accelerating accelerating change

Has been a strange year. One long transition process which is now curving upward dramatically. Time for new habits. New goals and new processes to realise them. A reorganisation of mental architecture and patterns of behaviour. Making plans for the first time… kind of ever, is a strange, acute, angular, and, most importantly, ongoing process.

I suspect the foreseeable future is going to be very busy.

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The original vision for this site, back in those dreamy days of 2005, was for a much more elaborate website, not just a blog. That never really happened, and I can’t justify keeping the domain and hosting going just to maintain a wee blog. So this website will likely vanish soon. (Unless someone wants to a) pay for hosting or b) provide hosting/mirror the site somewhere. It would be nice if the content remained available somewhere.) I can presumably set up a free blog somewhere if the urge takes me, and I imagine there will be some kind of ongoing web presence.

Blogging has been an interesting process – an oddly public thinking room. Thanks to those of you who have stayed the course, or even dropped in and out. I hope you got something out of it. Thanks for the comments and discussion – and apologies to those lost in the ongoing comments fubar (approx 10000 messages in moderation that I can’t access… *most* of it is spam…!)

So anyway, if there is any content you want to rip, get to it.

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Code Geass season two was brilliant. Was really not sure what to make of it after the first few episodes, which seemed to be about recapitulating the previous season and trying to preserve a status quo, but man, then it delivers, and delivers, and delivers, and ends. Overall, really awesome, and highly recommended. (And, strangely, I have no inclination to explore further into anime at this point.)

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Final obsessive reading update for the year:

Signs of Life – M John Harrison
Amazing writer. A difficult novel to describe without spoilers, other than to say it is like what Iain Banks would be if he was any good.

The Brain That Changes Itself – Norman Doidge.
Neuroplasticity a go go. Research for me. Fun and easy to read for a general audience, too.

Have just started Genius of the Beast: Reinventing Capitalism by Howard Bloom. Bloom is, I think, the only living writer whose stuff I am buying in hardback as soon as it is released. So: exciting for me. Energetic polymath brilliance. Too soon to tell what I make of it, but it is guaranteed to be an interesting ride.

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End of the decade? Weird. The fact seems irrelevant as the days clock over. Clearly it only has meaning in our heads. While meaning has no necessary relation to fact, it is meaning we act on. So let us hope we make of this meaning a fresh start, a new beginning, a conscious step on a conscious path of betterment, to bring balance and abundance, joy and spirit to our lives, and that of the world.

On Copenhagen

The Copenhagen talks failed to reach a binding accord that deals with the scientific reality of climate change. This effectively is committing to radical sea level rises and unpredictable local weather effects, massive population migration and millions of unnecessary deaths.

Thus our current social organising systems and structures – democracy and capitalism – have demonstrated they are maladapted to the present environmental context we face. I called this a few months ago, and stand by it.

Thus they need to be replaced. Or rather, rendered obsolete by new people’s movements. We can adapt in our own lives to face the reality of our times. We can organise directly within our communities and horizontally across the world between illusory nation states. We can, and must, take responsibility for ourselves and our world, and do things differently ourselves. Expecting our systems to solve the problem from above is to willfully embrace a fatal ignorance.

The failure of Copenhagen is the wake up call. Change is coming, and it us up to us to engage with those changes: to lead.

Hmm. Looking through the archives, I find this:

I remain optimistic – in the most general sense, we currently have enough resources to make the planet rock for everyone, if only we did things really differently, starting right now – however some days do seem darker than others. And the fact of a fundamentally broken economic system based on illusion, a fundamentally unsustainable approach to resource use and the planet, and an incompetent corporate owned media that will have to face its total failure as a means to inform people in democracy – that these things will collapse in on themselves, while causing a mess, provides us with the opportunity to replace them with better systems. And we are free to do this. In crisis lies opportunity. This is the source of my optimism. For the unfolding crisis is upon us.

Find the others. Get involved.

Er. Merry Christmas.

summer melting brain?

Have wandered around shops a bit in the past week – partly ‘cos ’tis the season, and partly as a conscious pattern break. (The library and 2nd hand bookshops are basically the only places in town I go regularly. One obvious thing from my review of reading for the year is that I need to get out more. Ha ha ha. Hmm.)

