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).”

 

 

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. 😛

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?

 

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.

Snowpiercer

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.

Locke

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.

Timbuktu

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.

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.

 

reading log for the past few months

Have not been reading anywhere near as much of late, a combination of being kinda busy, and just not quite that motivated to read. Anyway. Here is what my diary says I read. There was other stuff too, much browsed, particularly coaching and business related.

*

All Things Must Fight To Live – Mealer

War reporting from the Congo. The war there over the past decade has claimed more lives than any conflict since World War 2. Naturally it is massively under-reported, and chances are you know next to nothing about it, as I did.

So far I have only read one 50 page chapter, but it was pretty much the most disturbing thing I have ever read. You do not want to know. (Or, if you do, I can lend you the book.) Recently I observed that Game of Thrones was a really barbaric reflection of human action. In the light of Congolese reality, GoT is a pale reflection of what humans do to each other, and are doing, right now in the world. (Of course, we can barely even report on or acknowledge what is actually happening, but we can approach such things through the remove of story and trappings of fantasy.)

 Theaetetus – Plato

The founding book of philosophy of Epistemology. Plato is quite clever, and the dialogue is a really excellent form for exploring ideas. (Yes, somehow I had never read any Plato first hand.) Still going on this.

 Cinema – Helen Rickerby

Recent book of poetry by a friend of mine. Pretty good, darker and more intense in places than I expected. I enjoyed it. If poetry is your bag, well worth a look.

The Odyssey – Homer (T E Lawrence translation)

Laboured and long-winded story telling from another age, but still pretty entertaining. Contains many familiar iconic tales, and has obviously been massively influential. Gives new meaning to deus ex machina. Glad I finally got around to it; glad when it was over.

Ragnarok – AS Byatt

Quite beautiful retelling of Norse mythology, with an oddly personal framing story about belief. Short and worthy.

The Simulacra – Philip K Dick

Really excellent PKD novel from the 60s. Uncomfortably prescient social horror, his usual reality questioning themes through a more social control lens. Read it on one sitting, good times. Though this was not one of his best prose efforts stylistically, Dick is one of the authors I can pretty much always read, though I think I may now have read all of the obvious shining jewels in his output. One of the essential authors of the modern age. Still heaps of lesser known stuff to go though, so who knows.

 Getting Started in Personal and Executive Coaching – Fairley & Stout

 Purely focused on the business side of the coaching business. Extremely useful.

 Poor Charlie’s Almanack – Charlie Munger

Read some more of this. The last lecture is the most valuable one – the summation of his insight into human psychology, and his checklist for thought. A smart insanely successful guy telling you how he thinks; well worth tracking down.

 Business Stripped Bare – Richard Branson

I never realised Virgin was such a big deal, as they never really extended into the NZ market. A refreshing take on business, in any case, by the biggest maverick fish in the pond. Worth a skim.

Annihilation – Jeff Vandermeer

Recent SF. Alright. Expedition on an exploration of a weird zone runs into weirdness. Light, easy and quick to read but sort of unsatisfying in the end. Go and read Roadside Picnic by Strugatsy instead, which is the obvious forerunner from a Russian SF in the 70s, as that is much more interesting, emotionally affective, and just better and more people should read it anyway.

The King In Yellow – Robert Chambers

Reread this classic of weird horror due to its True Detective links. The good stories are still pretty good. It must have read as completely mad at the time.

Weathercraft, Congress of the Animals, Fran – Jim Woodring

3 graphic novels featuring the inimitable Frank. The term psychedelic gets thrown around a bit too loosely, but Woodring’s art definitely falls in that category. His wordless narrations of cartoon animals in a bugfuck weird world with its own internal logic are like nothing else in art, and a definite treasure. Do yourself a favour and check it out if you are unfamiliar with his indescribable output.

Principia Discordia; or, How I Found Goddess, and What I Did To Her When I Found Her – Malaclypse the Younger

Random reread of this underground classic from the 60s. Hail Eris! Still very funny, still pretty genius, and still makes you think. You can make a religion out of anything; if you are doing it right, the good parts will flow through whatever vessel you give it.

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.

 

sunday mutants

 

been a while. why not?

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Thomas Piketty is a French economist who you have probably been hearing about, and if not, you soon will be. His book Capital is making major waves. Link takes you to a pretty useful review of it.

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Google, encryption, and the future of email.

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World population growth is declining. Rather, is growing at half the rate it was 40 years ago. Stats on avoiding the overpopulation bomb. Amusing that they pick television ownership as the correlate of fertility reduction. Buckminster Fuller pointed out around 40 years ago that population rates went down as soon as people had access to electric power (as you need less people to do things.)

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Came across this a couple weeks back: CEO of (wildly successful) Evernote app notes that apps will soon be dead as we move into wearable computing.

