Monday, December 31, 2007

More weirdness: an Erich Hönecker joke

Just when you thought this site couldn't get any stranger...this joke is from "The Lives of Others", an excellent movie from Germany about East German surveillance. Actually portrays Germans as, like, having feelings and laughing every now and again. And how was it that people went from West Berlin to East Berlin? Weird. Even though there's no doubt that East Germany was one of the most intense police states on the planet they still let people from West Berlin come over there for an afternoon or to visit family. But here's the joke:

Erich Hönecker wakes up. The sun is rising, and he goes out on his balcony. "Good Morning sun!", he says. "Good morning Erich!", the sun says back. Then at lunch time Hönecker goes outdoors and looks at the sun, "Good afternoon sun!", he says. "Good afternoon Erich!", the sun replies. Then when he's ready to go to bed Hönecker goes out on his balcony again. The sun is setting. "Good evening sun!", he says. No answer. "I said 'Good evening sun', why didn't you answer me?". The sun says "Fuck you Erich I'm in the West now!".

Hönecker was the dictator of East Germany for most of its existence.

The other joke they told was this: A guy calls another guy and says "Have you heard the new one about Hönecker?", then a voice that's not either one of theirs comes on the line and says "That's not funny!". Click. The line goes dead. Then a message comes on saying "Hang up and try again".

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Rousseau number 2

Last post I talked about Rousseau's essay "A Discourse on the Origin of Inequality", this post I'm going to quote one of my favorite paragraphs from it.

"As an unbroken steed bristles his mane, paws the ground with his hoof, and struggles violently at the mere approach of the bit, while a trained horse patiently endures the whip and the spur, barbarous man does not bow his head for the yoke that civilized man wears without a murmur, and he prefers the most stormy liberty to tranquil subjection. Thus it is not by the degradation of enslaved peoples that man's natural dispositions for or against servitude are to be judged, but by the wonders that all free peoples have accomplished to safeguard themselves from oppression. I know that enslaved peoples do nothing but boast of the peace and tranquility they enjoy in their chains and that they give the name 'peace' to the most miserable slavery. But when I see free peoples sacrificing pleasures, tranquility, wealth, power, and life itself for the preservation of this sole good which is regarded so disdainfully by those who have lost it; when I see animals born free and abhorring captivity break their heads against the bars of their prison; when I see multitudes of utterly naked savages scorn European pleasures and brave hunger, fire, sword and death, simply to preserve their independence, I sense that it is inappropriate for slaves to reason about liberty."

Rousseau part 1

Finished reading Rousseau's "Discourse on the Origin of Inequality". Am very impressed. This is one of the best written tracts justifying political revolution that I've seen, better than "Common Sense" by Thomas Paine, who is generally over rated. Many of the things that have been written about the longish paper don't make a lot of sense when you read it. First of all, the idea that Rousseau is praising a sort of "Noble Savage" doesn't really jibe with the first part of it, where he describes his idea of people living in a state of nature by asserting that things like love didn't exist back then. The idea that he advocates going back to a sort of Robinson Caruso scenario isn't right either because he points out what he considers his ideal stage of society to be and it's halfway between the original state of nature and developed society. If you take a lot of what he writes in the second section literally, especially towards the end and especially if you haven't read the first part (the thing is sometimes actually split into a "First discourse" and a "Second discourse" even though they're one paper), you could think that he was over idealizing this sort of state. He's really affectionate for it, to be sure, but some of the affection that he puts on it is a sarcastic dig at present society, which he contrasts with people living in a "savage" state. Irony and sarcasm is thick in it, like when after talking about the abuses of monarchs he quotes Louis XIV, infamous for being one of the biggest despots in European history, talking about how a King or lord is still bound by the law of the land.

I gather that what Rousseau is advocating isn't a return to nature but a popular subduing of political institutions as well as large concentrations of wealth, bringing the State under popular control and redistributing property and business/industrial wealth.

It's really strange because if you compare the Discourse with the Social Contract you'd think that they were written by two completely different people. Besides a difference in style, with the Discourse kind of flowing and the Social Contract being full of jargon, a lot of what Rousseau argues in the Social Contract seems to go against what he advocates in the Discourse. The Social Contract argues that people should give up all their rights to a legislator who will have total say in establishing a Constitution and Laws, it creates the idea of crimes against the social contract by people who don't believe in it, and it contains the infamous passage about "forcing people to be free" by coercing them to buy into the Social Contract.

Maybe "Le Contrat Social" will make more sense as the work of the same guy who wrote the Discourse if I reread it.

But check out the Discourse on the Origin of Inequality. Available online for free.

Aleister Crowley's instructions on performing the XI degree of the O.T.O.

Which deals with homosexual magic.

This comes from a document written by Crowley which is obscure but, well, available indirectly online. You have to know exactly what you're looking for, and it's really difficult to find, which is why I'm reproducing it and posting it here.


Eleventh Degree

1. The Hiding of the Man within the Coils of the Dragon.


2. The release from the thralldom of human instinct


3. The Image: Guard then this precious talisman within the fortress of thine consecrated image of the god. Deem to all things sacred unto his form and let this envelope the body of thy Brother.
4. The Mantra : Choose the song closest to thy Heart.
5. The Sacrifice: all then gone but the divine form upon the horizon of thy consciousness, let the physical host also flow freely into the body of thy Brother.
6. The Black Circle: Absorbed in this union - the two become One are are free within the limits of the united Will to achieve whatsoever they may desire.
Freed by the individual death - in this divine darkness as knowledge is given as a gift from the Dragon - the manifestation is, as always -


Under the Seal of the Gnosis


Invocatio Astrum Occultum

Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law

-Being an Invocation of the Bornless Spirit-

Bhutto's successor?!

Time magazine online is profiling Bilawal Bhutto, Benazir Bhutto's son, calling him the heir apparent to her political party. Besides the fact that he's 19 years old and a college student, I thought that Pakistan was a democracy not a pseudo monarchy. 'Heir apparent', shouldn't it be the people of Pakistan itself who determine who and what they want in their government? Or does the media see, in their eulogizing of the Imelda Marcos of Pakistan, some sort of righteous succession happening, perhaps like that of a crusading prophet?

Who gives a damn what this little fuck is up to?

I sure as hell don't, and it's an insult to the people of Pakistan to think that they automatically will stand in line supporting a U.S. lead dynastic succession.

In the U.S. we write quirky stories about 19 year olds who manage to become mayors of small towns. Why in the world would we or anyone else want a 19 year old as president of a major nuclear power?

Saturday, December 29, 2007

If it wasn't for Hillary Clinton's vote on Iraq, Kim Jong-Il would have embraced free market capitalism

Because by voting to start the war in Iraq, Hillary caused the Communist dictator to retrench himself in the face of increasing U.S. belligerence. If this seems unlikely I have only to refer you to the recent comments of Barack Obama, where he connects the assasination of Benazir Bhutto to Hillary's vote on Iraq through the destabilizing force of the Iraq war on Pakistan, through, um, creating more militant Islamists or something.

If Hillary had voted the way Obama voted, North Korea would be a haven for investors and full unfettered capitalism, but since she didn't, Obama has the upper hand in pursuing a policy that would have ultimately freed Korea.

Yay Obama! (Vote in your caucuses in Iowa, you know, for, well, you know who you want to vote for).

