reading 2015 part one

Have been very slack at logging reading this year. Does anyone read these or care, anyway? Who knows. But they are useful for me. So here is a recap, glancing through my diary. Feel like I read a lot less than usual this year. I also think I am getting a lot of my mental stimulation from podcasts these days.


The Pastel City – M John Harrison

First in the Viriconium series. Oddly angled fantasy, a very different mood and mode, elegiac and austere. Written back in the 70s, maybe? Harrison is a wonderful writer and this is bizarre and neat.

Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know – Ranulph Fiennes

Autobiography of adventurer/explorer/mad bastard Fiennes. What I read of it was entertaining.

Occupational Hazards – Rory Stewart

Scottish dude ends up running a really large province in Iraq under the Coalition Provisional Authority after the US invasion. Really fascinating insight into what trying to run a country and make things better is like when the country is messy and complex, and the area you are in charge of has its own very distinct history and culture from the rest of the country. Things do not go well. Great read.

Think Two Products Ahead – Ben Mack

Really excellent book about marketing and how to think about marketing and communicate what you are doing by a, well, wizard.

8 Tribes: The Hidden Classes of NZ

That book about NZ being made up of 8 tribes. Meh. It was short to skim. Deservedly forgotten.

What We See When We Read – Peter Mendelsund

Really interesting book by a designer – so there was lots of wild design as a book – who loves to read, about what goes on in our heads as we read, and how we visualise and imagine and interact with words. Definitely worth a look if that sounds like you.

Capital in the 21st Century – Thomas Piketty

Epic tome about inequality and how it isn’t going to go away, and in fact has and will worsen, because of how our economic system is structured. Compelling argument. Necessary to be familiar with at least the introduction.

Ritual – Malidoma Some

West African shaman describes the function, role and importance of ritual in the life of his people, with some eye-opening stories.

Conversation – Theodore Zeldin

Something short and light about the art of conversation, I think.

The Laughing Monsters – Denis Johnson

Novel, gave up real quick, Johnson is great but wasn’t in the mood.

Prophet – Brandon Graham (comic)

If you want some very very weird sci fi comics, this is your jam. Epic scope, weird, mad, fun. The most Metabarons-esque thing since Metabarons.

The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains – Neil Gaiman

Nice short story with illustrations, sort of the darker side of Gaiman.

Autobiography – Miles Davis

Entertaining ride, didn’t get too far. Jazz guys were a pretty wild crew, back in the day.

Money: Master The Game – Tony Robbins

Pretty exceptional book about managing money and investing. Robbins used his access to the most successful billionaire investors in the world to model what they are doing and put it together in a system. Essential.

I Will Teach You To Be Rich – Ramit Sethi

Irritating smartarse Indian teaches you money management and investment. Very sharp, good material, but annoying.

A God Somewhere – John Arcudi (comic)

Random grab from the library. Neat take on someone actually getting super powers and the guy who remains his best friend through it.

The Wake – Snyder (comic)

Ditto random. Award winning comic. Decent.

Neonomicon – Alan Moore (comic)

Alan Moore turns his genius to modernising Lovecraft. Really fantastic, and easily the darkest and nastiest thing I have read by him. So good.

Ecko Rising – Danie Ware

Random genre novel from the library on a whim. Sort of a sf/fantasy mashup. Shades of Thomas Covenant without the prose ability. A heavily implanted hi-tech assassin wakes up in a fantasy world, doesn’t know what is going on but has some special abilities in the local sense. Fast, fun read.

New Spring – Robert Jordan

Never knew this existed until I found it and read it. A prequel to the Wheel of Time, which I read a bunch of when I was much younger, then gave up on 300 pages into book 6 when nothing had happened for those 300 pages. This prequel features Lan and Moiraine 20 years before the first book, and how they got to where they got to at the start of the first book. It was really fun to reconnect with that world, though man does Jordan go on and on. Like, a hundred pages of this book could have been summarised in a paragraph or twp, but the depth of the world is amazing.

