The Autobiography of Malcolm X

Wow.

Now that is one really raw, honest, extraordinary book by one hell of a dude. In general he seems like a dynamo. Irrepressible, energetic, with a knack for throwing himself into the middle of things and thriving.

His pre-X life as Malcom Little is pretty fascinating. Growing up poor during the depression in racist America, father murdered by whites leaving his mother with a clutch of kids and the insurance company refusing to pay out, she slowly going mad and the young Malcolm sent to foster care. In school, despite being in the top of his class, he was discouraged from pursuing a career as a lawyer and focussing on something more realistic for a negro, like carpentry.

He bailed out as a teenager and went to Boston to stay with a relative and fell into a job as a shoeshine boy at the most happening club in town. Soon he was out partying in a zoot suit – a big precocious kid who easily passed for adult.

From there he made it to New York and became a hustler in Harlem for a span of years – a hell of a colourful time, and probably the most entertaining section of the story as he brings the time and place to life – working as a drug dealer to the big names in the music scene, and embedded in an out of control life of drugs and vice, before returning to Boston and starting a burglary ring. Eventually caught and sentenced – excessively, due to the presence of white women in the gang, and niggers having no business with white women – he goes to jail for ten years.

In jail he educates himself, reading, reading, reading. Meanwhile his family get turned on to the Nation of Islam and his ex hustler brother hooks him on it. His conversion is pretty profound and not an easy experience.

The Nation of Islam’s version of Islam, and particularly history, is a bit … weird. But boy is it pissed off, and good at getting Malcolm active about the black man’s oppression by the white man. Boy oh boy is he pissed off at the white devils. Pretty justifiably as it happens.

Upon his release he spends the next twelve years as the fledgling Nation of Islam’s leading preacher, effectively becoming second in command behind Elijah Muhammad, setting up hundreds of Temples across America. The moral restrictions are pretty hardcore. He doesn’t touch a woman from the time of his conversion until he marries twelve years later, and he works like a dog.

He splits with the Nation of Islam after discovering that Elijah was not in fact flawlessly holy as he had fervently believed up until that point.

Bereft, he turns to his religion, and decides to make the Hajj to Mecca. It is the most important experience of his life. For the first time he realises true brotherhood with all men is possible. He is treated as a brother by white Muslims, brown Muslims, yellow Muslims… and realises that “white” is a state of mind, a set of attitudes and beliefs, rather than an actual racial characteristic.

The most powerful section of the book is his acceptance of this and the changes wrought to his beliefs as a result. He travels around Africa and the Middle East meeting with world leaders and important people, talking about the need for a global struggle, and a global context for the race struggle in America, then returns to America and founds an organisation for black nationalism and unity, preaching a very different message from the anger of his Nation of Islam days – namely that the only solution is universal brotherhood, under the gamut of a universal religion. However, the media seemed not to pick up on this, preferring to cast him as an advocate of hate and violence and blaming him for instigating violence and so on.

The final chapter is quite chilling. He admits that he expects to die by violence before the book is published, and posits what legacy the white media will create for him (one of “hate”). Turns out he was right on both counts.

Hugely recommended.

teddy bear battle robot

Waaah.

In the future, wounded soldiers will be rescued by robots with teddy bear heads.

freaky bear

Gary Gilbert, from the US Army’s Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research Centre in Frederick, Maryland, said that the teddy bear appearance was deliberate.

“A really important thing when you’re dealing with casualties is trying to maintain that human touch.”

cute teddy bear face

I feel all better now, teddy. That IED that took off my legs don’t matter a damn when I look into your soothing face.

(chur sound Moose)

license plates

My brain may be a little switched off right now, but here is a train of thought.

I just saw a VW with the license DUB738 or thereabouts.

Going to three letter plates means silly plates will come up. Though I haven’t seen any COW or CAT or DOG plates yet, we are getting very close to, say, FAT455.

And will they really issue FAG plates? I mean, FAG455 might not sit well with some people…

Or FUK plates?

Or…

Why Most Published Research Findings Are False

In a 2005 article in the Journal of the American Medical Association, epidemiologist John Ioannidis showed that among the 45 most highly cited clinical research findings of the past 15 years, 99 percent of molecular research had subsequently been refuted. Epidemiology findings had been contradicted in four-fifths of the cases he looked at, and the usually robust outcomes of clinical trials had a refutation rate of one in four.

The revelations struck a chord with the scientific community at large: A recent essay by Ioannidis simply entitled “Why most published research findings are false” has been downloaded more than 100,000 times; the Boston Globe called it “an instant cult classic.” Now in a Mâbius-strip-like twist, there is a growing body of research that is investigating, analyzing, and suggesting causes and solutions for faulty research.

I’m not going to comment much on this beyond saying if it strikes your interest it is worth reading the article. It is mostly a research link for me that I am passing on, highlighting bits I find interesting, from a Kuhnian point of view, and for my own research. “Why do we believe what we believe? How true are these beliefs anyway? How certain is scientific knowledge?” kind of things.

In his essay, Ioannidis wrote, “The greater the financial and other interest and prejudices in a scientific field, the less likely the research findings are to be true.”

Academic bias could also be to blame. As Ioannidis puts it, “Prestigious investigators may suppress via the peer-review process the appearance and dissemination of findings that refute their findings, thus condemning their field to perpetuate false dogma.” Advocates of prevailing paradigms have been observed to band together in opposition against alternative ideas with perhaps more antagonism than one might expect from objective scientific debate. And the opposition isn’t limited to publication of new science; jobs and grants are also more easily allocated to those affiliated with the scientific party in power.

quotes are from this article via disinfo

Awesome!

That party was awesome. Easily the most fun – at least, for me – party I’ve been to at this flat. Yay. πŸ™‚

Okay, so I’m biased cos my new band played and lots of our friends played and lots and lots and lots of people came and danced and had fun and I got to catch up (briefly) with lots of people and I got absoluterly plastered after playing.

And and and I took photos for the first time in months and months and months! Whee! But they’re on film so will take a while to get online if they ever do πŸ˜›

This Charming Mystery’s debut seemed to go okay. Nerves didn’t last too long, I didn’t screw up any more than usual, and then it was all over too soon πŸ™‚ It is a really different dynamic playing guitar live – I is now a guitarist, m’kay? – rather than singing. I had to pay way more attention to see the fretboard in the low light and almost never looked up, instead of bouncing around being all about engaging the audience. Pretty sure next time will be lots more settled.

All the other bands provided rocking good times. The house somehow absorbed the noise. Carnage continued long into the night. I’m pretty sure I wasn’t hungover only because I was still drunk when I woke up.

Cheers to all who made it along and contributed to the fun-ness πŸ™‚

the century of the self

Century of the Self is a four part BBC documentary series about psychological ideas about the self and their spread and influence on the individual, culture, media, advertising, propaganda, public relations, industry, economy, and politics. If you want to know what the hell happened in the last hundred years, this is a pretty useful place to start.

All four parts are available online here

Most fascinating is how it lays mechanisms at the heart of modern society completely bare, providing a social history of the forces of control in our lives.

As researchers are able to get further into our heads and understand our desires, concommitantly they are more able to influence our behaviour. Whether this is right or wrong, good or bad, is irrelevant. The point is, it works. Should democracy be run on the whims of swing voters? It’s what wins elections. Should industry be driven by appealing to the way we would like to feel about ourselves, regardless of how we actually are, encouraging desires and their fulfilment through products which are unnecessary? It’s what makes money.

Hugely recommended.

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