Friday, December 28, 2007

Obama sets up a free speech zone in South Carolina

From "The Progressive" (title link) "Obama Campaign in South Carolina Causes Row Over Free Speech Zone" By Matthew Rothschild:

"One of Barack Obama’s slogans is “Turn the Page,” but his campaign seemed to take a page from George Bush on December 9 in South Carolina.

That Sunday afternoon, Obama and Oprah were about to speak at University of South Carolina stadium.

A crowd of about 30,000 was entering.

And three demonstrators against nuclear power were carrying signs to warn of the risk that nuclear waste might be dumped in South Carolina in an Obama Administration.

“Obama, Please Oppose a Nuclear Dump in S.C.,” one sign read.


“A couple of people with the Obama campaign said, ‘You can’t take those signs in.’ And we said, ‘Oh, we know, we’re going to stand outside.’ Then the Obama staff told us we had to leave the property,” Minerd says.

“I said, ‘This is public property, and I should be allowed to be here.’ But they repeated their line, and added: ‘If you want to hold your signs, you can go to the Budweiser sign, which is on the Budweiser building three blocks away.’ So I said, ‘Oh, you’ve got a free speech zone set up just like the Bush Administration.’ I couldn’t believe they were acting like Bush.”

Minerd and Clements, who were standing together, decided not to move. Then the cops came.

According to Minerd, the police told them the stadium had been rented by the Obama campaign. “It was private property for the day, and we had to leave,” they said, according to Minerd. She says the police had patches on their sleeves to cover up their names.

“So then we stood on the other side of the bushes over the fence,” she says, “and they told us, ‘The bushes belong to USC also and you have to completely get off the property.’ And we went across the street, and we just stood there on the sidewalk.”


The activists believe they were discriminated against on the basis of the content of their signs, since they say there were people wearing “Clean Coal” T-shirts who were handing out material, and these people weren’t hassled by campaign staff or the police.


I went across, and a USC cop hustled after me. This guy was larger than me, and was threatening to arrest me.”

But that’s not all, she says.

“Once I was behind the TV trucks, that’s when he took to shoving me with his chest,” says Cooper.

“I said, ‘What the fuck are you doing shoving a lady over 50?’

“I’m being nice to you today. I’m in a good mood, I’m not going to arrest you,” he responded, according to Cooper, who says she was physically assaulted."

Turn a new page Obama! Hypocrite, hypocrite, hypocrite. And now he's harping his only concrete recorded legislative achievement over Clinton, his vote against the Iraq war, in relation to Ms. Bhutto's death: According to This story on the ABC News website, "In a wide-ranging, free-wheeling interview with Democratic presidential hopeful John Edwards with ABC News Friday afternoon, the former North Carolina senator labeled "ridiculous" comments made by the Obama campaign that seemed to link former Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto's assassination to Sen. Hillary Clinton's vote to authorize the use of force against Iraq."

Turn it, turn it!

Sometimes I think the below mentioned de Sade should be required reading for people too willing to believe in people's good intentions.

More good critical coverage of Bhutto from Counterpunch

(title link) "Killing Bhutto: by Omer Subhani: "1. I have to start off with my recent perceptions of her. She was a corrupt politician who was more interested in her political legacy than in the welfare of her nation and people. President Bush said today that Bhutto was someone who fought against terrorism. She did so, conveniently, post 9-11. During the mid 1990s she was openly pro-Taliban as the Pakistani government was one of the few nations in the world that recognized that neo-Khawarij regime.


"3. I was surprised somewhat by the coverage of Bhutto in the US press this morning. CNN changed her picture three times this morning around 8:45 AM. Every picture tried to portray her as some sort of fallen angel. Again, this is a woman who sold out her people in order to increase her bank account as well as killing her political opponents.


5. I am disgusted with the US media. Their coverage of Bhutto as some sort of martyr is despicable and inappropriate. Man, she really did a good job of portraying herself as some sort of beacon of hope for Pakistan. This woman was liable to be arrested at any moment by Interpol because of all the money laundering she and her husband were involved in with 3 to 4 different countries. She was a crook, plain and simple, yet our wonderful press is making her out to be the next Mother Teresa. This is like if Michael Vick was trying to run for Senator of Georgia ten years from now and then he was murdered and all anyone was talking about was how great a football player he was without any mention of his dog fighting crimes. This is so Orwellian."

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Just finished reading "Justine" by the Marquis de Sade

What can you say about a book that attempts to destroy any faith you have in human nature? De Sade's books are often referenced but rarely read, and when read rarely read from start to finish, so I.....and I'm talking like de Sade writes now....endeavored to do the task that so many had talked about but so few had done.

Well. It's not an erotic novel, more like an anti-erotic novel. The story itself is about a girl who's orphaned at a young age but who has an inflexible religious instinct, who finds herself thrust into situations because of her misfortune that compromise her virtue but who nonetheless remains pure to herself and to her faith. Really, though, the book is a series of philosophical monologues with illustrative situations accompanying them that present Sade's criticism of society.

His The best philosophical monologue in the entire book comes at its absolute worst point, where Justine is trapped at a Benedictine monastery that's been created to confine monks that have shown themselves to be extremely perverse, and who have lots of money in their families.

I'm sort of in shock by the whole thing, and can't formulate a really good response at the moment. I'll write more, dear friend, have no fears about that.

An interesting tidbit about Robert Anton Wilson---he despised democracy

Sound strange that the prophet of personal freedom and Discordianism, of a certain type of anarchist spirit, could in fact dislike what the whole thing is based on? Read here some quotes from the man himself regarding the subject from his introduction to the book "Undoing yourself with Energized Meditation":

"The one sure way to make yourself unpopular in the United States these days is to mention the fact that Christianity and Democracy have been among the worst disasters to ever befall the human race."

"In Social and Cultural Dynamics, and other works, Sorokin documents beyond all doubt that democratic nations have been involved in more imperialistic wars, and have fought them with greater ferocity, than any other kinds of governments, from the dawn of civilization to the present. Oriental despotisms, absolute monarchies, even modern fascist and communist nations have all had heinous records of tyranny and general human oppression, but collectively they have been much less aggressive and war-like than the democracies, from ancient Athens to modern America"

This is literally on the first page of the book beyond the table of contents and dedications.

RAW, the counter culture hero, is honestly asserting here that modern democratic states are more blood thirsty than Hitler's Third Reich.

I guess he believed in liberty for me but not for thee. Isn't that the definition of a hypocrite?

Benazir Bhutto assassinated, Musharaff is probably smirking

Since he in all likelihood ordered it.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Cost of the high tech industry

Seattle's famous for its software and internet industry. People are given all they need to be creative, to expand their ability to come up with new ideas that can earn lots of money. Millionaires, both here and in Silicon Valley, are made through successful innovation. But while workers here are pampered with every extravagance, from flex time on down, the people who make the chips and assemble the components that their prosperity is based on don't do quite as well.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics(1), the mean wage of semiconductor workers across the U.S. is $16.70 an hour, with the mean wage in California being $18.35. But according to an article in the "Global Workforce Report" (2), a Human Resources publication, coming from November 19th of this year, there was an 80% "wage differential" between Chinese workers and U.S. workers. What this means is that the Chinese workers made 20% of what the U.S. workers made, or $3.34 an hour when compared to the national mean wage.

A recent article in "The Mail", a very mainstream English newspaper, reported(3) that the workers assembling Apple products including IPods, which is less of an elite job than manufacturing the chips themselves, made $53 a month at one plant for 15 hour days and $107 a month at another plant.

