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…and it is over; on TV at least.

There’s nothing Sopranos fans can do about the ending now. The end is past near. Auteur and honcho David Chase surprised all of his show’s viewers, whether they were low, middle, or high brow, and swept away every last piece of speculation that the Sopranos would be snuffed out via some kind of righteous moral or nihilistic satisfaction. At the end T sat rather than stood with his biological family, rather than his ‘blood family’ and contemplated the menu of a decidedly middle road hash joint.

Who’s to say what Chase thought to himself as he watched the final cut. Those thoughts would be surely interesting but they themselves draw out speculation without any prospect of return on my own many-years-long investment. Maybe it’s enough to speculate that Chase’s final act of reflexivity, tattooing as it did his own superior, God-like role over the drawn out machinations of Soprano-world, put the entire audience in their reflexive resting place.

To resist a Conradian truth makes Chase a Beckett for our cabled times. Several things are clear enough in the draft of T’s persistence: he’ll kill some more, sweat domestic cash flow, worry over his kids, and, bribe Carm until a new McMansion is required to store it all.

If this ‘the more things change the more they stay the same’ flow was telescoped at all, it was at the moment Tony had his callow psychedelic insight, “I get it!” Yes, the best delusions are illusions and they cover everything like a blanket or six feet of cold dirt.

Meanwhile, Chase reviewed the contradictions which never became conflicts. Of course this was one of the points of the show. So, Phil’s big head gets reduced, Tony imagines how helpful a lawyer or two in the family will be, and, there’s nothing like some sleek German steel to disabuse a confused son of his notion to kill people overseas, rather than, say, someday, in New Jersey.

If I have a novel, psychologizing sense, it’s this: if there’s a mythic modeling going on, it’s about the badness riveted to any desire to surpass the Joneses. There’s not much to be differentiated between thuggery in North New Jersey, on the cripps and bloods’ territory, in the board rooms of Enron and Tyco, or in the West Wing. Somebody wins, somebody loses, and the underlings pick up the pieces.

Paulie’s miniature crisis of conscience was telling. Aiming to serve but also survive, I couldn’t help but see the strains of the feudal ideal deployed against the incoming rockets of fate, lapses of attention, degenerating brains cells, court intrigue, catalytic converters perched on dry tinder leaves, decits, betrayals, snitches and cold professionalism. Perhaps the family struggles more to ease the wages of want more than the wages of sin.

No, it seemed the point was to squash the transcendent in a penultimate humdrum anti-ending.

Unforgettable: where the secrets are never surely kept, always subject to being let loosed, always remembered, never perishable where everything else can be killed.

If necessary. To protect the franchise.

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I’m a political junky. Over the years I’ve tried to keep politics out of the explorations here, but the personal is the political. I’ve thought about a political blog too, although the world probably doesn’t need another lefty blog. Far lefty in my case for I am a fabian, a digger, a radical humanist, and, perhaps worst of all, I can count. Think of me as a pointed headed auto-didact 52yo slacker. If I did have a blog I would orient it around the common cognitive dissonances which riddle political discourse.

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From a perspective of what language can and cannot accomplish, and especially from the perspective concerned with the dynamics of cognitive relation to persuasive language over time, the effort of the Cheney Inc. to push “stay the course” back in the box is fascinating.

Maureen Dowd is pithy:

The Bushes don’t connect words with action. Action is something that’s secretly plotted with the inner circle behind closed doors. The public should stay out of it. The Bushes just connect words with salesmanship. (NYT Oct.25:2006)

Message management can only serve proscribed purposes. Conceptual simplification, reduction to spin, and repetition across delivery domains, lands rightly with some and lands not at all with others. There’s a ‘matching’ goal and, presumably, it reinforces acquisiton of consonance with both the message and the conceptual structure implicit underneath the message. The idea is people want to feel okay about the sense they make about something. For example, all the Bush callers who phone Washington Journal (on c-SPAN) and state their “100% approval” likely fund this consonant sense using rationales which smooth over divergence and dissonance. For some, there’s no devil and no details; it’s all good. One never hears a caller say they are “85% supporters”.

Having at hand a language of convergence, and of absolute sympathy and alignment, obviously helps the make the sale. One might, were one a marketer in this mode, measure the effective matching with the return report “Doh, we should stay the course!”. We buy what makes us feel good. It’s a hunch. Sure, who wouldn’t want to bring a victory home?