What I Learned Losing A Million Dollars – Jim Paul

Really useful book about when to get out, and how not to lose money, and the inner psychological game of money and investing. Biggest takeaway is this amazing question: if you were not already in your current situation, would you want to get into it?

The White Lama – Alejandro Jodorowsky (comic)

Fun times as Jodo does Tibet.

An Interpretation of Universal History – Ortega y Gasset

This was actually pretty fascinating. Dude takes on Toynbee’s model of history by showing that the Rome Toynbee takes as an exemplar of civilisation never existed on those terms.

Guide to Tranceformation – Richard Bandler

Bandler returns and summarises his life’s work. Best book you could get on NLP.

Ancillary Justice – Ann Leckie

Hugo Award winner? Real good for reasons it is difficult not to give spoilers about. Slowly uncovering just who the main character is and their history is exceptional.

Infinite Jest – David Foster Wallace

Read about 4/10 of it, which is an immense amount of this tome. It is incredible and Wallace is obvious genius and deserving of whatever praise is heaped upon him. Still, too long, eh? Gargantuan, genius, very funny, very dark, very empathic. No wonder the poor bugger topped himself. Sort of hope to get back to it someday.

Radical Acceptance – Tara Brach

Skimmed it. Woo Buddhist positive psychology.

Bold – Peter Diamandis

Very very interesting book about accelerating change and exponential technologies and what that means for changing the world via business. We are living in very interesting times.

Man’s Search for Meaning – Victor Frankl

Classic book by psychiatrist holocaust survivor about the experience of Auschwitz and what separated those who survived from those who didn’t. Incredible, powerful, stark view into humanity, and what is really important. Essential.

Ancillary Sword – Ann Leckie

Sequel to the above. Still enjoyable but much less interesting since most of what there is to be revealed has been revealed.

Magic and Mystery in Tibet – Alexandra David-Kneale

Woo. If you only read one book on Tibet, this is the one. French woman travels around Tibet in the early 1900s, spending time with hermits and magicians and in monasteries and documenting her experience and the stories people told her. There was some wild and crazy shit happening in Tibet, and credible miraculousness.

6 Months to 6 Figures – Peter Voogd

Sharp, punchy, entrepreneurial book. I rate it.

The Metabarons – Alejandro Jodorowsky (comic)

Jodorowsky’s masterwork, in a number of ways. A lot of what would have gone into Dune made its way into this. Mindfuckingly epic account of a thoroughly unreasonable lineage as they tear the galaxy apart.

Graveyard Book – Neil Gaiman

Read a chapter, Gaiman doing storytelling, was not in the mood.


Moore does Lovecraft in Lovecraft era. Still coming out. Nice.

The Death Cure – James Dashner

Third part of the Maze Runner trilogy. Saw the first movie randomly, the second movie is way better and I recommend it, read this cos I couldn’t be bothered waiting for the third movie. A lot must have changed in the second book to movie adaptation. Anyhow. Decent enough. Very YA.

Beyond the Beautiful Forevers – Katherine Boo

Absolutely extraordinary. Pulitzer prize winning journalist gets to know slum dwellers in Mumbai over several years. Writes up an eventful period of their lives as a novel, essentially nonfiction but written novelistically and based on immense interviews etc. Shattering, profound.

Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself – David Lipsky

Lipsky spent a week interviewing David Foster Wallace on the last leg of the book tour launching Infinite Jest, as Wallace was in the process of going stratospheric. Fascinating as an account of a guy coping with the descent of fame, and as an insight into a remarkable mind. A film of it came out, End of the Tour, haven’t seen it.

Hard To Be A God – Arkady and Boris Strugatsky

Russian SF from way back. Russian observer-scientists go to another planet to document the Renaissance happening in a medieval world… except it doesn’t seem to be happening, if anything, a reversion to barbarism is underway. Great novel. I read it cos I saw the insane, incomprehensible film version at the film festival a year or two ago, and wanted to know what the hell actually happened.