So it has been a rare foray into consumer society. And there are so many consumer goods. Who knew? Entire floors of shops I didn’t realise existed. So much stuff to Want. So many toys and gadgets. So bizarre. I have tuned it out for so long.

So far buying a goat seems the best option. Though it seems really hard to do without a credit card. This seems ironic.

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Also really amazed at how expensive new clothes are. Like, really amazed. I acquire clothes very rarely, and when I do, they are usually free or from op-shops. Though, inspired by The Limits of Control (Jarmusch’s latest film), I kinda want to get a custom suit made. That would be hilarious. :)

Climate Camp

Spent most of the past couple of days at Climate Camp Aoteraroa. It is a participatory 5 day climate focused camp, demonstrating sustainable living practices, full of free workshops, and aimed at movement building and creating direct action. The whole thing is organised on a consensus basis, and the processes of living there are pretty fascinating. I enjoyed my time there and will hopefully get back at some point in the weekend.

Check it out if you are in the Wellington region.

eye and mind candy

Destino: Salvador Dali collaboration with Walt Disney. Pretty damn extraordinary in any case.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UzzZa5o1q5k

The Year in Pictures from The Big Picture. Staggering as ever.

Stuff I've read this year: non-fiction, part 2

The exercise in masochism continues…

The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable – Nassim Nicholas Taleb
More of an honourable mention. I skimmed a bit then listened to his poptech talk, which seemed to nail his content. But yeah. Worth attending to. Basically about how we don’t see the real game changers coming, and the ways in which we filter information, and estimate risk. And more.

Cosmos and Psyche: Intimations of a new world-view – Richard Tarnas

This was really incredible. A huge, stunningly well written and erudite work of history and philosophy in general. Systematically dealt with all my intellectual objections to astrology and what it stands for (or not) – which is a hell of an achievement in itself – then proceeded to analyse the patterns of history in terms of their relation to planetary motions and conjunctions, from the perspective of the archetypal forces associated with the planets. Doesn’t really address astrology on a personal level much; the focus is definitely macro scale.

Some fairly staggering stuff in there, drawing on decades of work, and all in all he makes a far stronger case than any I would have expected possible. (For those unfamiliar with Tarnas, his The Passion of the Western Mind is hands down the best single volume history of western thought around, and it was the fact that he was willing to take this stuff seriously is what convinced me to give it a shot.)

Genuinely amazing. Strongly recommended for the open minded.

The Integral Vision – Ken Wilber

A recent short introduction to Ken Wilber’s work. I found it useful as a refresher, and reckon it would be a good place to start for beginners. Also for the first time it contained some sense of how the theory could actually be applied in practice, rather than just as a tool for thought. Interesting, but on the whole I don’t really dig the system.

Brave New War by John Robb.

A quick interesting read if you are into the tensions of the modern world, globalization vs terrorism, etc. Fascinatingly, he argues the solution line that the green left does – sustainability, resilience, decentralization – as the way to adapt to the current political and economic situation, though coming from a completely different perspective, and he seems to assume capitalism will underly a changed system. Reviewed back here.

On the whole, Robb’s blog, Global Guerrillas, is well worth tracking.


Transformations by JG Bennett.

Reflections on 50 years of process in the esoteric world, in various traditions. Really fascinating.


Nietzsche: A philosophical biography by Rudiger Safranski.

Very much a biography of the development of his ideas rather than the man’s life – or the man’s life only insofar as it related to the development of his ideas. Safranski had access to Nietzsche’s extensive diaries and letters, none of which are translated from German. Hugely recommended if you want to know about Nietzsche and what he actually thought. Hint: it is way different than the uses made of him after his death.


Convergence Culture – Henry Jenkins

New wave media theorist. Transmedia theory. Interesting stuff, but it really feels like anthropology of the moment – tracking the changes to our media environment while in the middle of them, without really much perspective – and calling him the new McLuhan is going too far.


