A call for intervalues dialogue

The term “interfaith dialog” (sometimes synonymous with “interreligious dialog”) is defined on Wikipedia, as of 5/31/2013, as:

“[…]cooperative, constructive and positive interaction between people of different religious traditions (i.e., “faiths”) and/or spiritual or humanistic beliefs, at both the individual and institutional levels.”

However, by the explicit reference to “faith” or “religious”, the combination of the prefix “inter-” with either term invokes immediate reference to communities which are brought together by shared “faith” or “religion”, usually manifested in worship and promotion of belief to at least one deity. Functionally, either term excludes those “humanistic” beliefs; as hinted by writer Teo Bishop, the limitation to communities of faith doesn’t necessarily include communities of shared practice, including ritual and ceremony which may not necessarily involve belief (however public) or reverence for a deity.

My opinion is that the word “intervalues” should be promoted as a non-sectarian, secular description for gatherings which focus primarily on building a consensus, observance and application of values – things which people feel are most commonly important – for the population at large.

Staks Rosch, a blogger on Atheism for Examiner.com, elucidates what an intervalues gathering would entail for non-theistic communities of all stripes, particularly hard-humanistic communities:

An intervalues gathering would be more in the spirit of diversity and inclusiveness. Of course allowing atheists a seat at the table would be to acknowledge that the religious landscape is changing and that atheism is on the rise. Plus, it would be harder to accuse atheists of not caring when atheists are standing right next to the religious at intervalues gatherings.

For Greg Epstein, the Humanist Chaplain at Harvard University who criticized the non-invitation of humanistic voices to the interfaith mass service for Boston Bombing victims, or Chris Stedman, the writer who happens to intersect his interfaith activism with his sexual orientation and his atheist life stance (much to the chagrin of other atheist writers who see his interfaith networking as a liability to the validity of non-belief), the word “intervalues” might be a better description of their personal desire to work for the “common good” of society at large with believers, practitioners and activists of all sorts.

Interfaith Councils, from that of San Francisco to that of Richmond to Ann Arbor to the tiny town of Spring, may benefit more of their local populations by rebranding as Intervalues Councils, building larger coalitions which welcome the temples, churches, mosques and atheist meetups into a common, secular umbrella effort to strengthen, review and develop values in their communities, as well as to challenge issues which disturb peace or violate rights.

If anything, the promotion of intervalues dialogue can improve upon the shortcomings in relevance and inclusion of interfaith dialogue.

RIP Ray Harryhausen

Originally posted on SUPERVERSITY:

Ray Harryhausen With Fighting Skeleton


Ray Harryhausen, a true genius of sci-fi/fantasy filmmaking died on Tuesday at age 92.

Harryhausen was responsible for the special effects on some of the greatest fantasy films ever made including Jason and The Argonauts, The Day The Earth Stood Still, and the original Clash of The Titans. He was the recognized master of the pre-digital age of stop motion animated effects.

Mr. Harryhausen’s works speak brilliantly for themselves, as can be seen in these clips from Jason and TheArgonauts and The Golden Voyage of Sinbad.


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Adding an electric car cut the payback point of our solar panel investment in half

Originally posted on Gigaom:

When we discussed our home solar panel project in mid-2011 with friends, one of the first questions everyone asked was, “What’s the payback period before you break-even?” The second question was unsurprisingly, “How much is it costing you?” but the focus always ended up on the payback. After all, if you’re going to invest in green technology, you’re hoping that at some point in the near future, you get ahead of the game. It turns out that something we didn’t plan for — our Chevrolet Volt(s gm) — is actually helping us boost the ROI and cut our payback time in half.

Details of the solar panel investment

Solar panel framingI shared details on both the solar panel project and the car before, but let me step back and recap a bit. In October 2011, we added 41 solar panels to our southern-facing roof in southeastern Pennsylvania. Each panel is rated…

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Google Glass will soon be invisible – and the new normal

Harry Underwood:

It depends on the openness and adaptability of the technology, but I digress…

Originally posted on Gigaom:

“There are three sides to every story: Your side, my side, and the truth. And no one is lying.” – Robert Evans (“The Kid Stays in the Picture”)

I recently met up with my friend and one-time business partner, Steve Lee, who is product director on the Google Glass project, and before that, ran product management on Google Maps for Mobile. Other than a quick tour of the device, Steve basically let me dive in, so as to experience Glass with a beginner’s mind. I won’t bother reviewing the basic capabilities and specs, which have been covered exhaustively already. Instead I want to focus on some of the points that are in debate, and whether I believe that Glass is destined to succeed.

