Reading Bucky Fuller

I’ve been dithering about listening to Buckminster Fuller’s 1975 series of 12 lectures titled Everything I Know, owing to the fact that when I had once begun listening to it, the first 15 minutes made me realize that there’s no way I’m going to even catch half of what he’s saying, on account of the sound being mostly muffled and the technology used to record it 39 years old. Today, finally, I decided to do a search to see if, perchance, someone with a lot of time and dedication had transcribed the whole series, and a huzzah for the internet and that lovely person who actually did! Here’s where you can find the audios, if you choose to listen to them, and the transcript can be found here.

If you don’t know who Bucky is, check out the Wikipedia page on him.

Solitary Confinement And The Naked Ape

A few weeks ago I came across this post on io9 which went into some detail about the practice of solitary confinement and claimed it is the worst kind of psychological torture. I agree with most of the things in the post; however, the details w/r/t the why I felt was lacking. Why does it affect human beings as much as it does, as compared to other forms of punishment or torture? It reminded me of a book I’d read a decade or so ago, an influential but easy to read book called The Naked Ape by Zoologist Dr. Desmond Morris. In it, he introduces several ideas and concepts, some widely accepted by the scientific community, others not so much, and yet others that have strong support and opposition. Also, in the book Games People Play by Dr. Eric Berne, is introduced the concept of ‘strokes’ in transactional analysis (a theory of the psychological health of individuals and their behaviors and attitudes towards others and self). I posted the heretofore mentioned link to Facebook, with a little commentary, which–unedited: I wrote it at 0130h., so excuse any grammatical faults–commentary can be read below:

Why solitary confinement works is easy to see. If one observes primates, our closest simian ancestors like the apes, one finds them indulging often in an activity that involves ‘stroking’ the fur of the other to remove lice etc. What scientists noticed (and I’m pulling all this from memory now) is that the activity continued even when the simian’s fur was clean, and there were distinct hierarchies to who got their fur picked the most and who did the most picking. Now extrapolate the ‘stroke’ to humans. Our stroking involves speech as well as physical touch. Because we lack body hair, and because it’d be quite awkward to mount someone’s back and try to pick their hair for lice (although this is something I’ve personally observed), we have resorted to speech and elaborate forms of touch to get our dosage of strokes. Making it slightly complex, on a gaussian distribution, there are people like film stars who fall on the long tail of such a distribution, requiring hundreds of strokes a day to keep their spines healthy (literally, if you don’t get your requisite daily strokes, your spine will shrivel up – Berne), and other psychopathic individuals also part of the long tail (although some may argue that film stars and people who actively seek the limelight are themselves psychopathic) require few to no strokes a day and still survive and thrive. For most of the population who fall in the middle of the distribution, or on the bell curve, they require a minimum of strokes a day to be kept healthy. Take strokes completely away, and all sorts of negative effects begin to manifest in the individual, including a higher rate of contraction of diseases, depression, increased rate of suicide, etc.

I think interactions on social sites count towards daily strokes, and the issue of social networks making people less inclined to go out and actually meet people probably boils down to the fact that if I can get my 10 strokes a day from having 10 people like/comment on my status, my quota is done, my system feels the kick, and now I don’t need to actually see people, because that’d be like overkill.

Just my thoughts.

The Invisible Man, by H. G. Wells – A Thesis


This thesis was written as part of a MOOC I took. More info here.

          The Invisible Man is a lesson in how a person behaves when his insecurities and subsequent obsessions lead to the possession of a means, at any and all costs, of near-limitless power, and the pitfalls of such.

The Protagonist is Griffin, whose Albinism has made him conscious and insecure of his appearance to the greatest degree. Making a shift from Chemistry to Physics, he focuses particularly on the behavior of light. This behavior may subconsciously stem from his insecurities. He drives himself to understand how light travels through particles, and will go to any lengths to achieve his goal of making things completely invisible. He may subconsciously be wishing for a way to rid himself of his Albinism.

He robs his own father, who kills himself soon after. Griffin feels no remorse at this. He has no compulsions on experimenting on a Cat and putting it through suffering and disposing of it when done. He is impulsive and not prone to think through the circumstances his actions may beget, which is shown when he proceeds to turn himself invisible and realizes it’s not the glorious and powerful event he had imagined, but comes with its own unique set of troubles.

We see Griffin lock up a man in the man’s own house, rob and leave him without concern for his welfare. Furthermore, at Iping, he robs the Vicar, is irascible and prone to outbursts of violence towards his hosts. He comes across Kemp and decides to make him privy to his secrets and ideas of a “reign of Terror.” By now Griffin has lost all grip on realityHe cares not for right or wrong, but sees himself as an Overlord with Super Powers.

          The conclusion of Griffin being murdered by a mob shows us what happens to a person, whose insecurity-led madness goes too far. His scientific discovery destroys him instead of being a boon.

You can view the previously published theses here.

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Dracula, by Bram Stoker – A Thesis


This thesis was written as part of a MOOC I took. More info here.

  Bram Stoker was Irish and was brought up as a Protestant in the Church of Ireland. Dracula is a powerful lesson that promotes Catholic teachings and tries to inculcate faith in the power of the Holy Bread and other Holy paraphernalia.

The Holy Wafer, referenced heavily in the book, is part of the religious ceremony of Mass in Church. Stoker’s referencing it as being among the sacred objects that shun Dracula points to his possible intent to direct people to go to Mass and partake of the Holy Bread. Other symbols such as Holy Water and the Crucifix are also representative of the Church and its power.