Flex time and compensation for creativity is at its heart made possible by slave labor wages, where the most skilled laborers are paid less than the U.S. minimum wage.

The relationship between the costs of chips and the wages of programmers is simple: the more expensive computer equipment and by extension the internet is to acquire and run the more computers remain a specialty item with less of a market, and the more of an upscale item they are the less programming companies can hope to make by selling their software, and the less they can then afford to pay their programmers. But because of a crash in the cost of computer equipment through offshoring the manufacturing process computers are available for everyone, able to do more than ever, are replacing CD players, are being used for more and more in upscale workplaces.
Computers are cheap as hell, with amounts of memory and processing power that were unthinkable just a few years ago, gigabytes of internal memory, hundreds of gigabytes of external storage. High technology, for sure, but doesn't high technology eventually price itself out through increasing the cost of making it to a point where it isn't feasible? That doesn't seem to be happening, and there you may have the result of globalization and the race to the bottom.

If computer manufacturers had to pay a decent price for the costs of their products the tech industry would be less inclined to grant extravagant indulgences for a privileged few workers.

From Nihilism to positive philosophy

Nihilism is great. Nihilism is cool and sexy. But it isn't a philosophical dead end, as some people think. Instead, even if you believe in nothing, there are ways of getting at things that you believe in that can shed light on what your philosophy beyond nihilism is.

What particularly don't you believe in? For example, you don't believe in organized religion or Christianity. What exactly do you think is wrong with it? It's oppressive for the individual and has been a way of maintaining social control by elites for centuries. Ok, so you don't like the oppression of individuality and you don't like elites making and enforcing doctrines that keep people controlled. That means that you like individuality and that you want some sort of system where people in power don't have the opportunity to keep people in line with some sort of religion or ideology.

So right there you have two examples of some general things that you believe are good, things defined positively in the sense of "I generally like this idea", as opposed to negatively, which would be "I don't like this thing".

You can examine yourself and essentially look at what pisses you off to find out what you'd like to replace it with. You probably won't have specific answers to the questions of how exactly the stuff you'd like to replace it with, like individual freedom from social control, can manifest in the external world, but it's a step towards figuring out for yourself how that can be and then figuring out how to take steps to actualize it in reailty or to fight for some sort of change in society that accomplishes what you think is right.

This idea isn't new with me; it comes from Herbert Marcuse, radical theorist, who described a process like this in his book "One Dimensional Man", which is still in print.

How America is a Neo-Colonial power

Neo-colonialism was a term coined by Kwame Nkrumah to refer to countries that, while not occupying other coutnries directly, exerts decisive influence over their economic and political life. Originally the term referred to ex-colonial powers using corporations and diplomacy to maintain control over their former possessions, but can be expanded to refer to countries that have never occupied the states that they're exerting influence over. Both the U.S. and the Soviet Union exhibited characteristics of neo-colonial powers, and looking at the Soviet Union's method sheds light on how the United States draws countries into their neo-colonial fold.

Back in the Cold War a country was said to be starting to come under Soviet influence when they took steps to change their economy to one resembling the Soviet Union. This usually went beyond some sort of general socialist policy into adopting central planning resembling that used in the Soviet Union. Then there'd be economic treaties between the two countries, then mutual defence assistance and foreign aid for economic development. Buying into a series of Soviet centric treaties and international organizations was kind of the last step before formally acknowledging the Soviet Union as a fraternal state.

Look at what the U.S. does with promoting neoliberalism. Neoliberalism as formulated in the United States, stemming from the Chicago school of economics headed by Milton Friedman, is very unique. It's something that leaves definite traces if a country adopts the sorts of policies they promote. So when a country liberalizes their economy through applying the ideas of the Chicago school they buy into the U.S.'s economic model, just as a specific type of central planning indicated buying into the Soviet Union's economic model. Then there come military bases, formal economic treaties, mutual defense agreements, then political decisionmaking pledged to harmony with the U.S.'s interests, with explicit endorsement of the U.S.'s policy view of the world.

Neoliberalism and the new "Global War on Terror", and countries responses to U.S. lead initiatives regarding them, provide many examples of how U.S influence percolates over countries, with certain states in Central Asia becoming somewhat virtual colonies of the U.S. in political terms while certain countries in South America and elsewhere, for instance Peru, where NAFTA is being expanded to, provide examples of the U.S. lead economic neocolonial influence.

The U.S. directs its empire from afar, not occupying countries in most cases, but an overseas empire forged thrugh virtual bonds of domination exists nonetheless.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Airport cops look at your expression to see if you're a terrorist, cite 1% total arrest rate

Which of course means that stone cold terrorists who don't have guilty expressions will be able to get through airport security just fine, while people who don't like cops, are nervous talking to cops, or who the cops, being racist or just not liking a person, classify as being "evasive", will be targeted and singled out. Don't like the idea of Guantanamo? Think that airport security people are fascists who wouldn't mind doing bad things to you? Don't like Bush? Well you just earned yourself some extra scrutiny due to some facial tick giving away your concern that these people will put you in a hole because you dislike the current regime.

Here's some quotes from the story (title link leads to it):

"The officers ask simple questions:

"How are you today?"

"Where are you heading?"

"Is this all your property?"

"It's almost irrelevant what your answers are," Maccario said. "It's more relevant how you respond. Vague, evasive responses -- fear shows itself. When you do this long enough, you see it right away."

You can see the guilty look in their eyes!

"Since January 2006, behavior-detection officers have referred about 70,000 people for secondary screening, Maccario said. Of those, about 600 to 700 were arrested on a variety of charges, including possession of drugs, weapons violations and outstanding warrants.

Maccario will not say whether the teams have disrupted any terrorist operations. But he did say that there are active counterterrorism investigations under way that began with referrals from the program."

70,000 people were singled out for scrutiny, between 600 and 700 were arrested, that leads to a success rate of between .86% and 1%, with the vast majority probably being drugs and weapons charges, or warrants. What a fucking success. Can the other 99%-99.14% of people wrongly singled out ask for an apology?

An X-Mas post: Voltaire on tolerance

From "The Philosophical Dictionary":

WHAT is tolerance? it is the consequence of humanity. We are all formed of frailty and error; let us pardon reciprocally each other's folly--that is the first law of nature.
It is clear that the individual who persecutes a man, his brother, because he is not of the same opinion, is a monster. That admits of no difficulty. But the government! but the magistrates! but the princes! how do they treat those who have another worship than theirs? If they are powerful strangers, it is certain that a prince will make an alliance with them. Franois I., very Christian, will unite with Mussulmans against Charles V., very Catholic. Francois I. will give money to the Lutherans of Germany to support them in their revolt against the emperor; but, in accordance with custom, he will start by having Lutherans burned at home. For political reasons he pays them in Saxony; for political reasons he burns them in Paris. But what will happen? Persecutions make proselytes? Soon France will be full of new Protestants. At first they will let themselves be hanged, later they in their turn will hang. There will be civil wars, then will come the St. Bartholomew; and this corner of the world will be worse than all that the ancients and moderns have ever told of hell.

Madmen, who have never been able to give worship to the God who made you! Miscreants, whom the example of the Noachides, the learned Chinese, the Parsees and all the sages, has never been able to lead! Monsters, who need superstitions as crows' gizzards need carrion! you have been told it already, and there is nothing else to tell you-if you have two religions in your countries, they will cut each other's throat ; if you have thirty religions, they will dwell in peace. Look at the great Turk, he governs Guebres, Banians, Creek Christians, Nestorians, Romans. The first who tried to stir up tumult would be impaled; and everyone is tranquil.