What happens when the matching becomes more difficult? Surely dissonance starts to ripple into the placid sympathy, unwelcome thoughts intrude, reality begins to feel different than it did previously, anxiety increases. The sturdy sense begins to become fragile. That stay the course refers to an actual course is besides the point for the most part. The point of matching to a sense of resolve, to confidence in the proxy, (ie. the executive and its military fighting on our behalf,) and, implicitly, to an optimal outcome, “Victory,” loses its grip when any of those vectors begin to be displaced or deposed. When several or all of them begin to unravel together, it’s possible to speak of, perhaps, a multiplier effect.

Keep in mind the phrase was often deployed-over and over again-defensively. The defensive maneuver was implemented in light of trying to smooth over the rough and disturbing spiral downward of the news coming from the battlefield of Iraq. In effect, stay the course glides over its own middle since the full posit is: stay the course to victory; stay to victory. Tis a hard deployment to cut and run from. Clearly the administration wants to stay the ‘something or other’. Even now the idea is to stay in Iraq until the course, whatever it is, is completed. But it is impossible to persuasively reimplement stay at the same time the recipient of the pitch is searching for a way to get away from the sudden, prominant feeling of severe dissonance. Nobody volunteers for a cognitive game of chicken.

There’s a point of irony, doubled, in noting this. This point is: reality is always dynamic and always requires adaptation. This week it was laughable for me, someone who isn’t likely to be ever persuaded by surface language, to hear Tony Snow state what I already knew had to be the case anyway and always. Yes, the facts on the ground are dynamic and our forces are always flexing and adapting to the changes. Twas ever thus.

(Oct.23:2006) Q Is there a change in the administration “stay the course” policy? Bartlett this morning said that wasn’t ever the policy.

MR. SNOW: No, the policy — because the idea of “stay the course” is you’ve done one thing, you kick back and wait for it. And this has always been a dynamic policy that is aimed at moving forward at all times on a number of fronts. And that would include the international diplomatic front. After all, the Iraq compact is something we worked out with the Iraqis before visiting the Prime Minister in Baghdad earlier this year.

So what you have is not “stay the course,” but, in fact, a study in constant motion by the administration and by the Iraqi government, and, frankly, also by the enemy, because there are constant shifts, and you constantly have to adjust to what the other side is doing.

I already knew “stay the course” was implemented to cover or even bury the dynamic situation on the ground. Failed adaptation was not to see the light. Consider it is the dynamics of shifting cognitive apprehension of rhetoric which eventually exhaust the ameliorative power of the spin and the catch-phrase and the reductive move to a satisfying ‘selleable’ trope.

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Might as well make a second entry to briefly identify the practical application. In my work I am not in the least bit interested in implementing any act of substitution of what works for me for what works for my Socratic associate. What matters is what works for us both given the intention to work through and out of, (usually, down and out of,) what is, in my terms, the initial box of folly praising itself .

At the same time my practice is called into the circumstance of a challenge to be better defined through a creative dialogue. Most often the beginning of the playful work is focused on recognition of the ‘control panel’. So: how to manipulate the controls? How to: adjust the velocity, flexibility, receptivity, the focal points?

There can soon develop the experiential sense that the map exists, yet is not the territory. Also: that there are energetics, logical and artistic relations, and, soon enough, that here is positive learning and negative learning. This latter modality is not negative, bad, but is negative, “casting away”. Learning how to learn requires as much!

Elsewhere, (with respect to my own publications,) this is rooted in the constructive terms of adult learning. It is enough to pose very broad conceptions: intention, exploration, discovery, insight, and, in the assimilation of insight, the captivating accommodation to liberative experience. I cannot make any claim for this other than to suggest that transformative experience causes a pervasive result; the person-system is irrevocably changed. Often enough this means personal purpose strikes a higher chord too. Down and out leads to up and out.

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The turn from 19th century hydraulic, “linear,” propulsive-impulsive, dramaturgical, ‘protagonistic’ (i.e. heroic) depth psychology, is a “turning into” the unframeable frame: so the move is surely post-Jungian, it develops a new order, is meta-psychological, resolves to living dynamic valences, allows a creative (sometimes dialectic,) interplay of psychological knowledge.

In this last sense, the interplay is something creative betwixt reduction and expansion. There is no way out of the cave except to leave its concerns. In doing this, it is my sense, that we step out into the light of knowing much much less, of even knowing hardly anything at all; this is to step into the mysteries of the question.