Central European folk beliefs considered Garlic a powerful ward against Vampires and could be why Stoker adopted Garlic as a major symbol.

Dracula is the embodiment of immortality in life, whereas Christian belief tells us that what is truly immortal is our soul and that the body is an inconsequential vessel; we must shun immortality in life so as to hope for immortality in the afterlife.

What Dracula gives to others is eternal life on Earth. As far as can be perceived in the book, there are no instances of anyone having died with a Vampire’s bite. What, then, is so bad about eternal life on Earth that the protagonists seem to despise and wish to be rid of? Could it be Christianity’s influence of the eternal soul being better than the eternal body that could be behind their purposeful actions?

Throughout the book the characters ask for God’s forgiveness or wish for deliverance from Evil. Harker’s journal – “There is something of a guiding purpose manifest throughout…. Mina says that perhaps we are the instruments of ultimate good.” A direct reference to “God’s will be done”.

All in all, Stoker’s religious background seems to have been expressed powerfully in Dracula, whether deliberate or not.

You can view the previously published theses here.

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The Martian Chronicles, by Ray Bradbury – A Thesis


This thesis was written as part of a MOOC I took. More info here.

The Martian Chronicles teaches us the lesson of history repeating itself, told through the tale of conquest of other lands, in this case, of Mars.

Bradbury mentions the impact of humans upon their own civilization on Earth, and what we would do if we were to find another land for the taking, the same way Cortez of Spain invaded Mexico.

In our present time and maybe the near future, we may not have imbibed well the lessons of the past, and now that we have incredible technology, we may very  well destroy ourselves in the same breath as achieve a utopian society. Like children who can’t understand what to do with new toys, we will end up destroying our own world and then do the same with other worlds if we’re not careful as a collective race to bring our impulses under control.

Bradbury paints the human race as immature and incapable of  dealing with technological advances in a rational manner that preferably benefits humanity as a whole. Instead, we can’t think beyond our own selfish motives, like, for example, the guy who sets up the hot dog stand for profit and out of a deep optimism, or the guy selling suitcases, also for profit, but out of a pessimistic world view.
We see that regardless of whether we fought with bows and arrows or fight in this day and age with Rockets and nuclear weapons, our Humanness will win out in the end, most likely to the detriment of our own race and world, and to a greater extent any other civilizations we come across.

You can view the previously published theses here.

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The Left Hand of Darkness, by Ursula K. Le Guin – A Thesis


This thesis was written as part of a MOOC I took. More info here.

The Left Hand of Darkness is about duality in different forms, whether it be the duality of male-female, cold-warmth, or light-dark.

This concept is referenced clearly in a scene where Genly Ai draws the yin-yang symbol, then explains it to Estraven as “It is yin and yang. Light is the left hand of darkness… how did it go? Light, dark. Fear, courage. Cold, warmth. Female, male. It is yourself, Therem. Both and one.” The first half of that statement “Light is the left hand of darkness” is part of a Gethen poem which goes “Light is the left hand of darkness, And darkness the right hand of light.  Two are one, life and death, lying, Together like lovers in kemmer, Like hands joined together, Like the end and the way.” The primary concept of Duality is that opposites complement each other, bring balance, and are an indivisible whole, inseperable from their parts.

The people of Gethen/Winter live with this duality in their individual bodies, and can physically manifest one or the other aspect of yin-yang — the male or female. Yet, they can maintain such a state only temporarily, before going back to their permanent state of neutrality. This is in stark contrast to humans, as, on a biological level, we actively seek for a mate to complete us.

Through the latter half of the novel we see that Ai is troubled constantly by the bitter cold of winter, whereas his companion Estraven seems unaffected by it. On the other hand, Ai is the stronger of the two, which Estraven admits to, in his diary. This shows how each of the two begin to overly manifest opposing characteristics when put together for long periods, and that this is a natural state of being. When Estraven goes in Kemmer during their march through the Ice, he is making their male-female interaction — and possible attraction — overt.

You can view the previously published theses here.

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Herland, by Charlotte Perkins Gilman – A Thesis

herlandThis thesis was written as part of a MOOC I took. More info here.

The motif I found most different, yet substantial, is the author’s conscious/subconscious slotting of men into ‘types’, each represented by the 3 friends, how women react to each type, how men think of what women want, and how different it is from what women actually want.

The author casts Terry as a brash, outspoken, rakish sort of man, with a corresponding desire to ‘conquer’ a woman by force of will. He wishes to subjugate Alima, and to a greater extent all the women of Herland. He is greatly affected when he realizes that these women aren’t pushovers, but have qualities of mental and physical strength. He calls them names and basically implies that they are sexless creatures.

Contrast Terry with Jeff, who worships women and the ground they walk on. In his eyes, they can do no wrong. He is the quickest to adapt to the Herland way of life, and, indeed, from the trio of men he is the only one to stay back in Herland and make it his home, along with his wife, Celis.

In between these two extreme caricatures of men lies Van, who, with his background in Sociology has a more rational mind, and who also finds his two friends somewhat extreme in their respective ardor. Van, because of his attitude of treating women as equals, becomes more popular than the other men, as it seems the women of Herland respond to such an attitude. Not surprisingly, his and Ellador’s love is the strongest and deepest.

Throughout, the author projects her ideal male in Van, and shows the other two as being unappealing types of men. Indeed, Charlotte Perkins Gilman was a prominent sociologist (as was Van, in Herland), this during a time when her accomplishments were exceptional for women.

You can view the previously published theses here.

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