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

 

vote drunk: on engaging youth voters and non voters

 

Is there anything to say you can’t turn up to vote drunk and stoned, and dressed like a clown, or a superhero, or a zombie, or whatever? Not so far as I know. As long as you have ID and can tick a box, who cares?

Maybe to engage youth voters (and the non-voting near majority) we need to go to where they are. Endorse a culture in which voting is a fun way to spend an afternoon. #votedrunk

I guess the challenge is your mates may live in a different electorate. So how about an election pub crawl through various electorates? Make a day of it.

The costume angle appeals. Imagine election weekend sort of like the Sevens but in a good way. Sort of “dress in a way that captures how you feel about the system” as a theme? Everyone dressed up and running around drunk. Or whatever. I mean, hell, how much of an excuse do we need? It’s only once every three years.

Not something I have thought through… but I do like the idea of turning up intoxicated in a clown suit to vote. It captures something.

 

 

film fest 2014

Let’s see if I can remember what I saw this year!

Why Don’t You Play in Hell?

Gleeful bloody mayhem from Japanese maverick Sono Sion. Easily his most fun and accessible film so far that I have seen. Crazed film-makers meet crazed yakuza meet just plain crazy. (Would still recommend Love Exposure over this; similar level of fun, but more wrong and challenging.)

Hard to be a God

Um. A long three hours of black and white Russian incomprehensibility, apparently based on a Strugatsky brothers novel, with a fascinating premise – scientists land on a planet like Earth but 800 years ago, and wait around to observe the Renaissance happen, but it doesn’t. Unfortunately, about half an hour in I gave up on being able to make any sense out of what was happening on screen, which had a lot of incredibly claustrophobic shots with things obscuring the camera, a huge amount of bodily fluids and general disgustingness (in a middle ages way), and a real difficulty in working out who anyone was or what was going on at any point. Sort of glad I have seen it so I don’t have to watch it again. Hard to recommend but certainly remarkable.

Snowpiercer

Good fun action thriller set on a never-stopping train that is the only human life remaining in the world after the world freezes over. Apparently the festival release is longer than the US release, so be careful which one you track down. The version I saw was great.

Jodorowsky’s Dune

Holy shit, see this. A doco about the greatest movie never made. Visionary genius and madman Alejandro Jodorowsky, after making Holy Mountain (aka a movie I love and could write a thesis about) set about adapting Dune (which he had of course not read when he decided to do it). Over two years he assembled the greatest cast, concept artists, and musicians ever to bring the vision to life. Everything was ready and then no one would fund it because it would be the most expensive movie ever and it was a huge weird sci-fi movie before blockbusters existed and before Star Wars had happened; an unmade film with a huge hidden influence. The stories behind the scenes are magnificent and mad, and the whole thing is hugely fun despite ultimately being kinda tragic.

The Congress

Extraordinary mix of live action and animation based on a Stanislaw Lem novel. Robin Wright gives an amazing performance (and allows an amazing harsh script of her life to be rendered) before some wonderfully mindbending and bugfuck animation goes berserk and raises some interesting questions along the way.

Locke

A movie set entirely in a car as a guy drives and talks to people on his hands-free kit on the night his life goes completely to hell. Solid, taut, good.

Timbuktu

Film set in Mali under Islamic jihadist rule. Locals struggle to live their way as crazy proscriptions are placed on their lives. Beautiful locations, simple story, somehow felt more documentary than narrative. Complete otherworldliness. Good stuff.

reading july 2014

Hmm. Reading seems to have resumed apace. At least a lot of skimming.

The Freaks Shall Inherit the Earth – Chris Brogan

Cheerleading for doing business your way, man, cos the world is your oyster if you are willing to march to the beat of your own drum, ra ra. Upbeat, good content but a little feel-good and all about the smart branding and having great anecdotes than having much new to say. More motivational than how-to. Solid though.

The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right – Atul Gawande

Doctor who pioneered the use of checklists for surgery (resulting in less infections, more lives and money saved, etc) explains the process by which this came about, and why checklists are simple and damn useful. Good stuff.

The Drawing of the Dark – Tim Powers

Goddamn this is good fun. Entertaining and wild and weird; a sort of historical fantasy with a kitchen sink approach. (Wondering how the hell I had not read Powers before. He was won pretty much every award that matters in the field.) Big ups.

The Life Coaching Handbook – Curly Martin

No-nonsense, even a little brutal; coaching with NLP and hard nosed business savvy. Useful.

The Inner Game Of Tennis – Timothy Gallwey

Brilliant. Probably the best self-help type book I have ever encountered. Uses learning to play tennis as a metaphor and worked example for how to live life itself. Totally recommended.

Who Fears Death? – Nnedi Okorafor

Awesome. Set in a future Africa, post-disaster, with lingering technology and resurgent magic, and a generally dystopic yet deeply African culture, thematically dealing with war crimes, abuse, and gender really well, while being an intense yet rollicking good read. Okorafor is a literature professor whose parents were Nigerian, and has visited a lot.)

Creative Visualisation – Shakti Gawain

Skimmed. Pleasant new age fluff, most notable perhaps for the occult sources it references in its select bibliography, and acknowledging its blatant steals from that area.

Do Muslim Women Need Saving? – Abu-Lughod

Really interesting book from an anthropologist with 20+ years field experience working with Muslim women taking on the Western portrayal and framing of Muslim women, and having a serious whack at feminism in the process. Excellent, recommended if the subject matter interests you.

Linchpin – Seth Godin

Godin rarely makes an impression on me, which is why I don’t really read him. Feel good create the future of culture ranting, scans well but lacking oomph.

Maori Mentoring and Paths To Wellbeing: Te Huarahi o te Ora – Rachael Selby and Alex Barnes

Not quite what I was looking for from the title. Book about a Maori community/hapu introducing a mentoring program and how it went.

Myths To Live By – Joseph Campbell

Yeah, Campbell really is amazing, eh? This set of lectures is brilliant. If you have never read Campbell, this is a pretty good place to start. Hero With a Thousand Faces is foundation to any understanding of story and psychology. This collection is more wide ranging but top shelf liquor all the way.

The Beauty Myth – Naomi Wolf

Skimmed a bit. Polemic is a weird form. A mix of bang on truth to power, and ranting.

Selected Stories – Alice Munro

One of those literary writers who is kind of showing everyone else how to do it, but is less well known as she only writes short stories. Well worth it. Didn’t read enough of them to have a lot to say, but something I will buy and investigate further.

Transparent Things – Vladimir Nabokov

Nabokov is highly energetic and obviously a genius but I really struggle to get into him or go back to him once I have put the book down. This well regarded novella seemed amazing for the first 15 pages, not sure why I didn’t get back to it.

The Marble Swarm – Dennis Cooper

Blurb quotes claim he is the most important transgressive novelist since Burroughs. Read 40 pages. Sort of interesting, and while indeed pretty twisted and transgressive, the palpable unreality of the characters, scenario, and everything meant I didn’t give a damn. Gleeful meaningless unpleasantness.

 

 

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.

 

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