Getting to maybe: This book is for those who are not happy with the way things are and would like to make a difference. This book is for ordinary people who want to make connections that will create extraordinary outcomes. This is a book about making the impossible happen. How the world is changed. – Frances Westley, Brenda Zimmerman and Michael Patton.

Book with the longest subtitle ever? It was actually really excellent, focusing on the lessons and experience of social entrepreneurs, innovators and changemakers. Brilliantly put together, inspiring, and lucid. Humbling and grounded.

Really hugely recommended for anyone who wants to get involved in changing the world but isn’t quite sure where or how to apply themselves.

The World Without Us – Alan Weisman
The world will mostly recover if we vanish (with occasional alarming prospects, especially plastic breaking down smaller and smaller and being eaten by smaller and smaller things that can’t digest it). The decay of all we have made will be kind of poetic and weird. Some places are pretty doomed no matter what. The end. Entirely skippable.

Heidegger for Beginners
In the past I’ve found Heidegger’s prose pretty impenetrable, but this intro was choice! Lays out the structure of his thought really lucidly, and I found that structure to be total genius.


Out of our heads – why you are not your brain by Alva Noe.

Interesting stuff from a mainstream cognitive philosopher riding against the herd. I largely agree with his critique of the mainstream, though I have some different ideas about what is going on with consciousness in my own book.


The Dancing Wu Li Masters by Gary Zukav.

Easily the best book on physics I’ve ever read. There’s been a few over the years, so maybe the cumulative effect has prepared the ground. Usually I get them at the time, but come away having no idea how to explain stuff to someone else. This time, I feel like I get it (relativity, quantum physics, etc) way better. It felt inspired throughout.


The One Straw Revolution by Masanobu Fukuoka.

Classic book on “do-nothing” farming – farming without chemicals, machines, and minimising effort, which gives yields as good as anything scientific agriculture does. Beautiful and inspiring and more than a little zen.

A Short History Of Myth by Karen Armstrong
Exactly what it says it is. Does it well.

Wetware – Dennis Bray.
Recent book on cells, computation, consciousness and life. Interesting. Research for me.

The Corpse Walker: Real-life stories, China from the bottom up – Liao Yiwu.

Pretty amazing. 27 interviews/oral histories with a range of Chinese from the lower rungs of society by one of China’s most censored writers. Entirely worth it just as a set of short stories, many of which are quite demented. Fascinating stuff, occasionally quite the head fuck. Touching, terrifying, different. I have learned more about modern China and its culture, and gotten deeper inside the Chinese mind, from this than anything else I’ve encountered.

The 4-hour work week – Timothy Ferriss.
Paradigm shattering business book. Fascinating how-to for possibly the ultimate life-hack. Probably too far out for most people to consider, but the chapters on time management and elimination alone makes it worth it for anybody.

Other than that, there’s a tonne of stuff that got skimmed, and notes taken from a bunch of other nonfiction stuff…

Trends; the present, the future, processes, and engagement

Stuff I've read this year: non-fiction, part 1

While I read way more fiction this year than I have in ages, following the trend of the last decade, most of what I read was non-fiction. I will stick to what I read all or most of, rather than trying to account for the monumental pile of stuff that I just skimmed.

Here is the first chunk, again in no particular order:


The Spiritual Journey of Alejandro Jodorowksy – Alejandro Jodorowsky

Jodorowsky is the avant garde mystic genius behind the cult films El Topo and The holy Mountain. This autobiographical chunk of his life is utterly demented and wonderful. Given his life, his films seem entirely reasonable. The most normal part was his account of becoming a zen master under a Japanese zen buddhist monk in Mexico City over many years. This is interspersed with a number of mindfuckingly extraordinary and formative experiences with various “magical women”. Extremely entertaining and most fascinating. I really wish more of his autobiographies were translated into English.

Perdurabo: The Life of Aleister Crowley – Richard Kaczynski

Crowley is one of the most paradoxical and maligned figures of the last century – a magician, poet, mountain climber and “wickedest man in the world”, who founded a religion of love and died virtually penniless, but whose influence on modern western occultism – and by extension, culture – is vast.