The Magus – John Fowles

The first 3/4 of this are an astonishing novel. The end, well, lost me a bit. But hell, the quality of Fowle’s prose, and the intensity and observation he brings to bear, are exceptional, and the dizzying weirdness of the island and the elaborate charade the narrator is caught up in is unforgettable.

The Three-Body Problem – Cixin Liu

Modern Chinese SF, apparently a bestseller there. Very unique take on first contact and Earth being invaded by aliens, through a very different cultural and historic lens. Recommended.

Killer in the Rain – Raymond Chandler

Early novella from Chandler.

Teaching the Dog to Sing – Jonathan Carroll

Recent novella from Carroll, whom I hadn’t read in years. Alright, I guess.

Harvest – Jim Crace

Multi award winning Irish novel of the end of the era of peasant farming before enclosure. Beautifully written.

Blood Meridian – Cormac McCarthy

McCarthy’s most intense and darkest vision of the old West. If it was the first thing of his I’d read it would have taken my head off. Incredible evocation of landscape and nature and random brutality and the ugliness of humanity, in astonishing prose.

A Visit From The Goon Squad – Jennifer Egan

Pulitzer prize winning novel, told through a bunch of different tangentially related characters set over many years, about growing up and the changes time wrings. Really well done.

The King’s Justice – Stephen Donaldson

Fantasy novella from a real master of fantasy. Good good shit.

Beasts of No Nation – Uzodinma Uweale

Novel about a child soldier somewhere in Africa caught up in a cycle of senseless violence and destruction. Short and unpleasant. Weirdly similar vibe to Blood Meridian, come to think of it.


NZIFF 2015 in review

Belief: The Possession of Janet Moses

Fascinating and disturbing re-enactment of the accidental murder of a Wainuiomata woman by her Maori family as they tried to lift a curse from her. Even handed doco leaves the reality of things open – the crux really is belief, what we believe to be true, and how that allows us to act – there is no doubt the family genuinely believed what they were doing was for the best. The film is really about putting you in the room with the extended family for five days as they stamp and chant and try to drive the spirit out. Intense, probably essential viewing for New Zealanders, and anyone interested in the clash between traditional/spiritual beliefs and the modern world. (From the director Q&A there is definitely more to the story, but this holds up.) Also works as a straight up horror movie about people going insane.


Shot in one take, starting at about four in the morning, as a young women meets some guys at a club and things end up going in a very unexpected direction. Really solid and enjoyable. Big recommendation; try to avoid spoilers.

Inherent Vice

Stoned surfer private investigator in the 1970s takes a shaggy dog trip through the conspiracy haze of the day. Adapted from a Pynchon novel, lots of fun and very well done but not really having a discernable point.

The Colour of Pomegranates

Famous 1969 Russian/Armenian film. A sort of impressionistic/symbolic biography of an artist that unfortunately pretty much plays like the most excessive and pretentious student art film of all time. Punishingly bad with a few striking images.

The Assassin

Chinese period piece about a female assassin in 7th Century or so China. Looked pretty great, didn’t really seem that interested in telling its story, extremely stylish and very enjoyable however.

Alice Cares

Doco about trialling Alice, a robot with AI in it, to hang out with elderly people with dementia both as companionship and to help keep track of their lives for them. As proof of concept, it works. Alice has a realistic face and expressions, and talks well enough and naturally enough and follows up enough that a relatively normal conversation is possible. She can look things up online and remember information and help people do exercises. This is like an early cellphone, in terms of AI, so we are heading in this direction. Still somehow uncanny and discomforting conceptually. You are left wanting there to be more going on in Alice herself, and it is somehow off that there isn’t, once you have bonded with her a little. A necessary glimpse of our changing world and what is coming. Big big recommendation.

