late july mutants

Now this is kind of mind-blowing: Global wildlife decline driving slave labor, organized crime.

“Global decline of wildlife populations is driving increases in violent conflicts, organized crime and child labor around the world, according to a policy paper led by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley.”

Good Amazon: Amazon is making a pilot for a TV show based on Philip K Dick’s The Man in The High Castle.

Bad Amazon: about 900 writers have joined a campaign against Amazon’s treatment of Hachette. This is an interesting flashpoint in the future of publishing.

The times they are a-changing. The editorial board of the New York Times just came out for marijuana reform in America.

“It has been more than 40 years since Congress passed the current ban on marijuana, inflicting great harm on society just to prohibit a substance far less dangerous than alcohol.

The federal government should repeal the ban on marijuana.”

Oh and also, California passed a bill to legalise complementary currencies.

This one is probably the must-read of the batch, and one I will return to when I have a bit more brain focus: Evgeny Morozov on algorythmic regulation. Kinda the convergence point of smart-everything, big data, and social control.

What’s New In Social Science? EDGE curated, 10 speakers, 6 hours of video,  58000 word PDF, all free, “focusing on the state of the art of what the social sciences have to tell us about human nature”.

Saw the excellent doco “Jodorowsky’s Dune” yesterday, about the greatest movie almost made. In synchronicity, came across this quote about Frank Herbert and Dune:

Frank went on to tell me that much of the premise of Dune — the magic spice (spores) that allowed the bending of space (tripping), the giant worms (maggots digesting mushrooms), the eyes of the Freman (the cerulean blue of Psilocybe mushrooms), the mysticism of the female spiritual warriors, the Bene Gesserits (influenced by tales of Maria Sabina and the sacred mushroom cults of Mexico) — came from his perception of the fungal life cycle, and his imagination was stimulated through his experiences with the use of magic mushrooms.

Buy your own giant plush Ebola Virus toy. No, seriously.

 

 

 

And Earth just had its hottest June ever, boosted by hottest ocean temperatures.

Hmm. That may be enough for an hour and half of trawling, have a few long pieces queued up to read still…

 

midwinter mutants

Mutants trawling has been a bit erratic over the past month or so but here are some of the links that caught my eye:

Brief interview with West African shaman Malidoma Some (author of the mindblowing and hugely recommended by the moose Of Water and the Spirit) about what he experiences when visiting a Western mental hospital.

DARPA have developed a much better ARG than Google Glass: Ultra-Vis, which will soon be part of commercial offerings. Article gets deep into tech wonkery about whys and hows.

12 Data visualisations about current state of world poverty and related issues. (literacy, population growth, GDP, and the excellent “if the world were 100 people”.) Excellent.

Uber has successfully reinvented taxi’s, and transport in cities, with an interesting flexible tech driven model.

Bacteria that live on electricity

Useful summary of USA’s sanctions / financial warfare against Russia over Ukraine.

Massive pre-rainforest human-made earthworks found in the Amazon. No one has any idea.

Tao Lin delivers 30 Terence McKenna quotes. Good stuff for those familiar with McKenna and an easy entry for those who aren’t.

Fasting for three days can regenerate immune system.

 1000 years of European border changes in 3 minutes

This interview between Edward Snowden and John Perry Barlow is pretty awesome.

 

bacterial utopia or oblivion

 

Recently somehow came across this very interesting fellow: Stephen Harrod Buhner. Author of 20 or so books, a wide ranging scholar interested in all kinds of interesting stuff, I recently listened to a couple of interviews with him. Both were wide ranging and there was little overlap between them, and the content was at times so wild and exciting I ordered one of his books, which hasn’t happened in a while.

