Thinking Outside Boxing Day, Epiphany

typical dinner

Head of table

This Christmas was just delicious. I had asked Catherine for an encore of Thanksgiving; perfect turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, macaroni&cheese, spinach, brussels sprouts. We did it again, Kitty! Nate the Great helped decorate gingerbreadstars and ninjabreadmen. Nana and Alldaddy and Nicholas brought more treats to Greenport in various forms of chocolate from Vienna and Manhattan. It was a wonderful feast.

We wondered, if we could be blessed with a beautiful cocoa-flavored snowman, why then could not our precious Mimsie the Cat (who came to us this year) enjoy a nice fowl-flavored angel? The assembled Concept team directly commenced with product research and will report back on this project promptly on 1/1/2016.

All kinds of food ideas fed all kinds of thought. In fact we talked about such a wide array of subjects under The Sun it is a challenge to summarize. Luckily, just as black is the new black, five is the new five,* so we have room to work. As the five or so Pattersons at hand indulged a range of fancy over the past few days, I ask Ogilvys and Pattersons at large to allow a little creative filing in the following notes on random and delightful conversation: I. CELESTIAL; II. INTERNATIONAL; III. NATIONAL; IV. LOCAL; V. NAVEL

books to read

Contemplating the Heavens


To give you an idea of how we stretch an idea, let us select an item randomly. Picking a present from under the tree, it turns out to be a boxed set of Percy Jackson adventures for Nathaniel. Percy Jackson is a contemporary half-mortal son of Poseidon, the famous Olympian god (OG). Not to be confused with second-largest planet Neptune, named after a Roman god in turn named after the Greek god Poseidon, the eighth moon of Jupiter officially named Pasiphae in 1975 was unofficially called Poseidon in the 1960’s. Now it all makes sense!

Nate likes many different books. Gazing at a cardboard astronomy chart, looking up stuff on The Internet, and pointing out things in the actual sky, Uncle Nick supplements aplenty. We all encourage each other.

Then we let dumb ideas go. Nate gets back to Nintendo. Of course! Of course we try scientifically and with our gut to reject as many absurd notions as we cultivate in our pretend lab. There’s more where that came from.

How about cloud cities over Venus? Have you heard about this? It’s the latest of NASA’s astounding announcements. Although the planet itself is inhospitable to humans, like the fiery core of the Earth, the outer cloud layer of Venus is comparable to climates we favor. Closer to home than Mars, we could arrange efficient back-and-forth transit between that outer atmosphere and the outer atmosphere here by constructing an orbital elevator. As you know, the hardest part of space travel is the first part; achieving escape velocity. Ships allowed to stay away from planet surfaces by commuting from one space station to another would be free of tons of extra rocketry. At the idea, however, of a space station tethered to Earth by means of a 60,000 mile carbon fiber maglev rail, Nate exclaims, “Dr. Quackers!” as if to say, enough!

Another sizeable lump in the dustpan among so many pine needles and other smaller sweepings is Interstellar, the Ridley Scott picture. Not a particularly big year for movies, 2014 afforded us a view of a middledistant future with this Matthew McConaughey Anne Hathaway vehicle. Here we find Michael Caine, who shines in everything, no bleeding matter what, even if it’s a dog, struggling with the problem of gravity. He’s looking for a way to get a sort of ark aloft so at least a fraction of Earth’s populace may make it to a place in another galaxy where plants will grow. If he can just get it up out of Earth’s orbit, then getting it over to the connecting wormhole will be a cakewalk. Our suspension of disbelief engine may be fueled by a practical dose of Theoretical Physics (TP). Just as the Weak Force counteracts the Strong Force causing atoms to decay and reform, and Electricity and Magnetism turn out to be one and the same force, perhaps the Gravitational Force may be reversed in combination with the Weak Force, the Strong Force, the Electromagnetic Force, or a mix thereof. Perhaps, as is suggested by physicist Michael Caine’s astronaut daughter Anne Hathaway, a fifth force exists, called Love.

I am Groot. Another of “the big movies of 2014” was Guardians of the Galaxy. “Oh my god!” says Nate (Skype being broken during Christmas, his unwrapping of the good ship Milano in Lego is captured via telephone to Ogilvys in Castle Valley, Utah).

from The Best Infographics 2014, a favorite Christmas gift

Actual Discoveries


The biggest movie event of the year was almost a total nonevent when Sony pulled The Interview from official distribution. That would have been all. Then we could have moved on and forgotten about a forgettable film. Unfortunately for North Korea, they demanded Sony remove the film from The Internet and everywhere or suffer consequences. That did it. Sony withdrew from any “negotiations,” and decided to show the thing to the public after all. Unfortunately for the rest of us, who enjoy Sony’s amazing library of content, this could signal the end of Sony as we know it. It could still be funny if the studio gets taken over by a dictatorship interested in high-powered propaganda and we start seeing new material on a par with the bizarre narrative of the immortal Ed Wood Jr., Kim Jong Un fancying himself a great director. We’ve managed to ignore most of the kerfluffle so far, and we might expect much of the public to turn a blind eye to surviving mutations.

