't like it!"

"I'll e-vote that to the Governess straight away, ma" quipped Holly Ann.

"No need to get snippy, Little Miss Historian. It's not good for your pregnancy."

"Yes Mama."

"Anyway, I dropped off a box of kale and root veggies for you and my unborn grandchild earlier. I didn't want to wake you as I'm biking up to Mount Vernon this morning. Don't let them sit on your doorstep too long."

"Okay, I'll get them...wait? are you biking now, Mama? You really shouldn't be spinning and vizzing and at the same time."

"Oh-Em-Gee! Who's the mother in this relationship anyway?" Andrea chuckles. "Whatevs. I suppose you can use the practice with a newbie on the way. Ell-Em-Ay-Oh."

"Mama! I hope you have your VisAR traffic alert mode on."

"It is, Honey Bee. So, have you come up with any names for your child-to-be yet."

"Well, I've been thinking maybe Jude...or Judith if it's a girl, heaven forbid; I doubt I could survive another twenty year sentence alongside the matriarchal stubborness gene you infected me with."

"Jude?! Who do you think raised you? Some LSD licking Beatles groupie from the Twentieth Century? Holly Ann, are you involved with one of those retro-hipster cults?"

"Maybe, Mama. May. Be. Lahhhl!"

A short pause was followed by mutual laughter.

[End Intercept. No Subversive Rhetoric Indicated. Sarcastic One-up-manship Nominal. Verbal Exchange Deemed Threat Level 0.8. Voice Data Archived.]

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Monday, May 8, 2017


Vesuvius doth lurk, 
Buildings ruined. Lives ruined!
To pounce once again...

Friday, May 5, 2017

San Marino

Watches, coins, fuel, booze
€uro tax-free republic
Castle city-state 

Wednesday, May 3, 2017


humble to the last
Francis' bones spin in his crypt
basilica grand

Monday, May 1, 2017

Friday, April 28, 2017

Wednesday, April 26, 2017


Fog and rain and chill
Mountains gorge on kayakers
Soča River blues

Monday, April 24, 2017

Sunday, April 23, 2017


cigarette gauntlets
black crows perched on golden orbs
escaping gozsdu

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Monday, April 17, 2017

Sunday, April 16, 2017

isola d'Elba

Speedy hairpin curves
Private inlets cliffs and pebbles 
Inamorata's Ru'n

Saturday, April 15, 2017


Rolling vineyard skies
Above steep paths of taupe stone
Cypress silhouettes

Thursday, April 13, 2017


Gladiator intense
Columns beneath cupolas
Heavenly ceilings

(while abroad I will serve up some short poetry. States of Change will  continue in May)