By way of a sampling of what I mean by wild and exciting: bacteria build cities with streets and buildings; plants take psychotropic drugs and respond to them in much the same way humans do; an apple tree can get itself drunk; if antibiotics stop working in the next 10-15 years, we will also lose surgery, as you can’t cut people open if they are susceptible to infection – the ramifications of this for modern medicine are total, and he argues we will return to herbal etc remedies by necessity, and has written books about herbal antibiotics and antivirals etc…

(A fascinating counterpoint to this is Craig Venter’s current work in creating synthetic life. Essentially, he can now analyse a bacteria, digitize its DNA, send that digital code around the world, and rebuild the organism synthetically from that digital code – while synthetic it will be alive and able to self-replicate etc. The speed with which this is becoming possible is what may save us from the failing of antibiotics. As Howard Bloom argued back in ’98 in Global Brain, we need to get our species wide global brain up and running to combat the billions of year old bacterial global brain that will otherwise kick our ass.

As Buckminster Fuller said, whether it will be utopia or oblivion will be a touch and go relay race until the very end; and this bacterial struggle is one of the clearest illustrations of that.)

Ultimately Buhner argues that the way out of all this is for people to reacquaint themselves with their thinking/feeling/sensing intuitive direct knowing and follow what that tells them. For example, the first generation of psychoanalysts were never trained, they just created the field. We have the ability in ourselves to come up with new things, and need to use it.

The thread of Buhner’s work I found most interesting is the plant intelligence side of things, and it is a fabulous extension of what Jeremy Narby was talking about in Intelligence in Nature back in 2005 and that I was writing about in my main nonfiction book about consciousness back in ’08. His compelling vision is of a very alive and aware cosmos in constant interaction and dialogue with itself, and his reasons for thinking this are electrifying.

So I am awaiting a book in the mail, with a reasonable hope it will be able to live up to expectation. Also, nice to feel intellectual stimulation again.

 

 

 

reading log for the past few months

Have not been reading anywhere near as much of late, a combination of being kinda busy, and just not quite that motivated to read. Anyway. Here is what my diary says I read. There was other stuff too, much browsed, particularly coaching and business related.

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All Things Must Fight To Live – Mealer

War reporting from the Congo. The war there over the past decade has claimed more lives than any conflict since World War 2. Naturally it is massively under-reported, and chances are you know next to nothing about it, as I did.

So far I have only read one 50 page chapter, but it was pretty much the most disturbing thing I have ever read. You do not want to know. (Or, if you do, I can lend you the book.) Recently I observed that Game of Thrones was a really barbaric reflection of human action. In the light of Congolese reality, GoT is a pale reflection of what humans do to each other, and are doing, right now in the world. (Of course, we can barely even report on or acknowledge what is actually happening, but we can approach such things through the remove of story and trappings of fantasy.)

 Theaetetus – Plato

The founding book of philosophy of Epistemology. Plato is quite clever, and the dialogue is a really excellent form for exploring ideas. (Yes, somehow I had never read any Plato first hand.) Still going on this.

 Cinema – Helen Rickerby

Recent book of poetry by a friend of mine. Pretty good, darker and more intense in places than I expected. I enjoyed it. If poetry is your bag, well worth a look.

The Odyssey – Homer (T E Lawrence translation)

Laboured and long-winded story telling from another age, but still pretty entertaining. Contains many familiar iconic tales, and has obviously been massively influential. Gives new meaning to deus ex machina. Glad I finally got around to it; glad when it was over.

Ragnarok – AS Byatt

Quite beautiful retelling of Norse mythology, with an oddly personal framing story about belief. Short and worthy.

The Simulacra – Philip K Dick

Really excellent PKD novel from the 60s. Uncomfortably prescient social horror, his usual reality questioning themes through a more social control lens. Read it on one sitting, good times. Though this was not one of his best prose efforts stylistically, Dick is one of the authors I can pretty much always read, though I think I may now have read all of the obvious shining jewels in his output. One of the essential authors of the modern age. Still heaps of lesser known stuff to go though, so who knows.

 Getting Started in Personal and Executive Coaching – Fairley & Stout

 Purely focused on the business side of the coaching business. Extremely useful.

