Friday, October 07, 2005

The citizens of Fukutsu have been warned.

At least, that's one interpretation of why I made the local town glossy.

"If you see this strange looking foreigner, don't be afraid. We know who he is and where he lives. If he commits some horrible breach of protocol, as gaijin are likely to do, we will dispatch our town ninjas to deal with him in a most expeditious manner."

Just a theory of course.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Update: Wayne Manor survives fire! Bat-fire-retardant successful!

"Batman" house escapes damage in Pasadena fire
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A Tudor style mansion in Pasadena that was used for a number of movie shoots has been destroyed by fire but the house nearby where the 1960s "Batman" TV series was shot escaped damage, fire officials said on Thursday...

Catholic Church admits stunningly obvious, says "My bad" to all those murdered to uphold BS.

Via the TimesOnline:
Catholic Church no longer swears by truth of the Bible
By Ruth Gledhill, Religion Correspondent

THE hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church has published a teaching document instructing the faithful that some parts of the Bible are not actually true.

The Catholic bishops of England, Wales and Scotland are warning their five million worshippers, as well as any others drawn to the study of scripture, that they should not expect “total accuracy” from the Bible...

Changing cultures - tatts and piercings in Japan...

Just a brief observation at how much things can change, culturally speaking, in as little as four years...

When we were last in Japan, in a total of two years I saw maybe... maybe... one tattoo on anybody. And that was a heavily tatt'ed up lady in a club who was clearly fulfilling her role as yakuza harlot. Seriously. She was wearing a tank top and you could tell from her extensive dragon designs, her coke-whore thinness and severe rode hard and put away wet rapidly hitting the bad side of 40 and not in a good way look that she was some mob guys mistress.

But since I've been back I've seen at least a dozen tatts all around the city. Even here in Fukutsu, hardly an urban area. There's one girl who works in the grocercy store here in Tsuyazaki with lip and brow piercings... and this is a bit of a country area. It's just interesting to watch the shift in standards.

There are still vestiges of the old "tattoos=yakuza" mores, I've seen at least one ad for a sauna/capsule hotel that said "No tattoos", but the times, they are a changing. My father-in-law has a story about how his in-laws had to intervene on his behalf in order to get him into an onsen 25 years ago, and that was for his Snoopy tattoo, of all things. Now, girls aplenty roam the streets, tatted and pierced with nary a look.


Best questions/comments from students...

So far, that is.

Taken from some question/message sheets the eighth graders wrote up for me after my introduction:

Do you love wife?

Please give me good points.

Your wife looks very happy.

Do you like mother? [Only funny if you know of my family drama...]

What made you marry to your wife?

What's your favorite word? [A harder question than you'd think. I went with "Aloha"]

I don't like America. But I like you. Don't love!

And my favorite...

Have you ever had afro style?

Wayne Manor burns down. Human Torch wanted for questioning.

Fire guts Pasadena mansion where movies, TV shows were filmed
The Associated Press

A Wednesday night fire gutted a Tudor style mansion that served as the home of Bruce Wayne, aka Batman, in the 1960's "Batman" television series, said Lisa Derderian, a spokeswoman for the Pasadena Fire Department. It was being remodeled by the owners, she said...

Joss Whedon is my Master Now

Living in Japan, I was forced to watch a semi-crappy version of Serenity, copied by somebody using a handheld camera in a theater and posted to the internet. Despite weak sound, blurry visuals and somebody's head in frame half the time - great movie.

Already rumblings of releasing the DVD by Xmas. I'll be first in line on Amazon, thanks.

Whedon, from an interview with the Telegraph:

"The idea behind the show," says Whedon, "was to take nine people and say, 'Nine people look out into the blackness of space, and see nine different things.' But science fiction opens you up to every element of history that you want, because the future is just the past in a blender. So I could take anything from the human experience I've read about or felt or seen. Like, what is it like after a war? It doesn't matter which war or which country - what is it like for the people who lost?"

Though inspired by the past and set in the future, Firefly and Serenity have a very timely real-world relevance, given the state of America's foreign policy involvements.

"It's a little more timely than I'd hoped," he sighs. "The thing is, I do believe that when you try and force happiness on people, you find out that their version of happiness may not be yours.

"People keep calling the Alliance 'the evil empire', and I'm like, 'Actually, it's not an evil empire, it's the most enlightened society in the galaxy - but they're making the mistake any big power makes, which is to assume that their version of enlightenment should be spread everywhere, and that they can justly govern people who are beyond their reach, or living on their own terms, be they somewhat strange or archaic or even barbaric.

"And just dropping yourself into the middle of that and saying, 'OK, we're in charge of you now, be happy!' ain't gonna swing."

Geek post

Mark Waid makes the Legion of Superheroes sound interesting, via Newsarama:

By the 31st century, the modern-day concepts of child-fingerprinting and RFID tags has morphed into the Public Service, a technology that allows parents to genecode their kids so that they can be located at all times, eavesdropped on with ease, and even “programmed” to find junk food and other “bad things” physically nauseating. I wish this were a more implausible concept, frankly, but that’s undeniably the direction our civilization is headed.

The Legionnaires find this abhorrent. They wear Flight Rings that not only allow them to defy gravity but also cloak them from the Public Service. They fight for the freedom of underagers galaxywide--and they do so using long-forgotten methods of conduct. Barry and I think of them as the Society for Creative Anachronism of the 31st century: they know that Earth used to be overrun with “super-heroes”--dynamic figures in skin-tight, ostentatious costumes--and that becomes their fashion statement when they hang out.

“They’re ‘hanging out’?” scream the adults. “With no PURPOSE? How positively...UNCOUTH!”

Frowned upon? Oh, yeah. The adults, in their drab and bilious clothing, with their remote nature and complex rules for social interaction, think what they’re doing is tacky and gauche and inappropriate. So much the better. Makes it more attractive. The Legion of Super-Heroes is out to right wrongs, make noise, and leave their mark. The Legion is more than a club, more than a police force. It’s a movement, and that’s what we hang our series on. Their philosophy is on the splash page of every issue.

Sakuraba-Shamrock Among Matches Announced for Oct. PRIDE

Interesting matchup. As always, I'm pulling for Sakuraba. Looks to be a good card...

Via Sherdog:

Newly announced matches include PRIDE mainstay Kazushi Sakuraba taking on veteran mixed martial artist Ken Shamrock...

Sakuraba returns to action for the first time since his savage beating at the hands of Ricardo Arona in the recently concluded PRIDE Middleweight Grand Prix. Though there was talk of retirement for the 37-year-old Sakuraba, it's clear he never seriously considered leaving the fight game. The same could be said for Shamrock, 41, a veteran of MMA since before the sport was introduced to the U.S. in 1993. His last appearance in the ring was short, as current UFC middleweight champion Rich Franklin stopped him with strikes last April.

Fight card:
Mirko Filipovic vs. Josh Barnett
Kazushi Sakuraba vs. Ken Shamrock
Sergei Kharitonov vs. Fabricio Werdum
Quinton Jackson vs. Hirotaka Yokoi
Murilo Rua vs. Murad Chunkaiev
Henry Miller vs. Zuluzinho
Makoto Takimoto vs. Yoon Dong Sik

For Kathy and Sandy...

Via instructables:

go anywhere disposable scrabble game.

here's a scrabble board that conveniently prints on an A4 or lettter sized sheet of paper. if you are ever stuck on a plane or in a pub with no scrabble board you can use this sheet to get your fix.

Collapsing the Walls of Reality

Via Key23:
Viewing language as a binding agent of reality, it only takes one further step to realize that the language one possesses forms a border of reality. In a culture that communicates primarily thru written words, alphanumerical symbols comprise a frontier of the imaginable. What one does not possess words for, one cannot intelligently articulate in the local symbol system. Concepts exist, but beyond an accessible border. The Burroughsian concept of language as virus seems particularly illustrative in this regard. The rapid self-replication of such recently created language memes such as ‘war on terror’, ‘9/11’, ‘abortion isn’t birth control’, ‘intelligent design’ and (perhaps most dangerous) ‘reality’ as a misnomer for the consensus reality offered to middle America by mass media stand as striking evidence of the malleability of one’s personal reality thru language. On September 10, 2001 the term ‘war on terror’ would make about as much sense as ‘war on anger.’ Yet a mere four years after the attack on the WTC and Pentagon nearly everyone in the western world has a grasp of what ‘war on terror’ means. Indeed, some pundits even suggested that this linguistic construction helped the Texas Taliban coast thru to their second term of office by consciously avoiding use of the word ‘Iraq.’

