sunday mutants (or what is going on)

This brief history of Islamic science and invention is pretty staggering and interesting.

New Scientist: Up to half of Earth’s water is older than the sun.

White privilege, explained in one simple comic.

Evolution, the next Silk Road. Where you can buy anything at all.

Bleep, bittorrents encrypted p2p chat is out.

Meanwhile, China is making islands in contested waters. So not everything that matters happens online. :P

China creating its own Christian religion to suit itself.

China will construct a “Chinese Christian theology” suitable for the country, state media reported on Thursday, as both the number of believers and tensions with the authorities are on the rise.

This interview with Lee Scratch Perry is phenomenal. Just trust me on this. It is short and fabulous.

Millenials reading more books than people over 30. Who would have thought?

https://pbs.twimg.com/tweet_video/ByZZG8yIIAAIraY.mp4

 

vote drunk: on engaging youth voters and non voters

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

late july mutants

Now this is kind of mind-blowing: Global wildlife decline driving slave labor, organized crime.

“Global decline of wildlife populations is driving increases in violent conflicts, organized crime and child labor around the world, according to a policy paper led by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley.”

Good Amazon: Amazon is making a pilot for a TV show based on Philip K Dick’s The Man in The High Castle.

Bad Amazon: about 900 writers have joined a campaign against Amazon’s treatment of Hachette. This is an interesting flashpoint in the future of publishing.

The times they are a-changing. The editorial board of the New York Times just came out for marijuana reform in America.

“It has been more than 40 years since Congress passed the current ban on marijuana, inflicting great harm on society just to prohibit a substance far less dangerous than alcohol.

The federal government should repeal the ban on marijuana.”

Oh and also, California passed a bill to legalise complementary currencies.

This one is probably the must-read of the batch, and one I will return to when I have a bit more brain focus: Evgeny Morozov on algorythmic regulation. Kinda the convergence point of smart-everything, big data, and social control.

What’s New In Social Science? EDGE curated, 10 speakers, 6 hours of video,  58000 word PDF, all free, “focusing on the state of the art of what the social sciences have to tell us about human nature”.

Saw the excellent doco “Jodorowsky’s Dune” yesterday, about the greatest movie almost made. In synchronicity, came across this quote about Frank Herbert and Dune:

Frank went on to tell me that much of the premise of Dune — the magic spice (spores) that allowed the bending of space (tripping), the giant worms (maggots digesting mushrooms), the eyes of the Freman (the cerulean blue of Psilocybe mushrooms), the mysticism of the female spiritual warriors, the Bene Gesserits (influenced by tales of Maria Sabina and the sacred mushroom cults of Mexico) — came from his perception of the fungal life cycle, and his imagination was stimulated through his experiences with the use of magic mushrooms.

Buy your own giant plush Ebola Virus toy. No, seriously.

 

 

 

And Earth just had its hottest June ever, boosted by hottest ocean temperatures.

Hmm. That may be enough for an hour and half of trawling, have a few long pieces queued up to read still…

 

midwinter mutants

Mutants trawling has been a bit erratic over the past month or so but here are some of the links that caught my eye:

Brief interview with West African shaman Malidoma Some (author of the mindblowing and hugely recommended by the moose Of Water and the Spirit) about what he experiences when visiting a Western mental hospital.

DARPA have developed a much better ARG than Google Glass: Ultra-Vis, which will soon be part of commercial offerings. Article gets deep into tech wonkery about whys and hows.

12 Data visualisations about current state of world poverty and related issues. (literacy, population growth, GDP, and the excellent “if the world were 100 people”.) Excellent.

Uber has successfully reinvented taxi’s, and transport in cities, with an interesting flexible tech driven model.

Bacteria that live on electricity

Useful summary of USA’s sanctions / financial warfare against Russia over Ukraine.

Massive pre-rainforest human-made earthworks found in the Amazon. No one has any idea.

Tao Lin delivers 30 Terence McKenna quotes. Good stuff for those familiar with McKenna and an easy entry for those who aren’t.

Fasting for three days can regenerate immune system.