Of all religions, the Christian is without doubt the one which should inspire tolerance most, although up to now the Christians have been the most intolerant of all men. The Christian Church was divided in its cradle, and was divided even in the persecutions which under the first emperors it sometimes endured. Often the martyr was regarded as an apostate by his brethren, and the Carpocratian Christian expired beneath the sword of the Roman executioners, excommunicated by the Ebionite Christian, the which Ebionite was anathema to the Sabellian.

This horrible discord, which has lasted for so many centuries, is a very striking lesson that we should pardon each other's errors; discord is the great ill of mankind; and tolerance is the only remedy for it.

There is nobody who is not in agreement with this truth, whether he meditates soberly in his study, or peaceably examines the truth with his friends. Why then do the same men who admit in private indulgence, kindness, justice, rise in public with so much fury against these virtues? Why? it is that their own interest is their god, and that they sacrifice everything to this monster that they worship.

I possess a dignity and a power founded on ignorance and credulity; I walk on the heads of the men who lie prostrate at my feet; if they should rise and look me in the face, I am lost; I must bind them to the ground, therefore, with iron chains.

Thus have reasoned the men whom centuries of bigotry have made powerful. They have other powerful men beneath them, and these have still others, who all enrich themselves with the spoils of the poor, grow fat on their blood, and laugh at their stupidity. They all detest tolerance, as partisans grown rich at the public expense fear to render their accounts, and as tyrants dread the word liberty. And then, to crown everything, they hire fanatics to cry at the top of their voices : " Respect my master's absurdities, tremble, pay, and keep your mouths shut."

It is thus that a great part of the world long was treated; but today when so many sects make a balance of power, what course to take with them? Every sect, as one knows, is a ground of error; there are no sects of geometers, algebraists, arithmeticians, because all the propositions of geometry, algebra and arithmetic are true. In every other science one may be deceived. What Thomist or Scotist theologian would dare say seriously that he is sure of his case?

If it were permitted to reason consistently in religious matters, it is clear that we all ought to become Jews, because Jesus Christ our Saviour was born a Jew, lived a Jew, died a Jew, and that he said expressly that he was accomplishing, that he was fulfilling the Jewish religion. But it is clearer still that we ought to be tolerant of one another, because we are all weak, inconsistent, liable to fickleness and error. Shall a reed laid low in the mud by the wind say to a fellow reed fallen in the opposite direction : " Crawl as I crawl, wretch, or I shall petiion that you be torn up by the roots and burned? "

Monday, December 24, 2007

Marx can be seen in either two ways:

As the producer of an infinitely right doctrine that has to be believed in to the exclusion of other ideas or as an interesting sociologist and political thinker, one among many on the left, who has some good ideas, some bad ideas, some good insights, some bad insights. I prefer to see Marx in the latter light, and so have no concerns about quoting him etc... The smart Marxists out there see him and other revolutionary figures in the same light, modifiable by practical concerns as well, even if the people they admire were authoritarian in some ways.

A topical paragraph for today from "The Class Struggles in France"

By Marx. One of his lesser known works about the Revolution of 1848 and after in France:

"The July monarchy was nothing other than a joint-stock company for the exploitation of France's national wealth, the dividends of which were divided among ministers, Chambers, 240,000 voters, and their adherents. Louis Philippe was the director of this company---Robert Macaire [note by David McLellan "A stage character noted for swindling"] on the throne. Trade, industry, agriculture, shipping, the interests of the industrial bourgeoisie, were bound to be continually endangered and prejudiced under this system. Cheap government, gouvernement a bon marche, was what it had inscribed in the July days on its banner."

He loved Big Brother: Military hiring "Deprogrammers" for Iraqi prison population

From "Rawstory"(title link):

"The Pentagon is looking for experts in psychology, religion and education to aid its efforts on "the battlefield of the mind," as the military struggles to reform roughly 25,000 Iraqi prisoners in custody across the country the US invaded nearly five years ago."


""Part of the program will involve small detainee groups, possibly led by an Iraqi cleric and a behavioral scientist, 'undergoing enlightenment, deprogramming and de-radicalization sessions' for six weeks," Pincus reports."

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Great "Get Your War On" about Afghanistan

Which, as Ted Rall points out, seems to be the war that cuts the wheat from the chaff. If you remember back to the days after 9/11 and the debate and deliberation to go to war with Afghanistan you'll recall that there wasn't any legal grounds for it, it violated international law on several fronts, was punitive against the people of Afghanistan for something they had nothing to do with, and came at a time when the predicted harvest for the winter fell below the level needed to feed people. Afghanistan's population was relying on international aid for food, aid that was disrupted by the war. Thankfully the harvest turned out to be greater than expected, but if the predictions had been correct not only would the Afghan people be bombed and their country invaded but they would have faced mass starvation as well. Not that the Bush administration cared about any of that.

Here's the comic:

"Trees" an experimental film, and how I shot it.

I made it maybe four and a half years ago. Anyone can shoot it, which is why I'm giving instructions on how I did it and how you can do it.

I got my hands on a VHS camcorder and was experimenting shooting things in nature when I started filming trees and noticed that the really beautiful parts of them were the outer branches where the leaves and the small branches intersected each other and the light played between them. It's like a web. So, I started zooming in on this particular feature of trees, then as I started moving around, trying to get a fully picture of the whole, I noticed that the web of branches and leaves that I was shooting would change with my perspective but that the new arrangements that presented themselves were often beautiful in the same way that the original arrangement was beautiful. The thing that made that possible was the subtraction of the rest of the tree from the shot. All you saw in these were arrangements of branches changing into different arrangements of branches. So I got the idea of making a film that was just branches turning into other branches, but the problem was that if you went around a specific tree you could tell that one set of branches somewhat derived from the previous one, although they presented new features. There was a broad walkway where I lived that was lined with tall trees and that went on for quite a ways. This presented a solution to the problem.

What I did was to photograph, or film, the branches of the trees from the perspective of someone walking along the path, zooming in on a particular section and just walking with the camera, which meant that I caught the different angles of both one tree and then the intersections of two trees and then the angles of another tree and so on without making it redundant, because things were constantly changing. If I shot it right you couldn't tell where the branches of one tree stopped and the branches of another tree began, so it looked like one very long shot of branch arrangements morphing into other branch arrangements with no particular order to them. I zoomed in on one patch and walked very slow, so that you could gradually see the branch arrangements shifting into other branch arrangements, without it overwhelming the viewer. I kept the focus the same so that when I started moving it would be apparent that I wasn't zooming in on one particular part of the arrangement but getting the whole, and representing the whole and the whole's transformation into other whole scenes of branches.

What this produced was a very beautiful abstract film with eye pleasing arrangements, that you could tell were branches but where you didn't see the whole trees, shifting into one another. Oh, and I didn't zoom in so much that you could see every detail, I kept the zoom far enough out so that it wasn't ultra clear what I was shooting, with leaves kind of indistinct instead of crisp.

You could tell it was branches, but you could also tell that the arrangements, the color, and the lighting, were what made it beautiful, and what made the transformations so interesting.