10000 Years Later

CGI animation, set 10000 years after present day. More of a kids movie than I expected. The story is trite and the characterisation lacking, but its environmental etc themes are apt. overall, pretty cheeseball with some excellent design. Would recommend watching it with the sound off and your own soundtrack and improvise your own story.

Embrace of the Serpent

Awesome. Mostly black and white film about two explorers, one following the journals of the other, travelling in the jungle in search of ayahuasca, and their encounters with the same shaman across time. The film is based on real accounts, including that of Richard Evans Schultes, who, among other things, introduced magic mushrooms to the West. Gets very surreal. But yeah wonderful and huge recommendation if this sounds remotely your kind of thing.

The Look of Silence

Companion piece to The Act of Killing (which was my film of the year of 2013, and remains the most striking and necessary film I have seen in years), returning to Indonesia and the aftermath of the mass killings of the 1960s. This film follows Adi as he seeks to engage with the men who murdered his brother, among a million others, and offer them forgiveness.

This screening had a Q&A with Joshua Oppenheimer, the director, which was fabulous.

I don’t really know what to say other than these two films are totally necessary and about the highest example of the documentary art, especially in terms of their real world impact; they have opened a dialogue for change within Indonesia that continues to gain momentum.

Tale of Tales

Inconsistent, opulent, byzantine melange of fairy tales with dark and unexpected twists. Totally worth a look, though somehow unsatisfying as a whole.

Cemetery of Splendor

Woo. The way Apichatpong Weerasethakul (director of Uncle Boonme Who Can Remember His Past Lives) blends the mundane and the supermundane is an achievement of the greatest artistry. His films are gentle, meandering and bizarre. So strange and lovely, and quietly unsettling. This one is set in a makeshift hospital with soldiers struck down with a sleeping sickness, and follows a woman volunteering there. Somehow from there we drift into a world with looser boundaries. Goddesses stop by for tea. The openness of Thai culture to the spirit world grounds the weirdness. Glorious and not remotely like anything else in film, I will keep going to this guy’s films. Challenging in unexpected ways.

Jupiter Ascending (2015): Review

The Wachowski’s films are not subtle or particularly coherent. They layer on symbolism which gets generally missed. They use too much CGI and write awful dialogue. They have a tendency towards a detrimentally pseudo-scientific mysticism. This doesn’t stop them being great fun and actually trying to communicate something important through the medium of mass-appeal films.

I won’t comment on the plot or story, more the underlying structure.

Jupiter Ascending, essentially, is a gnostic parable about the archon Abraxas – a demonic entity here taking the form of a multi-headed galactic corporate dynasty dedicated to eternal life for itself (a greed paradoxically life-denying by denying death), lies, and profit (selfishness) – which seeded life on Earth for the purpose of profiting by farming its humans and turning them into the elixir that gives eternal life (ie) to feed itself. This, from a certain point of view, is a literal representation of reality, rendered in over the top symbolism. (The Matrix holds a similar pattern, with humans as energy cells feeding a power at a higher remove.) Our task of course is to wake up and free ourselves from this situation and redirect our life energies along fresh channels – or at least grooves not carved out by enslavement to our baser elements.

The world gets redeemed by the reincarnation of an element of Abraxas itself reborn as a human (Abraxas is genetically human – in a nice touch, we are our own demiurgic enslaver) who rejects the Abraxas hive-mind / business as usual, choosing instead to honor its humanity in all its toilet cleaning glory.

Along the way they throw in everything they can think of.  (Anime hair? Check. Ganesha? Check. Genetic werewolves with gravity surfing boots having lots of laser battles? Check. Cute nods to crop circles and alien interference on earth? Check. Princess fantasies? Check. Psychic bees? Check. Reality melting CGI everything? Check. Continual madly overdone design? Check. Villains talking like that? Check. Giant lizards? Check.)

