Sunday, June 30, 2019

CARLIN DUNNE R.I.P.







It is with great sadness that I announce the passing today of Carlin Dunne at Pikes Peak.

Carlin holds the world record for best time winning the notoriously dangerous motorcycle race.

He passed with his boots on, doing what he loved most.

Now his spirit soars to ever greater heights.





SOCIAL MEDIA DAY: PILGRIMAGE TO GECCA



Santa Barbara News-Press



June 30th is World Social Media Day, an ideal occasion to fathom what social media may truly be about, especially in view of recent news that persons addicted to cell phones are growing horns on their skulls.

Question:  What if the World Wide Web is actually Satan; and that Google, Facebook and Apple are its most predominant disciples, lulling you, me and everyone else into an ever-increasing hypnotic trance?

In other words, what if the devil is not in the detail but in the data?

And what if, as futurist Ray Kurzweil (who works at Google) predicts, computers become sentient i.e. aware and humankind is eventually forced into subservience by artificial intelligence?

While noting that Google co-founder Sergey Brin’s motto is “Don’t be evil,” one might naturally question what ecclesiastical credentials Brin possesses for deciding what is evil and what isn't.

The late Steve Jobs of Apple had his own take on Google’s motto: 

“It’s bull----"



And Jobs would know. 

For reasons never explained, he priced his very first Apple computer (April 1976) at $666. 



(Oddly, Google has its own fascination with The Beast, having designed their Chrome logo around it.)



To better understand the belly of the beast one must visit Silicon Valley, where, in 1938, the beast was reborn.

Thus, the artist Van Stein and I embark on a pilgrimage to Geek Mecca, or Gecca, for short.



The landmark Stanford movie theater in Palo Alto is not showing the latest blockbuster. 

Instead, the old marquee boasts Remember the Night from 1940 and their window display features a poster of James Stewart holding Donna Reed aloft in It’s a Wonderful Life.




And that’s the uncanny thing we first uncover about this place: that the people who live here, while bringing the future to everyone else, cling to the past.

Painting by Thomas Van Stein
We dip into a popular bar called NOLA (devils and skeletons galore) and sip bourbon until darkness descends and it’s time for us to see... The Garage.


It was there, in this nondescript garage, down a driveway at 367 Addison Avenue, that William Hewlett and David Packard gave birth to an audio oscillator... which opened the proverbial Pandora's box. 
           





Google headquarters is in nearby Mountain View. 

This is where we undertake an in-person Google search.

There is no main entrance, no security gate, and no sign to herald Google’s presence. Instead we find an amorphous sprawl of unidentified buildings and anonymity.

“Where is everybody?” asks Van Stein.

 The few persons crisscrossing between buildings don’t look old enough to have graduated college. We stop one young male wearing a Google badge and the obligatory dispatch bag.

“Where is the main building?” I ask.

He chuckles and points. “Over there?”

I try to follow his point. “Over where?”

We walk toward more unidentified buildings; all the doors are locked and signs everywhere say, Google Employees Only.

“This is better for them than guards with guns,” I say. “They just ignore visitors like us.”

Finally, we find a sign that says Visitors Center.

We enter a small, drab lobby. Behind the counter sits a lone female receptionist.

“I’d like to see someone from Google,” I announce.

She regards me with a vacant expression, barely a hint of amusement in her eyes.

“I tried to phone,” I further explain. “It’s impossible to connect to a human being. I tried to email. But nobody answers. So, I’ve traveled a long way to see somebody in person.”

“We don’t do that,” she says. “There’s no one who can see you.”

(We have arrived at the entrance to Emerald City and the Great Oz is unavailable.)

“Maybe you can find a trainee junior assistant who has two minutes to spare?”

She shakes her head. “Not even. There’s no one here who can do that. You have to send an email to a support group.”

“I have already,” I say. “No one responds. What about you?”

“Me?”

“Yes. Can I talk to you?”