Glass is translucent; designed to be invisible

In “Waves of Power,” David Moschella shows how new disruptive industries begin as verticals, since the complete product solution requires…

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Communication Theory in Moon Over Buffalo

Harry Underwood
COMM 3010
Extra Credit Short Essay

Communication Theory in Moon Over Buffalo

The Expectancy Violations Theory, which attempts to explain how individuals react to violative behavior or violations of expected behavior, comports to the behavior of the characters in Moon Over Buffalo, especially that of George. He violates the expectancy of his wife, Charlotte, by sleeping with an actor from his company, resulting in Charlotte threatening to leave with a rich lawyer. Later, the entry of a drunken George in the wrong costume shocks and embarrasses the other actors who are in costume for another play. In conclusion, George’s muddling of his personal relationships with his profession as an actor results in public embarrassment and near-dissolution as a family, the latter of which is only reversed as he apologetically gets on his knees and makes strategic use of proxemics – holding onto Charlotte’s legs – to acknowledge his need for Charlotte in his life. Charlotte interprets and evaluates the sincerity of this behavior, ultimately forgiving him for his transgressions. Hence, the theory helps to explain how the characters assess the damage and reconciliability of unexpected or unwanted behavior.

Never Turn Your Back on Family: An Analysis of Relationships in Summer Wars

Harry Underwood
Film Analysis
COMM 3010

Never Turn Your Back on Family: An Analysis of Relationships in Summer Wars

Theories about communication are crafted in order to almost-accurately predict the communicative behavior of individuals in a number of settings and intentions. Within the realm of both old, large families as well as new, young ones, the utility of discerning communication commonalities among participants in these relationships is indispensable. Summer Wars, a 2009 animated film directed by Mamoru Hosoda, is exemplary of a number of theories and principles on communications which have been explored over the history of communications as a subject of academic investigation. Ranging from the interpersonal and nonverbal to the massive and computer-mediated, the film uses the protagonist as a vehicle for exploration of communication as a life- and world-changing agent in human experience.

The Relationship Interaction Stages Model, which offers a suitable rubric for the development of characters’ relationships within the film, shows various stages of interpersonal behavior which reflect the severity of sentiments harbored by the participants of the relationship toward other participants. The model ranges in its stages from “coming together” – the stages of initiation, experimenting, intensifying, integrating and bonding – to “coming apart” – differentiation, circumscribing, stagnation, avoiding, and terminating. It is through this model that the behaviors of a number of key characters in Summer Wars – namely Kenji, Natsuki, Wabisuke, Sakae and Kazuma – can be assessed as fluctuations in relationship status within a large family in the flux of institutional change.

Coming Apart

The differentiating stage is one in which differences between individuals or groups is emphasized by the participants, with resent often being a major sentiment exhibited by the parties. This stage is reached on a group basis by the male members of the Jinnouchi clan following the matriarch Sakae’s death, as they pursue a plan to take Love Machine down while the female members of the family concern themselves with preparations for the funeral. On an interpersonal level, Kenji and Natsuki also experience this stage with each other, with Natsuki angrily running from him after seeing her uncle Wabisuke remove himself from the clan and leave the house. To her, Kenji seems too much of an outsider to understand her feelings.

Circumscribing is a stage marked by the focus of individuals on their own personal matters, actively distancing themselves from each other. This, collectively, is developed by the men and women of the family, with the men, including Kenji, attempting to work on a plan to take on the virus, and the women focusing on the funerary arrangements for Sakae. Members of the two groups complain about each other’s seemingly-misplaced priorities, showing their greater desperation and concern for the matters at their respective hands.

The stagnation stage is marked by a lack of change in relational intensity, boredom, and short answers to questions from relationship participants. Wabisuke, a “love child” of Sakae’s husband who is first shown as a late, ill-welcomed arrival to the reunion, attempts to strike up a conversation with family members, only for most of the adult members of the clan to show their anger at his presence due to past misdeeds. He remains, for a period, on the periphery of family functions with a sense of tedium, with the adult members remaining leery and dismissive of his presence. His lack of change in relationship status vis-à-vis the family reflects the intolerant sentiment blocking the two parties from any progression.

The avoiding stage is one in which mostly physical isolation from other family members occurs with only minimal communication. It is in this stage which we find characters like Kazuma, who isolates himself from the clan while playing in the virtual world Oz as his character King Kazma. He hardly communicates or interacts with other family members or their activities, only involving himself with the family when needed, asked or drawn by a sudden impulse of self-interest.