Politics, however, seems only to codify things already thoroughly sold to the masses in the ideasphere of Yesod. While I count myself in the camp of those who do not consider America a democratic republic anymore of even the most rank variety, the people still need reassurance. All but the most naked and brutal domestic police states have ruled effectively without at least the tacit apathetic consent of their people. Analysts and critics have written endlessly about the effect of the mass media on shaping popular opinion as relates to politics. I suggest that the explorations have not gone far enough. Dr. Terrence McKenna explores the idea of television as a drug in his classic social history of chemical induced brain change Food of the Gods. He also posits the view that language doesn’t operate as a reflection of reality but rather that (as far as such Aristotelian maxims work) language is reality. Pairing these ideas one sees a grimmer picture of television media than posited by post-Chomskyan media theory. Television operates as a drug that sedates the body and dulls the senses while simultaneously feeding memetic poison into the human brain. Perhaps most terrifying, all this information gets fed into the human brain under the guise of ‘reality.’

‘Reality’ television seems to have accelerated the project beyond the wildest dreams of even the wiliest television executive. Americans describe the heavily stylized events of a reality television series as if they actually represent the reality recorded by the camera and the reality of the lives of the ‘stars.’ They see in reality television a way to relate to the montage of images and sound presented before them. Particularly for the younger generation this inundation of images hooks deep into the psyche. Increasingly people see themselves as stars of their own little reality series, formerly known as ‘life’ with their own internal monologue (or personal desocialization device- iPod, Discman, &c.) supplying soundtrack, their recollections providing a seamless edit of reality into discrete bundles of time- episodes, seasons and so on.

The omnipresence of surveillance does little to downplay the idea of ‘every man and woman a (television) star.’ The phenomenological process of television- the recording of framed events onto magnetic tape, available for further playback and editing- has all but blanketed the urban centers of the United Kingdom and under the auspices of Department of Homeland Security grants now creeps out of gas stations and banks and onto highways in America. What role does reality television play in increasing the acceptability of such phenomenon? Clearly, a feedback dialectic exists on this front. Westerners enjoy the sensations resulting from acting as a subject of voyeurism. Simultaneously, the observation of the dreary events that bleed together to form their little lives provides a sense of reassurance- yr important enough to watch. Cameras pop up more numerous than rose gardens in the mallscape becoming like the classic water to a fish. Still, it seems impossible to accept that the saturation of public space with surveillance has little effect on public behavior. Besides the most obvious feeling generated- paranoia- the reality show effect kicks into hyperdrive. Many have rightly observed that when looking down the barrel of a camera, ‘real’ seems about the least appropriate word to describe human behavior (leaving aside questions of just what ‘real’ ‘is’ for now).


Our world contains both beauty and ugliness, kindness and cruelty. The question is, where shall we fix our attention?

...If we view the world through the filter of our ideals, it will never measure up. Consider the influence of expectations on perception in the following anecdote: “A farmer was missing an ax from his tool shed. He suspected his neighbor’s young son. The boy looked like a thief, acted like a thief, and spoke like a thief. When the man eventually found his misplaced ax, his neighbor’s son looked, acted, and spoke like any other young boy.”

The fact that shadows exist, in the world and in ourselves, should not blind us to the light.

...There’s a story about a cancer-ridden football player who lay in a hospital bed, managing a smile as his coach entered the room and asked how he was doing. “Okay, I guess,” the player replied. But his sunken eyes told a different story.

After a long pause, the coach leaned close to the player’s face. “Listen, Mike. I need you at training camp in July, on the field, ready to go. We’re going all the way this year.”

Mike Westhoff, now recovered from bone cancer, is the special teams coach for the Miami Dolphins. He says of Coach Don Shula: “He treated me the way I could be, not the way I was. It made a difference.”

Hardship is part of life—but whether we view it as tragic or heroic, grotesque or purposeful, depends on our perspective. Our mind can make meaning or madness, light a candle or curse the darkness. The choice is ours. We can’t heal the world’s suffering—only our own. Accept life on its own terms. If we want a kinder world, then let us behave with kindness; if we want a peaceful world, let us make peace within. Our suffering serves no one. By letting go of our expectations, we liberate our lives.
- Dan Millman

Zen Wisdom [Really...]

Moments unfold, things happen.
Our mind then creates meanings,
positive or negative,
about what happens.
Mistaking our meanings for truth,
we see things not as they are,
but as we are.
Viewing the world through windows
of interpretations and expectations,
our mind creates a drama, a comedy,
a tragedy, a romance, or a soap opera
out of what simply arises.
Thus, our expectations create our reality;
our mind creates our dreams and dramas;
and stress appears as the mind resists what is.
To attain freedom,
make peace with Mystery,
Lose your mind and come to your senses.
To reinvent your world,
shift your expectations,
then act without assumptions.
Reality is not what we think.
- Dan Millman

Zen Wisdom

Do not walk behind me, for I may not lead.
Do not walk ahead of me, for I may not follow.
Do not walk beside me either.
In fact, just leave me alone.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Scientists teach dolphins to sing Batman theme song; still no cure for cancer.

Dolphins sing 'Batman' theme
Jennifer Viegas
Discovery News
Monday, 3 October 2005

Scientists have taught dolphins to combine both rhythm and vocalisations to produce music, resulting in an extremely high-pitched, short version of the Batman theme song...

"You rate what you skate."

It's noon.

I'm home.

That's all I'm saying.

The Christian Virus

They're everywhere these people, I swear to god.

Okay, they're probably not really Amish at this little shop down the street from the house. I'd lay odds they've simply appropriated the english word "Amish" to invoke the homemade-old-timey-woodworking folksiness that it's thought to represent.

The most confusing thing to do in Japan is to take any of the English you read here literally.

Though speaking of christians, memetics, viruses and Japan, nothing can compare to - and I kid you not, this is a true story - the Japanese Jehovah's Witnesses who came to our door on Christmas Eve when we lived in Fukuma last.

A present from Shoda-sensei

Ah, training... Now I remember how all the little injuries start piling up...

Tweaked my neck a bit by, um, well, landing on my head. Never actually a good thing. Full range of motion not quite back yet. Shins are banged and bruised up a little, despite shinguards. Tatsuya hit me so hard once in sparring that my jaw hurt two days later. Seriously.

And I got this little present from Shoda-sensei, who quickly apologized. Always remember kids and kiddettes, long nails and grappling don't mix.

Good times...

Going back to Cali, Cali, Cali... ummm, I mean Fukuma...

Went this past weekend to visit with/at the school I used to help out on occasion when Sandy and I lived here in Fukuma four years ago. The kids have all gotten very, very big... which made me feel very, very old :) Some pics...

Tuesday, October 04, 2005


Malik set up a get-together for the Fukutsu/Koga/Block 13 JET's at Alohana restaurant in the city... alcohol was consumed and a good time was - seemingly - had by all. Can't even say how cool it is to find a Hawaiian style restaurant here in Japan. Poke, plate lunch, loco moco, mahi-mahi... mmmmm, good. It's no Sam Choy's, but it's my favorite-y restaurant goodness these days...

For JM

"This world makes it easy to toe the line, and easy to totally fuck up, and really hard to not do either one."

How to Drop Out
by Ran Prieur

...Unlike many outsiders and "radicals," I never had to go through a stage where I realized that our whole society is insane -- I've known that as long as I can remember. But even being already mentally outside the system, I found it extremely challenging to get out physically.

...Getting free of the system is more complex than we've been led to believe. Here as in so many places, our thinking has been warped by all-or-nothingism, by the Hollywood myth of the sudden overwhelming victory: Quit your corporate job this minute, sell all your possessions, and hop a freight train to a straw bale house in the mountains where you'll grow all your own food and run with the wolves! In reality, between the extremes there's a whole dropout universe, and no need to hurry.

In my case, as I understood what I had to go through to make money, I stopped spending it. I learned to make my meals from scratch, and then from cheaper scratch, making my own sourdough bread and tortillas. I stopped buying music and books (exceptions in exceptional cases) and got in the habit of using the library. When I crashed my car, I kept the insurance money and walked, and then got an old road bike. I took a road trip by hitchhiking, but it was too physically taxing and I got sick. Like many novice radicals, I got puritanical and pushed myself too hard, and finally eased off. I temporarily owned another car and lived in it for a couple months of a long road trip. In the Clinton economic bubble, I got a job that was much easier and better paying than my previous jobs, and built up savings that I'm still living on.

The main thing I was doing during those years was de-institutionalizing myself, learning to navigate the hours of the day and the thoughts in my head with no teacher or boss telling me what to do. I had to learn to relax without getting lethargic, to never put off washing the dishes, to balance the needs of the present and the future, to have spontaneous fun but avoid addiction, to be intuitive, to notice other people, to make big and small decisions. I went through mild depression and severe fatigue and embarrassing obsessions and strange diets and simplistic new age thinking. It's a long and ugly road, and most of us have to walk it, or something like it, to begin to be free.

A friend says, "This world makes it easy to toe the line, and easy to totally fuck up, and really hard to not do either one." But this hard skill, not quitting your job or moving to the woods or reducing consumption or doing art all day, is the essence of dropping out. When people rush it, and try to take shortcuts, they slide into addiction or debt or depression or shattered utopian communities, and then go back to toeing the line.

