reading second half of 2014

Reading slowed dramatically in the second half of last year, or at least my enthusiasm for blogging about it did.

Plant Intelligence and the Imaginal Realm – Stephen Harrod Buhner

Took over a month on this. Easily one of the most extraordinary books I have ever read. Top ten recommendation, all time. Was published in 2014. Buy it now. Will attempt a proper review soon.

Batman: Odyssey – Neal Adams

If you are a comics person, go find this and read it right now. Don’t find anything out about it. Just trust that it is the most bugfuck and deranged piece of Batman ever. There are no words. Astounding. (If you aren’t a comics person, read Sandman or Watchmen or something instead, and become a comics person.)

If you know you won’t read this, read this extremely entertaining summary of the first few issues here.

…here is the best quote from a Neal Adams interview about Odyssey:

Q: Can you give us an overview of the plot?
Adams: I cannot give you an overview of the plot.

The Arabian Nightmare – Robert Irwin

Pretty unclassifiable novel by a historian of Arabian storytelling modes, and obviously influenced by them. Dreamlike and bizarre, labyrinthine and dusky, deeply deeply weird. Fun but eventually perhaps does not combine its wonderful parts into something more.

Fasting – Stephen Harrod Buhner

Book about the physical, psychological and spiritual components and effects of fasting for longer durations. Lucid and concise.

Supergods – Grant Morrison (skim)

Skimmed this. Interestingish history and philosophy of modern era comics, but not what I was looking for.

Jesus’ Son – Denis Johnson

Really good, deceptively simple book of short stories, mostly dealing with down and outs and addicts of various stripes. Would definitely re read. There is something going on here.

The Search for a Moral Compass – Kenan Malik  (skim)

Quite an epic undertaking, attempting to look at more or less the development of moral attitudes of the whole world over time. Inevitably does some disservice to particular viewpoints, as no one can have a good enough grip on all of them to comment authoritatively. Still would be worth returning to.

Reality is Broken – Jane McGonigal (skim)

Interesting enough musing on the relation between games and reality.

Zero to One – Peter Thiel

Billionaire founder of Paypal and Palantine, friends with many other billionaire tech founders, gives his take on how to found a successful tech company. Vital reading if that is your interest. Pretty fascinating for its iconoclastic take on capitalism in general, if you are an economics minded person.

Behold the Man – Michael Moorcock

Messed up dude with a bit of a Christ complex gets in a time machine and goes back to the time of Christ and kind of ends up becoming Christ except worse.

Life’s Missing Instruction Manual – Joe Vitale (skim)

Compendium of insights gathered across an interesting guy’s life. Actually seemed pretty decent.

Money: Master The Game – Tony Robbins

Possibly completely essentially; Robbins first book in 20 years. Robbins has amazing access to many of the most successful investors in history, and models their methods and teaches them to you. Incredible resource. Need to get back to it and finish it.

The Sense of an Ending – Julian Barnes

Won the Booker Prize a few years ago. Really well done short novel mostly about ageing and how our perspective and memory changes.

The Slow Regard of Silent Things – Patrick Rothfuss

Novella. Peculiar, light, and ethereal, much like its only character. Rothfuss explores the reality of a minor but fascinating character from his epic novel series, and comes up with this totally weird, autistic yet hauntingly close to how we all work, thing. Not quite sure what anyone unfamiliar with the series would make of it, but would be very curious to find out. I think it is interesting enough to stand on its own.

Edge of Dark Water – Joe R Lansdale

Sort of like a dark nightmare Huckleberry Finn. After the death of a friend, dustbowl-era american south kids in the wops make a break for their future down the river, pursued by hideous family, corruption and evil. A great voice and realisation of character and setting. Occasionally nasty but never unbearably so.

 

internet restriction protocol (or Filters: Part Three)

 

Time and attention are two of the most precious resources we have, and the always on internet is one of the worst things for draining and disrupting those resources. (This is something I have been thinking about for a few years now.)  Most of the great thinkers, innovators and so on of the past had one thing in common – their ability to focus on what they were doing for hours at a time. This type of thinking is crucial to certain types of breakthrough and productive work. (I have a faint terror that the current generation will never even develop this capacity for extended focus.)