“No. I’m not authorized to talk to anyone.”

“But you’re talking to me right now.”

She shrugs, no longer talking. Silently, she provides hand-written instructions about who I must email. 

That person’s name is support.



Many years before Google became the name of a search engine (and data storage facility), it was (I kid you not) an ugly beast depicted in a (foretelling?) children’s book by V.V. Vickers, published by Oxford University Press. 

This illustrated book is about a much-feared "Google Monster" that resides in "Google Land."




The monster does not appear until the last page, and when it does, it is with these words:





Google Monster


We continue our pilgrimage to Facebook headquarters, situated at Hacker Way in Menlo Park.

There is no main entrance, no security gate, and no sign to herald the presence of Facebook. Instead, an amorphous sprawl of unidentified buildings and anonymity.

Van Stein invokes Yogi Berra: “It's déjà vu all over again!”

And indeed, we go through an experience identical to what happened at Google.

The faceless face of Facebook.

I discern this message:             

We Zuck you in, store your data, and market what you’re looking for directly to you before you even know you want it, but don’t contact us, you’re just data, and we’re a data processor, and it’s got nothing to do with sociability or humanity.

Mark Zuckerberg said it all when he dubbed his creation “The Trance,” which he designed to be “hypnotic.” Today, whole teams of psychologists are employed to perpetuate mass hypnosis.

Put another way... 


           
After Silicon Valley, we crave someplace as different as possible, and, fortunately. it isn't far off: 

Carmel-by-the-Sea. 

Dot-Calm. 

And the late Doris Day’s Cypress Inn.



       
It was Ms. Day, patron saint of dogs, who pioneered the concept of a pet-friendly hotel.

Here, dogs occupy overstuffed chairs in the lobby with their pet people, who are tolerated only because, well, dogs cannot check themselves in.

Surrounded by canines, I realize that dogs are the angels on this planet, while humankind, largely influenced by the devil, is inadvertently replacing itself with artificial intelligence.

I’d been thinking about buying an iPad. 

Instead, here in Carmel, I opt for a Visconti rollerball and a Rhodia paper pad. 

On World Social Media Day, remember this mantra: 

People matter, not the data.




Friday, June 28, 2019

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

LAST FLIGHT OUT: AMAZON REVIEW



June 24, 2019


Saturday, June 15, 2019

FATHER'S DAY







Six years after my father died, he reappeared and invited me on a mystical journey.

He did so in a dream, as vivid and real as any REM-induced vision can be.

This happened in the rustic town of McCall, Idaho, to which I had taken my family for an autumn getaway in November 2014.


On our second night at Shore Lodge, on Lake Payette, we ventured out through a sub-zero chill for dinner at Steamers, a nondescript hole-in-the-wall that serves, without fanfare, the finest river trout and trimmings I’ve ever eaten.  (My dad loved restaurants like this; Coco Lezzone in Florence comes to mind.) 






Afterwards, back at the lodge, I warmed myself with a sweetly aromatic hot-buttered rum.

Just before dawn is when my father came to me in a dream.  He was dressed in black short-sleeve shirt and black slacks—his regular attire of choice—and, uncharacteristically, a golden belt. 

He wanted to convey a message of some kind to me; an advisory or warning is how he couched his directive. He said he wanted me to go to a specific place.

The following summer, after rediscovering this message in a journal, I tapped those words—Haze and Maine—into Google.

Nothing.

So maybe it was Hays and Main?

I entered the new spellings.

Atop a page of hits this site stood out: 

Welcome to Downtown Hays, Kansas.  I clicked into it.  You’ll find it all in the Chestnut Street District… including Main Street.  Hays—in Ellis County. 

This disconcerted me somewhat—in a good way—because, well, Ellis was my dad’s first name—rather, a name he gave himself, early in life to replace the birth name given him.