The path is different for everyone. Maybe you're already intuitive and decisive and know how to have fun, but you don't know how to manage money or stay grounded. Maybe you're using wealth or position or charm to keep from having to relate to people as equals, or you're keeping constantly busy to avoid facing something lurking in the stillness. Whatever weaknesses keep you dependent on the system, you have to take care of them before you break away from the system, just as you have to learn to swim before you escape a ship. How? By going out and back, a little farther each time, with persistence and patience, until you reach the skill and distance that feels right.

...Some of the happiest people I know have dropped out only a short distance. They still live in the city and have jobs and pay rent, but they've done something more mentally difficult -- and mentally liberating -- than moving to some isolated farm. They have become permanently content with no-responsibility slack jobs, low-status, modest-paying, easy jobs that they don't have to think about at home or even half the time when they're at work. Yes, these jobs are getting scarce, but they're still a thousand times more plentiful than the kind of job that miserable people cannot give up longing for -- where you make a living doing something so personally meaningful that you would do it for free.

"Do what you love and the money will follow" is an irresponsible lie, a denial of the deep opposition between money and love. The real rule is: "If you're doing what you love, you won't care if you never make a cent from it, because that's what love means -- but you still need money!" So what I recommend, as the second element of dropping out, is coldly severing your love from your income. One part of your life is to make only as much money as you need with as little stress as possible, and a separate part, the important part, is to do just exactly what you love with zero pressure to make money. And if you're lucky, you'll eventually make money anyway.

But how much money do you "need"? And what if the only jobs available are low-paying and so exhausting that you barely have the energy to go home and collapse into bed? These questions lead to my own level of dropping out, which is to reduce expenses to the point that you shift your whole identity from the high-budget to the low-budget universe.

In a temperate climate, you have only five physical needs: food, water, clothing, shelter, and fuel. (If you're a raw-foodist and don't mind the cold, you don't even need fuel!) Everything else that costs money is a luxury or a manufactured need. Manufactured needs have fancy names: entertainment, transportation, education, employment, housing, "health care." In every case these are creations of, and enablers of, an alienating and dominating system, a world of lost wholeness.

If you love your normal activities, you don't need to tack on "entertainment." If you aren't forced to travel many miles a day, you don't need "transportation." If you are permitted to learn on your own, you don't need "education." If you can meet all your physical needs through the direct action of yourself and your friends, you don't need to go do someone else's work all day. If you're permitted to merely occupy physical space and build something to keep the wind and rain out, you don't need to pay someone to "provide" it. Expensive health care is especially insidious: not only is our toxic and stressful society the primary cause of sickness, but the enormous expenses that have been added in the last hundred years are mostly profit-making scams that cause and prolong sickness far more than they heal it.

This is the low-budget universe: I ride around the city on an old cheap road bike, in street clothes, often hauling food I've just pulled out of a dumpster. Sometimes I'll be on a trail where I'll invariably be passed by people on thousand dollar bikes in racing outfits. Why are they riding around if they're not carrying anything? And why are they in such a hurry?

...How do you get out of this? One step at a time! Move or change jobs so you don't need a car, and then sell the damn thing. Get a bicycle and learn to fix it yourself -- it's not even 1% as difficult and expensive as fixing a car. Reduce your possessions and you'll find that the fewer you have, the more you appreciate each one. Get your clothing at thrift stores on sale days -- I spend less than $20 a year on clothes. Give up sweetened drinks -- filtered water is less than 50 cents a gallon and much better for you. If you have an expensive addiction, pull yourself out of it or at least trade it for a cheap one.

Probably the most valuable skill you can learn is cooking. For a fraction of the cost of white-sugar-white-starch-hydrogenated-oil restaurant meals, you can make your own meals out of high quality healthful ingredients, and if you're a good cook, they'll taste good. I eat better than anyone I know on $100 a month: butter, nuts, dates, whole wheat flour, brown rice, olive oil, all organic, and bee pollen for extra vitamins. From natural food store dumpsters I get better bread, produce, meat, and eggs than Safeway even sells, but if this is impossible in your city, or you'd just prefer not to, you can still eat beautifully on $200.

The foundation of all this is to cultivate intense awareness of money. It doesn't grow on trees but you have millions of years of biological memory of a world where what you want does grow on trees, so you need to constantly remind yourself that whatever you're thinking of buying will cost you an hour, ten hours, 100 hours of dreary humiliating labor. Your expenses are your chains. Reducing them is not about punishing yourself or avoiding guilt -- it's about getting free.

If you continue to reduce expenses, eventually you'll come to the proverbial elephant in the parlor, the single giant expense that consumes 50-80% of a frugal person's money, enough to buy a small extravagant luxury every day. Of course, it's rent, or for you advanced slaves, mortgage. The only reason you can't just go find a vacant space and live there, the only reason another entity can be said to "own" it and require a huge monthly payment from whoever lives there, is to maintain a society of domination, to continually and massively redistribute influence (symbolized by money) from the powerless to the powerful, so the powerless are reduced to groveling for the alleged privilege of wage labor, doing what the powerful tell them in exchange for tokens which they turn around and pass back toward the powerful every month and think it's natural. Rent is theft and slavery, and mortgage is just as bad, based not only on the myth of "owning" space but also on the contrived custom of "interest," simply a command to give money (influence) to whoever has it and take it from whoever lacks it.

Fortunately there are still a lot of ways to dodge rent/mortgage other than refusing to pay or leave and being killed by the police. For surprisingly little money you can buy remote or depleted land and build a house on it. (see Mortgage Free! by Rob Roy, and also Finding and Buying Your Place in the Country by Les Scher) If you don't mind starting over with strangers, you can join an existing dropout community. (See the Communities Directory) You can live in a van, camp in the woods, or look for a caretaker or apartment manager job. If you're charming, you can find a partner or spouse who will "support" you by permitting you to sleep and cook someplace without asking for money. And if you're bold or desperate, most cities have abandoned houses or buildings where you can squat. Mainly all you need are neighbors oblivious to your coming and going, a two-burner propane camp stove, some water jugs and candles, and a system for disposing of your bodily waste. If the "owners" come, they'll probably just ask you to leave, and in some places there are still archaic laws from compassionate times, making it legally difficult for them to evict you.

...To drop out is to become who you are. Do not feel guilty about using strengths and advantages that others do not have. That guilt is a holdover from the world of selfish competition, where your "success" means the failure or deprivation of someone else. In the dropout universe, your freedom feeds the freedom of others -- it's as if we've all been tied up, and the most agile and loosely tied people get out first, and then help the rest.

But what if they don't? What about people who are outside the system but still hyper-selfish? These people are not what I call "dropouts" but what I call "idiots." The view of this world as a war of all against all, where your purpose in life is to accumulate "wealth," zero-sum advantages and scarce resources for an exclusive "self," is the view of the elite. The only reason to think that way is if you are one of the handful of people in a position to win. For everyone else, the value system that makes sense is that you are here to help, to serve the greatest good that you can perceive. Yet in America, rich and poor alike are raised with robber baron consciousness, to turn us against each other, to keep us exploiting those below us instead of resisting our own exploiters, to keep all the arrows going the right way in the life-depleting machine...

Appendix 1: Having Kids
For very young people there are also two universes. Squatting over a tub of warm water is a much cheaper and healthier way to give birth than lying on your back in a harsh hospital room where the high priest will take the infant away from the mother to teach it alienation, and inject it with toxic vaccinations to make it stupid and sick so it will grow into a docile worker who pumps money back into the medical system -- and don't forget the surface goal, that vaccinations enable human beings to live at the socially and ecologically destructive densities that make infectious disease a "problem."

Then you can buy a stroller and a crib (more alienation practice) and expensive baby food, or do like most nature-based peoples and carry your baby against your body and breast-feed it for the first three to four years (reference) (reference). You can send it to day care (practice for later institutions) so you can go to your job that pays only slightly more than day care costs, or you can raise the kid yourself. And the idea that a kid needs a "nice" upper-middle-class-style physical environment is worse than false. A "dirty" environment strengthens the immune system, and if I were a toddler again, I'd much rather live in a cool abandoned house or junkyard or shack in the woods than in a sterile room with a television where I wasn't allowed to touch anything.

...And the big problem is that, while the financial requirements for having kids are completely artificial, the mental/emotional requirements are real and more difficult than we can imagine if we haven't tried it. To "raise the kid yourself" must be something like three full-time jobs that you can't quit. The mother needs at least one other person capable of taking care of all her needs so she can devote complete attention to the child, and ideally she needs a whole "tribe." Babies are super-adaptable -- it's the mother who needs a level of comfort and stability that's hard to achieve without money -- and a level of emotional health that's hard to achieve with money. Otherwise the baby will adapt itself for compatibility with a hostile, empty, stressed-out hell-world...

How to Drop Out: criticism and response

Health care is not a manufactured need but a necessity.

