skilluminati reopens for 2008

Easily one of the most interesting reads on the web, skilluminati has relaunched for 2008 with a bang. (The guy behind brainsturbator, for those who remember.) Basically, if I had more time and inclination, this site would be doing something more like skilluminati or cryptogon rather than the haphazard whatever it is. Something more substantive, in any case, though that is what I write books for.

The current attention grabbing quote near the top of the page is

Be honest with yourself: who are you asking for justice? Are you expecting the same power structure that has been running the United States of America for the past 50 years to give up because you’re right? Because you can prove mathematically that two buildings collapsed faster than they should have? Because you have thousands of pages of evidence to prove every point you’re making? Does the truth matter? Seriously. Does the truth matter? Or does power matter?

Anyway. Among the gold, he points out Global Trends 2007-36 (right click to download pdf), which he describes as

Prepared by the Development, Doctrine and Concepts Centre of the UK Ministry of Defense, this report outlines a nightmare future where the Western World will be increasingly called to use lethal force on out of control Third World populations over simple resources like water and food. They envision a future with endless “urban low-intensity conflict” where the poor are kept inside prison cities which become so dangerous only military Special Forces can patrol them. AS IF THAT WAS NOT ENOUGH, the report even sees enemies within, claiming “The middle classes could become a revolutionary class, taking the role envisaged for the proletariat by Marx.” All of which sounds insane, but doesn’t even begin to do this report justice. This is essential reading.

But yeah. If you are interested at all in what the hell is going on and where we are going, this is a pretty good place to start. I remember reading the equivalent of this sort of thing a decade ago tipping me off to a lot of what was coming and what to watch for.

The site is well worth a trawl through, as there is plenty of wonderful older material, for instance this article Charles Tart on Consensus Trance and Normal Human Consciousness

“The clues from hypnosis research, experiments into the influence of beliefs upon perceptions, and teachings from the mystical traditions, led Tart to see how normal waking consciousness is the product of a true hypnotic procedure that is practiced by parents, teachers, and peers, reinforced by every social interaction, and maintained by powerful taboos. Consensus trance induction — the process of learning the “normal waking” state of mind — is involuntary, and occurs under conditions that give it far more power than ordinary hypnotists are ever allowed. When infants are first subjected to the processes that induce consensus trance, they are all vulnerable and dependent upon their consensus hypnotists, for their parents are the ones who initiate them into the rules of their culture, according to the instructions that had been impressed upon them by their own parents, teachers, and peers.”

I was watching TV at 3am this morning (I’m not proud of it) and was flicking between a live press conference by Dubya – itself an extreme rarity in his reign of incompetence, as they rarely let him out without a leash – and the new Indian 20-20 Cricket League. Holy shit. A blind man interpreting the movements of an erratically electrocuted gerbil would give more coherent answers than the US president. And all-star 20-20 cricket is just weird.

Also. The title of the last post was a more or less random yet somehow appropriate seeming juxtaposition with the content. How did you find it?

victims of a culture awaiting nothing more fervently than the Paris Hilton autopsy video

Clay Shirky colorfully points out that, putting the amount of human effort to create Wikipedia as about 100 million hours of thought, then about 2000 Wikipedia’s worth of thought would be freed up by stopping watching TV in the US alone. (Previously I’ve commented at length about why doing almost anything other that watching TV is probably a good idea.)

Which is another approach at what I was saying back here; if and when we collectively start doing anything positive and conscious, our power to effect change will be enormous.

This abundance of means is really the only hope I see for human survival in the coming years. The only question is whether we stop doing all this unnecessary unfulfilling stuff, and begin something better, in time to prevent unnecessary catastrophic suffering.

on NZ writing

On the whole, the reason I don’t read much NZ writing is no one ever recommends it to me, and I’m not actively exploring it. Maybe I should be, but largely, when I do, I’m somewhat disappointed. Somehow I have acquired the impression that the mainstream NZ lit scene features work that can be characterized at best as being competently enough written but lacking something to say, and hence a sense of interest or excitement, or a reason to read it.

For instance, I picked up a sampler of “New Writing from Random House NZ 2008″ somewhere. None of the pieces I read was even slightly interesting. None of it inspired me to seek out any of the books. Not boding well, and certainly not the ideal outcome for a sampler.

