The Ugly Gene

  Why are many of our buildings ugly when  simple beauty is easily achieved?  In the words of my Harvard GSD architecture professor Ed Baum  “Good proportions are free.”

There is a compulsion suspended like a toxic vapor through the American zeitgeist to seek, propagate and live easily with that which lacks proportion, coordinated color and pleasing composition. Our built environment trends toward  collisions of the ill-formed: trainwrecks, in common parlance.  This is not a newsflash.  Urban physical disorder has been noted by our finest writers of the past century.  Steinbeck complained in Travels With Charley - 1962.  Robert Venturi celebrated  with irony in Learning From Las Vegas - 1972.  We are surrounded by it in 2015.

Every city in the United States is blighted by a cancerous skein of ugly streets, bleak vistas, esthetically vacant mini malls, endless commercial strips  stretch for hundreds of miles, linking cities with  colossal polypeptides of architectural disturbance, 100,000 base pairs comprising fast food joints, each vying to be the Taj Mahal of its block, gas stations, tire stores, payday loan sharks, liquor stores, car lots united by a glowing tissue of  jetsam, a chaos of neon and plastic backlit signage.  Drivers crawl along a molecule of a madness born of fear.

We are comfortable with ugliness. Building designers working for fast food and auto supply franchise owners propose these structures,  planners approve or ignore them, contractors build as instructed  and we all tolerate them, comforted by this swamp of banality defining us, from the scenic fringes of the heartland in Bozeman nestled in the high lonesome to vibrant Nashville, from Boston to Washington down to Miami absorbing  weird comfort from fingernails scratching down the suburban blackboard. Open your eyes on commercial boulevards across America and see the garbage.

I find a parking place near the Vanderbilt campus in my adopted city of Nashville,  a part of town with a long history of smart, well educated, sensitive  people, a part of town containing many hospitals, health care clinics and mid- size hotels.  Student dormitories reminiscent of Bulgarian worker housing face West End  avenue.  I sit for a few moments in my car,  two blocks away,  looking out upon  urban formal chaos.  The willfully, comfortably hideous layers of ugly buildings poison my cone of vision.  Half-baked, uninspired buildings collide with one another in sour formlessness.  This collision of built form is necrosis.  How could this happen among fine folks?  Why did it happen?  Nashville is a friendly, comfortable, amenable city with an intelligent, hard-working population.  This lack of esthetic honesty typifies large zones of each American city.

Looking  closely at a single building, one sees that this single structure is ordinary and uninspired in all aspects of causation.  A common excuse among architects, when pressed to answer for uninspired form, reply that their design was driven by economics ( so were countless beautiful buildings lining the shores and hillsides of the Mediterranean).  When one includes the nearest hulking neighbors of this ugly building in the line of sight, several of these fear-riddled piles combine causing a synergy of negativity the “ Additive Negative” -  two wrongs combine to create a situation geometrically more dissolute than the effect of both wrongs simply added together.  A single airliner flight control component fails - perhaps the aircraft remains airworthy,  a second failure brings catastrophe. So it is with a cityscape.  Isolated, uninspired buildings randomly scattered throughout the urban-suburban fabric and there is little harm or foul,  when added together there is permanent visual turmoil, fear-generated and fear-reinforced piles, negatives have been added, darkness  settles among us.  Let’s drink to this or not,  alcohol exacerbates.  the sensitive are driven to madness.

More than half of all Americans  are hard-wired for ugliness, in possession of a deep, active fear of  beauty resulting from color harmony, resolved proportion, graceful line or sublime use of material.  Like interesting and dangerous animals -the esthetically pleasing is best experienced in the safe confines of an art zoo (museum).   Teams of educated, experienced, licensed professional building designers, armed with time-honored theory still create many ugly buildings. If a design survives its architects in possession of  esthetic quality, it will suffer when placed into its urban context, most often ignoring  neighboring buildings thus poisoned by them.  Every building in  American cities is reviewed and approved by city planners yet the tortured  logic of the aimless collage  prevails.  This new building is anchored in a part of town with its own kind creating an esthetic dead zone.   All is well - Protestants rule, ugly prevails.  We are comfortable and safe.

Ninety eight percent of new buildings constructed in the United States have no architect involved.  Our professionals, trained to deliver visual coherence are not even on the case. So what? They  have filled our cities with banality with arguments of an optimistic Modernism, Postmodernism or Greenism,  styles easily subverted, denatured and derailed.  From the top of our form-giving administrative and professional hierarchy down, politicians and urban designers charged with envisioning entire cities, planners, landscape architects, architects and contractors,  the cohort charged with delivering our built environment to the citizens who finance and approve it, live and work in it -  all is as it should be. We are in stasis  We are surrounded by the manifest response to a powerful fear instilled by our ancestors, a fear overriding our innate mammalian attraction to beauty.  We tolerate an avalanche of the ordinary,  we seek it.

Note: the following thesis falls into the logical category of “Russell’s Teapot” wherein Bertrand Russell asserts that there is a teapot orbiting the sun between the Earth and Mars and it is up to you to disprove it.  If I were forty years younger with a degree in bioscience, a  fume hood, an electrophoresis device, a centrifuge,  I would experiment.  This must be left to others.