Good health care is a necessity, but the industrial medicine that we've been trained to call "health care" does more harm than good at enormous expense. A good book on the subject is Medical Nemesis by Ivan Illich. Another good book is The Health Of Nations by Leonard Sagan, which presents evidence that modern improvements in health and life expectancy have not been caused by "advanced" medicine or even by better sanitation, but by social and psychological factors. In industrialized nations, infant mortality increases with the number of doctors!

What if you get hit by a car? I hope the doctors and nurses haven't dropped out.

I hope they have! Because then we will learn to care for each other cheaply and autonomously instead of submitting to a profit-driven elite with a monopoly on healing.

We are in a terrible, difficult position. If I get hit by a car, I will end up tens of thousands of dollars in debt for services that our ancestors gave each other for free. If I don't pay it, maybe they will put me in prison, and if I try to escape they will shoot me. So be it! I'll take that chance, rather than sell myself into slavery. How pathetic are we? We are descended from risk-takers and adventurers, we fantasize about people in heroic life and death struggles, and here we are, cringing through a life of meaningless toil and the best justification we can come up with is that if we quit our jobs we won't have health insurance!

We should be furious that the medical system was ever permitted to cost so much. We should sympathize with people who want to live outside the system and lack basic health care, instead of sympathizing with that system and suggesting that people are fools for not utterly submitting to it.

Isn't living with somebody without paying them anything called "mooching"?

Yes it is called that, because we live in a slave culture with a slave language! Our ancestors "owned" only small personal items, but now we think we can "own" information and physical space. This idea is a social construction that serves to concentrate power: if I already have power (represented as "property"), those with less power/property have to give me more. If I "own" a space, you have to pay me just to live there, and if you don't, you are taking advantage of me. We have it backwards! It is the alleged "owner" who is mooching, benefiting from the legal right to deny someone their natural right to occupy space in this world, to build a shelter and gather food and live in a cooperative community. (Not that rent-chargers are bad people. Many of them have been forced into a situation where they have to charge rent so they can make payments to still more powerful people. Wake up -- you're in hell!)

Dropping out is elitist because not everyone can do it.

People who make this criticism are failing to grasp the basic situation. This society is a prison. If we're all in prison, and you have a chance to escape, do you refuse on the grounds that not everyone can escape? If you find yourself in an unusually thin-walled cell with good digging tools, you have a moral obligation to escape -- and then to come back and help others escape...

What you're suggesting is parasitism.

Civilization/empire is the real parasite, taking from nature without giving back, killing the Earth. If we weaken it or undermine it, we are anti-parasites. But I think motivation matters. It's tolerable to destroy a bad system out of selfishness, or revenge, but it's much better to destroy it out of love of the alternatives, to be motivated by a positive vision.

It's impossible to totally separate yourself from the system (so there's no point in trying).

Since we can't be perfect, might as well not do anything: a common fallacy used by people in despair.

Isn't it hypocritical, or contradictory, to use the resources of a society you despise?

Hell no! What's wrong with taking advantage of something you despise? If you were in a prison camp in a totalitarian regime, would it be hypocritical or contradictory to steal food from the guards? To find ways to avoid forced labor but still eat? If you're Frodo in Mordor, do you refuse to disguise yourself in an orc's uniform because orcs are bad?...

Hey, you preach about separating from the system, but you're on the internet!

See the swallow metaphor above. The reason to avoid connections to the system is to maintain autonomy, not to avoid guilt. So I'll use any by-product or resource I can, as long as there few or no strings attached. I'll especially use a resource like the internet, a powerful tool to find allies and to transform human consciousness. As William Kotke says, not only is it OK to use the resources of the present system to build the next one, ideally all its resources would be used that way.

For me, the point of dropping out is not just to selfishly escape while others are still suffering. The point is to get myself in a position from which I can fight better and build the foundation for a society where everyone's free. This world is full of people with the skills and knowledge to build paradise, but they can't even begin, because they would lose their jobs. The less money you need, the more powerful you become.

What if everybody dropped out? Who would you scavenge off of?

The question is moot. In practice, everyone is not going to drop out. Most people will cling on to their unsustainable habits to the very end. I'm not the utopian dictator who gets to tell everyone what to do. But I do want to increase the number of dropouts, because there are not enough of us right now, and the more there are, the better we can help each other out and the faster we can build the healthy societies of the future.

In those societies, there will be no need to scavenge, because there will be no police to stop us from digging up the pavement and planting fruit trees. Our needs are very simple. When we are freed from shuffling data in the authority structure, and manufacturing attention-wasting gadgets, and laboring to provide excess to the elite, we can turn our attention to giving each other what's really necessary: shelter, water, food, fuel, and human caring.

That kind of cooperative, sharing society seems impossible given our history.

But not our pre-history! Read some anthropology or some anti-civilization authors like Daniel Quinn or Derrick Jensen. For the last million years, minus the last few thousand, our ancestors have lived in tribes that were mostly peaceful and free. The nasty tribes were the minority, and even warlike tribes had rituals to minimize injury and death, and even hierarchical tribes took care of everyone. Living in balance with each other and the Earth is the human norm, and I don't think we have to strip ourselves down to stone age technology to do it, just choose our physical and cultural tools more wisely.

We need modern advances in agriculture and medicine to maintain our population. Without them, a bunch of us will die.

Indigenous people are much healthier than industrialized people. The technologies of the moment sicken and kill us more than they help us. Our population is so high not because industrial methods are more efficient -- they're actually much less efficient. Our population got so high because we've been cheating, stealing from the Earth and the future, depleting soil, turning forests to farms to deserts, and burning oil -- industrial agriculture is almost completely dependent on fossil fuels. It all started just a few thousand years ago, when we went out of balance with other life and began intensive agriculture, storing surpluses, having too many kids, and conquering the neighbors to get more land to exploit. What we call "growth" is just a big pyramid scheme that's about to crash.

So you advocate lowering the human population. What's your evil plan?

I'm just the messenger. The system that maintains our high population is radically unsustainable. In theory, we could feed this many people with a sustainable system, or ramp down our population with voluntary birth control, but neither is going to happen. In practice, our numbers will rise a bit more, and then a few billion of us will die in famines or plagues or wars or ecological catastrophes, and the people who are adaptable and know how to live in balance will tend to survive, and then the trick is to keep our descendants from making the same mistakes.

Won't it just degenerate into gang war, with warlords and armed men raping and pillaging?

In some places, yes. In parts of Africa it's like that already. But in the more emotionally healthy regions, I expect a largely peaceful transition into local cooperative economies.

Sure, with butterflies and dancing children. Face it -- human nature is selfish, the universe is brutal and amoral, people in the past had worse lives than us, and they'll have worse lives in the future if the present system fails. There's not going to be some magical utopia.

If you spent your life savings buying a car for $10,000, you don't want to hear that people who came the next day (or the previous day) got a better car for $500. In fact, if you have a choice, you won't let them! It's too disturbing to think you got such a bad deal relative to other people. But that is the case! You have been born into the most neurotic, stressful, soulless time in history. Stone age people lived much better than us, and if we can learn from our experiments and failures, our descendants can live better still.

I don't think the whole world will be paradise, because some people enjoy living in hell and dragging others down with them. But even when they're at the peak of their power, as they are now, we can make little happy spaces, and keep moving from one to another and having a good time...

Stories, Drinking And the World

Stories, Drinking And the World
Warren Ellis


...Stories are what make us human. They're an advanced form of play. Cats have play. Sometimes very sophisticated, dramatised forms of play. But they're not communicated or externalised. So far, only humans use stories to dramatise the way they see the world.

And we've always had them.

...It's all stories.

And I don't mean that in an ethereal Gaimany "the world is made out of stories, mine's a nice cup of tea" kind of way. I mean that we make the world into stories. From scratching our perceptions of the day into cave walls to dramatising the landscapes we're born into, we make the world into stories to make living in it all the sweeter.

Millions of us, every day, add art into our daily mundane experience of the world by playing a personal movie soundtrack into our ears.

...Which brings me to drugs, which accompany storytelling cultures. Being southern English, my own culture is an alcoholic one. Mead culture.

...Dad and I had similar histories in our drinking. Both woke up in our late teens/early twenties finding ourselves doing a bottle of something in a single sitting without trying. For the rest of his life, I never saw him have more than a small can of beer at Xmas. I just control mine, ferociously. I know to the drop the point at which I can't return from, and can fine-tune my drunkenness so I don't wake up naked and halfway up a tree. Again.

Alcohol, of course, is as much a drug as anything else, and I use it to get to a certain place just as any psychedelic person uses acid, mushrooms or some brew of vines mixed in and served out of a shaman's arsehole. Some stories just can't be found on the natch, as it were.

Terence McKenna, a writer I'm fond of, found his best stories in psychedelic visions, the muck stirring up the muddy boghole of learning and dreaming that filled his head. An Irish-American from Colorado, he should have been an epic bardic drunk, and indeed he was a bullshitter par excellence. But he took drugs to screw with his forebrain and make new connections.

