Miscellaneous Rambling #83


  1. Esthetic Conundrums:  (A)  The deep suburban homeowner in the mid-south mows five acres of lawn each week in the summertime to keep it looking good. In so doing his ride-em lawnmower leaves parallel swaths of brown dead grass all over the vast yard creating a scene more unsightly than tall grass which is not unsightly in the least. Is grass-cutting by boomer white guys ( almost always conservative in politics and religion) neurally linked to deep prejudice about the symbolism of hair length and hippocampal signaling around Vietnam war service? (B)   The corporate architect designs a 60 story tall glass office tower in Boston. It is a crystalline monument of mirror glass reflecting sunrise and set, adjacent historic architecture and much other picturesque urban stuff. This iconic monument is mirror glass on all sides from parapet to ground plane but alas, the architect has had to attach an unsightly carbuncular knob at the parapet  - a glass cleaning platform that must travel all around the parapet to reach all of the glass. This device, platform and stanchions, used to keep the glass pristine violates the integrity, the purity of this colossal crystal. Irony afoot in man’s stifled effort to create flawless surfaces in grass and glass.


  1. Presleyfication:  (A)  The Transformation of an entertainer by self or society of a young person who has radiated primal force in their art,  into a de-fanged, mellow, misused, debased, mockery, a burlesque, lampoon, corruption, perversion or joke - see: Jimmy Cagney, Edward G. Robinson, Elvis, Brando, Andy Griffith,  De Niro, Walken, Malkovich.   (B) Self-Presleyfication - Elvis parodies his younger self. DeNiro rehashes his gnarly tough guy for comic effect in a plethora of later movies mostly “comedies”. One must be careful in leveling criticism of this failure to be as great as once was. It is a miracle of the human spirit that transcendent performance was ever achieved at all. It is so rare.


  1. “Hendrix Syndrome” - Self destruction in the midst of global adulation - Jimi Hendrix, Cass Elliot, Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain, Amy winehouse, et al. The self-destructive response to the weirdness of sudden great fame and fortune, the large-scale neural discontinuity. It is more difficult  to comprehend the motivation of artists, more experienced with formal recognition of their talent, who commit suicide at the top of their game - Mark Rothko, Roy Buchanan, David Foster Wallace. Artists are driven by demons and great artists are driven by great demons. It gets overwhelming regardless of exterior theatrics of recognition.
  2. Superstar Songwriters - It is interesting to see towering superstars with global reach, denizens of the one tenth of one percent as they tailor (pun) their song themes to speak to the most ordinary folk among us - the sunk middle class, the marginalized, the underclass. Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, Taylor Swift underestimate the richness of their honest, immediate life challenges - It would be the stuff of a fresh lyrical slant to sing of problems with Gulfstream mechanic, problems transforming weedy back acreage into 18th century English garden or disappointment in that $300. Pinot at Mortons. It would be an easy bit of mental gymnastics for millions of listeners to read in their problems with their 15 year old beater in the decaying garage or mowing the one sixteenth of an acre of lawn in the hood. Listeners have imaginations, they will understand !


  1. Ooze it or Lose it - The Primordial Imperative - Maps of misreading the geological record - (see:Harold Bloom’s “The Anxiety of Influence” for poetic “maps of misreading among romantic poets”  Imagine 600 million years of sedimentation in the rocks of a Caribbean island. Each year one sixteenth of an inch or less of sediment is deposited and then compressed by the weight of later deposits. The paleontologist is examining a chalky cliff fifty feet high ( and that is only the exposed part above ground). Our scientist is examining a shelled creature whose shells are found in layers reflecting all 600 million years i.e. some very old shells and some relatively new ones. He is an intensely careful observer of the shell shape, its opening, its coiled tower, its multitude of angles between this feature and that. He is examining 600 million years of this particular snail’s evolution. He is able to accurately date any layer of stone in which he finds an ancient snail. After digging, measuring and analyzing the products of this site he makes a judgement about the gradualness or lack thereof of the changes in the snails over eons. He has formulated a shocking new theory of evolution spawned by his island snail field research that runs squarely in the face of Darwin’s key assertion that evolution is gradual. Our scientist, let’s call him Dr. Gouldredge has noticed that some of his snails underwent significant change in a very short geological timespan, say 10 million years rather than the expected 150 million years for a significant increase in the height of the snail’s coiled shell. Gouldredge makes a case for abrupt evolutionary change. He calls it a punctuation in a sea of stasis. Question: What might have occurred to mislead Dr. Gouldredge? To make him think he sees an abruption when it may very well be a case of Darwin's gradualism? So many things might have happened. (A) 100 millions years of sediment get dislodged due to melting glacier, glacial ice dam burst-flood washes away material (B) A large animal paws into a foot of sediment and brings up snail shells from 10 million years before its lifetime. I.e. shells get dislocated by animals as they are transferred from an early layer to a later one - an appearance of disrupted continuity - the “cat’s paw abruption”. A shell from the Indian Ocean gets swept up in currents and deposited in the benthic layer at Dr. Gouldredge’s island. It is the same species of shell but a much different variety. I.e. abruption by immigration or vice versa when two adjacent shell forms appear very different due to the loss of a layer of examples as ocean currents get redirected by continental drift.  There are many scenarios that may account for Gouldredge’s observation of punctuated evolution. If one doesn’t imagine / envision / reconstruct  the ancient ooze properly one loses broad perspective. Scientific imagination is a primordial imperative.