Reflecting back on it two things come to mind: first, the question of what exactly made these essentially abstract arrangements evoke the feeling of beauty? What was so pleasing that it captured the moment and the feeling and extended it through the film? And secondly: that it didn't really have to be trees that I was photographing or filming in order to create this effect. The source material could be anything that had pleasing, complex, patterns that you could photograph moving and transforming from one to the other, like types of sidewalk with small rocks in it, or wood grain, provided that the picture was zoomed in enough so that the automatic responses that we have when seeing whatever it is are defeated by unfamiliar detail. Everyone knows what wood grain looks like, the challenge in photographing that would be to zoom in and shift the camera in a way so that no one knows what the hell you're photographing, or they at least don't get stuck on it and so appreciate the forms that they're seeing.

The question about what makes a picture or a pattern evoke a feeling of beauty from an observer is one that I'm concerned over, because beauty isn't something that people usually associate with abstract art even if they can appreciate the piece of art in other ways. It isn't symmetry because symmetry is sterile, and it isn't rounded forms because rounded forms on their own are too predictable as well, but a sort of irregular combination of the two, with things that are almost, but not quite symmetrical interacting with somewhat curvy shapes, or even being curved themselves and sort of in line with each other. But all of this simplifies it too much. I doubt that you can build some pattern that evokes the feeling of beauty from the so-called basic shapes or basic lines or types of rounded forms on their own. Lines don't exist in nature in pure forms, neither do circles, and beauty comes from patterns that have a great deal of complexity that doesn't follow any of the primal forms to a 'T'.

*on edit: here's an example of how things that are commonplace can be beautiful:

Beautiful scum

It's a picture of a dirty dish with dried salad dressing in my sink.

The catch with abstract art, which you should know before attempting to display things you make to the public in general, is that if it's simple to make then what you make has to be damned good abstract art in order to be taken seriously.

If a technique looks like a child could make it without knowing much about art this means that to be successful your piece has to apply the technique in a precise and considered way that rises above randomness, so that when you really look at it you realize that, no, a child couldn't do this.

Friday, December 21, 2007

The further gospel according to Henry Miller

From Tropic of Capricorn:

"Just as the city itself had become a huge tomb in which men struggled to earn decent death so my own life came to resemble a tomb which is was constructing out of my own death. I was walking around in a stone forest the center of which was chaos; sometimes in the dead center, in the very heart of chaos, I danced or drank myself silly, or I made love, or I befriended some one, or I planned a new life, but it was all chaos, all stone, and all hopeless and bewildering. Until the time when I would encounter a force strong enough to whirl me out of this mad stone forest no life would be possible for me nor could one page be written which would have meaning.

If I longed for destruction it was merely that this eye might be extinguished. I longed for an earthquake, for some cataclysm of nature which would plunge the lighthouse in the sea. I wanted a metamorphosis, a change to fish, to leviathan, to destroyer. I wanted the earth to open up, to swallow everything in one engulfing yawn. I wanted to see the city buried fathoms deep in the bosom of the sea. I wanted to sit in a cave and read by candlelight. I wanted that eye extinguished so that I might have a chance to know my own body, my own desires. I wanted to be alone for a thousand years in order to reflect on what I had seen and heard--and in order to forget. I wanted something of the earth which was not of man's doing, something absolutely divorced from the human of which I was surfeited. I wanted something purely terrestrial and absolutely divested of idea. I wanted to feel the blood running back into my veins, even at the cost of annihilation. I wanted to shake the stone and the light out of my system. I wanted the dark fecundity of nature, the deep well of the womb, silence, or else the lapping of the black waters of death. I wanted to be that night which the remorseless eye illuminated, a night diapered with stars and trailing comets. To be of night so frighteningly silent, so utterly incomprehensible and eloquent at the same time. Never more to speak or to listen or to think. to be englobed and to encompass and to englobe at the same time. No more pity, no more tenderness. To be human only terrestrially, like a plant or a worm or a brook. To be decomposed, divested of light and stone, variable as the molecule, durable as the atom, heartless as the earth itself."

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Os Mutantes: Live at the Barbican Theatre CD

The CD is a recording of the seminal Brazilian psychedelic band's reunion tour in 2006, specifically their London performance at the Tropicalia festival. I saw them in Seattle in the same tour and it had to be one of the best performances that I've seen in my life. Words almost fail me, well not quite, but almost. This recording, which is nicely a double CD for the price of a single, is not quite as good as the Seattle show, but still representative of the Mutantes reunion tour.

In Seattle, Sergio Dias, the lead guitarist and somewhat leader of the band, specifically tried to out Hendrix Hendrix, who they made reference to and who was from Seattle. Outfitted in 18th century Portugese formal dress Dias succeeded in this quest. His solos were so good that I couldn't believe that a) I was hearing it live, and b) that I was hearing music like this at all. Dias no doubt knows Jazz guitar and Bossa Nova in addition to Blues and Rock through growing up in Brazil, and he put all this knowledge to good use to play in a way that brought the house down.

But Mutantes is more than Dias. It's sort of a disservice just to focus on him, but while writing this particular post I don't have that much time, so I'll focus on the band as a whole in a new post.

The one sad part was Dias' brother Arnoldo, who unfortunately became a casualty of LSD during the '70s. He's the keyboardist and sometimes vocalist and it was painfully obvious that his mind had been hurt by the substance and that he wasn't the same because of it. It's always painful to see that, and heartbreaking. In fact, I'm going to write a post about the phenomenon of LSD and other psychedelics causing some permanent damage in some people, while being very, very good and insightful for others, in relation to the critical Timothy Leary biography that I've been reading by Greenfield, can't remember the first name now, who was a counterculturalist and politico during the time but who has turned into a very thorough, serious, biographer of figures like these.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Zé do Caixão trilogy by Fantoma, review

Three movies from the Brazillian horror Meistro Jose Mojica Marins, out on DVD by Fantoma, unfortunately going out of print late in January. "At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul", "This Night I'll Possess your Corpse", and "Awakening of the Beast".

Zé do Caixão is the name of the character that director Marins plays in the films, whose name translates out into "Joe of the Coffins", sometimes less poetically rendered as "Coffin Joe".

Of the three films "At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul" is very, very, good, "This Night I'll Possess your Corpse" is not so good, and "Awakening of the Beast" is good for a very different reason than "At Midnight".

The first two films are part of the same series, the third of which has yet to be made, while "Awakening of the Beast" is typical of later Zé films in that he plays a less direct role and Marins appears as himself in part of it, as the person who invented Zé do Caixão.

Zé is an undertaker, hence his association with coffins, in a small Brazilian town. In "Midnight" it's revealed that he scorns religion, both Christianity and darker ones included, believes in nothing, and is very psychotic. He murders his wife because she's infertile, because he believes that without an afterlife kids are the only continuity a person can have, then tries to assault his best friend's wife to be, who he likes instead of his own, then kills her fiance, then kills a doctor that gets suspicious, all the while terrorizing the town through his willingness to attack anyone who doesn't like the fact that he's killed all these people. The difference between this and a thousand other horror films is that Zé's motivation and reasoning are portrayed as being plausible, if twisted, in the same way as Norman Bates' thinking is understandable yet disturbed.