Helen linked to Best NZ Poems 2007, which, while I suppose were better than average, were hardly inspiring to me. (Massive disclaimer there, in that poetry is not my thing as a reader.)

Now sure, I’m just one random among a sea of many. My tastes and predelictions are my own affair and not necessarily subject to widespread interest. So why should NZ writing speak to me? However, I want it to. I want it to be good, and I want it to be relevant, and I want it to matter. I am willing to accept my opinions are of ignorance, but want the proof.

So once again I ask, please recommend me something good by a New Zealand author. I’m willing to believe it’s out there. (I’m kind of been planning to read Stonedogs by Craig Mariner for a few years now, just cos it looks different.) What are good NZ novels?

propaganda

Technorati’s been going wild with this the last couple of days: revelations of the links between independent military analysts and the Pentagon. Which I guess means someone out there was surprised that they are being lied to.

Some choice quotes, for posterity.

A few expressed regret for participating in what they regarded as an effort to dupe the American public with propaganda dressed as independent military analysis.

“It was them saying, ‘We need to stick our hands up your back and move your mouth for you,’ ” Robert S. Bevelacqua, a retired Green Beret and former Fox News analyst, said.

Internal Pentagon documents repeatedly refer to the military analysts as “message force multipliers” or “surrogates” who could be counted on to deliver administration “themes and messages” to millions of Americans “in the form of their own opinions.”

Gee.

Abortion As Art

I’m still not sure what I think about this, but I’m impressed at how visceral my initial reaction was.

Beginning next Tuesday, Shvarts will be displaying her senior art project, a documentation of a nine-month process during which she artificially inseminated herself “as often as possible” while periodically taking abortifacient drugs to induce miscarriages. Her exhibition will feature video recordings of these forced miscarriages as well as preserved collections of the blood from the process.

The goal in creating the art exhibition, Shvarts said, was to spark conversation and debate on the relationship between art and the human body.

She is a senior at Yale.

“I believe strongly that art should be a medium for politics and ideologies, not just a commodity,” Shvarts said. “I think that I’m creating a project that lives up to the standard of what art is supposed to be.”

The display of Schvarts’ project will feature a large cube suspended from the ceiling of a room in the gallery of Green Hall. Schvarts will wrap hundreds of feet of plastic sheeting around this cube; lined between layers of the sheeting will be the blood from Schvarts’ self-induced miscarriages mixed with Vaseline in order to prevent the blood from drying and to extend the blood throughout the plastic sheeting.

Schvarts will then project recorded videos onto the four sides of the cube. These videos, captured on a VHS camcorder, will show her experiencing miscarriages in her bathrooom tub, she said. Similar videos will be projected onto the walls of the room

On some basic level, I’m as impressed as I am disgusted. See, I don’t know that it will communicate what she has in mind, but damn will it get a reaction. I don’t think art is necessarily about getting a reaction, but pushing boundaries will do that. Our limitations, by and large, are artificial, and we can learn a lot by challenging them and moving beyond them; art is one of our most effective means to do that. (Of course, some boundaries and limitations are more important or useful to challenge than others…)

[EDIT]

Okay, so it’s not real.

Statement by Helaine S. Klasky — Yale University, Spokesperson

New Haven, Conn. — April 17, 2008

Ms. Shvarts is engaged in performance art. Her art project includes visual representations, a press release and other narrative materials. She stated to three senior Yale University officials today, including two deans, that she did not impregnate herself and that she did not induce any miscarriages. The entire project is an art piece, a creative fiction designed to draw attention to the ambiguity surrounding form and function of a woman’s body.

She is an artist and has the right to express herself through performance art.

Had these acts been real, they would have violated basic ethical standards and raised serious mental and physical health concerns

Shoulda looked into it more before posting. Meh. Teh interweb giveth and teh interweb taketh away.

drug me

On and off the moose has commented about the alarming practices around psychiatric drug prescription, use, and the manipulations behind the scenes.

This interview with Charles Barber, author of Comfortably Numb, captures my take pretty well.

What I found was that psychiatry, at least for certain diagnoses, has confused the really serious forms of the illness with the far lesser forms. The best example is depression. Many of the folks that I worked with suffered from severe depression. I make the distinction in the book between big “D” depression and small “d” depression. In its severe forms, it’s an absolutely brutal, horrific and malevolent illness where people are at dire risk of hurting themselves.