  1. Revising Darwin: A-Holes and S-Holes - The Bakanowsky Effect - In 1976 at the Harvard Graduate School of Design,  Architect-graphic designer Lou Bakanowsky described a way of looking at form by analyzing its negative space, the shapes of the space that forms the outline of the form in question i.e. the hole in the “A” rather than the “A” itself - the A-hole also applicable to the “S” and every other letter of the alphabet or anything under the sun. The yin-yang spatial effect is known in design world as negative and positive space. The A-hole is the negative space, the formal mass whether a letterform or a building  is the positive space. Dr. Gouldredge uses this notion of the A-hole to formulate a potent clarification of evolution itself. When nothing is happening, a negative space in time, something is happening - nothing  and nothing (stasis) is worth noting, measuring, analyzing, theorizing upon. Dr. Gouldredge invented the aphorism “Stasis IS data” If, in analyzing 300 million years of specimen-rich strata, The paleontologist  notices that nothing changed in the shell form of the gastropod in question then something DID happen - nothing and nothing is very important because it suggests that animals do not evolve gradually, they evolve in fits and starts - punctuations - abruptions. This fact, noticed in excavations of animal fossils all over the world directly contradicts Darwin's key assertion that evolutionary change is gradual. Evolution may gradual at times,  but it is more often punctuated by abruption.


  1. Entropy of the Palette - A painter’s palette will trend toward mud, gravy, i.e. dark tones,  over the course of use during a long day of painting exhibiting palette entropy. Paints never trend toward lightness toward pastel tones or to pure hues - always toward mud. It requires continuous energy and intention to keep the paint on a palette distinct and attractive - fresh.  Organizations experience “palette entropy”. Without constant leadership manifest as energy, enthusiasm, creative thought, attention to interior and outside environments entropy ensues, disorganization, and decay.
  2. Remembering Kuhn  The Structure of Scientific Revolutions-1962,  by Thomas S. Kuhn. The book that invented the term “Paradigm Shift”. Kuhn asserts that a paradigm shift is a melange of sociology, enthusiasm and scientific promise NOT a logically determinate procedure. “Aristotle’s concepts were not bad Newton - just different”  Charles Darwin and Noam Chomsky fill this bill perfectly; as they instigated 19th century and mid to late 20th century intellectual fevers respectively. The theories of Darwin and Chomsky, once ensconced as dogma, are now under assault does not reduce their iconic status, their foundational role in their respective fields of evolution and linguistics or their once great usefulness in their time for creating and organizing entire branches of scientific inquiry.


  1. Cubism Is Cezanne for Dummies -  Cubism is the result of the efficient replaying of Cezanne’s revolutionary tropes used to complete the dismantling of 450 years of Western painting launched by the Impressionists. Cubism is late-Cezanne shorthand. In his late paintings of 1885-1905 Cezanne destroys the exhausted Brunelleschian-Beaux Arts picture-making tropes of linear perspective, the painting as a view through clear glass, storytelling, mimetic drawing, spiral composition and fine polish. Cezanne’s two key tropes are called facture and passage. “Facture” is the random patterns of brush dabs ( usually in the “distance” or sky ( upper one third of picture)  that animate the surface of the painting and announce that paint is paint is paint as well as sky and hills and trees - simultaneity - a keystone of Cubism and all things postmodern. The second trope, “Passage” is the large patches of uniform hue that are disjointed zones demarcated by tree branches, stone facets or zones of light on a forest floor. These larger patches also emphasize the surface of the painting ( absolutely verboten in the Renaissance paradigm)  while simultaneously performing their narrative role as evergreen foliage, clouds, or farm buildings. Picasso and Braque were young men in a hurry. Both were magpies experimenting with many styles of the popular painters of their day such as Lautrec, deChavannes, Gauguin and Matisse. Picasso did not have the time or the patience to replay Cezanne’s actual process while sitting out in the blazing sun on a collapsible canvas stool applying one dab of paint every 30 minutes day after day until an artwork emerged over months or working and reworking. They wanted to acknowledge Cezanne’s revolutionary achievement but they didn’t have the time or inclination to BE Cezanne. They needed an approach that used facture and passage in a bold, simple abstract manner, a style that avoided the pompousness of the Beaux Arts Academy, that proved their brotherhood with the big man on campus Matisse and his band of wild men, the Fauves. Analytical Cubism filled the bill and Picasso and Braque could create a Cubist painting every day or two rather than four or five paintings per year which was Cezanne’s rate of production. Picasso’s Cezanne shorthand allowed him to experiment widely on matters of innovative pictorial space.