North America was settled by Europeans fleeing religious oppression. As the 16th century unfolded, the Protestant Reformation launched by Martin Luther in 1517 became as violently restrictive as the Roman Catholicism it replaced  “Not only were Papists persecuted but Protestant founders in England, Switzerland, the German region, Scandinavia and the Netherlands  prosecuted all secondary Protestant sects as infidels.” - Hughes  

“Queen Elizabeth is on record for the burning at the stake of two Anabaptists in 1575...Henry VIII had a score of them burned on one day in 1535.-Durant

“There were 800 public executions for heresy per year during the last half of the 16th century and punishment often included disembowelling, drowning, beheading and burning. It was forbidden to keep religious  images even in private houses, under pain of severe punishment”-Hughes

“...He brought about the entire suppression of the mass at Augsburg.  At his ( Bucer’s) instigation, many fine paintings, monuments and ancient works of art in churches were wantonly torn, broken and smashed.  Whoever refused to submit and attend protestant worship was obliged to quit the city.” - Grisar.

“In 1529 the council of Strassburg ordered the breaking to pieces of all remaining altars, images and crosses and several churches and convents were destroyed.  In Scotland John Knox passed legislation in which it was forbidden to say mass or be present at mass with punishment being loss of all goods, flogging and banishment and for repeated offense-death.” - Hughes

Many American pioneers at Jamestown, Plymouth, the Chesapeake, the Hudson River Valley and other settlements throughout the Eastern seaboard, emigrated from a violent cauldron of religious intolerance. All protestants share ancestral  roots in 16th century public spectacles of torture of Bishops, priests, monks and Protestant outliers. Destruction of  religious icons: paintings, sculpture, stained glass and the churches and monasteries  containing them was the order of the day.

During the 16th century thousands of citizens of England, The Netherlands, Germanic lands, Scandinavia and Switzerland who emigrated to the new world watched in horror the agonizing spectacle of men and women tortured to death in public for their religious belief.  The genes of these traumatized European ancestors mutated at that time from an innate mammalian positive esthetic response into a fear of harmonious color and good proportion.  We suffer from Suppressed Esthetic Response ( S. E. R.)  We carry a base pair sequence now in a gene that ensures S.E.R. We now experience a  deep-seated, biochemical resistance, encoded during the Reformation in our genome by the effect of severe nervous alarm.  This rearranged code now  protects us from life-threatening expressions of beauty, from dangerous sublimity and bliss.  Many of our ancestors began their journey on this continent afraid of the beautiful and we remain hardwired for banality.

Mammals possess neurons that perceive, analyze, judge and act upon esthetically filtered visual information. An individual discerns healthy, fully-fleshed, strong, capable organisms from those that are unhealthy, emaciated and weak, incapable of defense or likely to pass viable genes to offspring i.e. out of proportion.  When a creature is in proportion it receives respect from the observer.  Quality and fitness have been perceived.  The dreaded B-word -  beauty has registered.  Our capacity for esthetic discretion in works of architecture and art in our everyday environment has been switched off in the genetic code of Protestants descended from Europeans of the 16th century.  This includes a large percentage of contemporary Americans.  To sense beauty is to be human - to deny beauty is to be Euro- American.

Architects, our sanctioned saviors from perversions of built form, have been marginalized. Their respect in the community of built-form providers has dwindled over the century  from a time when there were such persons as “Master Builders”.  Architects have become obsessed with  awarding one another for having swallowed sustainability Kool Aid. If a  building is environmentally sensible and it satisfies an often esthetically challenged owner,  the architect considers his or her work complete.  Architecture, our culture’s only professional locus of hope for a delightful urban environment has become self-referential.  Our finest graduate schools of urban design, landscape design and architecture  throughout the Ivy League (source of all  design school  marching orders)  have become high strung cults (see: “8 signs your child is in a cult”)  bound by obscure jargon, dominated by a cloistered,  priesthood disdaining the grubby, local, contentious,  real-world of building delivery,  herding their privileged flock of the children of the global one percent,  stroking and abusing them under the archaic and arcane tutelage of grand old men and women who were bloviating, ill-tempered gasbags 35 years ago and remain such.  Need an architect?  they toil on the sidelines with  buggy whip makers next to the disco balls.   We are on our own.

A traumatic experience 450 years ago affects our population.  The effect is achieved by the same mechanics of evolution that increased fur density on mammals forced to endure frigid climates.  The innate esthetic sensibility of land animals was locked into our genome 250 million years ago.  Soon after crawling from Pre-Cambrian waters to explode into countless species,  among them were rat-like precursors of our lineage.  A bio-mechanism has clouded a very long held esthetic sensibility  with fear.  Was this gene sequence permanently switched off?  Can we reactivate it?

The idea that a population can inherit  physical change or behavior from the real-time life experience of recent ancestors has been a bugaboo of evolutionary thinkers since Darwin dismissed Lamarck’s notion that giraffes affected the length of the neck of their immediate offspring by stretching to reach the high leaves.  This notion is called  “Inheritance of acquired characters”  Darwin’s assertion was that  a character such as a long neck is the result of a gradual process playing out over millions of years of competition for survival during which giraffes with longer necks would achieve greater success than relatives with a shorter neck due to their ability to reach a food source, the higher leaves.  Darwin’s natural selection is a long, slow, gradual unfolding of  fitness.  For Lamarck the giraffe lineage would see results of a stretching effort in its offspring - for Darwin the results may not be seen for an epoch.  Natural selection must play out, external forces of evolution will act upon every single component and behavior of every organism at all times,  gradually, slowly and most of all, uniformly,  over the fullness of geologic time: tens or hundreds of millions of years. Larmarck = immediate results, Darwin = results in due time - a very long time in the terms of a single human life, spans of incomprehensible time.