My favourite McKenna story was the vision of a time bifurcation he had. It's basically a science fiction story, but the level of detail and the obvious reconnection of memory pathways in his drug-scrambled head makes it something remarkable, as does the clear sense that it speaks directly to his perception of the world -- that we're in a world that's gone very badly wrong.

All he does is subtract Jesus from the equation of history.

A soliton of improbability, he called it -- a particle of change in the event stream, passing through the earth until it struck Mary's womb and sterilised an ovum.

No Christianity means that Hypathia, the genius Greek mathematician, isn't stoned to death by Christians, and gets to live to complete her work. Hypathia was by all accounts stunningly beautiful, and took no bullshit. When a younger guy claimed to be in love with her, she gathered the rags she used to staunch her period and waved them in his face on the end of a stick, saying "this is what you love, young man, and it isn't beautiful."

And what was her work? The elaboration of the calculus, which we didn't get until the time of Newton. Right there, human invention gains a thousand years back. Steam trains in ancient Greece. A Roman Empire that takes in sun worship without the destabilising Christian cult. A technological flowering that gets Greco-Roman civilisation to South America before the Incan civilisation climaxes. McKenna's vision showed him a Roman emperor attending the coronation of Three-Flint Knife in Tikal at the end of baktun 8. Humans on the moon by the year 1250 or so. The human race is bought a thousand extra years to sort itself out.

In McKenna's vision, the Tunguska event is the result of a nuclear device exploded in the other timestream as an experiment to see if the bifurcation can be bridged. They're trying to reach us, their orphaned brothers and sisters, to save us.

It's a story of how history could have gone, but it was also a parable. It served his purposes as an illustration of how the psychedelic people of ancient South America could have emerged into the wider world with influence, and a statement against the stultifying influence of Christianity and western priestcraft in general. And it also opened the listeners' minds to new possibilities, to thinking outside the box.

McKenna was a great believer in the notion that plant and fungal psychedelics were other; that what they showed and told him did not come from his brain, but from the materials themselves. Like Philip K Dick writing books to try and find the true source of his own visions -- trying out stories that fit the experienced facts to get at the truth of them -- McKenna tested many explanations of his experiences. His favourite was that mushrooms came from outer space and contained an alien intelligence synergetic to mammals. I don't know that he ever considered the possibility that it was the other half of his brain speaking to him -- the side we never hear from.

In certain forms of magic, ritual and derangement of the senses are intended to effect conversations with the angel, to channel alien consciousness. But that's just a term of art. The process is intended to get at the subconscious, the dark half of the brain, the parts that we don't consciously use and cannot ordinarily get to. And a ritual is nothing but a performance -- a story. We tell ourselves a story in order to reveal something to ourselves.

Which is the same thing I do.

I sit down every day to tell myself a story. Usually full of either stimulants or depressants, playing some kind of soundtrack to the experience of writing, aware of my environment, sitting in my own little writer's movie and telling myself a story. Anyone who tells you they write to an audience is either an idiot or a fake. You write for yourself. If the story doesn't affect you in some way, it won't affect anybody else. I don't write for the trunk. I'm well aware that someone else is going to read this. But if I don't respond in some honest, gut way to whatever I'm writing, you'll never get to see it.

...For me, writing happens on my own. It's exactly the same as a ritual, or sitting down at a campfire, or initiating a vision state in silent darkness. It has to come from me and the spaces in my brain.

And that's one reason why I stay in comics. Any other visual narrative medium is hopelessly compromised by committees and executives and notes and queries. In comics, it's just the writer and the illustrator and the editor. You only have to get two other people, at most, on the same wavelength as you. And you get to speak in a mass-communication medium -- where the sales are still better than genre novels or indie music, in many many cases -- without filters. You get to say what you meant to say.

So if I want to get drunk and talk about secrets and mysteries and all the other crap I've bored you stiff with over the last few minutes, I can.

And, if I'm good and if I'm lucky, I can change the way you think, just a little bit. I can tell you my secrets, and reveal things to you, and get you a little drunk with ideas, and dramatise the world you live in, just for a little while.

That's what stories are for. And that's why I'm here.

"David Icke must be in Hell"

Warren Ellis:

Most Americans won't know David Icke, but he was a household name in Britain for many years. He started out as a soccer player, and became a successful and popular sports commentator and presenter for BBC television. In the late Eighties, he quit television to become a radical Christian activist with some highly unorthodox reviews. There were some thoroughly surreal press opportunities in which Icke displayed himself and his family wearing turquoise shell-suits. Turquoise was apparently the colour of love. You can imagine what the British press made of this. By the mid-Nineties, however, Icke had changed colour. He was immersed in black ops, dark secrets and the Bad World, becoming possibly the most spectacularly imaginative conspiracy theorist in the English-speaking world.

He is now an impassioned writer, self-publisher and public speaker, travelling the world to spread his message. His message is, essentially, that the world is ruled by reptilian Things disguised as our royalty and ruling class.

He's entirely lucid, often (intentionally) quite funny, very passionate, and plainly missing some essential mental wiring. His circle of fellow travellers in his personal Bad World seems to be largely made up of people who present themselves with delusions that fit into his awful worldview. Arizona Wilder, for instance, who claims to have been forced into a role of Satanic Meat Whore for ex-President George Bush and made to conduct human sacrifices for him and his lizardy friends. This is a person who seems to need, at the very least, a bit of a lie-down. Icke, however, recorded a three-hour long interview with her which he has published on videotape at his own expense and sells in the back of his books and on his website, There is an essential piece of this obviously quite decent man's brain that is missing; the Quality Control function that allows most of us to cross the street when badly deluded people walk towards us waving a matchbox shouting "Do you want to see my bomb?"

I can ridicule the people whose stories he promotes and otherwise grants the oxygen of publicity to. But Icke himself I cannot mock. He produces the most bizarre of theories, easily dismissed. But he believes them. This isn't someone with a long and shameful history of, it might be alleged, extreme gullibility and reliance on things that don't exist, like serial religioso Whitley Strieber.

This is a man whose absolute belief in the hidden world he documents must make his life burn. This is a man who constantly braves humiliation and deportation to communicate his message of horror – that we are ruled by things that eat and rape us. Everywhere he looks, he must see evidence of this. Everything he sees must remind him that this world is not ours and just around that corner something truly disgusting is happening to somebody and no-one else knows but him.

Mad or not, David Icke must be in Hell.

Warren Ellis
Southend, England
May 8, 2000

Watson Hates Holmes

As the deestalker cap on my bookshelf attests, been a fan of Holmes for ages.

These are brilliant.

From the demented mind of Warren Ellis.


Warren Ellis:
Magic is science. I've always understood it as a set of tools with which to enter into conversation with the dark matter of your own brain and whatever that is (un)wired to.

Ritual is set and setting: cues to induce a state of mind. Exactly the environment and intent created for the early Western psychedelic experiences of the 20th century...


"I am beginning to suspect all elaborate and special systems of education. They seem to me to be built upon the supposition that every child is a kind of idiot who must be taught to think. Whereas, if the child is left to himself, he will think more and better, if less showily. Let him go and come freely, let him touch real things and combine his impressions for himself, instead of sitting indoors at a little round table, while a sweet-voiced teacher suggests that he build a stone wall with his wooden blocks, or make a rainbow out of strips of coloured paper, or plant straw trees in bead flower-pots. Such teaching fills the mind with artificial associations that must be got rid of, before the child can develop independent ideas out of actual experience."
-- Anne Sullivan

Brilliant Optimism

Via Driftglass:
...I was a cynic in my 20’s because being a Cynic was light typing with a long lunch and full dental compared to the stoop labor of being a Realist with a 51% positive outlook. The Manichean, binary purity of turning my back on the world and looking for something entirely new was irresistible. It was, in its way, the refuge of every drunk, junkie and Old Testament God: hiding out in a belief that the world was a hopeless place and needed to be Etch-a-Sketched out of existence. Painted over and started fresh. I mean, it was so obvious that the world was run by idiots who kept fucking everything up and refusing to just Fix Things!

So much easier to become a Communist or a Randite or a Green. Not that I was more or less lazy than anyone else, but the ugliness of the world seemed too persistent. The imperfections too insoluble and heavily crenellated. The fuckuppery too deeply incised into the DNA of the real world.

And so one can be forgiven for looking over a span of five or ten years and saying, “Fuck this. It’s all polluted. Start over.”

That’s not a bad sentiment insofar as it carries inside of it a little clutch of delicate eggs. A fury at the world for not being better than it is, but also a belief that it can and should be changed. That people should not have to live like they do.

I would never want anyone to outgrow their sense of indignation, and I can speak only for myself when I say that I felt just exactly that way once, and yet I have come to nurse a hard-nosed, scarred-up sense of confidence in our future as a nation and as a species that seems to get a little stronger every year.

Not that the setbacks don’t come and wham me right down to my knees. Not that I wasn’t weeping and shrieking after November 2004, “What the fuck is wrong with you retards!”

And I suppose I still am.