  1. Cafe Cubism: Gleizes, Fauconnier, Metzinger, Villon, Leger, Duchamp and Gris. The Paris avant garde art world of 1910  comprising painters, sculptors, poets, playwrights, novelists understood the gravitas, the raw soul-power of late Cezanne and stood in awe of his depth of expression. They had been entranced by Cezanne’s late work exhibited in Paris from 1904 to 1907. The first Cubist exhibition at the Salon des Independents in spring of 1911, the Salle 41 group were simultaneous respondents to late Cezanne along with Picasso and Braque who exhibited the following year. Art historians have selectively mined the technium ( technium-a Kevin Kelly [ founder of “Wired” magazine]: The technium is 100% of human culture including language written and spoken, art, music, technology, scientific research, myth, artifact, trinket, talisman, totem, religion, hot rods-it’s all myth !)  to develop arguments for the primacy of Picasso ( sub-saharan/Iberian sculpture response in “Les Demoiselles-1907) or Braque ( landscapes at Estaque, 1908) as the inventors of Cubism but Cezanne shorthand was in the air and precipitating into several young minds simultaneously.


  1. Darwin’s Big Issues: Darwin’s theory of Evolution focussed on two great matters: Adaptation and diversification - two sides of the same coin - yin yang. What chemical or electrical signal sparks a diversification? How is change initiated? Can a change be stored in DNA until needed? So that all is required is a methylation rather than a one in a gazillion mutation. Are base pair mutations banked for future use?  According to received Grand Synthesis dogma, mutations(random always random gotta be random or you get kicked out of the brotherhood) acting upon DNA-Genes, proteins, organs, structures, enzymes,hormones are scattered by the trillion into the world of competition bloody in tooth and claw and the fittest survive. It’s called Natural Selection. The base mutation effects cascade up and down through the taxonomic hierarchy creating bigger wings, more efficient proton pumps at inner membrane of mitochondria, longer legs, shorter teeth, more neocortex, you name it. There are a billion features in play and each has a range of manifestation (ROM) - recall the butterfly-hurricane analogy. On the importance of diversity: imagine a football team comprising all quarterbacks -non competitive.


  1. Omnipotent Stem Cells  What if human stem cells not only  possessed the potential to become any organ or tissue or cell type or hormone or catalyst in the human body but, if properly programmed, the elements of a bird, fish or badger? Ontogeny not only recapitulating phylogeny but all phylogeny dormant in every cell in the human body ( see: 97% of human genome now classified as “junk” DNA. With prodding and editing human fertilized eggs could become an actual eagle or gray whale. In 50 years we will be able to re-organize three billion base pairs at will in a microsecond. All human and non-human life on order from any organism’s DNA. Salmon begin to go extinct - no problem, make more from racoon DNA. At vast CAFOs (Confined Animal Feeding Operation) cockroaches turned into crabmeat. Does every cell recapitulate its phylogeny at every cell division?


  1. Dad On Top   American society rewards young ( and old) men who are oblivious from birth of the effects of their dominating fathers who  meddling in their affairs from birth thus preventing the idea of  individuation from occurring in the subject’s mind. “There are no quitters in this family” “Don’t bother coming home if you quit little league baseball”  that you did not enjoy. Finding one’s bliss is not an option with old guard dad. Not quitting is more important than awkwardly discovering one’s calling. The young man drives hard to please his father and becomes “successful” though chronically stressed thus unhappy.  America does not ask a winning football coach if he has taken the sort of cowardly self-negating path demanded by his overbearing father, it only asks that he win.  


In this age of self-maximization, of finding one’s true purpose, it is not cool NOT

To fall away from the tree. It is a must. To follow dad’s prescription for one’s life is      

not an option but what five year old is going to argue?.  See: Urban Meyer on Letterman. Mr. Meyer is the sad character in the quote about little league. That Dave could say, even as a joke, “I wish I were Urban Meyer speaks of Dave’s narrow, old school provincial notion of human purpose and selfe is starting life on 3d base and thinking you hit a triple and never escaping home plate, letting the world think you hit a home run.


JB Questions and Observations:


  1.  In hierarchies of natural selection is there a quantum jump between any two levels from a non-Darwinian evolutionary mechanism into a Darwin zone then back out and up into another non-Darwinian realm?  I.E. Does Darwin’s theory of natural selection function at the cell level or the DNA molecular level or the species or clade level?        *     8/6/16