The infinite monkey theory* has a logical flaw. As weird as it seems to think, problems we experience as potholes, traffic, pollution, crime and people living without shelters in public places result from this flaw because our public administration is largely based on the infinite monkey theory, not for the reason you’re thinking, but because our system is set up on priorities of management efficiency.
When we describe problems as having a common cause, we usually name a politician; anything other than the actual cause. Each of our problems has in common one system of public administration. It’s not discretionary boards and their policy decisions. The system is designed to allow, if not produce problems we’re seeing and not other possible problems. It can’t do other and it does what it does very well—witness the downtown skyline and cute little bustling airport.
The system is based on centralizing and it consists of algorithms—rules about infinitely diverse categories of roads, buildings, people. The system reacts to things that come up. It’s failures show up like a 36’ high building, a seawall where there was a beach, traffic… Should we replace the system with something that gives us more of what we want and less of what we don’t want? The Boston Tea Party wouldn’t get far in San Diego Harbor.
Some here don’t want to think about this. However, when someone drives a 747 over their home or puts a four story condo in their view, they really hate thinking about it. Can you blame them? Not even an infinite number of monkeys can solve this simple problem.
The system is needed to collect money from huge populations, hundreds of thousands, millions. It’s a profitable system for those who are employed by it and developers but it’s actually incapable of doing many things it’s supposed to do, literally, any kind of job–no matter what: it can’t stop crime, can’t do traffic engineering, repair potholes or carry out urban planning so we have communities that are safe and nurturing for poor as well as wealthy people.
How would you alter the system so that it allows most of us to have more of what we want more of and less of what we don’t want? It’s simpler than “rocket science”. We just need to ensure that politicians aren’t actually in the business of collecting campaign contributions. The system is set up to ensure the opportunity to buy influence from politicians with campaign funding.
*A million quantum computers might come up with a novel but it won’t be James Joyce’s Ulysses. It’s oxymoron: quantum mechanics prevents it; observation changes the observed. Joyce’s Ulysses lives only in a reader’s imagination. It only takes one primate to create Ulysses; it’s done all the time and it’s never the same.
I was starting to feel pride welling up in my soul. We’re arguing about things that touch us deeply, my friends and neighbors, and yet, we’re not talking about some things: for example, constraints on our harbor and coastal access by an increasing Navy presence, or that students at UCSD and SDSU are now largely people (mostly Asian and South Asian business students) here on visas, many of whom live in the condos of Costa Verde, Rennaissance and Mira Mesa. I wondered, where’s the Asian presence in San Diego’s culture and politics? Where’s the traditional Chinese and Indian culture? Why are there no Guzheng concerts at UCSD?
I drove to Burbank last Saturday morning. LA is such a reality check. Returning to San Diego at 8:00 PM Sunday with an understanding of those who voted for Mr. Trump and also, a view of the power of an “electoral college” to literally trump a popular vote and why many are upset about this now since it’s not the first time. My epiphany occurred at a place that we may now think of as New South Asia; the place we’d previously thought of as Orange County, Costa Mesa, Irvine, etc. I now know why Nixon sought an ally in Red China…
The relationship between waves of immigration and our military campaigns in South Asia and the Middle East is inescapable: we bomb them over there so they come here. Wouldn’t you? If we don’t want all this immigration, why do we engage in practices that result in refugee immigration? We’re told the wars preserve freedom and democracy but did we not imagine this result, given the history of the United States? And have immigrants ever said their emigration justified wars in their homes? So what? What’s the prognosis?
We propose a “Great Wall of America” from Brownsville to Tijuana to keep out Mexicans, but it’s Asians and Indians, not Mexicans, who populate our state universities and buy the new million dollar condos Downtown and in OC. Are we in fact spending billions on a strategy against a declining Hispanic in-migration against our New China? It worked against Mongols, why not Mexicans?
If China was our enemy, it now owns so much of our economy, that we have become our enemy. For instance, our popular national elections are showcase rituals in which a kind of central committee, called, The Electoral College, chooses our national leader. While the electoral college is constitutional, our electoral system wasn’t always controlled by campaign contributions that allow control of government to be sold to the highest bidder. We don’t know what our Asian population thinks of this. They don’t vote. Or speak to us. Do they see Americans as only pretending to be self-governing, since political influence is purchased? How do our Asian immigrants and visitors feel about our financial, natural and human investment in military campaigns that result in refugee immigration? What do they think about our fear of Mexicans? Do they view Mr. Trump as accurately reflecting the American mentality they encounter?
So in the cultures of our new neighbors: what is communication like, how do they see political systems, what values and priorities do they inherit or rebel against, what is there for us to learn?
In 1962, went off to Coast Guard boot camp at Government Island in Alameda, my Parents used the opportunity to sell their home in La Puente. I learned this when a yellow cab I hailed at the airport dropped me at their house, which I was certain was a wrong address.