According to renowned paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould,  three key branches of  Darwinism have been marginalized by forty years of research in several biosciences, primarily genetics, embryology, biophysics and paleontology.  Darwin’s three theoretical branches beyond the main trunk, that organisms evolve at all,  are as follows: 1.  Species evolve gradually and continuously in very small increments over the wide expanse of an epoch(s)  Any change whatsoever will be insensible in a dozen or even a thousand human lifetimes.  2.  Species evolve due to natural selection ( survival of the fittest and weirdest)  caused by forces external to the individual.  These external forces of causation act upon mutations  manifest in individual organisms.  These external  forces of selection are: A.  competition within species for sexual  access  B.  adjusting ( or not )  to climate  C.  competition with other organisms in its ecosystem for food and dominance. 3.  The primary taxonomic level in a hierarchy of causation for plant and animal evolution is the individual organism,  not down a level to the gene (Dawkins)  or up a taxonomic level, or three, to the species, clade or the phylum (Gould).

Newsflash: (Shhhhh - don’t tell Creationists) Darwin has been denied, demoted, contradicted:  1.  Evolution is characterized by punctuated equilibrium, short periods of speciation ( great change) followed by eons of stasis.  Evidence described in hundreds of published scientific experiments and exploration during past 50 years.  There do exist species that evolve gradually, but most, as seen in the 350 million year fossil record,  do not.  2.  It has been proven by genetic research of the past thirty years that the bulk of our genome has been chemically  locked into its chromosomal place  for many millions of years. Humans share genetic sequences for metabolism and organ development with many chordates, vertebrates, mammals and especially primates.  Very little of our genome is available for Darwin’s version of natural selection.  The majority of genetic change is internally driven by genetic and physical constraint,  not driven by forces external to the individual, as Darwin asserted.  3.  The individual is not the primary causal level, in the Linnaean taxonomy,  for natural selection.  Gould and others assert that the key entity in the evolutionary drama is the species not the individual.  Entire species  survive and diversify  or become extinct in response to rare catastrophic forces of climate change, bolide ( comet, meteor, asteroid) impact and or plate tectonic effects on ocean currents, weather patterns and vegetation growth as continents shift.

Lamarck, renowned in his day but discredited for the past 150 years,  the butt of every biology text explaining evolution in our lifetime, is back.  Recent studies have shown that electrical impulses from neurons can affect the sequence of base pairs in DNA.  If a traumatic emotion can send an electrical charge to an orbiting electron on the carbon atom of a thymine molecule on a DNA strand tucked into gene 123-XYZ on the twelfth chromosome in a gamete ( ovum or sperm),  it can be inherited.

Every mutation has an origin - a first move proving beneficial to an individual, population or species or not.  This mutation becomes preserved and used or is proven ineffective and is selected against or ignored ( see: nipples on men).  As noted, many of our northern European ancestors observed or directly suffered public torture of religious heretics for over a century, this population carried, within its biochemical architecture a fear of attracting attention to its religious beliefs, avoiding expressions of support for soul-stirring architecture, sculpture and painting.  Individuals so stirred were disembowelled and burned in front of their eyes.  The agonies of dissent were fused into the genetic chemistry of the audience.  Electrical signals coursed violently through nerve networks, all cells were affected including gametes,  the rest is locked firmly into our history, registered by the bookkeeper of natural selection,  the gene.  Genes keep the books while natural selection acts upon individual organisms, species and clades.

Organisms comprise a hierarchy of causal realms of evolution from sub-atomic particles subject to laws of quantum mechanics to atoms and molecules behaving under laws of physics and chemistry discerned in the 18th and 19th century, DNA and chromosomes cause effects noted in the 19th century and verified in detail through the 20th and 21st centuries.  Darwin asserted the individual as the taxonomic star actor at the causal center. Richard Dawkins asserts the gene as the major player - see: The Selfish Gene-1975,  Gould asserts that the species or clade ( 10,000 species of birds in the clade of birds, 5,416 species in the clade of mammals) is the primary locus of evolution.  btw-  homo sapiens exist in a clade of one.

Our ancestors, a sub population from a corner of the Eurasian continent, developed a trait that allowed it to survive barbarous times in the old world: aversion to esthetics and and along with it,  an  associated trait of religious tolerance.  It is unfortunate that the tolerance feature appears to have  over-ridden our capacity for esthetic discernment.

The United States contains millions of descendants of this once small, harassed population carrying a silenced base pair sequence born of trauma. How might Americans discover ways to re-activate our collective esthetic sense now that the danger has passed? How might we swerve the tone of our zeitgeist toward delight?  It would be an interesting avenue of research to explore ways in which the  damping of our esthetic sensibility may have also reduced  our capacity for any sort of common happiness.  Americans behave as if repelled by bliss,  resistant even to ordinary cheerfulness not induced by weird entertainment,  alcohol, tobacco, firearms, weed, crank or pills. We appear to be blind to the reigning lack of proportion in our chubby  population, including our ill-nourished children.    If we can engineer our genome to control heritable disease, perhaps we can do some genetic research that might encourage a more delightful cityscape.  We must see in order to act.


January 3, 2015


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



July 31, 2015 Nothing is ever abrupt. Everything has its history, a backstory, a build up, an evolution. You may not see the development but it happened nonetheless. Nothing is abrupt. Things are small for 1,000 years then you can feel them, see them, then they kill you. Take cholera for instance.