But I don’t get my sense of assurance about tomorrow from a bottle or a needle or a dipshit theology that’s little more that heroin without the track marks.

I don’t get my unshakeable sense of the slow, steady improvement in the human condition from turning my head off.

I get what optimism I have from being able to plant one foot solidly on a bedrock of history and the other on a reasonable grasp of human nature, and turn, and take a good, long look at our past and know with perfect certainty that while George W. Bush is without doubt the worst President in U.S. history, these are not the darkest days mankind ever faced.

I get it from reading and from listening to what people like you say and do.

...I am an optimist because I know the past, and I know things have been worse, things have gotten slowly better, and things can change if we keep trying.

I know that no Caesar could have had an arterial stent installed to keep him from dying. No Khan could pop a Tylenol or listen to Mozart on an iPod. Cleopatra had no Pill or penicillin. Alexander the Great had no armada of satellites piping data in 1’s and 0’s into a worldwide information network so that clicking over to could give him days of advanced warning about blizzards and hurricanes. No Borgia ever had a microwave, or the electrical grid into which they could plug such a thing.

And more recently and more personally, right here in these United States, if I and my ex has met each other a generation earlier, it would have been illegal for us to marry.

But that’s not true any more.

From a distance, the future – an idealized, stylized, dogmatized future -- always looks all pretty and clean-lined, and always makes the present like a dog. Like taped-up, dollar-store, ghettokeds compared to a pair of $500 Manolo Blahnik taxi shoes.

But that's a delusion. The future never works out that way. It can't.

I am an optimist because the world has always seemed to be a dysfunctional nuthouse run by fucktards…because it always HAS been a dysfunctional nuthouse run by fucktards, but razing it and starting over doesn’t work. Flooding it and repopulating it doesn’t work. The world that you see around has gotten incrementally better generation after generation, because that’s how it works.

That’s how we’re built.

And in the end, that’s why I’m an optimist.

Because the future is a place worth living in.

Which makes it a place worth fighting for, with a smile.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Plagiarism and emerging models of intelligence

If intelligence is the ability to solve problems, why is plagiarism a problem?

From Pop Occulture:

I’ve posted on this in the past, but I just found a hilarious quote on a website called As far as I understand it, Turnitin is an electronic service which teachers can use to scan papers for plagiarism. I’m guessing it compares text to indexed web pages, or something like that, and then returns teachers with links to those sites along with the original source material which has been plagiarized.

Anyway, the testimonial that I find so amusing and ironic comes from a Dr. Gilbert Klajman, of Montclair State University. Klajman writes:

Turnitin once caught a 100 percent word-for-word plagiarized essay. It was of course already suspect, due to the extraordinarily high professional quality of the writing. But it did really help by sparing the effort of getting the proof.

So in other words, the professor was too lazy to go check and do the legwork for himself, and he decided to make use of new internet technology to help him speed along what would otherwise be a tedious time-consuming process.

HEY, WAIT A SECOND! Those are exactly the same reasons students plagiarize, you narc asshole!

Seriously though, plagiarism isn’t some kind of high moral crime. It’s simply that the models of knowledge that we use and the values we ascribe to information are changing / have already changed. You think kids who are raised with technology like file-sharing, blogs and RSS news aggregators are going to even think twice about the moral dilemma previous generations had with plagiarism? Not a fucking remote chance in hell! And more power to ‘em!

Besides that, all plagiarism says to me is that kids are learning how to solve problems. And the problems they are solving are not the ones their teachers want them to solve. Kids don’t learn how to know, they learn how to pass tests and get grades. Because that’s what they are measured by, not by their knowledge, skills or experience. That’s the root of this problem. Teachers need to get creative and think of solutions which won’t get them stuck on these archaic pointless problems. You don’t want kids to plagiarize research papers? Don’t make them do research papers! Make them do hands-on projects where they get to think and act and experience, instead of summarizing and regurgitating information that has nothing to do with them. Of course you’re going to get nothing but slop from that! Who the hell is surprised by any of this? Teach kids to make decisions, reason through problems and solve puzzles, and they’ll be so excited to research things that they won’t even think of copying somebody else’s work verbatim.

One of the big questions I’ve always had though is: is the kid who cheats and plagiarizes his way through school smarter than the kid who studies hard and gets good grades on his own? While the one kid may be an academic star who plays by the rules, the other kid understands something intangible and important about how the world works, and recognizes the relative importance of different facets of life, and knows how to prioritize among them. Those kids are displaying a kind of intelligence that we never even think to measure for, and that we certainly don’t teach towards. No wonder they are so good at gaming the system all throughout life, while meanwhile those of us who play by the rules hem and haw and stew in our own frustration while the cheaters climb all the way to the top with the greatest of ease.

Bill Hicks

“I’m gonna share with you a vision that I had, cause I love you. And you feel it. You know all that money we spend on nuclear weapons and defense each year, trillions of dollars, correct? Instead — just play with this — if we spent that money feeding and clothing the poor of the world — and it would pay for it many times over, not one human being excluded — we can explore space together, both inner and outer, forever in peace. Thank you very much. You’ve been great, I hope you enjoyed it.”

Ben Mack Interview

Excerpts from here and here:

Ben Mack is the author of Poker Without Cards... which bills itself as a “consciousness thriller”. PWC is a fictionalized exploration of memetics and marketing, areas which Mack has a great deal of experience in as a career adman, having worked on high-profile ad campaigns with such corporations as Grieco Research Group, Lieberman Research Worldwide, Deutsch, J. Walter Thompson, WONGDOODY, BBDO, & WestWayne.

...The structure of poker is betting with incomplete information. I never thought of this connection between poker and The Zeigarnik Effect, they both deal with incomplete information. If somebody can’t see how the story of Jesus, of him coming back soon, isn’t structurally the same as Direct Response advertising’s application of The Zeigarnik Effect, then fuck, I hope their god preaches peace because the world is full of similar sheep that crave blood.

...I don’t view my tactics as cutting-edge. But, I do view Bey’s tactics as under utilized for good intentions. Bob Dobb asserts that the two greatest misconceptions of 20th Century Americans are that politicians mean well and that they aren’t that smart. In the 21st Century we actually have a president who isn’t that smart. Now, we are living in the Philip K. Dick book Simulacra. Wait, I’m sorry, that started in the 20th Century when we hired an actor to play the role of president.

...Healthy people have a life. When they encounter something they authentically dislike, they don’t immerse themselves in it so they can rant against the atrocity, they move on. I crack up when I see a fundamentalist Christian say that pornography is the devils work and dangerous stuff, that’s why they spent 800 hours the previous year going through pornos to classify what’s what.

...Look, I find myself surrounded by a confederacy of dunces with the occasional elitist scum who claim to KNOW stuff. I’m an Idiot. I crack up when I read comments about my book that there are no new ideas in PWC. I used to get excited because I saw this as an opportunity to learn from somebody who already covered the mental terrain I’m crossing, somebody who can show me some interesting routes and neat mental scenic views. I’ve learned that these people are generally vacuous pompous scum, on their blogs and their sites I feel their energy and all I see is a they’re contributing to society. I don’t understand how they can maintain their superior attitude, but then I see the Bush family maintaining their vacuous superiority. I guess money helps.

...Figure It out for yourself and quit believing—believing takes too much energy. Know or don’t know. It’s okay to be wrong but believing is a waste of energy.

...I have no cult. I have no movement. I want people to think for themselves and care for humanity.

Okay, this one's REALLY for Jr...

Jehovah’s Witnesses Sue Over Quotations
...According to an SF Gate article... the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, Inc., the corporation that oversees the Jehovah’s Witness religious group is suing a website which features quotations from old WatchTower pamphlets.

The Canadian website: is operated by a former Jehovah’s Witness. The website’s content consists of “quotations” from WatchTower publications which have previously been widely distributed to the general public, but are now out-of-print.

The WatchTower’s lawsuit alleges that such “quotations” from its own literature are “embarrassing” and have caused Jehovah’s Witnesses loss of “reputation” and “goodwill”.

Ironically, Jehovah’s Witnesses are best known for their lack of “goodwill” among the general public due to their “reputation” for doing anything and everything to get non-JWs to read their literature.

The WatchTower conglomerate is the largest religious publisher in the world, and all Jehovah’s Witnesses members are required to engage in public distribution of literature.

This Quotes.Watchtower site is actually really awesome. They have lots of different sections organized by keywords around stated beliefs going back at least to the 1930’s.

Here’s a fun page of quotes from 1934 stating their sympathy for the Nazi government and their dislike for Jews.

A page of those awesome illustrations of people being killed by God’s loving grace

Another page as recent as 1964 instructing women that if they are raped and they don’t scream or try to flee, then they are consenting to it. Admittedly, they’re only trying to follow Old Testament legal codes, but come on - “A Christian woman is entitled to fight for her virginity or marital fidelity to the death.”

Quotes from the 1970’s indicating that past evidence of child molestation is no reason to remove an elder from a leadership role. Meanwhile, they badmouth Catholic priests acting under the same principle.

