Confabulate

Reading Time: < 1 minute

I’m not sure where I picked up the word confabulation, but it is my current favorite word. In psychology, it refers to a dysfunction of the mind to manufacture believed memories no matter how fantastical. I generalize its use as a verb for the tendency of the mind to fill in the blanks, to provide the missing pieces, to make up fantastical stories, to create a satisfactory explanation out of chaos without proof, to find a pattern in the randomness that doesn’t exist, all without any intent to deceive.

Robert Frost’s poem, “The Road Not Taken,” is a story of confabulation. Of the need to go back in time to convince ourselves that we took the right path and that has made all the difference when each is equally as good.

Anti-confabulate, a word I just invented, would be to resist this urge to confabulate though I am having a hard time convincing myself that anti-confabulate and confabulate aren’t the same thing. In other words, everything is a confabulation because we can’t resist our proclivity to provide an explanation. Unconfabulate would be to tear down a confabulation.

Confabulation as an exercise in imagination is not necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes, it’s better to go for the most outrageous story rather than the most accurate one. Maybe someday you will get lucky and have both.

Prepping for Alien Invasion

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Author’s Note: A presentation called “An Alien Invasion from History” under the category of “Prepping for Alien Invasion” given by Alex Murphy at the “Prep Tech” conference.

Neology Note: New word: godifying. The opposite of demonizing.

“Why does our planet insist on either demonizing or godifying aliens? Aliens are either a parasitic infestation interested in pilfering our resources or have superhero superpowers in relation to our paramecium abilities. What if aliens are actually interested in us, for who we are?
“If aliens are capable of interstellar travel, their technology will be, quite literally, light years ahead of our own. Our technology will be Stone Age at best by comparison. If they are hell-bent on burning our species at the stake, their will be done. You will not be able to prevent it. You cannot control it. We all want to be the masters of our fate and the captains of our souls. It terrifies us to think otherwise.
“I kept my notes from my college courses some thirty years ago. Do you know what was interesting after all these years?
“The little notes I made in the margins about the teacher, the other students in the classroom, stuff that was going on with me at the time, ideas expressed as questions.
“So what you ask? And I answer.
“If they have an interest in us, the interest will be in our humanities, not our science. It will not be in the physics notes we copied off the blackboard from the professor, it will be in the notes that reveal something about us, in the decisions we make, in the relationships we engage in, in how we live, in who we are.
“If we are decent, they might learn something from our deep ocean when they get lost in the complex seas of their technical civilization when they define themselves by their technical accomplishments instead of who they are or what they could be.
“They may be here already. Watching us. Studying us. Testing us. Testing us to determine if our species has matured beyond the paranoia of invasion, beyond the surrender of deification, to the point where they trust us to give the best of ourselves in a reciprocal, mutually beneficial relationship.
“So what course of action do you choose? When they come, how will you react to them? Will you shoot on-site or run for your barracks? Will you fall to your knees and kowtow? I think you better have something interesting to say. You better have something worthy to offer them.
“There is something you can do to prep. There is a way to move beyond fear. If you fear an alien invasion, look that fear in the eye, know you are going to die if they choose it, and understand how that fear drives you. Then ask yourself am I the person fear is making me be, or am I the person I want to be? Do you aspire to save the world? Or do you aspire to make the world worth saving? And then choose. This is the only true freedom you have in this life. And if you realize this power, you might have something of interest for the alien race to consider,” he pauses, “before they decide to eat you.
He pauses again waiting for the mild laughter to subside before continuing, “Heki bo-buya. It means don’t let fear stop you from giving the best of yourself. Thank you.”

Needomaniac

Reading Time: < 1 minute

needomaniac: a person or thing that requires excessive attention but can never be truly fixed or satisfied.