Sometimes things appear abrupt because the intermediate stages have been lost, removed, stolen, ignored, simply not seen. How many times have we heard the following from an artist “My overnight success took thirty years.” or twenty years or ten years i.e. this person’s success only appeared to be abrupt. Ask anything that seems to happen all at once. Nothing happens all at once. Nothing is abrupt.

Some things seem abrupt due to a change of background. You didn’t see the green apple on the green grass but when it is seen against a red picnic cloth it is in your face. Shift the background and things “abruptly” appear. Relocate the object to a new background and it looks different all of a sudden. If you want to see the unseen, change the background noise. Killing big game for sport was a sign of masculinity in the 1920s. In the 2015 it is pathological cruelty, senseless, egomaniacal destruction.

While you were busy looking elsewhere this phenomenon became present. Some things gestate, hibernate remain out of sight and in stasis; other things are always growing, getting bigger, gaining definition, clarity, power and then you see them and then they explode.

  1. Bacteria invented the animal ( human)  gut just as humans invented agriculture and writing.
  2. Ethanol ( whiskey, vodka, gin etc.) dissolves gut biofilm making one more susceptible to viral, bacterial infection, cancer, ulcers, etc.
  3. Ethanol dissolves myelin sheaths at axons-neurons making one more quick tempered, depressed, angry, violent i.e. less sociable.

Things only appear to be created when they are merely stuff being re-arranged or noticed for the first time. People who are identified as “creative”  re-arrange more stuff than others. They break more rules and dig deeper into processes. Mozart’s melodies were always sitting there among the seven tones. He was the one to notice them. Picasso and Braque looked closer at the late work of Cezanne to discover the reason for all the fuss.

There is no creation and there is no abruption. there is unfolding at various rates or uncovering or finally seeing. A snail evolves from one species to another over the course of ten million years and Stephen Jay Gould calls this “punctuation” a singular event across geologic scale time i.e. hundreds of millions of years claiming this abrupt speciation an argument against Darwin’s gradualism.

Being born is an abruption. Sure it’s just another chemical event on a 4.5 billion year continuum but to another human it is an abruption. If it is your child, it is a big abruption. Humans have their unique realm of what is abrupt and what is continuous. Avocado dip turns brown after an hour sitting on a picnic table but if one makes a sport out of watching it. It seems to take forever. The mayfly lives for a day as a flying insect.

Abruption-abrupt punctuation as dramatic climax in dramatic text paving way for third act. Shift characters into a new context, a new background to reveal something hidden


5:34  7/31/15



Brain Gene

April 7, 2015 “The law is whatever is boldly asserted and plausibly maintained” - Aaron Burr

…..and so it is with the law of nature - JB

Genes do not specify cognitive or behavioral outputs.  Genes are the information for building proteins which carry out functions inside the cells of the body.” - Fisher, et al

There are 2,000 genes of our total of 20,000 that code for proteins related to the function of the mammal central nervous system - one of these genes makes us human.

Once our mammal HOX genes establish our nervous system architecture,  one gene remains, launching a cascade of chemical events resulting  in our susceptibility to being humanized.  the events of this cascade are triggered by a single gene. This gene  codes for “Protein Zero” ( like “ground zero” - a foundational event or place).  The PTM ( post translational modification) of this molecule propels us toward our humanness -language, tool use, altruism and reasoning.

The majority of human brain components are shared with all mammals but humans have a larger neocortex.  If the only thing separating humans from apes and other mammals is our neocortex, it follows that human genes coding for the neocortex must also code for language, reasoning, and tool use.

JB Single-Gene (FOXP2) Theory - witchcraft as heuristic:

Uniquely human function is initiated by post-translational modification(PTM)  of nucleotides  coded by  genes  conserved across all mammal species. There is a single gene unique to humans but there are many thousands of PTMs unique to humans.  The key to our humanity is Post Translational Modification of RNA and histones in postpartum maturing cortical neurons-until age 20.  At birth we may as well be a chimp, as our cortical neurons have yet to be post translated inducing humanity.

  1. Methylation of histone H3 @ pyramid cells:         tool use
  2. Phosphorylation of tasiRNA @ granular cells:     language
  3. Acetylation of tRNA @inhibitory cells:             reasoning
  4. Hydroxylation of siRNA @ non-spiny bipolar cells: mythmaking / Religion
  5. Malonylation of LncRNA @ double bouquet cells:     tribal intensity
  6. Proteolytic Cleavage of G2phase chromatin @ cajal-retzius cells: music
  7. Deamidation of cisNAT @ spiny stellate cells :             painting
  8. Ubiquitin Modification of S-phase chromatin @ chandelier cells: altruism

Once again for effect:

“Genes do not specify cognitive or behavioral outputs. Genes are the information for building proteins which carry out functions inside the cells of the body.”   