Needless to say, the resulting film is completely bugfuck, and not entirely successful, but none of that matters. It is the imagination of a 12 year old from the 80s gone mad. It is an extremely fun ride ineptly pointing out the possibility of human spiritual transcendence. Approach it with the expectation of great silliness, and the possibility of something deeper for the unconscious to ponder.

podcast recommendation: Tim Ferriss Show


I listen to a lot of podcasts while I walk. Over the past year, easily the best podcast has been the Tim Ferriss Show.

I’ve been tracking Ferriss for a while. I think he is the reason I have been swinging a kettlebell for the past few years. His Four Hour Workweek has some brilliant stuff in it for rearranging your life and starting a business that gives great freedom  – and while the overall model has produced surprisingly few copycat success stories, the individual components (particularly the chapters on Definition and Elimination) are worth the price. Similarly, the Four Hour Body is a fascinating compendium of extreme hacks to achieve specific bodily outcomes, with some great practical material, particularly the slow-carb diet, and various of the lifting regimes. The Four Hour Chef is a weird one – a book about accelerated learning disguised as a cookbook – and I don’t rate it anywhere near as much as the first two.

And here is the thing. No matter how awesome you are, there is a limit to what you can master. I read the 4HWW as being everything he knew up until then. The 4HB is everything he learned in the next few years of radical physical experimentation.

The genius in the podcast is he has access to really remarkable figures, and can explore what they have mastered. For this reason I think the podcast is so far the most valuable resource he has created. Through it we get access to some really diverse and remarkable high achieving mentalities. He’s not the greatest interviewer, but he has a point of view, and knows how to mine for information and deconstruct in the areas that interest him. But what makes it is the range and quality of the interview subjects, ranging from household names and uber influencers (eg: Schwarzenegger, Tony Robbins, Peter Thiel, Peter Diamandis, etc) to people you won’t have heard of but are amazing (Josh Waitzkin, Marc Goodman, etc) I haven’t listened to all of the episodes, but a fair bunch, and they have all been worthwhile.

So yeah. Definitely worth checking out.

internet addiction (filters part 4)

Two months into the internet restriction protocol, here is a report.

The short version? It is great, a clear and definite improvement.

I have more time, more focus, and am getting more done. Of course, I have made other changes in my life which help with that, but this is definitely a factor, and a big one.

I am noticing old habits creep back a little – I check email more than I need to, that is for sure, though I do not touch my busiest account. Unsure if it is confidence that the habit is broken, or that it is just habit reasserting itself, and that I need to formally rededicate myself to the protocol. Writing this post is part of figuring that out.

Some longer rambling observations:

There is something weirdly addictive about the sense of power and control that comes with the internet, and using a computer in general.

For example, clearing my email inbox after a week away. I make decisions, little decisions, reading some, deleting others. Moving things around. Controlling the little world of my desktop. Arranging files. It as as if I am doing something real. And I am, in a little way. Organising information so it is where it needs to be for what I want to do next is an adjunct of organising my physical space to be the way it needs to be. Useful to the extent that it is necessary – creating a functional environment – but negative when it becomes obsessive or redundant – as with OCD cleaning.

On the days I access the internet, I want to check again, an hour after I just checked. Even though most of what was there for the last week was not essential. There is something addictive. Research indicates that irregular reinforcement schedules – never knowing when you are going to get another hit of whatever you are addicted to – is the most addictive timing, and email is that par excellence.

Once a week re-exposure to the flood of trivial information Facebook provides is addictive in its own way. It is easy. It never ends, the page will scroll down forever. Not quite a sugar hit. Not quite food. More conscious than breathing. Popcorn? Moreish even when you don’t want or need more. Even when it is rarely any better than it is, rarely rates more than a vague “Oh?” It turns out I have missed a couple of incidents in my wider community, but nothing it feels catastrophic to have missed; and surely some announcements of insight or life redirection have slipped by unnoticed.