 Poor Charlie’s Almanack – Charlie Munger

Read some more of this. The last lecture is the most valuable one – the summation of his insight into human psychology, and his checklist for thought. A smart insanely successful guy telling you how he thinks; well worth tracking down.

 Business Stripped Bare – Richard Branson

I never realised Virgin was such a big deal, as they never really extended into the NZ market. A refreshing take on business, in any case, by the biggest maverick fish in the pond. Worth a skim.

Annihilation – Jeff Vandermeer

Recent SF. Alright. Expedition on an exploration of a weird zone runs into weirdness. Light, easy and quick to read but sort of unsatisfying in the end. Go and read Roadside Picnic by Strugatsy instead, which is the obvious forerunner from a Russian SF in the 70s, as that is much more interesting, emotionally affective, and just better and more people should read it anyway.

The King In Yellow – Robert Chambers

Reread this classic of weird horror due to its True Detective links. The good stories are still pretty good. It must have read as completely mad at the time.

Weathercraft, Congress of the Animals, Fran – Jim Woodring

3 graphic novels featuring the inimitable Frank. The term psychedelic gets thrown around a bit too loosely, but Woodring’s art definitely falls in that category. His wordless narrations of cartoon animals in a bugfuck weird world with its own internal logic are like nothing else in art, and a definite treasure. Do yourself a favour and check it out if you are unfamiliar with his indescribable output.

Principia Discordia; or, How I Found Goddess, and What I Did To Her When I Found Her – Malaclypse the Younger

Random reread of this underground classic from the 60s. Hail Eris! Still very funny, still pretty genius, and still makes you think. You can make a religion out of anything; if you are doing it right, the good parts will flow through whatever vessel you give it.

restaurant review: Burger King

So it was Friday the 13th and a full moon, and such are the type of unhallowed irregular circumstances under which I countenance breaking my vegetarianism. I was with a client who was eating at Burger King, and in a fit of madness I ordered a meal. (I have not had Burger King in perhaps a decade or more.)

Let us examine it piece by piece.

Cheeseburger:

On reflection, the most terrifying thing about it was that it was prepared fresh; I had to wait for it to be made, and yet it was as it was.

The bread was not like bread. Soft, insubstantial, textural; iconic, appearing as a burger bun, yet not.

The meat was not like meat. It is pretty creepy to think about what it might have been. I am not sure what it tasted like.

Perhaps there was something cheese-like in it. I don’t really recall. It may have been lost among the various sauces, and a gherkin, abundantly smeared through it to give it an approximation of flavour.

The burger was some kind of bizarre facsimile, a simulacra, a degraded copy of what a burger might be. It was a form of material and texture. It was not satisfying.

Fries:

This was by far the easiest portion to consume, a pleasant amalgam of fat and saltiness, wrapped around some kind of easy to chew material. I have eaten potatoes. I am not sure what the chips are made of – a bit like processed potato chippies, which bear a texture and nature far removed from their origin – easy to eat, but curiously empty and unsatisfying. Potatoes have a kind of weight to them: you know when you have eaten potatoes. These lacked that weight.

Sundae:

I know what ice-cream is like. I even know what snow-freeze ice cream is like. I am not sure what this was. An unknowable texture, cold and white, with caramel syrup gunk. Again, a peculiar simulacra of an ice cream sundae. Deeply unsatisfying.

Drinks:

(I very rarely drink soft drinks.) First I tried a Lift. It was odd; I sort of remember what it tasted like, and it is less offensive than many dense syrup concoctions, with its overt lemonyness. Found it useful to attempt to cleanse the palate with, and send down to help dissolve the material previously consumed.

In a particularly foolhardy move I went for a refill, this time going for a Fanta. Wow. Holy fucking shit. Three sips was enough; the third just to confirm what had gone before. Undrinkable, hideous, almost acrid. (Perhaps we can blame the entire Nazi movement on their soft-drink? No, that is too far.) But truly shocking to the palate after a maybe 20 year absence. How can something so full of sugar taste so horrific?

Summary:

On the whole, it was not recognisably food. I felt less overtly ill than I had anticipated, but did not feel great after.