It’s jarring to go to a cocktail party and hear people talking about being bummed out or hear that they’re going through a divorce, and their family doctor put them on an antidepressant. There has been a confusion and conflation of this diagnosis that confuses serious disorders with far lesser conditions or, in many cases, life problems. We’ve medicalized a lot of life issues that are not mental illnesses.

(moose ‘s emphasis)

And are these drugs really any good for us, anyway, or are they simply being foisted on us by a hard sell propaganda program from the pharmaceutical companies that profit from it?

The drug maker Merck drafted dozens of research studies for a best-selling drug, then lined up prestigious doctors to put their names on the reports before publication, according to an article to be published Wednesday in a leading medical journal.
[...]
The lead author of Wednesday’s article, Dr. Joseph S. Ross of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, said a close look at the Merck documents raised broad questions about the validity of much of the drug industry’s published research, because the ghostwriting practice appears to be widespread.

(variously via american samizdat and cryptogon)

maps of war

5000 years of religious history and conflict in 90 seconds. Oversimplified, sure, but still fascinating.

History of conquests in the Middle East – 3000 years in 90 seconds. Again simplified but fascinating.

The whole site seems worth a look.

bacteria, swearing, and doom

The always fascinating and provocative Howard Bloom has a column at Scientific Blogging.
Screw ‘Sustainability’ – And Cheer Up About It
is the latest, and is a unique take on where we are at.

If this were a random universe, there would be a thousand different biochemical systems competing with each other on this planet, a thousand different families of life. But there aren’t. The only biochemical family on this planet is the clan of DNA, the clan of biomass. And you and I are part of that biomass family. We are part of that biomass team.
[...]
There is 1.097 sextillion cubic meters of rock, magma, and iron beneath our feet. That’s a one-with-21-zeroes-after-it stock of raw materials we haven’t yet learned to use. We haven’t yet learned to turn that sextillion-square-meter stockpile into fuel, food, or energy. We haven’t yet recruited it into the clan of biomass, into the clan DNA.

But that’s the imperative of biomass, to take these inanimate molecules and bring them into the system of life. Does this sound like mere fantasy? It’s not! Bacteria called lithoautotrophs are already doing it. Lithoautotrophs are eating the rock two miles beneath our feet and three miles beneath the sea, turning granite into food, turning raw stone into biomass, recruiting new atoms into the imperialistic project of DNA.

There’s more, as there always is with Bloom. Well worth checking out, as of course are his books Global Brain and The Lucifer Principle, which both took my head when they came out.

Speaking of reducing things to their most quotable, try Explicit Content Only – NWA’s Straight Outta Compton, edited down to just the explicit content. Funnier than expected.

Meanwhile, of course, we’re still doomed. Food riots ‘an apocalyptic warning’

Basic access to food is slipping out of reach for many people in developing countries.

The cost of the rice has risen by more than three-quarters in two months and the price of wheat has more than doubled in the same time.

World Vision Australia head Tim Costello says the situation is desperate and chronic.

“It is an apocalyptic warning,” he said. “Until recently we had plenty of food. The question was distribution.

“The truth is because of rising oil prices, global warming and the loss of arable land, all countries that can produce food now desperately need to produce more.”(my emphasis)

[ ganked variously from disinfo and cryptogon, on my sidebar.]

this probably can't be real

banjo man

Please?

(via fark)

So much for the information age

Fascinating, if depressing, article by a US college professor about the levels of ignorance about the world (and the reasons for it) among first year students.

I make it clear to my students that it is not only their right but their duty to arrive at their own conclusions. They are free to defend rendition, waterboarding, or any other aspect of America’s post-9/11 armamentarium. But I challenge their right to tune out the world, and I question any system or society that can produce such students and call them educated. I am concerned for the nation when a cohort of students so talented and bright is oblivious to all such matters. If they are failing us, it is because we have failed them.

Still, it is hard to reconcile the students’ lack of knowledge with the notion that they are a part of the celebrated information age, creatures of the Internet who arguably have at their disposal more information than all the preceding generations combined. Despite their BlackBerrys, cellphones, and Wi-Fi, they are, in their own way, as isolated as the remote tribes of New Guinea. They disprove the notion that technology fosters engagement, that connectivity and community are synonymous. I despair to think that this is the generation brought up under the banner of “No Child Left Behind.” What I see is the specter of an entire generation left behind and left out.

(via cryptogon)

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