Because, Blanca, their landlord and her Hispanic friends and neighbors were having a party, they said, fiesta, in the common front yard of the three houses she owned, including the one my parents rented. Latin rhythms punctuated the sound of the adjacent freeway interchange and a few score brown-skinned young men and women were well on the way to a felicitous state of inebriation, that is to say, were already drunk.
Ed, my war-hero step-father was amused at my discomfort, which was less about the bigoted view of Mexicans, than my general narcissistic view of all others as less everything than I, a condition I reluctantly now say isn’t far from accurate but that’s a different story. That was in 1962.
In 1966, when I began making educational films, I learned that more than 50% of students then enrolled in Los Angeles City Schools were from hispanic or African American families and my films needed to reflect this ethnic and cultural mix. Now, I’m told the majority of students at UCSD and SDSU are from Asian, South Asian, African and Hispanic families and the cultural and the ethnic mix is increasingly colorful. People from China interest me more than Mexicans and Europeans–they are enigmatic and the more I learn about them, the more they seem like people from a very interesting and equally distant planet, where people have learned to think about things. Their language is musical–how a statement is voiced changes the meaning. To pronounce their names correctly is a music recital.
After Costa Verde and Renaissance I figure they will probably buy all the two to three million dollar condominiums under construction along the Pacific Highway downtown. Less affluent white people will better afford the condos on the east side, around the trolley building, where the homeless people are pitching tents, playing in traffic and pushing shopping carts around with all of their earthly stuff.
It’s possible the waterfront condo residents will be the same scions of wealthy Chinese, Korean, Japanese and Arabic families that now populate the University of California and many private colleges and work for biotech and IT companies around La Jolla. A host of new restaurants and markets, now mainly in Mira Mesa and Kearney Mesa to serve the Asian population will begin to appear downtown.
Guzheng concerts at the Balboa will be nice and classes in Chinese and Korean at SDCC and area high schools as the new condominiums sell out. Demographics of the Shelter Island and La Playa neighborhoods will begin to change as the condo sales impact local rea estate values, however, the cultural history of Pt. Loma is deep and the land will leave it’s stamp on the values of our new generations of Asian immigrants.
State of the art music production technology allows a person with little to no classical music training, to deconstruct complex and powerful pieces: Bach, Mahler, Debussy, Schoenberg’s, etc. with no knowledge of conventional theory or musical notation developed over the last three centuries that classical instrumentalists typically follow or use to communicate their ideas. Current state of the art digital audio workstations use the actual tonalities and sounds to craft music from which to display musical relationships in conventional score format, albeit absent articulation marks that electronic composers must now write in “by hand”. These composers can see how notation communicates their intent and the intent of works by known composers they study.
Digital Audio Workstations (DAWs) use pre-recorded samples of instruments and/or synthesizers that offer a nearly infinite array of articulations for every instrument, modern and ancient, western and eastern, ethnic and classical: sitar, tabla, gamelan, guzheng, duduk, oboe d’amore, clavier, and so on, placing their sounds at the disposal of electronic composers using midi controllers in every music genre. Instrumentalists can produce ensemble and orchestral arrangements of pieces and perform their own inventions. With no classical training a DAW musician can learn to compose, arrange and produce simple and complex scores and learn by exploring ideas of composers of music of every culture, since the earliest times.
The importance of this new facility for musical expression is seen in a huge number and ethnic array of postings on YouTube, Vimeo, SoundCloud and other portals and in the music in cinema and video productions. Yet the importance and value of music itself is relatively unexamined and not generally understood: that music is a medium for emotional narratives and shapes our global culture.
A ride request chimed and blinked on my iPad. I saved the C Minor Symphony and left to pick up “Jason”, at the address of the submarine base near the end of Pt. Loma, about a mile from my home. In 5 minutes, I arrived at the guard’s booth where the Marine sentry on duty told me, “Ubers can’t come on base; only taxis are allowed”. He told me to park in a small lot by the gate and wait for the rider. The sailor’s barracks buildings are a half mile from the gate, so I asked the guard if he knew where I can ask for a permit to drive in. “Uber’s aren’t allowed on base.”
“I got that. I want to ask for a pass to come on base.”
“Oh.” He pointed to a small building with a sign on which the words, “Pass Office” was printed in block letters.
Because the barracks is a long walk for sailors and drivers have to wait ten minutes or longer for a ride that usually nets no more than $2.00 after deducting expenses, the following morning I decided to go to the Pass Office and ask for a permit to drive into the base.
Inside the little grey building, I saw three relatively young African American women engaged in animated chatting behind a plywood counter. It occurred to me they are the only women of African American descent I’d encountered in Pt. Loma in more than two weeks, aside from the Ethiopian security by the door of San Diego County Credit Union at Talbot and Rosecrans.
“Can I help you?”
“Good morning! I’d like to be cleared to pick up and drop off riders.
“I’m sorry, sir, what do you want?”
I gathered no one had ever asked for a permit. “I’m an Uber driver. I want to drive into the base, when I receive a ride request or when I’m dropping off people who live or work here.”
“You can’t. People who work for Uber aren’t allowed. on base.”