It seems much of Crowley’s reputation – and to be fair he had courted notoriety, and certainly left a trail of broken people in his wake – stems from outright slander in the press, back before defamation laws, where the usual remedy was to sue if you were slandered, as failing to sue was tantamount to admitting the truth of the claims, but towards the end of his life he was broke and couldn’t sue. This obsessively detailed biography is sympathetic but fascinating and seems definitive, and does much to get behind the myth, though certainly could perhaps have ventured deeper into analysis.

Points in Time – Paul Bowles
Fragmentary images from across the centuries distilling the soul of Morocco. Brief and lovely.

Using Your Brain For a Change – Richard Bandler
The classic book from one of the founders of NLP. Still fresh, provocative, revolutionary and practical.

Book 4 by Aleister Crowley.
The most shocking thing about Crowley is his total lucid genius and general ability to be a hundred years ahead of his time – which, of course, in the Victorian era, earns you the title of the wickedest man alive. Anyway. Classic introduction to ritual magic. Makes no bones about the fact that this stuff requires discipline and effort. Not for everyone.

True Red: The Life of an ex-Mongrel Mob gang leader by Tuhoe Isaac

Brutal autobiography. Violence, jail, pack rape, debauchery, murder, repeat. He ascends to lead the gang. Tries to reform the gang, gets kicked out. Finds god. Raw but unique insight into the NZ gang mentality.


The Function of the Orgasm – Wilhelm Reich

A contemporary of Freud with radical notions of the causes of disorders and a novel approach to therapy, Reich is pretty legendary as the only scientist to have his work burned by both the Nazis and the Americans, approximately 20 years apart, and remains in the scientific dustbin.

Function of the Orgasm is credited with kickstarting and influencing the 60s sexual revolution. Reich is all about orgone bio energy, and argues that the organism must be free to express rather than repress all emotion, which will otherwise manifest as physical energy blocks and tensions in the body. The sign of health to him is full orgasmic release, and yeah, if you practice his techniques (or the next generation stuff like Lowen’s Bioenergetics) for unblocking energy in the body then you will notice some differences. (Full body orgasms, people.) Alternates between fascinating and mind-blowing.

NLP The Technology of Achievement – Steve Andreas & Charles Faulkner

Some good long term NLP processes, plus the usual stuff. Very much a structured work book for comprehensive life sorting. A bit fluffier feeling than other NLP stuff.

The Caliph’s House – Tahir Shah
Dude spends a year in Casablanca renovating an old palace which is inhabited by jinns, and being driven crazy by the locals. Really fun travel writing, and a great evocation of the modern Moroccan mind.

Dark Star Safari – Paul Theroux.
Africa is hot, dusty and fucked. He traveled overland from Cairo to Cape Town, going places no one goes. Fascinating stuff. Blogged in detail back here.

Meta Magick: The Book of Atem – Phil Farber
Farber is one of the more interesting modern magical theorists. This is fairly surreal memetic hacking, involving the creation of Atem, a magical entity with a similar function to the voodoo loa Papa Legba as the opener of the way for the creation and contact of other memetic entities. Weird and fascinating. In practical terms, as relevant to marketing as magic. (If that seems an odd statement, Douglas Rushkoff’s book Coercion can be seen as a treatise on black magic, for instance, and people like Ben Mack make this sort of crossover pretty explicit.)

The Transition Handbook – Rob Hopkins
Founder of the Transition Towns movement writes about the experience and rationale – basically a how to guide for building community resilience and proactively adapting community to survive the massive change peak oil/climate change is bringing. Should be required reading.

The Shadow of the Silk Road – Colin Thubron
Really beautiful book. Dude walks the length of the Silk Road, from China to Turkey. His travelogue blends past and future in a pretty special way. I found that I responded to the history more than the present of the places. Fascinating stuff.

Nothing is True, Everything is Permitted. – John Geiger
As the only biography of Brion Gysin – enfant terrible, grey eminence of the Beat movement, vagabond, mystic and artist – around, it wins by default. It is a fascinating account of a fascinating life, though I feel a more insightful effort would be possible, and for those interested in Gysin, I would recommend the collection of interviews Here To Go. I suppose the discipline of biography involves sticking to what can be verified, but hell, I would welcome speculation into what is going on in their heads and in private if it is clearly indicated as speculation.