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Huh, just poking around in my bookmarks now. DIY solar water heater for about $30 in materials.

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Shanghai mall installs bitcoin ATM.

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Random stat from Bill Gates on Twitter: “In ’81, just 20% of the world lived on $2-$10/day. Today it’s 40%.”

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Any why not: Montana Senator shoots down drone with rifle in attack ad. Strange days.

Reading Feb/March 2014

Missed a month. I doubt anyone noticed.

 

A Life Decoded – Craig Venter

Autobiography by Venter, the scientist who led the team which sequenced the human genome, and is now the only scientist since Louis Pasteur who has his own research institute and enough funding to do whatever he wants. Fascinating insight into the process of big science – the pressures and corruption in both government and private funding – the truly other world billionaires exist in – big pharma being evil, etc. (Venter has been right at the heart of gene patenting issues, since he has identified more genes and synthesised more DNA than anyone else.) It is also an extreme introduction to the state of the art in biotechnology, as he explains what they did and how they did it (which involved inventing techniques and methods etc – forefront of science type stuff.)

Venter himself is an intense, interesting guy. Seems to deal with life crises by going on reckless dangerous boat adventures and achieving epiphanies. Definitely framed by his experiences as a medic in Vietnam. One of the people alive right now to watch, as what he does next has genuinely potential to change the world forever. Currently he is trying to synthesise life in the lab, and create custom bacteria to do useful things.

Richard Yates – Tao Lin

I didn’t finish this tale of a dysfunctional relationship between deeply dysfunctional people. The book reads like Tao Lin is probably mentally ill, and at least autistic. (So did the last one of his I read a few years back, Eeeee Eee Eeee, which I liked a lot more.) Unique prose and sensibility. Occasionally quite funny. But this one was ultimately broken and not giving enough back.

Mockingjay – Suzanne Clark

Last of the Hunger Games books, first I read, as I didn’t feel like waiting for two years and two more movies to find out how it ends. Fast easy enjoyable read. Bloody and surprising. Jennifer Lawrence nails Katniss. Definitely pleased this is mainstream, as it raises enough issues about mediated society and social control etc to make people think a little.

The Charwoman’s Shadow – Lord Dunsany

A classical fairy-tale style novel from Dunsany, steeped in old-fashioned magic and a bygone era. Gorgeously told, simple and wise. The magician is something else; a truly disturbing rendering of an archetype. He looms over the whole story, and at the end, we realise it was his all along.

ReOrient: Global Economy in the Asian Age – Andre Gunder-Frank

Had been meaning to read this for about 15 years. Economic historian argues persuasively that there has been a global economic system for hundreds if not thousands of years, which was always centred on Asia except for the blip of the past two hundred years. Further, he argues that the West’s recent success was not due to Western exceptionalism – ie not due to our values talents or character, in the process demolishing the axiomatic framework of most pillars of western social theory (Marx, Weber, etc) – but rather to the macro scale forces of the global economic system. Excellent stuff. Summation of a life’s work. Gunder-Frank probably died too soon after this came out to really push it as far as it deserves to go. The historical analysis is essential to any serious student of the world, and what is going on.

The Four Hour Body – Tim Ferriss

Life hacking to the extreme. There’s a lot in this volume, and yeah, it seems quite major changes and improvements are possible with surprisingly little effort, but the real value is the underlying philosophy of the Minimum Effective Dose, and finding out what that is for whatever it is your goals are, and just doing that. Definitely recommended for anyone into hacking their diet, fitness, health, etc.

Total I Ching – Stephen Karcher

Kind of the ultimate I Ching book from my favourite interpreter of the I Ching. Great. Though really just opens a window into another culture and world, and makes one realise how vast, complex and coherent it is, and how much further one would have to travel to really grasp it.

Enochian Vision Magick – Lon Milo DuQuette

DuQuette’s introduction to Enochian magic (part of the magical system channelled via angelic communication by Dr John Dee and Edward Kelley several hundred years ago.) Grounded, lucid, practical.

The Vision and the Voice – Aleister Crowley

Crowley’s account of performing the Enochian Aethyrs while travelling through North African desert in the early 1900s. Eye-opening.

Poor Charlie’s Almanac – Charles Munger

Sort of legendary book of business and life advice from the guy who is silent investment partner to Warren Buffet. Haven’t quite got to the meat of it yet, but definitely a sharp, if dry, mind.

[untitled]

First read through of the draft of the non-fiction book I wrote late last year which I’m not really talking much about. Pleasingly solid.

The Ebony Tower – John Fowles

Short novel. Astoundingly good piece of fiction addressing big questions about life and art and relationships and meaning and love and the intensities we experience along the way. This ranks way up there as a prose work. Highly recommended.

 

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.

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