In fact "Psycho" was a movie that came to mind a few times while watching "Midnight". Despite the list of killings, the pace of the movie is pretty slow, with a lot of character development. Zé doesn't randomly kill people and he doesn't make a show of it, concealing what he's doing until the end of the film. He actually has a personality, and is shown to be the kind of bully who terrorizes a place while daring the people to do something about it. And when they try to do something about it he does very bad things to them despite being somewhat small in terms of muscles, which intimidates them even more. Less a horror film than a psychological thriller until the end, it's well written and well shot. For being made in 1964 it's really ahead of its time, and most definitely leaps out of the category of Brazilian cult film and into the horror canon in its own right.

Which you can't say about its sequel "This night I'll Possess your Corpse". Instead of the formula that Marins used before, "Possess" falls into the category of cheesy horror movie. Still in the same small town after the climax of "Midnight", Zé now has a deformed, humpbacked assistant named Raul, and is still pursuing his dream of passing on his bloodline, through criminal means. But something happens, and that something is that he finds a woman that meets his criteria who willingly likes him and shares his philosophy. Enter the curse of declining dramatic tension. While Marins tries to make up for the lack of plot and character development through the use of animals like spiders and snakes and a really good color sequence taking place in Hell, it still can't save the film from occupying a lower level of cinema than that of "Midnight".

"Awakening of the Beast" is altogether different. The premise is that a psychiatric researcher is doing a project to determine if drug use, particularly LSD use, leads to other kinds of criminal behavior. Marins is called in during a discussion between the researcher and a critical colleague for purposes that until the end are not specified. The film consists of accounts derived from news paper articles of crazy and sometimes sadistic things that people have done under the influence of drugs followed by the stories of the trips that the researcher induced in his four subjects. Then there's the unifying factor, which includes Marins, and which I'm not going to disclose, which is revealed at the end.

The drug accounts from the paper are funny, bizarre, sometimes twisted, and generally out of the tradition of "Reefer Madness" type films. They all seem to have related sexual fetishism in them as well, which is funny and weirdly entertaining. The trips are rendered very very interestingly. Very fantastic and colorful, to the point where it's hard to describe them, but they feature a staircase lined with people that a character walks down, a giant spider with a woman's head, strange demons in masks surrounding one of the trippers, a Brazillian Indian leading white and black people in slave collars and chains through a warehouse filled with statues and statue parts, and more. What makes it really good is that in all four of the trips Zé appears and discourses at great length on his philosophy, which has become more metaphysical since the previous films. Often called an "Evil Philosopher" because of statements like these, they're not cheesy, at least not in this one, but thoughtful in a kind of creepy way. His statement on art and psychology is the one that I most enjoyed.

Not a horror film in the usual sense so much as a trip into weirdness and the bizarre, "Awakening of the Beast" comes recommended.

Jesus Christ, listening to people talk about Karma makes me want to recommend the Bhagavad Gita to them

Because their idea of what the Indian notion of Karma is is really off. In particular, a recent radio show interviewed a guy talking about past life regression. Very shady area. But the scenarios of past lives, karma, and what people are "paying for" in this life is really hilarious. It's hilarious in part because what they're putting forward is a light and syrup version of Christianity, Protestant Christianity in particular, projected backwards in time through generations. This guy said that a certain minor actress was paying for karma incurred in a past life as a Roman Gladiator who was sad that he was successful. If you look at the Bhagavad-Gita, the "Song of God", it's a dialogue between Krishna and Arjuna on the eve of a battle between two sides connected through familial links, and Arjuna, who would command one of the sides, doesn't want to fight because it will mean brother slaughtering brother and cousins killing cousins.

Krishna says not to worry because the essence of a person can never be created or destroyed and that doing your duty is the most important thing of all. So here you have the seminal Hindu text saying that pacifism isn't always the right option, the religion of Ghandi saying in a text much more revered than Ghandi that warriors killing in battle because it's their job won't inflict much negative karma on themselves because doing your duty is your karmic destiny.

I say this not to advocate people going out there and killing people but just to say that this vision of Karma is so far removed from what New Age people think Karma is about that the two concepts are almost completely different. And if you say that killing in war is the fulfillment of your personal karma they'd freak out and say that you're a very bad, bad, man or woman.

Yet the Indians are the people who originated and refined the idea, even though most non-Christian cultures that believe in reincarnation believe in some sort of equivalent.

Here are the relevant verses from the Bhagavad-Gita, the one that was partially translated by Christopher Isherwood, the author who was a student of Hinduism for many years:

"Arjuna: Krishna, Krishna, Now as I look on, These my kinsmen, Arrayed for battle, My limbs are weakened, My mouth is parching, My body trembles"

"Krishna: Your words are wise, Arjuna, but your sorrow is for nothing. The truly wise mourn neither for the living nor for the dead. There was never a time when I did not exist, nor you, nor any of these kings. Nor is there any future in which we shall cease to be."

"Krishna: He Who dwells within all living bodies remains for ever indestructible. Therefore, you should never mourn for any one.

Even if you consider this from the standpoint of your own caste-duty, you ought not to hesitate; for, to a warrior, there is nothing nobler than a righteous war. Happy are the warriors to whom a battle such as this comes: it opens a door to heaven.

But if you refuse to fight this righteous war, you will be turning aside from your duty. You will be a sinner, and disgraced. People will speak ill of you throughout the ages. To a man who values his honour, that is surely worse than death. The warrior-chiefs will believe it was fear that drove you from battle; you will be despised by those who have admired you so long. Your enemies, also, will slander your courage. They will use the words which should never be spoken. What could be harder to bear than that?

Die, and you win heaven. Conquer, and you enjoy the earth. Stand up now, son of Kunti, and resolve to fight. Realize that pleasure and pain, gain and loss, victory and defeat, are all one and the same: then go into battle. Do this and you cannot commit any sin."

Things are fucked--go to and take action

The FCC has voted to make it possible for one company to own all newspapers, television, and radio stations in one city or area. Stop Big Media is a project of the FreePress.Net action network, and has an online petition to sign that they'll mail to your reps and senators. I realize a good number of people who read this are anarchists, but unless you have something more creative that would affect the change of getting this vetoed by Congress, like protests and such, the Free Press petition is the only game in town.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

It's important to conduct a black mass every now and then

By which I mean read a book that's completely opposite of what you believe in, see a movie that you would have dismissed, read a magazine you hate, even watch television, although that last one is hard for me. If you don't see what the other side of the fence is like every now and then you might not know if you truly belong on that side that you're on. And if you find that you belong on the other side, you should go there. No point in following a philosophy that you don't agree with. People shouldn't be afraid of reading everything that's out there, every point of view, every idea, because if they've reckoned within themselves what they care about and what they think about life then those ideas can't hurt them.

If you stand for nothing you'll fall for anything

The response to the "Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act" by progressives, particularly Lindsey Beyerstein and Dave Neiwert, both of whom like the basic idea of the act because they want right wing terrorists in the U.S. under control. What they ignore is that the big, huge, whopping fucking issue going on right now in the U.S. is the anti-war movement and the opposition to Bush. This is what will be labeled "Violent Radicalization" and "Homegrown Terrorism", when people take direct action to oppose the war, as happened in Olympia recently. Dave Neiwert of "Orcinus" Here (and I should mention that Orcinus is very good on immigration issues), and Lindsay Beyerstein in her article
for "In These Times" approach the thing as if putting more power into a PATRIOT-ACT enforcing Bush administration's hands to conduct domestic surveillance would just be fine and dandy because it would catch the Eric Rudolphs and Timothy McVeigh's of the world. So the same administration that wants to see what books you're reading now wants to make sure you're not participating in a potentially Violently Radicalizing organization, or surfing websites that might potentially Violently Radicalize you. The same administration that's intercepting phone calls en masse via the NSA in cooperation with the telecoms wants to ensure that you're not being radicalized for violence.