  1. What is the source of the neuronal change resulting in language, tool use, etc?
  2. Assume the FOXP2 gene codes for language and fine motor control required for mouth movement to form words.  FOXP2 is The Mythmaker, the only gene we need to be fully human.
  3. To do:  Explore quantum effects in neuronal gene expression
  4. Is the manufacture, vesicle-ization and transmission through synaptic membrane of neurotransmitters the only  or even the primary form of inter-neuronal communication?   Seems slow.
  5. There are 1,000 different chemosensory odorant receptors in human olfactory system.  does this mean there are 1,000 different post translational modifications to a single protein or 10 proteins or 500?  One gene per protein?
  6. To do: Subject mammalian vestibular hair “supporting type” cells to various pitches of sound from VHF to UHF to see if the sound ( electromagnetic radiation) induces support cells to become hair cells where hair cells have been damaged.  Birds are sensitive to the Earth’s magnetic effects using them to navigate, perhaps a bird’s proteomic tools for magnetic ( or is it electromagnetic?) perception also assist in vestibular hair regeneration.
  7. Do birds have iron-rich protein storage enabling them to read Earth’s magnetic field for long-range navigation?
  8. Was Picasso really radical in 1910 as he experimented with Cubism or simply a sly little magpie standing on the shoulders of truly radical Cezanne?
  9. What is E sharp minor re: Bach.  Isn’t E Sharp minor simply F Minor?
  10. Andy Warhol was a manipulator of American myth: Coke, comics, dollar bills,Campbell’s Soup, Liz Taylor, Marilyn Monroe, Mao, Brillo, i.e. don’t touch it if it isn’t already famous.  He proceeded from famous brands to wealthy, obscure socialites, famous in their own minds  for 1,000 slapdash silkscreen portraits.
  11. Perhaps there are many more acoustic insects than we know due to their ultrasonic song-pulse-chirp, inaudible to humans.
  12. Are insect chirp rate and pitch coded by two different genes or are they two varieties of post translational modification of a single conserved gene - say the FOXP2?
  13. A predatory mammal - lion, bear, wolf and 99.99% of all organisms, elicit zeeero sympathy-empathy-altruism for the small, weak, slow - i.e. to any life other than its own , all else is killable without conscience.  In humans this is called psychopathology.
  14. The idea of water is a great one but don’t bet the farm on a single drop.  Humans respect numbers and effects not principles.
  15. Perhaps there is an entirely separate bio-mechanism for protein translation and regulation separate from the effects of the DNA molecule or chromatin.  Genetics may not be the only game in town though it is the only one we can presently detect.
  16. To do: Search for quantum signaling effects upon DNA / RNA. Genetic Central Dogma becomes a sideshow after performing its duties in cell division.  The cell divides followed by quantum effects managing histone architecture for tissue-specific products and process.
  17. Try this: intracellular electromagnetic signaling-coding protein synthesis by color. Organelles send and receive signals re: protein synthesis and protein regulation via energy from the electromagnetic spectrum - visual range ( or UV or Infrared).  Green=excite, Red=inhibit, Cerise=delay 5 seconds, mauve=delay 10 seconds, chartreuse=delay two years.  Color combinations have signal meaning like the bands of color on a military uniform theater badge.
  18. Do ribosomes detect and interpret electromagnetic radiation during protein synthesis to affect translated properties?
  19. Explore: temperature induced intracellular signaling - effects of temperature on Ca2
  20. Imagine our 20 billion neocortical neurons with no outer membranes - neural soup with each voxel ( a cubic millimeter) possessing its own designation, like a city name in this globe of smart goo. In each voxel there are 1,000,000 addresses.  signaling between all 10 trillion nodal points suffusing the goo, speeding up thought process by 1,000-fold and our depth of intelligence to infinity.
  21. Investigate: Alignment of cascading effects for protein regulation: quantum, followed by electromagnetic followed by chemical, followed by electrical and then reverse this taxonomy of effect.  It is the sequence that creates meaning i.e. the syntax (  order of occurrence)  of causality not the grammar( the meaning) i.e. where this molecule fits.
  22. The American home is an arena for the display and use of the artifacts, trinkets, totems and tokens honoring our prevailing myth of consumption: appliances, fixtures, fittings, cars, TV, bed, bedding and towels and factory produced food.
  23. Roland Barthes misreads the meaning of bourgeois and petit bourgeois assuming that the characters of the bourgeois myth are willful or under the control of the bourgeois mind - they are not. These reifications of myth ( toasters, ball games) accrue in a culture like the conserved genes of flies ( and humans) with a contemporary residue of specificity.  The core remains the same ol’ - same ol’ structuralist mail slots filled by the mode- O- day thus not a target for disdain. Barthes disdains the bourgeois mind on every page of his “Mythologies”
  24. “The intensity of your dudgeon is in inverse proportion to the validity of your case Mr. Lathrop - please calm down - revenge is a dish best served cold.” - Prof. Picault
  25. Le Corbusier was the finest Cubist of them all.  He could swallow little Picasso, Metzinger, Gleizes, Leger, Gris, Duchamp - the whole circus in one bite.  Braquasso’s Cubism is “Cezanne for Dummies” The rest of the Cubist circus, save Leger, are copycats.  As one considers the source of Cubism, the case for Le Corbusier’s  preeminence becomes clear.
  26. Humans are but a minor cluster of dendrites growing from the universal mind among trillions of other living things. Humans are very late to the party but interesting and destructive guests,  poisoning one another as they burn the place down.  Humans need more conserved genes to manage their neocortex in ways that allow the existence of the others.
  27. Note: L.A. is a different place than Los angeles. L.A. is hip,ironic,semitic, gay-ish, linked to New York City and the capitals of Europe.  Los Angeles is the vast sprawl, the 405 parking lot, the beaches, the aircraft industry, the colleges and universities, the endless banal housing, the power lines, LAX, etc.
  28. @ Easter - On grief: A Religion with a foundation of grief is sick by definition.  “Good” Christians want to others to share in the Big Grief of crucifixion and they will shove it down your throat.  If you don’t swallow,  you will be exiled, jailed, marginalized.  People unload, or try to unload,  their grief onto others in convoluted, surprising ways.  An originating event, say crucifixion or untimely death in the family, may be 20 years or two thousand years in the past but still moiling like magma.  A trivial request or offhand remark eliciting a response dramatically out of proportion, launching a cascade of ill will, ill effect, illness, awkwardness, embarrassment and weirdness. One struggles to recall the original sadness to explain the envy of the grief stricken for those who don’t bear the burden.  the current toxic vapor stems from an uncontrollable compulsion to share, to unload, to lighten their perpetual unbearable weight.  “No one gets out of this room happy”  “Your happiness is a slap in our face.”  “Your good cheer is an assault that will be avenged.”  Grief seeks entropy.  the gradient between the grieved and the innocent is large and shall be reduced.
  29. Myth, like important DNA is conserved and like DNA it is continually mutating.  there is a dialectic of conservation - mutation -synthesis.  the history of science is the story of the dissolution-evolution-transformation of myth.  the history of history is the mutation of the social order.  Gradual on the small scale i.e. barely noticeable frog boiling temperature change in the water we all swim in - the zeit   at the small end and wars and revolutionary Rock groups at the grand scale, WWII, The Beatles.  Conserved myth is language, birth-marriage-death ritual, money, education, religious dogma  Myth up for grabs: music trends, fashion in clothing, professional jargon, comedy, film styles.