I am left somewhat stunned that this sort of thing is what people pay money to eat. (And I recognise a past incarnation of self that did eat this sort of thing.) It speaks volumes about our culture. Perhaps the Matrix is here, concentric overlapping rings of reality itself. Platonic ideas of food radiate outwards, ever degenerating as we get further from the source. Shadows eating a copy of a copy, fuelling shadow lives.

 

may mutants

and here are some links from the past week or so

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Curious about what the hell is actually going on in Nigeria and how kidnapping schoolgirls comes about? Check out this excellent backgrounding piece about Nigeria from a year ago, situating it in the wider war for the Sahel, among other things, and picking that everything was about to turn to shit.

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Wanna control your online data? Easy. Get an open source web server to run at home, and host all the apps you are using yourself, instead of leeching all your data away.

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Why we fear Google. Interesting open letter from a German business leader about the control and influence Google has.

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Is there any evidence rational argument changes people’s minds? Fascinating think piece.

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Extraordinary rendition of US citizens on US soil still legal, and Supreme Court refuses to hear case about it. Chris Hedges reporting about the literal slide to fascism in the USA; military can grab you and hold you indefinitely without due process.

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Oculus and Facebook want to build a billion person virtual reality massive multiplayer online game.

Just take a second to grok that.

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The IPCC’s reports were diluted under political pressure from the main fossil fuel powers.

Think about that. The IPCC warnings are already pretty damn terrifying, and this is the deliberately toned down justify doing nothing version.

 

sunday mutants

 

been a while. why not?

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Thomas Piketty is a French economist who you have probably been hearing about, and if not, you soon will be. His book Capital is making major waves. Link takes you to a pretty useful review of it.

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Google, encryption, and the future of email.

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World population growth is declining. Rather, is growing at half the rate it was 40 years ago. Stats on avoiding the overpopulation bomb. Amusing that they pick television ownership as the correlate of fertility reduction. Buckminster Fuller pointed out around 40 years ago that population rates went down as soon as people had access to electric power (as you need less people to do things.)

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Came across this a couple weeks back: CEO of (wildly successful) Evernote app notes that apps will soon be dead as we move into wearable computing.

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Huh, just poking around in my bookmarks now. DIY solar water heater for about $30 in materials.

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Shanghai mall installs bitcoin ATM.

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Random stat from Bill Gates on Twitter: “In ’81, just 20% of the world lived on $2-$10/day. Today it’s 40%.”

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Any why not: Montana Senator shoots down drone with rifle in attack ad. Strange days.

on the NZ housing bubble and looming economic disaster

 

This article from Forbes is pretty interesting reading, essentially arguing that our economy is due to pop at some point due to our overinflated housing prices, the resulting exposure and risk our banks have, and the large borrowing National has been doing. Well worth familiarising yourself with.

Review: The Wind Is Rising

 

Miyazaki’s (alleged) final work. Felt very personal as a film, moreso than his others, with a greater depth and emotional resonance.

Really good. Mature (seems like a weird word to apply, but perhaps less whimsical comes closer), beautiful, daffily romantic. Somewhat dour and dark. Occasional dreamy wonderfulness, but very grounded in reality, with the shadows of war and Japan’s strained history looming over everything.

Essentially seems to argue that being courageous and honourable and following your dreams is the way to go, even though we live in a fucked up world full of awfulness and tragedy; and that precisely because the world is the way it is, that is why we must live, and live well.

Glad I saw it, though I enjoyed it less than several of his others; and I think it is the first of his films that will haunt me a little.

Reading Feb/March 2014

Missed a month. I doubt anyone noticed.

 

A Life Decoded – Craig Venter

Autobiography by Venter, the scientist who led the team which sequenced the human genome, and is now the only scientist since Louis Pasteur who has his own research institute and enough funding to do whatever he wants. Fascinating insight into the process of big science – the pressures and corruption in both government and private funding – the truly other world billionaires exist in – big pharma being evil, etc. (Venter has been right at the heart of gene patenting issues, since he has identified more genes and synthesised more DNA than anyone else.) It is also an extreme introduction to the state of the art in biotechnology, as he explains what they did and how they did it (which involved inventing techniques and methods etc – forefront of science type stuff.)