Every item,
is an ocean of need.
A nymphomaniac,
of infinite greed.
A ravenous hog,
you constantly feed.
Always demanding,
your time it bleeds.
Doing nothing,
still has a fee.
Filling your mind,
like a strangling weed.
Let me leave you,
with this little creed.
The item to tend,
is your sanity.

A Concrete discussion of Abstraction

Reading Time: 3 minutes

S1 <=> S2
^ ^
v v
~S2 <=> ~S1

This Greimas square explores the opposites of concrete and abstract, using photography as a context. In the Greimas square, these are the S1 and S2 concepts. The ~S1 concept is “not concrete”. The ~S2 concept is “not abstract”. The Greimas square for deriving new concepts or relations comes from relabeling the ~S1 and ~S2 with a more descriptive and less logical label. So here is an analysis to suggest some better words for ~S1 and ~S2.

A concrete photo is of something you would see more or less as-is.

The abstract is the pattern or idea independent of any concrete elements within it.

What is an example of something not abstract yet not quite concrete either? For a photo, a blur comes to mind. A blur photo focuses on one element of the photo and blurs out the rest. The rest is the suggestion of something concrete.

What is an example of something not concrete yet not quite abstract either? I think when the pattern of the elements is more important than the elements themselves. Concrete elements are still visible, but you are drawn to the pattern they create rather than the real elements that compose them. Emergence suggests a new pattern from concrete elements. When does the pattern become abstract? The pattern implies regularity but some of the best abstractions have irregular patterns if you can even call them that. Irregular patterns? Abstract nature? Sorry, this whole topic exudes oxymoron. A pure abstract photo would have no concrete elements in it.

Concrete <=> Abstract
^ ^
v v
Blur <=> Emergence

Concrete and abstract are the foundation concepts. Blur and emergence complete the square. Blur focuses your attention on something concrete while the background gives implied context. Emergence focuses your attention on the pattern but is created by concrete elements.

The concrete is a picture of you standing next to a lit Christmas tree. The blur is you with the Christmas tree blurred in the background, or possibly you blurred out and the tree in focus if the photographer doesn’t much care for you. The emergent is the Christmas tree blurred to bokeh with the lights as or more important than the contents, namely you. And the abstract is a bokeh Christmas tree with only the form of the tree suggested by the pixelated lights.

Of course, categorization is never definitive when it comes to concepts. Probably the most important concept is that you enjoy the picture.

Terratrashing

Reading Time: < 1 minute

terratrashing: to transform a planet so that it is unable to support human life.

Terraforming is the process of making another planet habitable for humans. Elon Musk wants to terraform Mars. Science fiction writers like to write about terraforming other worlds, usually to escape all the terratrashing we’ve done to this one. Terratrashing is the word I propose, to describe the process of making a planet uninhabitable for humans, specifically, the one we live on.

Terratrashing leaves no ambiguity about the scale or the cause of what is happening. Trashing is not a natural phenomenon. Trashing a planet renders it uninhabitable for humans.

We need a phrase that describes more accurately what is happening to our planet and more importantly why it is happening to the planet. The phrases “global warming” and “climate change” have no teeth. Worse than that, they make it sound like the processes are natural phenomena. The climate changes all the time. A little global warming sounds kind of nice, especially to people in cold weather climates digging themselves out from three feet of snow. If the worst-case scenario of five degree C temperature rise comes to pass, this planet will be unrecognizable to those of us that live here now. If the carrying capacity of the planet drops to one billion from the projected ten billion peak, nine billion people will die, and everyone will suffer.

Worse, global warming climate change is only one symptom of planetary-wide, human-induced change mostly for the worse and not the better. Plastic pollution. Biomass reduction. Mass extinction. Now what phase will spark more action and accountability to stop that from happening, terratrashing, global warming, or climate change?

Besuty or Not Besuty? That is the question.

Reading Time: 4 minutes

I meant to type beauty but I fat-fingered besuty, instead. I was going for the thought of subtle beauty but the sound of the malformed word seemed to capture the idea I was trying to express better than the original. Why not have an explicit word for subtle beauty? Serendipity is the bastard father of many an idea.