The termination stage, in which absolutely no contact of a physical or communicative nature is maintained between parties, is reached by Wabisuke, as he had already spent ten years of his life in the United States and had only come back to Japan for the sake of his adoptive grandmother Sakae, who he calls “you old hag” in a semi-joking tone of voice. This termination is renewed after he finds himself at the point of an antique spear wielded by Sakae in anger for his creation and selling of the virus to the U.S. military; he flees in a rage from the estate and remains in isolation from the clan until the one person who has admiration for him, Natsuki, calls him home with the news of Sakae’s death.

Coming Together

The initiating stage, in which individuals first interact with each other, is illustrated from the beginning of the film. Natsuki and Kenji enter this stage when Natsuki, the “prettiest girl in school,” enlists him to join her on her train trip to her family reunion. The two ask questions of each other along the way about their interests and hobbies, such as Kenji’s prowess in mathematics and the size of Natsuki’s family; this stage transforms into something too radical for Kenji’s tastes as Natsuki surprisingly introduces him to Sakae as her fiancée.

The intensifying stage involves probes into, and disclose, each other’s personal morals and values. Sakae participates in this stage when, after he is introduced as Natsuki’s “beau,” she sternly questions Kenji on his ability to protect Natsuki from any harm or danger, receiving a reluctant answer in the affirmative before smiling with assurance. Before he is (temporarily) hauled away for his alleged unleashing of a virus, Kenji shows more of himself to Sakae by disclosing to her his own comparative lack of a family life compared to that enjoyed by the Jinnouchi clan, ending with an expression of appreciation to her and to the clan. Finally, after explosively driving off Wabisuke from her estate, Sakae invites Kenji to play a (final) card game called “hanafuda,” disclosing Natsuki’s shortcomings and wagering (successfully) that, if she wins, he will “promise to take care of Natsuki.” With these trades of inquiry and information, Kenji and Sakae establish a rapport as individuals sharing commonalities in values and interests.

The integration stage, in which the lives of individuals begin to merge and individuals begin to see themselves as participants in a larger collective, is reached by most of the key characters in the film in their own individual ways. Wabisuke’s isolation is ended when Natsuki calls his phone with the news of Sakae’s death, to which he reacts by desperately rushing back to the clan house to pay his respects to his grandmother. This sudden turn of emotion is reciprocated by the family to Wabisuke on Sakae’s written wishes for them to welcome him back. Kazuma also experiences this stage as he begins to emerge from his isolation and become more involved in the family’s struggle to stop the artificially-intelligent Love Machine virus, using his King Kazma character to fight the avatar incarnation of the virus. Natsuki herself is emotionally reintegrated into the clan by being enlisted to play a life-or-death card game of Hanafuda with the Love Machine, waging the Oz avatars of her family members in order to gain hundreds of millions of stolen accounts from Love Machine.

The integration stage is also reached on a monogamous level between Natsuki and Kenji at various points in the film. In the immediate aftermath of Sakae’s death, a distraught Natsuki begs Kenji to hold her hand, to which the reluctant main protagonist eventually complies as she weeps. It is this contact which marks the duo’s first attempt at intimate self-disclosure, with Natsuki, in a time of depression, showing her interest in physical and emotional solidarity from someone who is as interested in playing a positive role in her world. However, given their comparative lack of private self-disclosure to each other throughout most of the story, this moment in their relationship is also indicative of the experimental relationship, as they are now slightly more comfortable and connected with each others’ close presence.

Finally, the stage of bonding is reached by Kenji and Natsuki as they attempt to kiss each other in public for the first time after the clan’s victory over the Love Machine virus. This stage is marked by a public declaration of love, an act which shows the progression of a relationship to a moment of comfort and internal acceptance of one’s status as a participant and partner which would be hardly deprecated in quality if it were to be shown to the view of other parties. At the same time, due to their comparative lack of time spent within each other’s close proximity, this moment of self-disclosure and intimacy can also be associated with the experimenting stage. At this particular moment in time, the two are now more comfortable and willing to embrace the connections forged between each other, although the two continue to carry this budding relationship at a steady pace.


In conclusion, Summer Wars demonstrates to the viewer how the relationship interaction stage model operates within a large family in a moment of violent change. Sakae’s written will and testament advises her surviving family, including Wabisuke, to show resilience in their relationships: “Never turn your back on family, even when they hurt you. Never let life get the better of you.” This statement speaks volumes to the viewer about the film’s message of collective resilience in the face of crisis. The statement can just as well apply to the relationship between two individuals like Natsuki and Kenji, who are separated from each other at various times, but find themselves increasingly drawn to each other in their most-helpless moments. Just as Wabisuke possesses a close, but fluctuating relationship with Sakae and her family, Natsuki and Kenji develop their relationship in stages of interaction with each other and with their clan.