Richard Bandler’s Guide to Trance-formation – Richard Bandler
Get The Life You Want – Richard Bandler

Two more from the father of NLP, 30 years on from Using Your Brain. A goldmine of practical tools to make changes in your life, now with the benefit of way more experience and refinement, though the early stuff is still brilliant.

Myth and Meaning by Claude Levi-Strauss.
Short series of lectures on myth, several of which are brilliant, several of which aren’t.

Hmm. Trends: NLP, Morocco, bios of magical freaks, travel, mind hacks.

Next: more!

Stuff I've read this year: fiction

The first of a few posts on stuff I’ve read this year. That I wrote down and can remember, anyway.

This year I read way more fiction than I have in years. Quite a random bag, though with definite leanings to Sf and fantasy. Next year I need to flush some lit fic through the system.

In no particular order:

Guilty Pleasures by Laurel K Hamilton.
Thought I should read one of these modern vampire fantasy pr0n things. It was trash, which was kind of what I expected.

The Sheep Look Up – John Brunner.
Deservedly classic SF novel from the 70s, set in a future where the environment is collapsing around a complex modern society locked into corruption and capitalism. The story follows the year the system comes apart. Brilliant, prescient, and a massive downer. Uncomfortably contemporary. Well worth reading.

Ombria in Shadow – Patricia McKillip
A lovely dreamy rich and lush fantasy. Familiar tropes twisted in delightful ways. Something Miyazaki should adapt. Winner of the World Fantasy Award. McKillip does the kind of fantasy not enough people do. It is all about the feel. Magical. Either your kind of thing or not.

Bridge of Birds: A novel of an ancient China that never was – Barry Hughart.
Utterly delightful and unreasonably entertaining. Too clever by half. Immensely pleasurable and satisfying. Recommended. Another WFA winner.

The Judging Eye – R Scott Bakker
Start of a new trilogy following on from The Prince of Nothing (the first volume of which, The Darkness Which Comes Before, is stunning, and was reviewed back here.) The trilogy was alright, but everything is less lustrous than the first. Anyway. Set 20 years later in the same world, not a lot happens, but it sets up a frustratingly wonderful and fascinating situation for the next book.


Star Maker by Olaf Stapledon
.
Reviewed in depth here. Utterly extraordinary and amazing novel.


The Book of the Thousand and One Nights (Vol 1). Various authors.

Amazing, both in terms of the quality of the stories (the tales are generally very entertaining, consistently one-up each other, and are often flat out jaw droppingly inventive) and for the window into Arabic culture it provides. At a cursory glance, in the Arabian nights, women are presented basically either a) faithless whores who should justifiably be killed at the first glimpse of dalliance, or b) witches. Djinns are rife. And Allah is really, really all and everything, avowedly not a lip service deity.

The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut
Unexpectedly read this during a winter gale. I thought I’d read it a decade or so ago; turns out I hadn’t. It was funny, wise and bleak. If you haven’t read any Vonnegut, you really should. He is better than I remember, which is saying something.

Aegypt (or The Solitudes) by John Crowley.
Fucking incredible. Falls between the cracks of literature and fantasy to be its own damn genius thing. Book one of the Aegypt quartet; the last one was just released. He releases one every 8 years or so. I sort of suspect the whole quartet will be one of those defining works of modern literature, and that it will be worth the 20+ years incubation.

Aegypt manages to be a wonderfully observed, surprising novel, while fundamentally being an essay in the history of the development and nature of magical consciousness through the renaissance, and how that relates to the modern era. Or something. Stunningly serendipitiously up my alley, in any case.

The Killer Inside Me by Jim Thompson.
Old school thriller styles. Tonnes of Thompson’s books have been filmed (The Grifters, The Getaway, Killer Inside Me, Pop. 1280 (filmed as Clean Slate), and probably more) and I’d seen The Grifters, which was choice, but this was the first I’d read by him. It’s good. Not my usual fare but I wanted something intellectually lo-fi. Solid writing, of its time, but yeah, cool.