So I am embarking upon an internet restriction protocol. This is based on the observations I made a few years ago when I went and lived at the beach without internet, television or phone, and came to town only once a week at which point I checked email etc, and my dissatisfaction with my current experience of online mediated reality.

The protocol is essentially this: I am going to stop checking my email and social media accounts except for one day a week – Fridays. (I will likely check my business email address more regularly.) Within the protocol I am allowed to use the internet consciously, as a tool, in recognition of how embedded it is in life. (eg) internet banking, buying stuff, research, Skypeing. But then get offline once I am done using it as a tool.

The key is to avoid general browsing and mindless clicking on things that leads to more clicking. I like the idea of checking my /mutants list on Twitter once a week for an hour as my information gathering phase.

The goal is to be offline as much as possible; to shift that fundamental practice, to realign my sense ratios, and re-engage more consciously with the world. After spending a week lying under trees at Kiwiburn, I realised again that I don’t miss most of the online world. I acknowledge it is somehow important, but hypothesise that this importance can be successfully and accurately valued within the confines of one day a week.

I suspect that one day a week is enough to stay informed/connected in terms of email and social media. If anything really important happens I assume someone will call or txt.

I do plan to spend some of the time freed up hanging out with people in meatspace, pursuing a better quality of connection.

I anticipate getting more done in general, writing more in particular, and being happier overall.

I may blog from time to time about the results of this experiment in attention and filtering. I invite anyone else who feels inclined to join in the experiment.

Einstein on the prison of the senses

 

‘A human being is part of a whole, called by us “universe”, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest… a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.’

- Albert Einstein.

Buckminster Fuller on changing perspective

 

“Repeatedly, on different occasions, as I gazed heavenward at the celestial orbs, I struggled to perceive myself as looking “out” instead of “up”.

It worked.

Suddenly, on a drive in the Mojave Desert, there came a moment as sun and horizon began to merge, when I really was looking out from the surface of Spaceship Earth. I found myself feeling for the first time a passenger on a great sphere hurtling through the cosmos. Venus was just coming into view, and the nearly full moon was at the eastern horizon. Sun, moon and planet described the great arc of the ecliptic. At that instant I knew the location of poles and Equator. I felt a sense of place, of proper relation, that I had never known before.

My awareness of the world, the whole universe, was revolutionized, transfigured, in an instant. For the first time, my felt experience of reality was coinciding with what my intellect had long known to be true. It was an initiation, a rite of passage. I felt for the first time a citizen of the cosmos. I was no longer tied to a language-conditioned flat earth.

And there was a sense of communion with all humanity, with all living things, in the knowledge that we were all related through one common center, earth’s center of gravity, all passengers on an infinitely precious star-faring vessel.

I know others who have shared the same experience. It is joyous, in that something old is suddenly seen in a new light. It is awesome, because it affords a glimpse at a reality far grander than we have been conditioned to perceive. And it is sobering, because it reveals how deeply conditioned (mesmerized, if you will) we can all be by habitual patterns of language and thought.”

 

- From Fuller’s Earth – Buckminster Fuller

 

the political solution in a nutshell

 

My stand is clear; produce to distribute, feed before you eat, give before you take, think of others before you think of yourself. Only a selfless society based on sharing can be stable and happy. This is the only practical solution. If you do not want it – fight.

- Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj.

birthday mutants

 

The mental side effects of travelling into space. Interesting historical survey of the break-off phenomenon.

The myth of AI. Jaron Lanier being interestingly iconoclastic again. Watch or read at the link.

I want to go little deeper in it by proposing that the biggest threat of AI is probably the one that’s due to AI not actually existing, to the idea being a fraud, or at least such a poorly constructed idea that it’s phony. In other words, what I’m proposing is that if AI was a real thing, then it probably would be less of a threat to us than it is as a fake thing.