“Uber drivers don’t work for Uber; we’re independent contractors. I know that taxis can enter the base. I’ve seen them.”
“Taxis? Oh, yes. Taxis can come in, but not Uber.”
“That means there must be some kind of approval criteria?”
“An approval process.” (I’d been a yeoman in the Coast Guard Reserve and I know that in the military there’s a process, procedure and criteria for everything imaginable and much that isn’t imaginable.) One of the other youngish (African American) women nudged her colleague gently aside as she searched around under the plywood counter and came up with a three ring book with a black cover. She then read that I needed to be a licensed business. Check. I’m licensed. Insured Vehicle. Check. Driver’s License. Check.
I leaned against the WWII era plywood. “I live a few blocks down the street. I’m a neighbor. I want to drive into the base to pick up riders–sailors, people who work here. It’s my business.”
“Do you have a business license? ”
“No, I’m not a business. I have business here. I don’t work for Uber. I work for the riders whose requests I accept. I’m a rideshare driver. We don’t need to have a TCP.”
“TCP? What’s TCP? I don’t know what TCP is. Have you ever heard of TCP?”
“No, I don’t know what TCP is.”
“Transportation Charter Permit. You get it from the PUC–Public Utilities Commission and rideshare drivers don’t need one. They cost a thousand dollars. I’d need a bigger reason than a rides from a few sailors to put out a thousand dollars, right?”
“Suit yourself,” she said, “that’s what it says here”.
Leaving them to continue the conversation I’d interrupted I walked to my car, deciding then and there to give up on getting a permit to come on the base. A couple days later, I again received a ride request from the sub base. As I drove through the orange barricades approaching the gate, I saw a man and a woman dressed in combat blue fatigues talking to the Marine sentry, who wore green fatigues. The sentry disappeared as I neared the gate. Expecting to be asked to wait in the adjacent parking lot as I had before, I smiled up at the grim face of an athletic-looking black woman about 38 years old.
“Uber. I’m here to pick up Jason. Shall I park over there and wait?”
Her black hair was tucked tight into her officer’s cap, which she wore at a slight rake. Opaque aviator sunglasses hid her eyes; she seemed poised like a UFO fighter in her corner–and she had a big black gun holstered on her hip. She spoke with the hint of a snarl, “I’ll take your driver’s license!”
“Why do you want my driver’s license? (If she’d been an Uber rider, I’d have told her to get another car.
“Give me your driver’s license.”
“Wait a second. You’ll TAKE my driver’s license?”
“Give me your license, sir!”
Her partner, standing silently beside her, a little out of frame said, “get out of the car…”
“I’ll take care of this,” she said to him, “keep your eye on them” She pointed at the line of cars forming behind my car. There’s a lot of traffic in and out of the sub base and only this one lane entrance and one lane exit for trucks, cars, whatever.
“Miss, if you want to call the police, please, do so. I’ve done nothing wrong.” This is a free country in which military personnel can’t violate the person, property or rights of civilians. You may defend yourself if you believe there’s a threat. “Can you identify yourself as a police officer? You know I can’t legally drive this car without a license in my possession and at this point, I’d like to leave.”
“Keep your license!”
“I’ll do a u-turn and I’m out of here. Tell Jason.”
“Jason, the sailor or marine who supposedly requested a ride.” I started to pull away to turn and leave.
She pointed to the parking lot, where I’d waited last time.
“Pull your car over there.”
“Into the parking lot now? Ok.”
“Over there!” she re-iterated, as if I wasn’t already moving. With her hand on her weapon, she walked alongside my car as I drove slowly into the parking lot, where I expected to wait for Jason an earn a $3 fare. Why is it that Marines tip and sailors don’t? Maybe my luck.
“Stop right there!” (in the driveway of the lot).I turned off the motor and started to open the door to stretch–I try to get out and stretch whenever I can. Otherwise, I’m sitting for hours.
“Get back in the car!”
“Give me your driver’s license.”
Since I was now on the base, where she has legal jurisdiction, I handed her my license. “Why are you doing this? I’m an Uber driver. I live in this community. What’s your name?”
“You don’t need to know that.” I inferred from this that her actions are sanctioned by superiors, maybe triggered by my visit to the Pass Office. The possibility of deliberate harassment was there, but to what end? To protect the exclusive franchise of a cab company or to protect America from Americans.
“I can call the police and have you arrested!”
“Yes, you can. I’m an Uber driver trying to make a living serving people who live or work here. I live in this neighborhood and I’ve done nothing wrong and you can have me arrested. Ironic.”
“Get off this base! Immediately, Get out of here! Move! Now!”
(I’m rereading Rick Altman’s book on narrative theory. In Altman’s view, every narrative depends on the reader’s/viewer’s perception of characters and actions, a view over which a narrator has no control. These characters perceived contrasting narratives. The officer’s actions, though correlated with my actions, were neither consistent with seeing me as a threat but instead, with a perception of an older white man’s disrespect of her as a class, a black woman officer. In all likelihood, our species won’t survive armies of women.)