Well, any decent word should have an antonym and the opposite of besuty is the opposite of subtle not beauty. The phrase “raging beauty” comes to mind. So the antonym of besuty, in the interest of symmetry, must be beruty. So there you have it, besuty and beruty, my two attempts at new contributions to the English language. And as a kicker I’ve extended the grammar with the idea of an infix, meaning a change of root directly and systematically as an alternative to using a prefix or a postfix, as fitting to modify the root beaut-, a new twist on the expression of inner beauty.

But I digress and enough neology and cleverness for the moment. Let’s get to the hypothesis I originally intended. In this time when so many leaf-peepers are posting the beruty of fall foliage in four-season climates, those of us living through the hot and dry season of our two-season Mediterranean climate still have much in the way to offer with besuty, but we will have to work harder for it. It’s there. It may be small. It may be hard to see. It rarely reaches out and grabs us like the radiant colors of pre-dormant trees or the mega-blooms of spring or the majesticness of a mountain. As besuty suggests, it’s subtle and easy to miss.

Given the alternate hypothesis, I now state the null hypothesis as, “Hot and dry is not beauty. It is common and dull.” Let me see if I can change your mind. What do you say?

The first capture is a dried-out fern I found under a bush. The sunlight lit up the fern like a revelation. I post-processed it to black and white. I think black and white shows off the interplay of light and shadow better than color.

Fern Tree

How about this star-shaped flower carcass? It inspires images of weathering windmills that have lost their willpower to wait any longer for the winds.

The Windmill

The curtain hangs in Hellhole Canyon, consumed in Paradise and Witch fires in 2003 and 2007. The black char has faded to grey and new foliage grows slowly out of the base of the post-fire stumps. The wavy arms of the gray limbs could very well be the skeleton of the flames themselves.

Curtain

The dark centered circle gives this the appearance of a bush of eyes, the all-seeing tree in the chaparral. It’s quite common along the trails in the area, but does common preclude besuty? Or is it exactly the reason we fail to see it so often?

The Tree of Eyes

I love the abstract pattern of the whorl, the contrast of purple and green in the blades, and the threat of sharp-tipped barbs.

Whorl

How about the forest of fronds? The brown and gray make one last stand before crumbling back into the ground. Does it remind you of an above-water coral reef?

Frond Forest

Besuty or not besuty, that is the question? My brother would ask, art or not art? I enjoy the thrilling beruty of grand images and intoxicating colors as much as the next photographer but don’t forget to look for the besuty in the common as well.

High Rises (in a Dr. Suess book)

A Caw-cus of Corvids

Reading Time: < 1 minute

A murder of crows and a rabble of ravens are nothing to mess around with, but I think an aggregation of corvids should be called a caw-cus. I know the spot where the crows congregate at night by thousands, if not tens of thousands. And I’ve seen the tree with a raven on every branch many years ago. I hear them chat amongst themselves. I don’t know what they talk about or what they are plotting. I know it can’t be good. I just hope their caw-cus is no more effective than a human one.

Forest Floor Scribography

Reading Time: < 1 minuteA convoy of turtles plowing their shells through the surface visible only as moving water humps.

An agitated blue heron screeching its way though a pass in the treeline over the horizon.

A white-tailed deer eyeing us warily hides its white rump under its flapping tail.

Bruce and Bryce walk the outside fence on the narrow running board of a cement bridge over a creek while Peshankus tracks them on the inside.

A fleeting glimpse of two cormorants that hastily skim the muddy water in retreat.

A white heron flickers through the picket fence of tree trunks and dancing leaves.

The racing stripe of a garter snake disappears into the underbrush with Pashankus in pursuit.

** Scribography – I just invented this word as a juxtaposition to photography: the capture of an image with words instead of photos. Somethings I just couldn’t capture on camera.