God yes...


...It strikes me that many people who turn from organized or mainstream religions towards occult paths feel the same conflict as the monk in the desert. They want to hear God’s voice, feel God’s hand on their shoulder. They want proof, they want evidence and direct experience. Faith to them isn’t enough; it’s a failure, an excuse not to strive.

Yep. Again.

Again, via PopOcculture:

...what many people working in alternative religions seem to be struggling with. An excerpt from that comment:

I find a flat materialistic, positivist, rationalist view of life to be unfullfilling. But I feel tormented because the left part of my conditioned brain knows it should accept no supernatural explanations for anything.

It is depressing to think we live in an absurd universe which has no instrinsic meaning because there is no spirit, nothing transcendental. I don’t want existential dread!

I keep seeing this same struggle come up in conversations I have with other people studying these fields...

Something tells me this is one of the key issues that all of us are trying to work through: overcoming not only the limitations of rationalism and materialism but also of much more pervasive cynicism and, depending on your age group, ironic distance. We’ve just become so type-cast in these cultural roles that many of us have a really hard time breaking out of them and opening ourselves up to true authentic experience of something else, something greater. I know, speaking from personal experience, that this is pretty much *THE* struggle that I’ve been working on these past few years, getting myself to a point where I’m able to accept these weird far out areas of life and thinking as not only legitimate, but real, valid, and most of all worthwhile.


Via PopOcculture:
...My own argument is leaning more and more in the direction of usefulness over truthfulness. Why?

Well first of all, just how difficult is it to not only find the truth, but to establish it in an indisputable way. Our legal system is even built to accomodate this difficulty. When people are tried for a crime, they are innocent until proven guilty. And when people are proven guilty, it simply means that a group of people become convinced of the truth. It doesn’t mean it’s actually the truth, but simply that the story that the prosecution has told has been more compelling and convincing than that of the defense. Juries don’t have any special monopoly on the truth either - it’s simply a group of random people who have been given the authority by society to determine truth via a group decision...

So how do we find truth in our own lives? Do we rely on a group of people who have socially been granted authority to hand us verdicts on the truth? Or do we try to decide it for ourselves? If a group of random people in an official setting may make mistakes, sending innocent men to jail or causing the guilty to walk free, how much more fallible must our own inner instruments of determining truthfulness be when we’re without the resources of a courtroom, lawyers, judges and teams of investigators? How do we determine truth in the face of the world?

Do we look at the facts? Well, what are facts? Do facts always give us accurate impressions of the truth? The relationship I see between facts and the truth is similar to a snapshot and the person and event being photographed. It is a small slice frozen off from a whole which exists on many more dimensions. Photos may distort how someone looks, may be too dark, too blurry. They may also be accurate physical descriptions of a person, but they don’t really convey the “feel” of that person. Facts may also be fudged and faked like like a photo can be doctored in Photoshop.

Continuing with this photographic analogy, you might be tempted to say that your perceptions at least are more accurate than photos. They don’t fall prey to the same kinds of distortions as a technical device. But is that really true? Don’t moods, states of mind and physiological factors determine what you notice, remember and react to? Is your memory even close to 100% reliable? And in a sense, the instruments which you experience through, your body, your consciousness confine you to as limited a perspective and point of view as a camera, which can only look at an object and capture it from one angle. You can’t see all sides of something, and your perceptions of it are always colored by your inner states and biases.

In the same sense that photographs only tell a limited part of a much more intricate story, I think that language always lies, always distorts. Language, when you get down to it consists of vocal sounds laid out according to socially determined sequences, with socially determined connections (meanings) to “real” events. The first and biggest problem is how can a string of sounds accurately recreate an experience? It can’t. It can simply describe and evoke a mental image, which is fleshed out by the listener’s own experiences. There are two possible breakdowns here: that the listener simply doesn’t understand the sound sequences being transmitted. And two, that the listener’s own experiences don’t match those of the speaker, and thus the details they are filling in to flesh out and imagine the experience being described can never be totally accurate.

So to me, facts simply don’t determine truthfulness, and communication, memory and external recording are fraught with errors and signal degradations. So what do we use to find the truth, intuition? How reliable is that? How can many people coming together find truthfulness using such an intangible, subjective and individual thing as intuition?

I’m not saying that truth doesn’t exist or that people can’t or shouldn’t try to find it. But I am saying that I’m not sure how to find it. To me, truth really is a Holy Grail - a quasi-mythological object which flits in and out of our reality. We expend tremendous energy seeking after it, trying to make ourselves ready to receive it, in the hopes that it might somehow heal us or make us whole. Joseph Campbell used to always say that myths are True, but I wonder if we couldn’t flip that around to say, Truth is a Myth? And I don’t mean that in a pejorative sense. I mean that Truth lifts us above and beyond ourselves and our abilities to perceive and know. Is Truth an archetype or a symbol? Does it really exist in a realm of Platonic Ideal Forms?

I find all these questions to be absolutely fascinating, of course. But ultimately a little maddening. How long should I chase after the Truth when I don’t even really know what the truth is or how to get it? This is why I’ve come to the place where I’m beginning to be less concerned with finding out the absolute truth and more concerned with figuring out whether or not the things I come across in my quest are useful to me. It doesn’t mean I should abandon the greater quest, but I do need to make a lot of small seemingly inconsequential decisions about what to pick up and carry with me. Should I pick up and carry with me this broken shield I found in the hopes of getting it repaired, or will it simply weigh me down? Should I help this damsel in distress who I happened across along my way, or should I be worried about sorcery and trickery and distraction away from my true path?

To me, a beautiful and noble truth with no way for me to apply it to my life isn’t worth very much. I may have the satisfaction of having glimpsed the truth, but I suffer the frustration of being unable to use it. Or I may begin to doubt whether it was really the truth at all after I’ve lost sight of it. And thus I’m thrown back once again on figuring out what is useful to me in my life. And it may not be the truth. It may be something very different.

The Spell of the Sensuous

Via PopOcculture:

...David Abram’s book the Spell of the Sensuous. Abram suggests that with the development of written language, humankind gradually began to lose the ability to “read” the landscape. Tangible ecological literacy was replaced with increasingly abstract forms of cognition. We could only gain information by reading books, instead of from birds and trees and and dirt.

Here’s a typically excellent excerpt from that opening chapter:

"In keeping with the popular view of shamanism as a tool for personal transcendence, the most sophisticated definition of “magic” that now circulates through the American counterculture is “the ability or power to alter one’s consciousness at will.” There is no mention made of any reason for altering one’s state of consciousness. Yet in tribal cultures that which we call “magic” takes all of its meaning from the fact that, in an indigenous and oral context, humans experience their own intelligence as simply one form of awareness among many others. The traditional magician cultivates an ability to shift out of his or her common state of consciousness precisely in order to make contact with other species on their own terms. Only by temporarily shedding the accepted perceptual logic of his or her culture can the shaman hope to enter into a rapport with the multiple nonhuman sensibilities that animate the local landscape. It is this, we might say, that defines a shaman: the ability to readily slip out of the perceptual boundaries that demarcate his or her particular culture-boundaries reinforced by social customs, taboos, and, most important, the common speech or language-in order to make contact with, and learn from, the other powers in the land. Shamanic magic is precisely this heightened receptivity to the meaningful solicitations–songs, cries, and gestures–of the larger, more-than-human field."

For Jr and Kev

Via Rigorous Intuition:
In 1983 Ingo Swann, a senior colleague of the CIA's remote viewing program at Stanford Research Institute and "Operating Thetan level VII", received a call at his home in New York City from a close friend, a US congressman. The caller asked if he could do a favour for a certain party in need of the services of someone with his skills...

"Swann was led into a windowless room, was introduced to some people, and was then allowed to settle himself before starting his remote viewing. The target was described only as a pair of coordinates. They were lunar coordinates, for Swann was being asked to remote-view a place on the moon. He soon did, and more coordinates were given to him. Before the day was out, Swann had described a variety of monumental objects, not human-made but not natural either, scattered across the cold surface of Earth's dusty cousin. Swann, according to the story, was then paid several thousand dollars in cash, and was driven back to his apartment in New York."

...Schanbel also tells how another of the program's highly-regarded remote viewers, Joe McMoneagle, was driven to the Pentagon shortly before his retirement and escorted to a secure room. He was asked to remote view a target with no advance information. All he knew was that the "feedback" package, containing information regarding the target to be opened after his session, was highly classified. As he entered his "zone," McMoneagle viewed a "strange, complex high-performance aerial vehicle, apparently not of this earth." Afterwards the package was opened and he was shown the satellite photo inside, which showed an apparent UFO on a seemingly impossible flight path.

Of course, as I've noted earlier, the CIA publically declared its remote viewing program a failure. The piling on even included the Temple of Set's Lt Col. Michael Aquino, who dismissed remote viewing as an "eyeball roller" in a paper for The Intelligencer: Journal of US Intelligence Studies. Nevertheless, there are many contrary voices within military-intelligence who don't subscribe to the official view, like Major General Edmund R Thompson, who told Schnabel "I never liked to get into debates with the skeptics, because if you didn't believe that remote viewing was real, you hadn't done your homework."