Which is fine because they'll only use it on right wingers, right?

What fucking idiocy. If you believe that you have no right to call yourself a progressive.

But getting published in "In These Times", as minor as it may be, makes a person feel that they need to act "professionally", right? Which means checking your brains at the door, even if the magazine is a lefty publication that would probably accept a more critical view of the legislation.

I've often wondered about bloggers who don't seem to come from any sort of political position, I mean beyond hating Bush. What do they stand for besides writing about politicians they don't like? Where do they come from in their writing?

The answer, it seems, is that they often times don't come from much, which means that they're infinitely pliable when it comes to positions they'll be lead to support.

If you stand for nothing, you'll fall for anything. War is peace, enhancing domestic surveillance ensures the health of the state by preventing right wing terrorism. Long live Big Brother.

Friday, December 14, 2007

The thing about Scientology

Is that their auditing process is totally unrealistic. There are problems with the organization, but with the ideology itself that's the main problem. Their idea, the basic idea behind Scientology in the Dianetics stage, from my reading of the literature, is that we have traumatic experiences that we keep with us that resurface unconsciously in similar situations, leading to unconscious reactions rather than reactions based on how we really want to act. The method of resolving these unconscious blocks is essentially Freudian, although they hate Freud in their literature. You're supposed to go through your past through memory in systematic ways examining experiences and identifying the ones that are causing stereotyped behaviors in the present. Once you bring those experiences to the surface of consciousness you're free of them in that you can be aware of how they effect you and not be limited by them. Once you go through all of your mental baggage you become "clear" in the sense of having cleared out your hang ups.

But when you look at how they propose you do it, go through these sorts of mental inventories or 'rundowns', for instance in the way recounted in Hubbard's book on self-treatment or therapy, you see that it's so unrealistic that people are more likely to just make stuff up, things that they think they experienced, rather than get to real material. For instance, one rundown, a preliminary one, asks you to think of a particular memory, like a time when you were happy as a kid, and identify the colors, sounds, smells, and feeling of touch that you experienced in that memory. I doubt that people really have memories so specific that they can actually extract all that information from them. Especially on command. But the mind is a wondrous thing. If you try to recall something that your mind can't come up with and you try and try eventually it will manufacture the material for you, based on what it thinks you're expecting. This is the principle behind people extracting false confessions. Sometimes they're just plain coerced, but sometimes after extended mental stress and questioning they come to believe that they're actually done what the interrogators want them to say they've done.

Besides the terrible implications of this aspect of mental life when abused by inhuman police and military personnel, the gentler implication for Scientology is that this is ultimately counter productive. If you want to eliminate people's conditioned, limiting, responses in order for them to be able to direct their lives more effectively, you don't want to manufacture false memories or fantasies that add to the pile of delusions in the subconscious mind. Unless the basic ideas of Scientology are applied in a much slower and more relaxed setting, with less unrealistic expectations in terms of memory recall, they risk doing more harm than good, spinning people into self generated delusions of "positive thinking".

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The end of the world came thirty years earlier in England

I'm being melodramatic, and there's always the risk of talking about things that you haven't had direct experience of, but I see a parallel between the period we seem to be in and the UK at the end of the '70s. My understanding of that time is that it was the start of the UK's industrial decline, with rising unemployment and a government dedicated to the dismantling of the positive aspects of the welfare state that had been created up to that point. Margaret Thatcher seems to have been perceived differently than Ronald Reagan, who always this myth of ushering in a new "Morning in America" after the bad bad social strife of the '60s and '70s. Idiots who still admire the alzheimer ridden puppet cite his idealism as a reason. Margaret Thatcher on the other hand established the acronym of "TINA", "There is no alternative", describing the neoliberal policies she imposed on the UK. There wasn't any alternative supposedly because the welfare state itself as well as nationalized industries like coal had lead to the decline in British industry. Reagan, on the other hand, blamed the Japanese and liberals, and tried to woo union members over to his side.

But there isn't any sort of idealism in the U.S. regarding what the Bush administration is doing. No one except blood thirsty conservatives really praises what's going on, most people who support Bush's policies seem to believe that the necessity of all of it has been imposed on us by dark, mysterious, forces. Who have brown skin. Really, the bullshit of the "gravitas" is astounding. No matter how gravely they approach it though, there isn't any sort of vision, and the sense of a beginning of the end hangs over everything.

That might actually be the case. The late seventies saw the final act in the reduction of Britain's status from world power to regional power, and the present years are seeing the beginning of the same process for the U.S.

Which means that there's not going to be much to look forward to in the next years. Unemployment and loss of jobs will be accelerated by the rising regional powers of currently developing nations, which will no doubt leave people wondering why in the world we let all those jobs go away via globalization before our economy was even challenged by serious competitors.

So maybe the "No future" crowd is right. Maybe the proponents of a picture of the world as a burned out industrial husk will prove to have been not that far off. In which case the thing to do is a lot of fucking, because there, well just because. Because I don't know how to end the article with a snappy and foreboding sentence.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Books from popular authors/publishers that mysteriously aren't carried by mainstream bookstores

Namely one by James Loewen and one by Disinformation Press. Sundown Towns: a Hidden Dimension of American Racism by James Loewen, author of "Lies my teacher told me", is now in paperback but unlike "Lies" is not being stocked by any main chain bookstore. Even bookstores that literally have four copies of "Lies" next to three copies of "Lies across America", his follow up book, aren't stocking Sundown Towns, even though it's possibly even more important than those two. Sundown Towns is about the practice of towns in the north expelling all black residents, keeping blacks from moving there, and enforcing rules saying that blacks can work there during the day but have to leave by sundown. I've read the book and it's extraordinary. Sundown towns, and sundown ordinances, were in existence in large numbers until the 1970s, when things finally started to settle down a little bit. Because the concept of a sundown town was something enforced by a kind of quasi-legal process backed by vigilante violence it was possible for these traditions to silently give way, although the fact that blacks were now permitted to stay in a hotel after the sunsets doesn't necessarily mean that racism in that place is somehow abolished. Sundown towns are still in existence, places where even people who aren't racial minorities know that if you're an outsider, you aren't welcome, with places around that you know, somehow, you're not welcome to eat at or drink at unless you're of a certain background.

I think it says a lot about our culture that this book, which could sell as much as "Lies", despite being more academic, seems to be purposefully absent from stores. Maybe it hits a little too close to home for the faux-controversial nature of some stores. Just enough provocative titles in stock to make people think they aren't stodgy, but when it comes to real controversy, it ain't welcome. Which brings me to the other book: "Everything you know about God is wrong", put out by Disinformation Publishing.

I know about it because Disinfo has been putting short essays from it on their news blog, all of which are entertaining and provocative, but despite stores literally stocking every Disinformation compilation (Everything you know is wrong, Everything you Know about Sex is wrong, Abuse your illusions:The Disinformation Guide to Media Mirages and Establishment Lies and many more) I haven't seen "Everything you know about God is wrong" any place. It's the same format as the other ones, an oversize softcover book, with actually a better cover than most, but it's not there. It isn't anywhere even remotely mainstream, that stock and stock disinfo books. I've only seen it at an occult bookstore, where the humor of poking fun at Christianity is appreciated. It sold out fast. A little too close to home, maybe?