(The one cheat I allow myself with Facebook is to occasionally log in just to send someone a message if it is the only way to get hold of them, but not look at anything else. I think directly communicating with people, and the ability to do that, is such a powerful thing it is odd to limit the ability to act on it when it is a conscious choice; the difference is in not checking obsessively for a reply, or just in case. There are many avenues of communication, and perhaps a thirty second phone call is the answer to many prolonged email waits.)

So I need to shore up the habits and restate the boundaries. It is about using the internet more consciously, and I feel like I have managed that. It is a powerful resource and tool, the trick is to corral it to just that; the danger is it can be an endless drift of youtube clips and pointless linkbait lists and sort of vaguely interesting articles, a gossip magazine collectively edited by your friends.

The biggest challenge in a way is finding something else to do. It is almost embarrassing. The internet is such an easy default. It is our generations television. Instead of just sitting down mindlessly with the remote and starting to flick, we sit down mindlessly in front of the internet and start to click.

I have watched more media – am I just replacing internet with TV downloaded from the internet? Certainly, discovering live streaming of the cricket world cup sucked some time. I am reading less at the moment since I am writing, so that is out as a distraction.

So yeah. Interesting and useful so far, will be an ongoing process of tweaking the protocol and observing the feedback.

CWC 2015, NZ v SA semi final

That was legitimately one of the most intense and amazing games of cricket I have ever seen. Truly epic.

(Unrelated rambling: I have watched quite a bit of the CWC so far, after discovering it streaming online. The weirdest part is getting British ads, the overwhelming majority of which are for online gambling. Like, seriously.)



Review: 50 Shades of Grey (2015)

What? No one blinked an eye when I watched The Room.

So anyway. Here is the latest instalment in a series in which I get smashed and watch fascinatingly terrible mainstream movies and write long reviews (see: Sucker Punch, Transformers 2).

50 Shades is an interesting cultural phenomenon. (How does Twilight fan-fiction end up being directed by a Turner prize winner and go on to make half a billion dollars already? This is a question of culture, not film.) In fact, most of what this review will be about is probably culture, rather than the movie, the specifics of which I barely recall. (The smashed methodology is about taking on impressions and hunting deeper truths, not details. :) )

So. 50 Shades. I read the first paragraph of the first book a few years back and found it atrociously written. After finding out it began life as Twilight fan-fiction, I then ignored the whole thing, and had only a vague sense of BDSM about it as it became a phenomenon.

So. The movie. I found a lot of it funny, in the funny-because-it’s-bad way, in the you’re-shitting-me-that’s-how-you’re-playing-this? way, in the oh-my-god-this-dialogue way. That was maybe for the first hour. It also felt like it went on quite a long time.

The film is competently made and shot well. The content is the weak link. Characters, dialogue, story; all lacking. Very little happens. But this is at heart a fantasy (sexual rather than otherwordly.) As such it is about mood, and the accumulation of small details to make it whole.

So what is this movie? It is a journey into the female subconscious, lit up on the big screen for all to see. Of course, we’ve seen the male subconscious at the movies for a while now. How long has 007 been a thing? And action movies. We get that dudes want to be the coolest most bad-ass mofo in whatever the context is, get the girl, kill the baddies, and save the planet. It is stark, infantile and embarrassing, but we have gotten used to it. We barely blink. It’s just the story we tell. (At a baser level, through mainstream pornography, we get a raw and ugly sense of male sexual fantasy.)

So what is most notable here is the entry into mainstream culture of this feminine subconscious. A different flavour of desire.

Why this cultural moment? Here I wonder about the power of demographics; the realisation that women are a substantial audience, and content tailored to them will sell just as well. Our cultural production houses were framed in a one TV per household era. When the man of the house lost control of the TV remote, he lost control of the household’s attention. Now everyone has a computer of their own, and there are more channels of content than anyone can track. Combine this with a few extra billion people and the result is fracturing appeals. There is lots of money to be made in what were once unviable untargetable niches. And half the population is more than niche.