Brasyl by Ian McDonald
Modern SF. Set in Brazil over 3 time periods. Hip and modern but not detrimentally so. Tells a good tale with a strong dose of the weird. Makes the best use of the many worlds hypothesis of quantum physics in fiction that I have ever seen. Slow burning. Took about half the novel to drop the penny that shifted things into another gear.


Love and Sleep by John Crowley,

The second in the Aegypt quartet. So fucking good it blows my mind. The entire quartet is structured around the astrological houses. Totally different feel while working with the same themes. So smooth. Beautifully written.

The Queen of Air and Darkness by Poul Anderson.
A novella? Alright but of its time and forgettable.

The Dying Earth by Jack Vance
Superb early influential fantasy. Extremely inventive, highly weird, really well written.

Mount Analogue by Rene Daumal.
An unfinished poetic mystical allegory, steeped in Gurdjieff’s teaching, and one of the direct inspirations for Jodorowsky’s Holy Mountain. Fucking choice, but then I would think that – it is like a perfect geek synergy for me.

Dracula – Bram Stoker
Surprisingly interesting and cool, though part of it was the cultural artefact angle. A very religious book, to the extent that its notion of vampires makes no sense whatsoever outside of a deeply Christian world-view. Indeed, it is interesting how far the vampire thing has shifted. (Randomly, this interview with Robert Place has the most detailed background on the origins and evolution of the vampire in literature since the Romantics.)

The Physiognomy – Jeffrey Ford.
Interesting. Features a thoroughly unlikable, emotionally unstable protagonist who is addicted to a hallucinogenic drug, the effects of which seem real a certain proportion of the time. Consistently did things I didn’t expect. Ends up being a parable of sorts. World Fantasy Award winning novel.

Where I’m Calling From – New and Selected Stories – Raymond Carver
Short stories by one of the masters of the form. He is indeed really good. Stripped back and strangely menacing tales of ordinary life. Often nothing much is happening, but he mostly makes it work, unlike a lot of modern lit, where nothing much happens, and it is pointless.

Once in a blue moon – Magnus Mills.
Short, odd, light, stories. Unique but on the basis of this I don’t understand why he has a following.

Dust of Dreams – Steven Erikson.
Book 9 of the Malazan Books of the Fallen. Immense, desolate, dark.
This series got me reading epic fantasy again. It is the towering achievement in the genre of the last decade or so.

Next up: the nonfiction. Probably in a couple of posts.

flatmates

We need a new one.

Our house is huge, wonderful, and has actual million dollar views.

Trademe ad here.

If anyone knows anyone…

Code Geass

In which I enthuse about, of all things, anime.

Last week the moose watched series one of Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion. It is readily available to stream online.

Code Geass is anime, which is not a genre I’ve spent much time on. And CG is fully anime. Utterly preposterous yet fantastic hair abounds. High school children in giant robots fight. There is cutesy humour and a curiously innocent hypersexuality. It is all somehow absurd yet utterly compelling.

Here’s the thing: it is totally fucking brilliant. It transcends genre in a way that blows me away as a creator.

You can use any medium to tell an amazing story and illuminate real issues and conflicts. Tropes are a palette to work with, and damn you can paint something spectacular. (Kim Stanley Robinson went off about this a couple of months ago. Adam Roberts’ response is well worth reading.) I mean, I knew this. But CG just brought it out in stark new relief.

General comments: The setting is politically complex, and morally and philosophically loaded. The structure reveals the thematics with staggering precision and art. The show is completely unafraid to be brutal. It sets up its status quo and then torments it to breaking point – and well beyond. Characters actions have devastating consequences which they are forced to confront. The resulting emotional beats are startling. There are tangled secrets. No one is uncompromised. The narrative skips along, leaving the viewer to catch up. It gets big and crazy and unpredictable. Series one ends with possibly the best cliff hanger I’ve ever seen.

Without getting spoilerrific, just take the recommendation and watch it.

Sturgeon’s dictum holds that 90% of everything is crap.

But part of 1% is transcendent.