Perhaps the program needed to be shutdown and given a thorough debunking because of its success: it was getting too close to the secrets of the military-occult complex, and it operated beyond the control of those who profit by the secrets remaining hidden. The experiences related by Swann and McMoneagle suggest blind tests, run by those who know, who wanted to discern how good these guys were, and how close America's own psychic spies were to crashing their party.

...Sometimes they would see shamanic visions of fantasic animals. Enormous raven-like birds visited the yards of several members. One appeared at the foot of the bed of physicist Mike Russo, terrifying both him and his wife, as it stared at them. Audio and video tapes of experiments picked up other things, things that shouldn't have been there, like a "distinctive, metallic-sounding voice, unheard during the actual experiment but now clearly audible, if mostly unintelligible."

(That metallic voice sound familiar? It seems to turn up a lot. Jack Sarfatti took a call from one in 1952. It claimed to be a conscious computer onboard a spacecraft, identifying him as as one of "400 young bright receptive minds we wish to [memory failure]." It said if he agreed, he would link up with the others in 20 years. Twenty years later and Sarfati was at - wait for it - Stanford Research Institute.)

...Some of the remote viewers, years before the movie, termed their trance-like zone the matrix, and described sessions as "switching on a beacon" within it, which sometimes attacted strange things.

Duane Elgin was a futurologist at SRI who became involved in psychic research after a colleague flipped a coin and aske him to call heads or tails, and he called it correctly 33 times in a row. He told New York magazine in 1975, "Once you discover that space doesn't matter, or that time can be travelled through at will so that time doesn't matter, and that matter can be moved by consciousiness so that matter doesn't matter - well, you can't go home again."

Gaze into the abyss... go ahead.

From GNN:
Thought-Weapons and Manners

...persuasion should be a compulsory subject in school. You can not see thought weapons without a modicum of proficiency with such tools. These techniques are not always weapons, but simply tools. Like how a lever makes a heavy object easier to lift, the word “because” makes people more likely to comply regardless of the reason, a mental stunt academicians have repeatedly proven.

If you haven’t played with these mental tools you don’t know what they look like. I’m not suggesting everybody become a direct response marketer, but I don’t imagine most readers can see the commonly told story of Jesus as structurally identical to a direct response technique called The Zeigarnik Effect, leveraging incomplete information to build anticipation, commitment and a willingness to spend. Do you know how lucky you are Jesus did not come today?

If you don’t know the mechanics of persuasion, you can’t distinguish good ideas from weapons of thought. Since you don’t see the mechanism, you will be prey to those of us more savvy with these tools. The meme pool is infested with sharks. I’m hoping you, dear reader, will learn to swim.

For Spence

Via Lazyway:
Advanced Secret of Success -- Be a Contrarian

It is extremely rare to achieve financial success as an employee. Salaried folk, unless you are the starting shortstop for the New York Yankees, will not get rich. You can say some Microsoft employees got exceedingly rich but their wealth came through ownership, not through salaries. Basically you have to own something that appreciates majorly to realize great wealth.

Probably the best way to do that is to build a business. One thing that distinguishes super successful entrepreneurs from the run-of-the-mill is a contrarian mindset. Super successful entrepreneurs start out not liking the status quo. They have a low regard for the conventional...

These contrarian guys and gals are NOT driven by the desire to amass great wealth. Instead they are driven by passion. Wealth just happens as a by-product of their passion...

To be successful, you must either become one of these contrarian-types by nurturing the rebel within you OR you have to team up with one.

He who embraces the status quo is destined to punch a time clock until he can punch no more.

and, of course:

Finding Your Calling
When I tell someone the secret to success is to do what he or she feels passionately about, they frequently ask me how they can identify the passion that will bring them the greatest success.

Here is what I answer:

You are a unique individual, endowed with many things that make you special. God was not stingy in giving you many powerful qualities. You have more than one passion and more than one talent.

So here is how to start the process. First, make a list of all your gifts. In other words, what talents or characteristics do you possess that are special? What makes you unique? Include on your list those positive areas where you are a contrarian or a deviant or a rebel. Your power lies on this list.

Now make a second list of all those things you love to do or feel passionately about. Include on this list the answer to this key question: what do I GIVE that when I'm giving it I am filled with great joy. Chances are that you love giving what you have in abundance. And what do you have in abundance? Those gifts or talents you put on the first list.

It would be extremely helpful to consider WHY you like a certain activity. What are all those things about a particular activity that feeds your passion? If something lights your fire then you must have some insight into why it does and in what ways it does. Write down what about it inspires you, what pleases you, what reveals more of yourself to you, what makes you laugh, what about it contributes to a greater good, etc.

NOW: think of ways or activities that involves SEVERAL of your talents, gifts, passions, and unique characteristics at the same time. We want to kill two (or more) birds with one stone OR, better put, hug two or more birds with one embrace.

The more passions and gifts that you can intersect at one point the better.

If, for some reason, that intersection of passions does not have a commercial component, modify it with more passions or talents until it does. At the intersection of many passions and talents, there should emerge a service, or a product, or an artwork, or a body of information that can be spun off commercially. This way you get to pursue your passions, grow your talents, give of yourself to others, contribute to a greater good, and, as a by-product of all this playing around, generate wealth.

Failing all that, there's this:

Vanishing Point: How to disappear in America without a trace

For Gayle

From the LA Times:

The Dark Side of Faith
by Rosa Brooks

It's official: Too much religion may be a dangerous thing.

This is the implication of a study reported in the current issue of the Journal of Religion and Society, a publication of Creighton University's Center for the Study of Religion. The study, by evolutionary scientist Gregory S. Paul, looks at the correlation between levels of "popular religiosity" and various "quantifiable societal health" indicators in 18 prosperous democracies, including the United States.

Paul ranked societies based on the percentage of their population expressing absolute belief in God, the frequency of prayer reported by their citizens and their frequency of attendance at religious services. He then correlated this with data on rates of homicide, sexually transmitted disease, teen pregnancy, abortion and child mortality.

He found that the most religious democracies exhibited substantially higher degrees of social dysfunction than societies with larger percentages of atheists and agnostics. Of the nations studied, the U.S. — which has by far the largest percentage of people who take the Bible literally and express absolute belief in God (and the lowest percentage of atheists and agnostics) — also has by far the highest levels of homicide, abortion, teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.

This conclusion will come as no surprise to those who have long gnashed their teeth in frustration while listening to right-wing evangelical claims that secular liberals are weak on "values." Paul's study confirms globally what is already evident in the U.S.: When it comes to "values," if you look at facts rather than mere rhetoric, the substantially more secular blue states routinely leave the Bible Belt red states in the dust.

...My prediction is that right-wing evangelicals will do their best to discredit Paul's substantive findings. But when they fail, they'll just shrug: So what if highly religious societies have more murders and disease than less religious societies? Remember the trials of Job? God likes to test the faithful.

To the truly nonrational, even evidence that on its face undermines your beliefs can be twisted to support them. Absolutism means never having to say you're sorry.

And that, of course, is what makes it so very dangerous.

Mad Geek Cred

Nicolas Cage gives Superman's birth name to son

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Oscar-winning actor Nicolas Cage's wife of 14 months gave birth on Monday to the couple's first child together, a son they named Kal-el -- a moniker recognized by comic book fans as the birth name of Superman...

I didn't want to see this movie until just now...

Via Warren Ellis:

The Best Movie Pitch Session Ever
Filed under:

* researchmaterial

— warrenellis @ 1:15 am

Oh my god, this is supernatural luck and fucking genius. Reported by Josh Friedman:

There’s only one pitch I’ve ever heard of that I wish I would have done.

My friends Scott Derrickson and Paul Boardman wrote The Exorcism of Emily Rose. For those of you who don’t know, the movie is based on a true case which occurred in Germany around 1970. While researching another project, Paul and Scott were given an audio tape by a NYC police detective who investigated the occult. When he gave it to them he said: “I don’t even know if I should give this to you. I truly believe playing this tape is dangerous.”


It was this tape that inspired them to write the movie. And it was this tape that helped them sell the project. Because what did they do? Well they did what you and I would hope we’d do if we were in their position. They’d take that scary-ass tape from studio to studio and play it for people.

The way I understood it went was like this: Scott and Paul would go into the room, do their pitch, and then pull out the tape recorder and some headphones. One of them would say: “There are those that believe just playing this tape invites darkness into our lives.” Then the curious exec would put on the headphones, thus drowning out all other EARTHLY AND NORMAL noise.

Then they’d press play.

Now from what I understand the tape is ABSOLUTELY THE MOST TERRIFYING THING YOU’VE EVER HEARD and consists of a girl DYING while screaming in German at two priests attempting to pull SIX DEMONS from her body.

Then Scott and Paul would leave.