Thursday, April 14, 2016


Cannon Beach

Much of Oregon’s coast is not sand but volcanic rock.  The exception is that the mouth of the Columbia River creates a very long shallow wash that makes the tide really work to come ashore, but which the Japanese current has bent north powerfully enough to create “Long Beach,” a seemingly stable island still attached to the continent on the Washington State side.  There’s a town that specializes in amusements like shooting galleries and salt water taffy.

To the south the volcanic rock is sharp and surf-pounded.  The animal life, which is abundant, is mostly equipped to hang on, as opposed to the clams over in the sand which are captured by digging and can dig away from you very quickly indeed.  On the rock, the creatures must be pried off.  If you’ve ever tried to collect a starfish, you know that you have to tear off their multitude of legs to get them.

When you walk on the rock, you must be wary, because the rock has holes worn in it that create water spouts when the surf hits hard.  Without warning you might be drenched by the marine equivalent of Old Faithful, roaring.

I’m raising these images to discuss print-talk on websites, specifically on Aeon which has resourcefully split itself into two venues: one is curated and edited articles of good quality on the announced topics of the group, which are all honorable disciplines like those one might encounter in academia.  That’s the beach, the result of aeons of depositions.  

The other one is a parallel environment, volcanic and stony, featuring a whole lot of mostly men clinging to their educations which are mostly out-dated from my point of view.  Their generalizations are limpets based on only the life they know in their circles, their margins of the landscape.

All these factors apply to me, of course, because I’m going up and down the coast while living on the prairie which hasn’t been a sea for a very long time. It's name is the Bearpaw Sea.  It's the name of something that's only evidence now.   
Here’s a dated and amusing explanation given by two college-aged geeks.  They also discuss baculites, which are the “buffalo stones” (iniskim) of prairie tribal people.  These fossils, I will propose, are good religious icons.  Out-dated.  Which fascinate theologians in wet suits, carrying their own oxygen supply.  The devil arrives.  A very long and toothed serpent.  They eat Albertonectes.


I consciously live in metaphor, which is why I’m able to step away from the “given” so easily.  When I read what the young ‘uns write, I see that they are much more easily metaphorical than their elders.  The people lamenting the corruption and overgrowth of the academic world want to return it to the way it was, with proper grammar and punctuation.  The younger thinkers are trying to disassemble the old Notre Dame (Alma Mater) schools into parts more suitable for an internet age.  

Which elements are skills, which are content, which are structuring systems?  What evidence is there?  What can anyone do alone, which require resources, and which can be accessed through older, different, more experienced people?  In the end everyone learns, no matter what.  

The autodidacts of the world are always with us, actively seeking, which means they don’t need expensive universities with pretty campuses.  But can they really get an education at a “mail order” institution that has sold its remaining assets, the ones originally provided by founders at great cost and effort?  Can there be an “auto-academy,” unattached from the kelp forest and washed up on the beach?

Seaside, OR

The popular conception is that an education will get one a better job, providing a filter and certification that will signal competence.  In fact, the advantage I see is that it gives access to bonding and relationships that form friendship communities.  This is how many people get high level jobs: they know someone with contacts.  This is how one gets published, how one gets to speak at the expensive fuel-using conferences where everyone flies in to attend, and how one finds a proper marriage partner.

This is not evil or wrong — it’s just how the world works.  I was surprised to see it demonstrated in the comments to Aeon issues.  Many of these people know each other, expose their ongoing friction, and tread around in the same old circles like oxen bound to stone grinding mills.  Immigrants with bad grammar must struggle.  Women are shooed away — few of them bother anyway.  Why be dashed on the rocks by the forces of sexism when the library is open?

I love mixed metaphors.  Even more lovable can be depictions, like maybe an octopus with a book in each tentacle and spectacles on its separately-evolved but humanoid eyes.  Sci-fi.  That is, extending what is known into the virtual world.  It’s much easier to explain what “virtual” means to people who have been playing as avatars in online games.  I could not persuade my professors and would not be able to persuade some of the commenters on Aeon that it is possible, even likely, that there is is NO ultimate reality that never changes, that is a rock to which one may pinion oneself with a thousand little sucker-feet.  The real shape-shifter is the world itself.  We only exist through fitting our lifespans into survivable intervals, powering our computers with electricity derived from Cretacous coal that was once the lagoons and jungles along the Bearpaw Sea.

The genome analysers working on the deep past (much later than the Bearpaw creatures) suggest that neanderthal males were not able to produce viable offspring with homo sapien women (at least in the 600,000 year ago versions) because of missing genes.  But that around 100,000 to 60,000 years ago the babies survived, endowing us with depression, addiction, allergies and red hair.  This is all “maybe, possibly, tends to” stuff which I predict will soon develop into a tirade blaming X chromosomes, since one of the genes seems maybepossiblytendsto be one that interprets a fetus as a cancer.  How modern.

Can we actually hold physically mature women accountable for the interaction of molecules 600,000 years ago?  Yup.  If we are old abalones clinging to the rocks, mostly throwing their code into the water and taking no responsibility for their fate or the physical cost of creating eggs, we're out of the loop.  Female as evil and destruction is a steady theme in science, because science is institutional and political, just like the other religions.  The difference is that unlike most theologians, good scientists are open to new information, esp. the ones that reconfigure the thought world into an entirely new virtuality.

In the days of my childhood when we walked the beach, we found gorgeous blue-green hand-blown glass net floats that came all the way from Japan.  The glass had bubbles in it.  The spheres had floated unscathed across the Pacific.  Now when we walk along the Pacific coast we find tennis shoes, washed overboard from cargo ships.  Lucky if any of them make pairs.  Even luckier that they can trace the ocean currents that control our shipping and our weather.

In my childhood we visited a bit of flotsam that was two dead whales, one very large and one rather small.  At the time I thought of them as parent and child, but they weren’t even the same species.  Maybe our thinkers are also developing into two "species", one that clings and one that digs.  But there are also shape shifters like the octopus.

gray whale carcass

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