These changes are still underway; they have been underway for the past 25 years or so in media. They have been accelerating in the internet age as more and more voices and experiences can be heard, because more can speak through the democratisation of access to the means of being heard online.

This is one of the first times the female subconscious has come out to party so lustily. So it is raw. And clumsy. And embarrassing.

Baby steps.

So what happens? Girl meets guy. They have Sex. OMG.

Who is this guy? A billionaire. We don’t know why, or how, or what he does. He has a building with his name on it, is very busy and occasionally talks intently into the telephone. He has aspects of class, education and refinement. He dresses well. We are told he is hot. He has crazy wealth and therefore power, and is a total control freak. And, most importantly, he is completely obsessed with this girl he just met, and their relationship is the most important thing in the world of the movie.

Who is this girl? An insecure virginal English lit student. She seems nice. She is the role to be stepped into, so we don’t want too much character intruding.

The lack of characterisation throughout reveals we are dealing with archetypes.

The lack of characterisation succeeds better here than in Twilight. I suspect because 50 Shades is purer fantasy, and somehow less absurd. A surprising sentence to write. (No sparkly vampires FTW!) There is so little context around Anastasia and Grey, whereas Twilight comes burdened with families and school and teenagery and vampires and stupidity. 50 Shades is more naked in every sense. They can just get on with the fucking.

Yes, their relationship as portrayed is pretty fucked. But how can they have a relationship? Neither of them are people, or characters. They are nothing but their roles.

My reading of the film was coloured by watching Beauty and the Beast at the French Film Festival earlier in the day. In essence, they seem the same film, the same archetypes.

The Beast is all powerful (physically, through his bestial nature, and practically, through magic) and controlling, yet cultured and refined (once a noble prince) and desirable, and tragic and messed up in some undefined way (which is the healing he seeks through Belle’s love).

Belle has only her innocence, purity and love; this disarms and redresses the power imbalance as they clash and negotiate. Her power over him grows as his need for her grows, and through love they emerge as equals.

This is a story form we have been telling for a long time. (Beauty and the Beast is a traditional story, going back hundreds of years at least.) And there is wisdom in stories, particularly the ones we tell and retell.

Does the 50 Shades series ultimately follow this arc? Is Grey ultimately healed through the relationship with Anastasia? I haven’t read them, but doubtless someone has.

When you peel away the (gasp) dominant/submissive sex angle, and the kinda fucked relationship they have, is there anything new here that we haven’t known archetypally?

So as a phenomenon this really says more about our cultural moment now, about our need to deal with sex, and the forces it unleashes in us, better, and talk about what we want like a grown up species. The funniest (and possibly most important) scene is the lengthy contract negotiation for consent for various sexual acts.

To that end it is a good thing that this is out there in the mainstream. Because porn. Because rape. Because too often guys and gals can’t talk to each other without being drunk.

That’s about all I have to say, I think.

(One tangent: watching this also makes me aware of how ghettoised we are by our demographics. We buy what is aimed at us, made for us, tailored to our predetermined tastes. We tune out the rest without even considering it. We are well trained. This applies to our consumption of media and stories. Sadly, it distorts us. What the heck is going on elsewhere? How do we know we won’t like something unless we try it? What parts of the conversation are we missing because we don’t even recognise they exist?)

After 50 Shades, we tried watching Enthiran, which turned out to be another fascinating lens to consider 50 Shades through. Enthiran is a Bollywood movie about a robot covered in human flesh a la Terminator, except instead of being a killing machine from the future, he is just the most awesome guy ever now. Another conception of the relationship between the total masculine and the feminine, filtered through another cultural lens. We only got an hour in to this, so not much to add.


Short review: Dudes. Get real drunk and see this movie. Treat it like a bad comedy. The female subconscious is giving you some hints about what it wants here. And it’s about much more than the sex.



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.

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).”



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.


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.


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.


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.

Next Page »