  30. Atonal music ensures grief - it is a most astringent sound.  Traditional 7 tone music from classical to rock to rap has always made an effort to seduce - there is always a sales pitch at work whether for the Catholic Church or for the latest pop song.  Bach , Mendelssohn, Handel, were great pitchmen for Christianity ( a pun!) There is seduction and sublime sexuality in the Romanticism of Beethoven, Mozart and Chopin. In 12 tone music and most other 20th century avant garde music, it’s straight grief -  no chaser.  Take your religion straight like a man.  Taste the bitter purity of Christian redemption, suffering, self-flagellation.  With Schoenberg, Bartok, Varese,Cage, Riley, Reich you become Christ.  You are nailed to the cross at your ears by dissonance.
  31. The genes of the human limbic system must be much more highly conserved than those of the neocortex:  The highly conserved - neurochemical-electrical process, central nervous system bauplan, limbic system functions.  Moderately conserved: Structuralist mythmaking re: language, custom.  Up for grabs every day - the higher functions of the neocortex - qualities of sentience, what constitutes intelligence, subjects for emotional expression / repression, one’s individuality.
  32. The Myth and the Lie: Myth: Americans are intensely socially stratified, more than citizens of 18th century France or England.  Lie: All men, all Americans, are created equal.
  33. the Myth is what you cannot help believing. Myth is your core knowledge about the world, your culture, your entire milieu, your mind - This zeit-stuff controls your behavior at all times. You can’t help it any more than you can think in a language foreign to you.
  34. The lie is what you consciously  tell yourself and others in order to align your comprehension of the myth with expressed social norms and religious dogma. The lie is a kid glove for the deadly myth. The glove doesn’t always fit.
  35. Without myth there is no movement.  We would be frozen in fear and ignorance.  Without myth we have no model for the world, for our behavior, our belief, our being.  Myth is the matrix for exploration and we have little choice in the matter.
  36. Many of Darwin’s thoughts about the mechanics of evolution have been proven wrong or trivial but the myth he created has fueled 150 years of fruitful scientific exploration.
  37. So it is with the DNA myth.  No question that it delivers an important function but it most likely does not dominate causality as our myth now asserts.  We must now look elsewhere for deeper answers.
  38. Myth is BTN ( better than nothing) Is post-translational modification a myth?  What is the difference between myth and truth.  All truth revolves around its own myth.  Myth is the core. Truth is the following inner layer wrapped around the Myth-core.
  39. Is Newtonian mechanics a myth because Relativity holds water?
  40. Don’t tell a cement contractor who has just poured a 50,000 square foot foundation slab that the Earth isn’t flat. If you are pouring concrete ( for anything other than the two-mile long Stanford Linear Accelerator) the Flat Earth Myth serves just dandy. If you are sailing to a new world it doesn’t tell the whole story.
  41. Totem, Token, Talisman, Trinket are tools for myth reification.
  42. We are no longer governed by politicians in Washington D.C. but by tech legions at Google, Microsoft and Facebook.
  43. Any system designed by humans in order to make other humans seem to have more meaning to themselves is inherently corrupt ( though often entertaining and often fun! - most corruption is fun at first) i.e. it’s gonna cost you.  It will ultimately do the opposite of what you expected - you expected to be made whole and you were further diluted, obscured from yourself, minimized, put in your place filed away in your bourgeois mailslot - another brick in the wall.
  44. To do:  Compare human junk DNA to the DNA of 10,000 species of microorganisms: bacteria, viruses, fungi, archaea to see if these microorganisms are using the human genome for their private storage facility - banking their DNA for future use.  Parasitic gene banking. One day they will return to your body and turn you into their private factory.  Keep immune system boosted.
  45. Is junk DNA present to the same degree in every single human cell?
  46. Is junk DNA simply DNA that is not coding at a specific organ tissue?  What cell type  was being investigated when the “junk” label was applied?
  47. “Myth transforms history into nature.”-Roland Barthes…..See: Founding Fathers: Washington and Jefferson have been transformed but  not so much Adams, Hamilton, Madison, Monroe or Marshall.
  48. African tribal myth 19th century: “Hey! our ritual works ! We dance, we chant and sick man gets better.  All is right with the world.  Modern scientific myth: “Hey ! our ritual works ! We irradiate and poison patient with chemo and cancer growth slows., sick woman gets better,  Myth functions,  all is right with the world.  In each case the patient was OK for awhile then died-as could be expected.
  49. Our myths provide a safety net of shared belief that blots out the cold neutrality of the void.
  50. Using a microscope and a diatholizer instead of a chant and a rattle does not mean you are not partaking of myth.
  51. Science, like any bourgeois art, suffers from an obsession with detail.
  52. One’s myth evaporates with age like the elasticity of neurons, leaving old folks a little sad as they see the fragile skein of their lives and the optimistic jitters of the young, whose myth has yet to coalesce.
  53. Madness is seeing through the charade of myth-making prior to old age.  Old people are mad by definition due to the obsolescence of their faded generation's operative myths.
  54. Schizophrenics are myth-resistant, thus,.....  out of their minds.  Their neocortexes spare them the effort of either personal myth making or respectfully addressing the myth of their milieu.
  55. The Beatles dissolved both the myth of Elvis and that of Sinatra as they dried up the pond of Frankie Avalon, The Everlys, Dion, Neil Sedaka, Dion and the 4 Seasons. The Beatles reversed the signification of our myth of hair and thankfully, the myth that being serious was crucial to being successful.
  56. The human neocortex is first and foremost  a myth making machine. The neocortex uses language, social behavior and memory to construct a functional myth that requires deep connection with prevailing mythical zeit.
  57. Darwin was a mythbuster and a myth maker. He was great because, while dismantling one myth, Biblical Creation,  he created another, Evolution,  to fill its place.  Darwin’s theory has worked well for 150 years but is proving shaggy in the details.  That organisms evolve is rock solid - all mechanisms of causality are up for grabs with most of Darwin’s notions either disproven or on shaky ground.
  58. Bioscientists live in fear of the vast realm of causality that would be laid open if we demythologized the role of DNA in biology’s gene-centered Central Dogma.
  59. Don’t sniff your own myth - the tautology will make you delirious.
  60. DNA and RNA are to cell function what the U.S. Constitution is to law practice. The Constitution establishes the ground rules that have guided countless legal cases as DNA has for myriad aspects of organ systems.  Think of organ systems as branches of law each governed by a library of its specific case law,  practices and traditions specific to it.
  61. The DNA in the nucleus of each cell of our organ systems is a metaphor for the Constitution - the ground rules. Details are organ-tissue specific.
  62. Our DNA is “The Constitution” present for reference and use in each of 37 trillion cells in a human body. Procedural details exist in each organ’s own “law library” read: It’s QUANTOME ( JB neologism) A quantome is like a genome but one million times as large, maybe 100 million and comprising quantum effects on nucleotides, cell compounds, elements, atoms, etc.  The word quantome is new not the idea that quantum events affect life process.
  63. If ribosomes attached to RER (rough endoplasmic reticulum) are the site of protein synthesis are these RER-secured ribos also the site of post translational modification? or does PTM occur elsewhere,perhaps at other ribos floating closer to their point of use say at the tip of a neuron growth cone.
  64. Are GABA and glutamate manufactured at dedicated ribosomes - one for each?
  65. Must a neurotransmitter always arrive at the growth cone zone contained in a vesicle or do some arrive free-floating?  Do any arrive via microtubules?  Can vesicles travel within microtubules?
  66. Whoever plays the most insufferable asshole or neurotic harpie in the movies is a shoe-in for big kudos and often an Academy Award.
  67. Historic disasters exist in the cosmic ether as bubbles of residual energy that can be detected by certain people like an antenna detects a radio signal only it may be decades removed from the source event.  This might explain some of the popularity of Civil War reenactment. Beware of hovering grief.