Venter himself is an intense, interesting guy. Seems to deal with life crises by going on reckless dangerous boat adventures and achieving epiphanies. Definitely framed by his experiences as a medic in Vietnam. One of the people alive right now to watch, as what he does next has genuinely potential to change the world forever. Currently he is trying to synthesise life in the lab, and create custom bacteria to do useful things.

Richard Yates – Tao Lin

I didn’t finish this tale of a dysfunctional relationship between deeply dysfunctional people. The book reads like Tao Lin is probably mentally ill, and at least autistic. (So did the last one of his I read a few years back, Eeeee Eee Eeee, which I liked a lot more.) Unique prose and sensibility. Occasionally quite funny. But this one was ultimately broken and not giving enough back.

Mockingjay – Suzanne Clark

Last of the Hunger Games books, first I read, as I didn’t feel like waiting for two years and two more movies to find out how it ends. Fast easy enjoyable read. Bloody and surprising. Jennifer Lawrence nails Katniss. Definitely pleased this is mainstream, as it raises enough issues about mediated society and social control etc to make people think a little.

The Charwoman’s Shadow – Lord Dunsany

A classical fairy-tale style novel from Dunsany, steeped in old-fashioned magic and a bygone era. Gorgeously told, simple and wise. The magician is something else; a truly disturbing rendering of an archetype. He looms over the whole story, and at the end, we realise it was his all along.

ReOrient: Global Economy in the Asian Age – Andre Gunder-Frank

Had been meaning to read this for about 15 years. Economic historian argues persuasively that there has been a global economic system for hundreds if not thousands of years, which was always centred on Asia except for the blip of the past two hundred years. Further, he argues that the West’s recent success was not due to Western exceptionalism – ie not due to our values talents or character, in the process demolishing the axiomatic framework of most pillars of western social theory (Marx, Weber, etc) – but rather to the macro scale forces of the global economic system. Excellent stuff. Summation of a life’s work. Gunder-Frank probably died too soon after this came out to really push it as far as it deserves to go. The historical analysis is essential to any serious student of the world, and what is going on.

The Four Hour Body – Tim Ferriss

Life hacking to the extreme. There’s a lot in this volume, and yeah, it seems quite major changes and improvements are possible with surprisingly little effort, but the real value is the underlying philosophy of the Minimum Effective Dose, and finding out what that is for whatever it is your goals are, and just doing that. Definitely recommended for anyone into hacking their diet, fitness, health, etc.

Total I Ching – Stephen Karcher

Kind of the ultimate I Ching book from my favourite interpreter of the I Ching. Great. Though really just opens a window into another culture and world, and makes one realise how vast, complex and coherent it is, and how much further one would have to travel to really grasp it.

Enochian Vision Magick – Lon Milo DuQuette

DuQuette’s introduction to Enochian magic (part of the magical system channelled via angelic communication by Dr John Dee and Edward Kelley several hundred years ago.) Grounded, lucid, practical.

The Vision and the Voice – Aleister Crowley

Crowley’s account of performing the Enochian Aethyrs while travelling through North African desert in the early 1900s. Eye-opening.

Poor Charlie’s Almanac – Charles Munger

Sort of legendary book of business and life advice from the guy who is silent investment partner to Warren Buffet. Haven’t quite got to the meat of it yet, but definitely a sharp, if dry, mind.

[untitled]

First read through of the draft of the non-fiction book I wrote late last year which I’m not really talking much about. Pleasingly solid.

The Ebony Tower – John Fowles

Short novel. Astoundingly good piece of fiction addressing big questions about life and art and relationships and meaning and love and the intensities we experience along the way. This ranks way up there as a prose work. Highly recommended.

 

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