Meanwhile, it’s hard to ignore the Pope. What a guy! Seriously, don’t you suppose he would be in a position to fix a thing or two if only he could rule unchecked by all those other clowns in the Vatican?

Here’s an idea. Democracy has been working so hard since Perestroika and the rise of Capitalism in China, we could let Democracy take a little break, just to catch some air. We let nice people like Japan’s Emperor Akihito and England’s Queen Elizabeth II and Sweden’s Carl XVI Gustav run things for a while.

What we really need is a whole new slew of dictators. With Saddam Hussein and Muammar Qaddafi out, who’s going to keep everyone in line? Well, it looks as if Hosni Mubarak could resume office.

Our escape plan (don’t tell anyone) is over The Isle of Skye by Faerie Trail.

big old tree

Holly tree


Papadaddy Patterson aka GDP2 having had the National Parks on his beat for the IRS, GDP3 and I got to talking about the National Parks again. Kitty’s ongoing efforts on their behalf are ongoing. In addition to her work on the ground, we entertain visions of quiet airships replacing cacophonous helicopters over the Grand Canyon. If we’re going to deploy airships over Venus, we should get good at cloud life down here first.

Zion National Park in Utah is my idea of the Promised Land. This gives rise to a device for peace and prosperity somewhat related to World Matters and the ‘Nineties bumper sticker “Think Globally, Act Locally.” Ever since Ogilvy family genealogist C. Stanley Ogilvy traced Ogilvy roots among Crasto roots in Spanish Sephardim via Holland, I have been proud of my Jewish heritage. Now I boldly propose a New Zionism constellated around the park in Utah. The park itself should be kept protected and undisturbed by development. In the surroundings, however, of Washington, Iron and Kane Counties, the entire Jewish diaspora is invited to come live. We want the Jewish population to continue to grow, but this is at odds with the promise that any Jew shall be guaranteed a home in tiny little Israel. Indeed, to fulfill such a promise, many Palestinian homes have been destroyed in the course of a seventy-year war. So many Palestinian homes that we might do well to invite their people to come live in Southwest Utah too. Perhaps Northwest Arizona in Mojave County would be more suitable. The deserts and mountains of nearby Lincoln County Nevada could additionally be annexed for refugees of other wars. New Zion interstate government would of course be run by Native Americans. Stay with me. Just as the Chinese built our transnational railway, and the Irish and Polish built New York’s underground rail system, these new immigrants would be responsible for a transnational pipeline of water running from the Great Lakes region to Southern California. Wind and solar pump the water up one side of the Rockies and, from the top, the waterflow itself generates electricity all the way down the other side on its way to verdant farmlands and golf courses. There’s some money in that. Everyone lives in fiscal harmony! And it’s all about sustainability!

The problem of course is that we don’t have a dictatorship to push the initiative through. I’m joking about that part. And, yes, I am joking about the whole proposal, but I’m seriously wishing for a radically integral solution to people needing as much protection as are trees.

Peconic Star, Alldaddy, Superkitty, Kung Fu Flash Kid, Nico Pico, Fireboat

This pier used to put steam trains onto ferries bound for Boston via Stonington, Connecticut.


Back at the local hideout, we observe petty disagreements between Southold and Southampton. People of the North Fork and people of the South Fork can be as neighborly to each other as Dwarves and Elves of Middle-earth. Must everything be a challenge?

In this context, it’s no surprise to encounter a total lack of cooperation from such an organization as Long Island Railroad (LIRR). One of our crazy concepts that could have actually been made manifest if LIRR had been willing to play along was a fully restored steam engine pulling an immaculately appointed dining car serving the finest in local fare between Ronkonkoma and Greenport. That’s a stretch of track which is underutilized, but with beautiful views. Interested farmers and fishermen and other local businesspeople were lined up to underwrite track maintenance. The engine and dining car were available for a song. The tracks, however, were not available at any price. Oh, well.

Elves and Dwarves are not the problem. Trolls are. Trolls don’t just huddle under bridges and squat on top of patents. They go to work every day at all kinds of organizations and do whatever they can to interfere with the flow of commerce. Down with Trolls! Out with Trolls! Reform for Trolls!

Our fairy tale life in town and country is underwritten in part by the advertising business. Although, in its finer moments, we may refer to the industry as The Communication Arts, and it really is not inherently evil, as livelihoods go, it is business that really is plagued with Trolls. How can we help them?