Shift, Swerve, Juke

January 24, 2015 A sharecropper sits on his front porch near Tunica Mississippi playing a song on his battered old guitar and launches the soundtrack to a cultural revolution played out by Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones, The Beatles and Paul Butterfield - the butterfly effect.

Every human life engages hierarchies of causation from nanoscale events far below the visual threshold up through the  small gestures that influence family and friends that may in turn lead to local trends and international effects.  Pick up mom’s guitar, look closely at the salamander and the stars.

Changes within a single person may cascade into larger effects, some are willful and many without intention.  Pete Townsend’s willful songwriting affected millions, and millions of people driving through the streets of London affect Pete Townshend. One million people buy a hit record and one million people buy a gallon of milk creating increasing tension at the farm- suburbia interface driving up rock star housing expense.

The general population buys automobiles - a generic item.  Advertising makes the generic specific.  I don’t just want a car, I want a Bugatti.

People crave wider effects than those available at the level of family and friends.  Adolescents want to control the world, old folks want to control their bladder.  As we grow up we discover hierarchies of our potential effect.  We strategize in arcs wide enough to make a living by providing society a useful skill - entertaining family and friends won't pay the rent.  Formal education is a conduit to the larger world where one earns a living.  After college what is my next challenge?  In science,  a small discovery will expand one’s influence, as in art, find a fresh way to convey the same ol’ same ol’.