Back then, before the journey commenced, I was naïve about dreams, about the way in which messages from the universe work. The journey, and its lessons of the last four years, have taught me otherwise.

It began with an Internet site that explained what I had experienced.

Deceased loved ones can and do visit us in our dreams.  It is easier for them to communicate with us when we’re sleeping, that in-between place between our Earthly reality and the other side of the veil.

It went into enough detail to launch me, a few months later, to Kansas.


Ironically, the route to Hays, Kansas by road from Denver, to which I’d flown, is called The Golden Belt.

On Main Street in Hays, this message awaited: 

A mural of a giant sunflower with the inscription For Henry (my middle name, after my father’s father).

(I did not know, at this stage of my journey, that a sunflower is the emblem of spiritualism.)

Now, a psychiatrist would call my interpretation of this message an “idea of reference,” meaning that I was personalizing stimuli around me, a belief that mental health professionals find troublesome.

But Carl Jung, the highly esteemed founder of analytical psychology, in a departure from conventional psychiatry, would have called this a message from the universe—or, using a term Jung coined himself, synchronicity.



Suddenly, driving onward to Kansas City, I became attuned to things as I never had before—a kind of heightened alert, appreciating the magnificence of the natural world around me, highlighted (literally) by a spectacular sunset while driving through Flint Hills.

Flashback: Just before I departed for Kansas, my father had come to me in a dream and whimsically teased me to another place; a geographical location much farther away.

That message was based on a pearl of wisdom he’d once said to me long ago (or so I believed in my dream):  Take the London tube to a station you’ve never been, any station at random, in a borough of London you’ve never been before, get off, resurface and walk around.

A third dream got more specific:

I answer a phone call from a man asking to speak with my father. I tell the man my father passed away and the man accepts this news passively and talks to me instead.  At the end of our conversation, he asks if I ever get to London because that’s where he lives, and I say I do, and he invites me to visit him where he resides on “Disney Street."

Upon awakening and recalling this dream, I realize the caller was a dear friend of my father who perished in a 1979 plane crash.

I Google Disney Street and discover that such a street (actually, a half-street) does indeed exist, hidden away near a tube station called Borough—to which I had never been or heard of till now. 


Fast-forward a few months later: 

I am standing on Disney Street, to which I’d traveled by tube-train through a station called Borough. 

A ceramics shop displays three skulls—the message?  

Skulls symbolize mortality and remind us to appreciate each day we are alive. 



The road leads to Cross Bones Graveyard, where medieval prostitutes were laid to rest, and which, today, is an extraordinary celebration of their lives. Its gates are festooned with ribbons, rendering this place colorful and festive, to honor the women so poorly treated during their lifetimes. 



Next, Southwark Cathedral, where an amplified voice fills the oldest gothic church in London with a message: 

“Find a piece of art or music that encourages you to move along in life.”  

I’d already found a piece of music—from Hildegard von Bingen—that was not only moving my life along but also (I believed) keeping my younger daughter safe from young-adult misadventures.

Later, over martinis in the hotel bar, I press Curt, a good friend who had accompanied me to Kansas, and now London, for his take on our tube trek.

“We were surrounded by death,” he says.

First:  The skulls near Disney Street.  

Second:  Crossbones Graveyard. 

“And third,” Curt continues, “the Cathedral, standing on stone slabs over dead people or walking by decorative tombs.  It was all about dead people.  The meaning for me is that I have to make the most of whatever time I have left.”

I venture an observation of my own: 

If so much can be learned by visiting an unknown neighborhood and walking around—Borough Market, Cross Bones, Southwark Cathedral—why not put such a concept to practice at least once a month, maybe once a week, anywhere and everywhere one happens to be?

Later, I impulsively instruct a cabbie to Motcombs brasserie, the venue of my father’s last supper, and my first visit since his passing. 

A female barmaid with a snotty attitude provokes me to turn my heel and hit the road.

As if my Dad was saying… You don’t need to be here, move forward.