We must feed our brains with fresh sea air, feed our bellies with farm-fresh food, and feed our spirits by gazing at flora and by listening to birds. We must tend to our sanity. The reality of the machine is complimented quite nicely by the reality of nature.


Another reality, facing us every day, is Love. Not just a far-out suggestion by Anne Hathaway’s very fictional character in Interstellar, but also a down-to-earth hypothesis by Felicity Jones’ portrayal of the very real person Jane Wilde in Theory of Everything. Either it’s an aspect of each of the four basic forces in the universe (to review: Gravitational, Electromagnetic, Strong, Weak), or it’s a fifth fundamental interaction unto itself. If the latter, it’s unlikely any self-respecting scientist would present a paper to the Royal Society on it. Yet the wife of one might document her findings in an account of day-to-day life as a human.

Another fantasy, still more radical than New Zion, even less plausible, is a plan to harness explorations into other dimensions. If, in some incredibly distant future, it did become reality, then it would give the word ‘practical’ a new meaning. Experimentalists learn how to control wormholes.

In the field of Physics, the Theorists are at one end of the spectrum and the Experimentalists are at the other, with Phenomenologists in the middle trying to unite everybody. They do not admit Professional Physicists such as, for example, the great financial modeler Fischer Black. Among the purely Academic Physicists (again, as far as they are concerned, the whole of the field), the Experimentalists are the practical ones.

But let’s say the Experimentalists learn how to control wormholes. What would be the more practical applications? Logistics! Related to the above Domestic Affairs fantasy, and again to otherwise tenuous rural economies, old port towns designed for loading and unloading vast lots of shipping containers could be revived with ports into a fifth dimension. The already interchangeable populations of Portland, Oregon and Portland, Maine would thrive. And think how much we’d save on gas.

At the very least, for now, we can be grateful for the interconnectedness we have in the Internet.

fireplace hearth

Wrapping paper ready to burn (with illuminating Santa Claus tapers)

*In the late Nineteen-nineties, in the universe of Fashion, the phrase “____________ is the new black” was coined in order to encourage a more federated restoration of the practice of celebrating a new color each year, to be reflected by every major designer in both seasons (Fall and Spring) of a given year. The annual practice, planned in secret and conducted with a decade at time in mind, though uninterrupted, had been eclipsed by a general tendency among everyone in the industry and their followers to wear black every day, year after year, since the flourescent ‘Eighties. Also around the close of the Twentieth Century, in the universe of Business, the number of key points permitted in any communication shrank from five to three. Up to and through ‘Eighties, every fledgling middle manager and company president alike was instructed to restrict all memos and speeches to five key points. Any more and the audience would be lost. You may have noticed at some stage the number was reduced to three. You may have noticed subsequently, very recently, effectiveness of type-ahead SMS and Twitter notwithstanding, we have re-evolved into five-fingered creatures, thank goodness.


The Art and Money Project: Exploring the Nexus of Creativity and Capitalism


Max Haiven

Art and Money cover, based on the Hugo Boss Prize installation by Hans-Peter Feldmann Based on the Hugo Boss Prize installation by Hans-Peter Feldmann

The fine folks over at Art Threat have graciously published this illustrated Q&A with me about the Art and Money Project.

Check it out:

The Art and Money Project: exploring the nexus of creativity and capitalism

Max Haiven[1]

What is the Art and Money project?

It’s a research, teaching and publishing project I’m working on that is basically tracing two intertwined things.  First, art and artists who are engaging directly with money – that is, using money (chopped up dollar bills, coins, credit cards, bills, etc.) as a medium of expression or whose work comments very directly on money and its influence.  Second, a set of theoretical and sociological questions about what money is and does, and, more specifically, how we might understand money as an aesthetic commodity or a representative or symbolic object with tremendous…

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The Ogre And The Gardener



I was allowed to keep this flower. The local City Gardener had already picked it this morning, and it was sticking out of the big bag she uses for clippings to be mulched when I happened by. I had already thanked her in Autumn for all her fine work throughout the neighborhood.

I see blossoms in every season, even Winter, though we face the winds of New York Harbor (we are sticking out of the Battery). It is thanks to her. I see her digging and planting and weeding and pruning practically every morning as I walk my son to school.

I very nearly picked an apartment right across the street from the school, which would have had a narrow view of these flora from the window, but might not have gotten me up close every day the way the further-away place has, since I have to walk past. I have to confess that a factor in my decision was a surprise meeting during my tour of the apartment building. I turned a corner and came face-to-face with one of its residents, a young Tor Johnson type so top heavy as to require a walker, lumbering along in what appeared to be a medicated haze, from which he gazed sidelong out of one fiery eye.

I have since witnessed this character making his way outside to visit the flowers with as much reliability as the City Gardener. I tried in my mind to admire his diligent attempt at health until I realized he was always going for a smoke. Meanwhile, I imagined he and the Gardener had formed some sort of bond, not unlike Beauty and The Beast, wherein she chose to stay close to him in spite of greater opportunities because he was the only one to truly appreciate her gifts.