Thomas Kuhn introduced the world to the nature of a paradigm shift in his 1962 classic “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions”  In it he discusses change in scientific frameworks at a large scale: Copernicus, Newton,Darwin.  Imagine a hierarchy of revolution - a taxonomy of change,  the larger being the “shift” followed down the taxonomic scale by the swerve, the juke and then that smaller revolution that occurs once every two years in pop music - the jink.

Ideas cascade down and up the taxon, large affecting small and vice versa.  A gamma ray strikes an oxygen atom initiating a base pair mutation in a gene causing a woman’s IQ and EQ  to improve by ten points each.  She leverages her intelligence into the leadership of the free world.  A comet strikes the Earth and countless species become extinct.  An obscure, ugly little rodent-like mammal that eats snails and worms has been released from an evolutionary prison of total domination by dinosaurs and sixty million years later has evolved into humans.  After little rat,  we have ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, Persia, Greece, Indus Valley, China and Rome - we have history.

There is a difference between paradigm shifts described by Kuhn that are within a single social realm such as science, not necessarily affecting art or religion - Newton in physics, Darwin in Biology, Freud in psychology. There are much larger changes in the zeitgeist as happened ca 1912 when eight different  paradigms shifted at once in art, physics, literature, music, dance, architecture, transportation (powered  flight)  and psychology.  Today as we evolve rapidly from our short-lived (at 100 years) Postmodern world,  to a Cybermodern society-we experience changes larger than a shift.  Searching for a single term  that would include many simultaneous paradigm shifters:  Braque-Picasso, Freud, Wright, Schoenberg, Joyce and Einstein in 1912 and that would need to define the Grove-Moore, Wozniak-Jobs-Gates and Google-Zuckerberg shifts that coalesced around in 2012.  How about Zeitshift?  then, working down the scale to the simpler single realm  shift, then down to the swerve, the juke and jink - OK.

A zeitshift is when the zeit hits the fan in every walk of life.  The entire game has been changed for everyone - for example,  the 1912 zeitshift from the 500 year epoch of The Descended Grid to the 100 year age of uncertainty known as Postmodernism and now another zeitshift from the Postmodern into the age of Cybermodernism.  Einstein’s 1905 “Theory of Relatvity” - iinitiates a paradigm shift in physics.  Picasso and Braque initiate a paradigm shift in Art.  Frank Lloyd Wright defines a shift in architecture - together, the combined mass of their innovation signals a zeitshift.

A zeitshift changes everything.  It was the 1912 Postmodern zeitshift, gaining wider traction in the 1960s,  that  allowed the Stephen Jay Gould-Niles Eldredge notion “Stasis is Data” to gain traction in the scientific community. The Postmodern zeitshift made it OK to think that the key force of speciation is cooperation not competition-Lynn Margulis.  the PoMo zeitshift shift,  codified by Susan Sontag in her 1964 essay “Notes on Camp” eased the way for gays - out in parades, occupying whole urban zones, many TV and movie roles, marriage, for blacks to dominate pop music with rap and hip hop, to make it OK to be the “other”, the  formerly ignired, the underprivileged, the underclass is recognized and even celebrated- see PoMo economics, history, anthropology, literature theory. Zeitshifts allow full respect and consideration for ideas that a previous zeit disallowed.

Zeitshifts now occur at a rapid rate.  They used to occur once  every 300-500 years now they’re every 100 years or less.

What are the analogs between organism genetic evolutionary causality and social causality?  How did / does Darwinism or Neo-Darwinism once localized in bio-science and geology,  widen its effect on public consciousness, a higher, broader level of the taxon.  How did Darwin effect lower, narrower levels of scientific inquiry in genetics, embryology, biophysics, geology, anthropology, mathematics, psychology?

Great thinkers who acted first on a lower taxon level and affected great change throughout the taxonomic hierarchy: Kingdom, phylum, class,family, genus, species and individual.  In politics see: Napoleon, Churchill, Stalin, FDR, LBJ

Trace the history of rock and roll from sub-saharan tribal African rhythms to slave chants, to Robert Johnson, Meade Lux Lewis,  Louis Jordan, Jackie Brenston, Bill Haley, Elvis,  Little Richard, Buddy Holly, the Beatles, Stones, Zep, Iggy Pop The Ramones, The Sex Pistols, Duran Duran, Metallica, REM, Nirvana et al. The skin- tonal transformation from black to white is interesting and now that whites have totally subsumed rock and roll, ever-inventive blacks juked again into rap and jinked into hip hop - now also subsumed by whites.


United States of Painting

For the past two weeks I have been trying to memorize the shapes and relationships of the contiguous forty eight states in order to use this knowledge in a series of riffs on Jasper Johns’ iconic encaustic map paintings. Now that I am aware of the shapes of the state’s borders and this information is now in the forefront of my consciousness I am beginning to have some fun seeing state outlines in cracks in the sidewalk and cracked asphalt parking lots and driveways. I go on long walks two or three times a week along city sidewalks from Redwood City to Menlo Park in the San Francisco Bay Area. I usually walk at night. Lately I’ve been finding lots of state shapes in the sidewalk. As you have already guessed, Wyoming turns up a lot, as do Kansas and Colorado as well as the Dakotas but all that is required for a good Vermont / New Hampshire combo is a single sinuous angled crack across one of the Wyomings. I recently found Minnesota, Nevada, Maryland, Idaho, Missouri and new York, South Carolina is quite a common shape. My favorite so far is a Wisconsin / Illinois combo. I recently encountered a broken up asphalt driveway that, while squinting, could be imagined as the entire forty eight!