 1000 years of European border changes in 3 minutes

This interview between Edward Snowden and John Perry Barlow is pretty awesome.

 

may mutants

and here are some links from the past week or so

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Curious about what the hell is actually going on in Nigeria and how kidnapping schoolgirls comes about? Check out this excellent backgrounding piece about Nigeria from a year ago, situating it in the wider war for the Sahel, among other things, and picking that everything was about to turn to shit.

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Wanna control your online data? Easy. Get an open source web server to run at home, and host all the apps you are using yourself, instead of leeching all your data away.

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Why we fear Google. Interesting open letter from a German business leader about the control and influence Google has.

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Is there any evidence rational argument changes people’s minds? Fascinating think piece.

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Extraordinary rendition of US citizens on US soil still legal, and Supreme Court refuses to hear case about it. Chris Hedges reporting about the literal slide to fascism in the USA; military can grab you and hold you indefinitely without due process.

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Oculus and Facebook want to build a billion person virtual reality massive multiplayer online game.

Just take a second to grok that.

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The IPCC’s reports were diluted under political pressure from the main fossil fuel powers.

Think about that. The IPCC warnings are already pretty damn terrifying, and this is the deliberately toned down justify doing nothing version.

 

on the NZ housing bubble and looming economic disaster

 

This article from Forbes is pretty interesting reading, essentially arguing that our economy is due to pop at some point due to our overinflated housing prices, the resulting exposure and risk our banks have, and the large borrowing National has been doing. Well worth familiarising yourself with.

reading December 2013

 

Last of the year…

Jerusalem – Guy Delisle

Cartoon diary of a French guy spending a year living in Jerusalem while his wife works for Doctors With Borders (he has done similar ones for Pyongyang, Burma, and Shenzen, which are all worthy and have been reviewed elsewhere on this blog.) Jerusalem is a strange strange place with multitudes of complex layers. The religious history and sites – and people who believe in it – all crammed together. And the surreality of modern life amid insane politics, the separation wall, violence and lies. Intense, fascinating, full of insights and observations. A charming journey; valuable if you want an experience of living in the place without having to live there.

Half the Blood of Brooklyn – Charlie Huston

Early Huston novel, kind of noir vampire stuff, tight and gritty and rockets along, but much less interesting than his excellent non-genre later stuff (Sleepless, Skinner.)

Satantango – Laszlo Krasznahorkai

Jeepers. Extraordinary Hungarian novel from the 1980s. Sort of classifiable as “reality examined to the point of madness”. Intense, dark, powerful, challenging, exhilirating. Krasznahorkai’s sentences are super long and take a while to get the hang of, but once in the prose drowns you cheerily in the endless rain and mud. A bleak apocalyptic-esque tale, an abandoned industrial estate in the countryside, and the hangers on who remain, and their chance at salvation… except it isn’t and never was. A grimy view of what people are with all the varnish removed, a superb revelation of what human is. Yet also challenging and transcendent in places, too.

Bela Tarr famously adapted this into a long slow film of the same name. I need to see it now, since I love Tarr, and cannot imagine this being filmed in any conventional fashion, and the prose is so intensely interior to the characters and their way of seeing. (Tarr also adapted Krasznahorkai’s ‘The Melancholy of Resistance’ into Werckmiester Harmonies, which is still a favourite film, so I will definitely need to track that book down, too.)

On Looking – Alexandra Horowitz

Charming miscellany, an intellectual chocolate sampler. The author walks around the block with eleven different “experts”, to learn about how they experience the same place. The experts range from a toddler, a dog, an insect specialist, an architect, a geologist, a blind person, a sound engineer, and so on, and the walks serve as a launching point for many whimsical tangents. Lightweight fun on the theme of perception, and how we limit our perception and experience.

 

***Statistics***

So apparently I have read 63 books so far this year, at least that I have blogged, not counting all the stuff I skim as research and general browsing, and a bunch of comics. 32 non-fiction, 31 fiction. Which is a better balance than I would usually expect. Has been a bit more random quick reading genre fiction this year. So it goes.

top 3′s of 2013

 

…or a half assed year in review just while it occurs to me off the top of my head and before they crop up everywhere; I am pretty culturally out of sync so this will be stuff I encountered this year maybe rather than was definitely released this year.