Today I find myself stomping around my ancestral stomping ground, The Lower East Side. Hey, the hipsters did not ruin it. It was always a fertile ruin, still is, and it is beautiful to me.

I enjoyed some fine sausage and white bean soup. I saw happy children playing with their parents and grandparents. I leafed through the latest Popular Science (Rough Sketch: Harpooning a Comet).

I did not buy any records today. Instead I looked at the water and walked around town aimlessly, relishing Spring and thinking about being a human being. As a digital media specialist obsessed with analog media, I notice as much contrast between analog media
and the raw natural world as between analog media and the cooked-up virtual world.

This is as much as to say that the same sense of wonder and revelation to be had from gazing at an actual painting after staring at screen can also be had from gazing at a painting after staring at the ground.

Jonathan And The Dragon

Happy Chinese New Year!

Kung Fu Flash Kid is six (and a half) now. Do you want to know what happened to last year? Nothing worth publishing.

I started this blog with the idea it would be a travel journal during my trip to China in 2010. I started it while waiting for the plane in Newark. When I landed in Shanghai I discovered WordPress was blocked, as was Twitter.

Upon returning, I went to disable the account but, discovering I had had no visitors to Hello World in six months, I decided to keep it open for myself. Now I am toying with the notion of attempting some connection among bloggers I like. Do I start again from scratch instead of exposing the humble beginnings of Strangely Familiar? Do I hide the ones that might have been more humble and just leave the stubs? What would be the value in that? There is no value in the blog being three years old if there are only three posts in it.

I welcome your feedback. I welcome the dragon.




Golden Days

My Great Aunt was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis when she was quite young. They believed it may have been related to her having had Rheumatic Fever when she was super young. They treated the debilitating pain with gold. I just found this out. They injected the precious metal into her system and it worked. She went to the doctor because her hands could not pick up her baby. After the gold treatment her hands started to work again, so she went to work as an administrative assistant and was typing on a typewriter for the next forty years. Then she w


typing on a computer

  for another twenty years


until she retired at age eighty-five. This year she’s ninety. We always say she has gold-plated bones, and now I know the meaning is literal.

For it’s a long long while / from May to December . . .
                                       — Kurt Weill (September Song)

Back in the ‘way

I had a blog before. It was called Vespaway. Although it was celebrated in mainstream press and underground circles alike, it did draw criticism. Most of the complaints I got centered on the idea that many posts were “off topic.” I never responded directly, but continued to blog and correspond in a way that I hoped would clarify the topic itself.

The topic was not Vespa per se. It was all about a way of life that was made a little easier and more enjoyable with a Vespa in it. Sure, sometimes it focused squarely on the anticipated release of a new model arriving from Italy, how the product had performed in European tests, and maybe what colors would be available.

Color commentary in a much larger sense and play-by-play coverage were somehow reversed in this game. One could say rather that the lifestyle provided the action and the scooter news provided the filler. It made perfect sense to plenty of people, but you could certainly see why many more were confused. They grabbed the RSS feed because they wanted to know when the GTS 250 would be released in the States. Maybe they had heard I would have the inside scoop on that. They were not interested in what I did with my family and friends while we waited, along with the rest of America’s eager riders, for that exciting day.

I mean, I wrote about riding an LX150 as fast as I possibly could on Ocean Parkway. But it was more about passing Jones Beach and stopping for clam chowder on the way to Fire Island than it was about whether I could get the thing up to 70MPH. And when I did do that (in full tuck with the wind at by back) the fun in the beautiful sunset was darkened by the reminder I would need a 250 if I wanted to make Manhattan by nightfall. Worse, I didn’t even go to Fire Island, so it was all chowder.

Now, five years later, I am sitting at the edge of a Chevy dealership, looking at trucks that might fit Harleys in the back. I could say, “hey, it’s not for me; it’s for a friend.” This would only punctuate the irony.

I’m not going for irony. Irony is a cheap thrill for those who are new to the realization that it is all one. Either that, or a routine fix for compulsive Deconstructionists. I am going for deeper understanding. OK, wait. Maybe I kid the kidders. I do find that both new perspectives and endless epistemelogical unravellings can create insight. Just as much as the next guy, right?

It’s just that what I am saying is that there is very little difference between having a Vespa and having a life or, for that matter having a Harley. That we as a Species are separated by one or two genomic differentiators from not only the monkeys but also the bananas is old news! Sometimes people seem to seek understanding, to find sense and meaning in things, only by determining simple differences. Big vs little. Man vs. Machine. Yankees vs. Red Sox. If you love baseball, you like both. If you love Leonardo da Vinci, you like both. If you love your mother you like both.