Retired US army general, author of “Why We Lost”, explaining the truth about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

We did not understand the enemy, a guerrilla network embedded in a quarrelsome, suspicious civilian population. We didn’t understand our own forces, which are built for rapid, decisive conventional operations, not lingering, ill-defined counterinsurgencies. We’re made for Desert Storm, not Vietnam. As a general, I got it wrong. Like my peers, I argued to stay the course, to persist and persist, to “clear/hold/build” even as the “hold” stage stretched for months, and then years, with decades beckoning. We backed ourselves season by season into a long-term counterinsurgency in Iraq, then compounded it by doing likewise in Afghanistan. The American people had never signed up for that.

The future of autonomous weaponry – the ethics of bombs that pick their own targets.

 

november mutants

 

just some linkage of things that may or may not matter or be of interest

Putin makes what may be “the most important political speech since Churchill”. Kinda ignored by Western media. Summary here.

6 useful online encryption tools.

Google wants to put everyone’s genome online.

Sliding into the future - app that solves maths photos, just take a photo of the problem.

Fairly jarring article about the frequency of males being sexually assaulted in America.

“Science has spoken. There is no ambiguity in their message. Leaders must act. Time is not on our side.” – UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, on Climate Change

sunday mutants 6-10-14

 

Half the world’s wildlife has died off in the past 40 years.

I don’t even really know where to go from there. That this isn’t screamed on every street corner and causing a shut down of our entire society as we stop and have a hard think about what we are doing tells you that yes we are the bad guys.

As a related one, here is a funding campaign for a doco about the relationship between the Parsi and the vultures which is a fascinating example of our interdependence with nature. When nature dies, we lose too.

* “The largest ever fleet of robotic submarines is setting of from the Isles of Scilly to explore the ocean depths.” – just in case you forgot you were living in the future.

* ISIS selling Iraq’s artifacts on black market

* The Amazon/Hachette battle and politics. Definitely an interesting read for those following this one.

* This is just weird. Scientology and Nation of Islam unite to stop killing in Ferguson?

Though it is pretty hard to imagine Scientology caring about poor clients.

Check out this astounding interview with L Ron Hubbard jr, who details the early days of Scientology, and effectively calls out what works as black magic, and the rest as blackmail and extortion. I can pretty much guarantee it will be the wildest thing you read this week.

* Sexual consent app good2go launches. Definitely interesting, though kinda weird as it logs the yesses and identities…

* Turning down the lights can turn down your emotions.

“Whether you are feeling really good or really bad, emotions are felt more intensely when the ambient lighting is brighter, according to recent research.

Since many decisions are made under strong lighting conditions, turning down the lights may help you make less emotional decisions.”

* An uh-oh moment in the great uncontrolled experiment with our technology and our minds

” For the first time, neuroscientists have found that people who use multiple devices simultaneously have lower gray-matter density in an area of the brain associated with cognitive and emotional control (Loh & Kanai, 2014).”

 

 

sunday mutants (or what is going on)

This brief history of Islamic science and invention is pretty staggering and interesting.

New Scientist: Up to half of Earth’s water is older than the sun.

White privilege, explained in one simple comic.

Evolution, the next Silk Road. Where you can buy anything at all.

Bleep, bittorrents encrypted p2p chat is out.

Meanwhile, China is making islands in contested waters. So not everything that matters happens online. :P

China creating its own Christian religion to suit itself.

China will construct a “Chinese Christian theology” suitable for the country, state media reported on Thursday, as both the number of believers and tensions with the authorities are on the rise.

This interview with Lee Scratch Perry is phenomenal. Just trust me on this. It is short and fabulous.

Millenials reading more books than people over 30. Who would have thought?

https://pbs.twimg.com/tweet_video/ByZZG8yIIAAIraY.mp4

 

Lispector on writing

 

“I write because I have nothing else to do in the world: I was left over and there is no place for me in the world of men, I write because I’m desperate and I’m tired, I can no longer bear the routine of being me and if not for the always novelty that is writing, I would die symbolically every day.”

- from ‘Hour of the Star’ by Clarice Lispector

 

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