 

Film

1. The Act of Killing

Perhaps the most astounding, powerful and indescribable documentary – and film in general – I have ever seen. Reviewed back here. Incredible. See it.

2. War Witch (Rebelle)

Phenomenal film about a young girl forced into becoming a child soldier in Africa. And then it goes deeply weird, entering another magical yet completely grounded African reality. Wonderful, intense, bizarre.

3. John Dies at the End

Ridiculous amounts of fun from Don Coscarelli. Not actually sure when this came out but I saw it early this year. Really really fun. Reviewed back here.

 

TV

1. John From Cincinnati

Stoner surfer mystic madness. Possibly the best thing ever. Ten episodes of sheer joy. See it.

2. I think Game of Thrones is the only other thing I have watched.

 

Books

Ouch. Now this will be challenging. These are probably the three that have stayed with me and formed the basis of multiple conversations.

1. Exterminate All the Brutes – Sven Lindqvist

Incredible and unsettling account of the Western colonial expansion and genocide of Africa; and so much more. Reviewed in detail here.

2. The God Problem – Howard Bloom

Bloom is perhaps the most multidisciplinary genius thinker out there, and this is his magnum opus; a synthesis of human exploration and insight into the nature of the universe and its workings, told as a rollicking story through a historical anthropological historical scientific humanistic philosophical biological conceptual &c blend, with remarkable verve and vigour. Epic learnings.

3. Lee Kuan Yew: The Grand Master Speaks

Singapore’s eminent respected genius leader’s take on pretty much everything that matters about the current state of play in world affairs. An absolute masterclass in what is going on, from someone who knows all the key decision makers, and has been wildly successful at negotiating power at the highest levels for forty years, all in under 200 pages.

 

Music

1. 3 Organic Experiences – Aglaia

Ambient. Lush. Beautiful.

2. Ambiant Otaku – Tetsu Inoue

Ambient. Serene. Beautiful.

3. Toucan Stubbs.

Don’t know that they have released anything. Most interesting live act in Wellington at the moment. Multi-instrumentalist folk duo doing… things. Live. Wonderful things, in strange places.

 

reading October 2013

 

The Ocean at the End of the Road – Neil Gaiman

Hadn’t felt moved to read any Gaiman since American Gods, which felt like his masterwork in prose, possibly because he went very YA. Ocean is the first aimed at adults in quite a while. It is  really nice, subtle, supple and warm. Ageless and satisfying, a grown up fairytale. Somehow comfortable and unchallenging though.

The Enchantments of Flesh and Spirit – Storm Constantine

Somehow Constantine had never really came on my radar despite having written lots of books. Read this fairly randomly; it is the first of the Wraeththu books. Wraeththu are post-human, post-gender androgyne hermaphrodites (though seemingly exclusively evolved from males), who are very into their fairly different sexuality, as well as having weird magical type powers. The books explores their society as it expands and develops while humanity falls away. Really surprising how transgressive and challenging this was – and must have been more so in the 80′s – and that it is not more famous than it is. Lavishly sensual prose, all about the decor, not the story. Not literary greatness but certainly visionary, inventive and deeply weird.

From Third World to First: The Singapore Story – Lee Kuan Yew

Biography of a nation as much as of the man. Lee Kuan Yew led Singapore for 35 years – during which time they went essentially from being a third world country to a first world country – and still retains a great deal of influence. He relates the nuts and bolts of what they did, how and why, and how it panned out. It is a veritable masterclass in power, politics and pragmatism. He also tells you what he thinks of more or less every major world leader and what they were like to deal with. All up an extraordinary story, fascinating on many levels, and (along with his interview based book The Grand Master Speaks) highly recommended to anyone interested in politics and power.