Conceptually, my own position triangulates Jamesian* empiricism, (what is to me ‘throughness,’ although radical empiricism is more commonly sensible a term;) phenomenology, and, the constructive-poetical. It’s unseen ‘fourth’ is learning from creative experience, which is to say synchronies and synchronicities may erupt from their mysterium to change the ‘state’ of awareness.

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My personal ideational framework is held very lightly. It’s somewhat modal too; practical applications draw part of it ‘out’. “Frame” is much too rectilinear and edge-like. It’s much more like having a jazz and dance ensemble at one’s beck-and-call. Yet, I never know what today’s improv is going to be until I’m in the middle of it.

Nonetheless, recently I’ve had to go through my reflections for two different outside purposes. This causes me to do the nigh impossible: write the music down! This captured today’s tune in a temporary self-indulgent turn of the blog. I don’t take any of this that seriously, why should you!?

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Underneath the complex clashes of the cultural war are very interesting conundrums which do not yield to superficial criticism. For example, any cost/benefit analysis used to rationalize real harm supports a dry ‘scientism’ unhooked from morality. From the other side, this same problem arises in most presumptions of primary substantive principles. With this, the cost/benefit analysis isn’t often done. Yet, in the clash between liberal social analysis and absolutist ‘guiding, a priori ordination’ both share a terrific insensitivity to real harm. The idea of Justice was once time-honored; it tends to disappear at both extremes.

I take problems like this to be problems of human sentience. The Sentient Times March issue contains an interview with Paul Krugman, yet another presentation from George Lakoff, and, pertinent to this item, an interview with John Perkins, Confessions of an Economic Hit Man.

We’re a long way off from a Buddhist politics.

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Learning supposes no unified theory, and it remains mysterious to a large extent, as does the nature of experience itself.

Theorists, practitioners, teachers, philosophers and psychologists hover about these two elephants of human nature unable to bring back a comprehensive account of the strange result of both and both when entangled with each other. Learning happens and it is amazing regardless of the incapacity of any theory to aptly frame or characterize it.

This is especially so at the level of cognition and neurophysiology. Any act of learning refers to the raw stuff of mental life, yet learning remains undefined in material terms precisely because consciousness itself eludes elucidation at this basic level. One way to think about this aside from the wonderful dialectic theorization provide may be concisely supposed: that consciousness is learning.

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Elsewhere I am likely to make personal comments about world events. I make an exception this evening here. The Schiavo case is for me, a phenomonologist with archetypal leanings, the bookend to Gibson’s The Passion of Christ. In The Passion, relentless suffering of the sancrosanct object The Christ; in the flesh and blood of T.S. the relentless and solipsistic suffering of those for whom she is their object. The ‘sensitive’ in the afermath of their encounter with the simulcra Christ, (crudely outfitted with the special ‘effects,’ while in real time actual unspeakable suffering was visited on peoples in the crucible of civilization – not effects, but effective,) would easily cathect the simulated cinematic crucifixion into, for them, personal catharsis. Sure, one is moved, yet to what?

The unsaid word is, of course, Mercy. And, over many daily ‘news cycles’ it is Mercy itself that is so sunk into the shadow of humanity. For it is Mercy that is unspoken, unheard, and it is Mercy that cannot be roused. The hideous consequences of scapegoating Mercy are incalculable. As for Terri, why wouldn’t we prefer her to be released to the peace of the afterlife if we’re inclined to hope Paradise exists?

Until we allow Mercy to happen, unfold, for God knows Best, we will have war and wars like this. Cinematic portrayals will enthrall us. We will do everything to avoid any understanding at all while calling out a “culture of life” with the stench of death all around us; cluster bombs not flowers.

It has all been merciless.

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Cleveland, Ohio, (post-modernized to be “NEO”) is where I’m at. It’s a region slogging through its post-industrial dark night: post-industrial, ambivalent, self-deprecating, unfashionable, fragmented, and liminal. It’s neither old or new age, nor is it progressive or regressive. NEOland is poor at its heart and wealthy at its extremities. Creative energy moves fitfully through its sclerotic arteries. It’s feudal too; . . . a delapidated city-state, who’s guardians go unguarded. Its crisis is a crisis of arousal.

What’s fascinating is how the short ‘half-life’ of so much in CleveNEO, political celebrity, sports teams, its various articifaces: hall of fame, office parks and malls; industries, night spots and almost every ‘initiative,’ hides a grubby tenacity.

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