Children’s Theater

Like many of you, I’m tuned in to Children’s Theater, a tragic-comic melodrama in which most of us are cast as extras. Another world war looms, because of silly mental constructs such as we see everywhere littering the political landscape. Nations come and go. Maybe yours enjoys some stability, such is happenstance. Stateless refugees stagnate in swill holes, having fallen through the cracks long ago.

That the children are in a suicidal mood, many of them, is not inexplicable. Spaceship Earth is turning into a junkyard and that feels bad to those with some remaining ecosystem sensitivity. I remember Brian, a fellow Wanderer and ecologist by training, telling us to just breathe the air and notice the changes.

Wanderers met in the boyhood home of one Linus Pauling, whom many think of as a scientist, if they think of him at all, and that he was, and a productive one. He contributed mightily to our knowledge of chemical bonds and the shapes of organic molecules. He won two Nobel prizes, the second one for Peace.

Alpha Helix (foreground) Linux Pauling House (background)

Peace is a rather strange word, set up against War, which sounds exciting. Peace is something you rest in after you’re dead (RIP). Yet Linus and other activists probably found it plenty exciting (and likewise stressful) to exercise their freedoms and actually challenge inertial interests. Dr. Pauling spoke out against the dangers of nuclear “testing” (more just being stupid for show) as we would just be getting sicker and dumber, dumber because in denial about sicker. These two feed on one another, hence the predicament of Children’s Theater, with its many sound and light shows all around the world.

The Pauling boyhood home is in Portland, Oregon which is towards the Pacific Ocean along the Columbia Gorge, which flows from deep inland. The Columbia courses by the Hanford Zone, a vast wasteland, literally, as here much Manhattan Project nuclear waste was disposed of. Except not in especially safe ways, as during wartime one need not plan realistically for the future. One takes a vacation from reality and destroys infrastructure with wild abandon, abusing the male half of the species especially, as abortionists (taking a life at any age is aborting it and people do it routinely, as a profession).

The bomb used in Nagasaki, after Hiroshima, was Made in Hanford. We recommit to global friendship every year in the Japan America Friendship Park along Naito Parkway, near the Steel Bridge. A simple ceremony, with speakers and music, reminds us of our solemn business, to keep this world less suicidal, or murderous, same thing.

commemorating the nuclear war

Humans killing humans is a species pathology. God’s ambivalence about his newest monster is certainly on display in the Bible. He has tried just about everything to help us get back on track. Some of the angels (we humans call them devils) mock Him for continuing to hold out hope for humanity. Religious folk beliefs. I’m not suggesting you believe any of them.

Some call this the Silicon Forest, a center for research into nanotechnology. But then marketing the nano scale in particular was somewhat a PR strategy. The idea was to focus our sense of value on the very small, and indeed ephemeralization has resulted in many technologies becoming tiny. The microchip is called that for a reason. Intel in Aloha has been all about taking advantage of Moore’s Law.

In one of these Medium stories I’m working with police near Aloha, in Hillsboro. The police want to help the youth realize their dreams and had a plan, involving Linux Labs. In my mind, South Africa was a role model, because geeks tried it there too (Freedom Toasters) and I’d say with some success.

A generation of would be hackers found something to aspire to and build identity with. These police were not trying to deprive them of that. Many were in immigrant families, perhaps without the proper paperwork, coming to the Silicon Forest with dreams of a high tech future.

Our big tech pioneers were not necessarily military at their core. Doug Strain, founder of Electro-Scientific Industries (ESI), was a conscientious objector as well as a metrologist (one who measures). His company designed and built measuring equipment. His fortune helped build Pacific University, in Forest Grove (also near Hillsboro), and also to restore the boyhood home of Linus Pauling.

Linus Pauling, like Doug Strain, was a pacifist. Tektronix was another big one. Greater Portland makes its fortune in healthcare, medical research, electronics, software development, with quite a bit of drone development along the Columbia. The high winds make for ideal testing conditions.

commemorating the meeting’s humble origins (on Flickr)

ESI sold its first factory building to the Quakers (a pacifist sect) for one dollar. That’s where my family enters the picture, activist Quakers from Chicago, seeking a spiritual home in the Silicon Forest.

The former factory, which had been a factory for Jantzen, the swimwear company, even before that, had become a Quaker meetinghouse. The building still had its industrial flavor when my memories begin in that place.

Nowadays that chapter seems a lot like a dream, as the facility has undergone a drastic remodel. Now it looks and feels more like a school. Stark Street and SE 43rd if you’re looking for it, near Laurelhurst Park. We lived on NE 12th and Prescott in a modest home in a so-called integrated neighborhood, with dad joining the city planning bureau.

under construction: the house that replaced my boyhood home on NE Prescott

You will not be surprised to learn I retained my childhood Quakerism and pacifism into adulthood. That’s not at all an unusual pattern. The fact that the culture in which I’m embedded is relatively military-minded is a fact I’ve gotten used to. A degree of alienation accompanies joining a cult (subculture) with weird (Keep Portland Weird) anti-war views. The mainstream has other dreams (nightmares?) and other plans.

In being anti-war, one commits to a more solitary existence, wherein one occasionally comes across those likewise persuaded. That I would find my way into Philosophy at Princeton, where I could be alone with the dead, is exactly what people imagine pacifistic peacefulness must be like. You just get to work and study a lot.

The pilgrimage for me was not simply Portland to Princeton then back to Portland however. Other stories here on Medium, my blogs, other social media platforms, fill in the details of my chronology. Ever since I discovered hypertext in Jersey City, I’ve wanted to use that as my principal means of leaving a legacy.

I’ve been publishing directly to the cloud for many decades by now. I’m not saying I’m all that usual in that regard. A lot of us grew up together in the age that invented the internet, meaning TCP/IP and the like. This was the heritage the police of Hillsboro wanted to share with immigrant youth, so they wouldn’t end up fighting in gangs, with police expected to be their adversary. How to short circuit that predictable outcome?

Jersey City and nearby Newark were both backdrops for The Joker, set in Gotham, another batman movie, but with batman still just a little boy. The rioting depicted in that movie spilled out from the screen, it seemed, as we entered that first year of SARS-2. Downtown Portland got to be its own Gotham, in a standoff with border patrol.

Seattle got pretty crazy too, reportedly, but I stayed away from these protests. My mother, a Quaker activist who helped start that ceremony I mentioned, about keeping the world sane (not that one ceremony could do that), is in her nineties and doesn’t need a family member running around protesting during covid season. I have to accept my demographic.

Occupy Portland was another matter. In my fifties I’d been lugging vegetables with a bicycle trailer, sometimes two of them, for Food Not Bombs, another pacifist organization that used our Stark Street Quaker meetinghouse for its kitchen, with permission, as well as the bigger one at St. David of Wales, a nearby Episcopalian church.

Food Not Bombs somewhat established the Occupy village, by taking the statue and making clear that no serious violence was contemplated. The police relaxed and got into it.

food supply logistics

The Joker Riots of 2020, in contrast, which got to be on television, were all about tear gas, and testing new riot control devices.

I spent a lot of time watching Youtube during the first few months of the pandemic, as did a lot of us. I did homework. I studied. I also taught online, spreading Silicon Forest type knowledge.

I also dove into making Youtubes and applied the same “spherical pinball machine” style, but using a different medium.

The themes there are similar to those here on Medium: how we always have an optional brighter future that requires more adult mindsets. That we’re stuck with Children’s Theater is not the fault of children or youth, lets be clear. Inflexibility comes more with age.

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