This Book Is Full Of Spiders – David Wong

Sequel to John Dies At The End, which I haven’t read, but which is still pretty much the most entertaining movie I have seen all year and you should see it. In this sequel, which rockets along, our hallucinating smartass munter heroes go up against a not-quite-zombie apocalypse that may be mostly their own fault. Retarded, hilarious, occasionally quite demented, and easily the most incisive and worthwhile commentary on zombie-culture.

If you are or ever were a hallucinating smartass munter, you will love this.

-=-=-

Now most of the way through The God Problem – Howard Bloom, which is likely the most dazzling history of ideas and thought and science I have ever read, while remaining totally gripping and entertaining reading, and you should buy it and read it now.

Been reading a whole bunch of books about Wellington and NZ history as research.

-=-=-

In other media, seem to have run out of steam on Battlestar Galactica midway through the second season. Just don’t seem much to care what happens to anyone.

And watched the magnificent delirious wonderfulness that is John From Cincinnati, which has become one of my all time favourite TV shows ever, naturally canned after one season. Ten episodes of unique hilarious mindfuck bliss, rather difficult to describe. Find this and see it. You will be delighted you did.

 

Reading August 2013

Has been a juicy range of thought provoking stuff this month.

.

Lee Kuan Yew: The Grand Master Speaks

Lee Kuan Yew led Singapore for 31 years, during which time it went from being a third world country to a first world country. He is seemingly the most respected and smartest statesman alive. This book, arranged out of interviews with him, addresses his thoughts on the issues facing the modern world and its future: the US, China, US-China relations, India, Fundamentalist Islam, Globalisation, etc. Lots of exceptionally sharp insight, very highly recommended if you are interested in what is going on in the world.

23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism – Ha Joon Chang

Some pretty interesting stuff. Most striking was the claim that the internet has changed the world less than the washing machine. The washing machine freed up masses of work hours, allowed women to enter the workforce, and eliminated an entire class of domestic servants, whereas the internet is just a different delivery mechanism for many of the same things. Also, there is no such thing as a free market; rather, we accept the legitimacy of certain regulations so totally that we don’t see them. And also, wages in rich countries are determined more by immigration control than anything else – obvious when pointed out, but not obvious until then.

The Driver – Mandasue Heller

Hard to explain how I came to read this. British crime thriller set on a council estate among unemployed stoners. Easy to read but pretty empty, like bad TV or a bad movie, though with some reasonably astute character observation.

Quintessence – David Walton

Whimsical SF/F set in an alternate Elizabethan age. The Protestant Reformation is about to happen, and a ship returns from the Western edge of a flat Earth, with reports of a wondrous island. Very inventive creatures, lots of fun, light entertainment.

Cypherpunks: Freedom and the Future of the Internet – Julian Assange, Jacob Applebaum, Andy Muller-Maguhn, Jeremie Zimmerman

Highly relevant punchy call to arms dealing with online surveillance, privacy, freedom, and infrastructure; a conversation between Assange and some fairly clued up hackers. One notable quote, in light of the GCSB bill:

Intercepting all metadata means you have to build a system that physically intercepts all data and then throws everything but the metadata away. But such a system cannot be trusted. There’s no way to determine whether it is in fact intercepting and storing all data without having highly skilled engineers with authorization to go in and check out precisely what is going on, and there’s no political will to grant access.

Gets pretty techy but still lots for the casual interested reader.

Sex at Dawn: the Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality – Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha

Highly entertaining, delivers some well-needed shit-kicking-out-of to evolutionary psychology. Essential thesis is that agriculture changed everything, and that for the millions of years before that, humanity more likely lived in egalitarian hunter gatherer bands who would have shared everything, including sex, such that most adults would have had multiple sexual relationships at any one time.

The Resurrectionist – E B Hudspeth

What an odd book. A brief faux-biography of a turn of the century doctor with some weird theories, combined with a reprint of his purported masterwork, extensive anatomical (skeletons, muscles, etc) cross sections of mythical creatures.

 

currently on: Stealing Fire From The Gods – James Bonnet. Which is one of those sort of “here is the archetypal secret underlying storytelling books”. Interesting so far.

 

Still looking to get back to The God Problem.

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