There was a Genesis P-Orridge recording out there where he talks about programming and systems of belief, and how we invest ourselves in certain arrangements, thinking that they're going to always function in the way we think, only to find one day that the arrangement has changed. When he outlined that part, using an example of how people invest themselves in these systems, he said
after the silence "Oh no! Suddenly he's gotten serious! I remember how that felt!". It's a shift from entertainment, passive entertainment and packaged dissent and titillation, to something serious, like people's notion of God, and somehow it's not as fun anymore. Sniffle sniffle.

Excuse me if I'm not exactly compassionate about that particular kind of suffering.

The Gospel according to Henry Miller

From "Tropic of Capricorn": "If you continue this balancing at the edge of the abysss long enough you become very adpet: no matter which way you are pushed you always right yourself.


In a way, in a profound way, I mean, Christ was never pushed off the dead end. At the moment when he was tottering and swaying, as if by a great recoil, this negative backwash rolled up and stayed his death. The whole negative impulse of humanity seemed to coil up into a monstrous inert mass to create the human integer, the figure one, one and indivisible. There was a resurrection which is inexplicable unless we accept the fact that men have always been willing and ready to deny their own destiny. The earth rolls on, the stars roll on, but men, the great body of men, are caught in the image of the one and only one.

If one isn't crucified, like Christ, if one manages to survive, to go on living above and beyond the sense of desperation and futility, then another curious thing happens. It's as though one had actually died and actually resurrected again;"

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Turn the other cheek a formula for exploitation

A problem with the Christian idea of turn the other cheek is that it encourages people to not oppose those who seek to do them harm. What a wonderful gift for feudal lords to have the Church say that in response to cruelty you should be passive, since doing something about it would be bad because it would be motivated by anger, and since justice will supposedly be rendered in heaven after death, with the exploiters denied resurrection during the end times. What a gift in general in our society those who aren't honest and who realize that there isn't any sort of cosmic justice or saving grace that's going to set the world right. So the pigs, referring to a certain type of person and not police officers in general here, of the world run rampant while people who are good stay silent because of fear of becoming like their adversaries if they do something about it.

I object to the right-wing connotations contained in some of it, but I do have to say that in a metaphorical sense the Satanic Bible's slogan of "If someone hits you on one cheek smash him on the other" is fairly good.

Back to more serious stuff: immigration

The Huffington Post, which seems to be taking a little break from its slide into obscurity and triteness, points out that Huckabee, Romney, and Giuliani have all launched anti-immigration attacks, with Huckabee actually endorsed by the Minutemen. To me this seems like an issue which wasn't considered to be serious at all until the Republican noise machine started to promote it as such, like the insane idea that Global Warming is somehow not actually happening. They Kyoto Protocol has been discussed for over fifteen years, my friend, with the Ozone Hole being discovered in the early eighties, I believe. But anti-immigration rhetoric has more immediate potential consequences for people than climate change at the moment, although that seems to be itself changing.

Anti-immgration is of course a codeword for anti-hispanic. There are, in fact, illegal immigrants from places like Ireland in the United States, but somehow they aren't the ones being referred to in the debates. The idiocy of the anti-immigration stand can be summed up in one question: who is more American: a person whose ancestors are from Europe or a person whose ancestors were part of the Aztec confederation?

Back to more serious stuff

On religion in relation to America as a Christian country

I have to choose Sikhism. Because it lets you kick ass. Here's an article by Gary Brecher, the "War Nerd" columnist for the English language expat paper out of Moscow "the eXile" describing the organized tradition of the Sikhs in this regard.

Personally, if Obama experimented with cocaine and heroin I'd be more likely to support him....

People on the liberal and conservative end of the spectrum are raising questions here and there about Obama's potential past drug use. There needs to be an end to this hypocrisy in American public culture. It seems like unless you either are or represent yourself as a virgin who has spent their life confined to a small town in rural Iowa, which you haven't significantly left, that you're unfit to take part in public life.

Monday, December 10, 2007

More non-boring Marxism: Marx's third thesis on Feuerbach

Which follows on my article on the first two theses Here.

Third Thesis:

"The materialist doctrine that men are products of circumstances and upbringing, and that, therefore, changed men are products of other circumstances and changed upbringing, forgets that it is men who change circumstances and that it is essential to educate the educator himself. Hence, this doctrine necessarily arrives at dividing society into two parts, one of which is superior to society.
The coincidence of the changing of circumstances and of human activity can be conceived and rationally understood only as revolutionising practice."

Marx is getting at a criticism of materialist thought and the attitude of Enlightenment philosophers to other people here. Thinkers have passively acknowledged that people's circumstances in society and their upbringing influence how they develop as people, but who exactly is doing the judging here? By that I mean that it looks like a group of people are surveying society detached from it and judging that people here and there are influenced by their environment but not training their eyes on themselves and how they may have been influenced. On the other hand, the assumption is that the people they're looking at are totally immersed in their environment and don't have any awareness of how it's shaping them, so that there are two groups of people: the thinkers who survey society, and the people who belong to society, and of the two the thinkers think that they're superior because they're supposedly not immersed in their environment. And unconsciously shaped by it. Marx is pointing to the fusion of awareness of issues and engagement with the outside world as the way to truly change society, by the action of people in general and not that of an enlightened elite. The elite that's supposedly enlightened is also determined by their environment, just as people who the elite think are immersed in their environment of course have self consciousness of it.

By "coincidence" in the next paragraph Marx means human activity and changing circumstances coinciding. Where changing circumstances and human activity intersect can only be mass action by a broad section of people that revolutionizes the system if it is to be genuine. Circumstances can change from one person or a couple people moving or raising their kids in a different way, but that's fundamentally a way for the few to improve their lives and not for people as a whole. At its worst it reinforces the idea that only an enlightened few can really rise beyond their environment and alter their destinies and the destinies of their families. On the other hand, the often heard idea that circumstances will just change some day and people will be different both makes people too passive and also devalues the importance of people initiating change themselves. If things will change because some circumstance is going to be changing, then what's the use of people as a whole, or at least a broad section of people, trying to change things? They're supposed to be unconscious of their situation anyways. Marx is getting at the idea that mass change that's productive can only happen by conscious action on the part of people themselves, which can mean things like a million people all coming to the conclusion that the Bush administration is corrupt on their own and then thinking about doing something about it like holding signs or becoming otherwise politically engaged. He's also getting at the point that for the people who try to change things on the micro scale because they feel they're emancipated from society, they'll only be truly free if the rest of society is free as well. Think of a progressive family home schooling their kid in a conservative Christian town in the Bible Belt. Sure, they might be a little more free, and no doubt that freedom matters a lot, but wouldn't it be better if they weren't so isolated in their attempts at freedom?

Sunday, December 09, 2007

A non boring article on Marxism--the Theses on Feuerbach in relation to non-Marxist thinking

Usually, the only thing that people know about the famous Theses is that the last one says that philosophers have only contemplated reality, but that the point is to change it. However, this slogan vastly misrepresents what the theses that lead up to it---eleven short to medium paragraphs--are actually about. And what they're about has to do with pure philosophy, and with Marx's particular interpretation of what 'materialism' in the philosophical sense means. It's interesting in its own right if you can unpack the statements, which are dense, and because it shows Marx foreshadowing William James and John Dewey and their idea of Pragmatism.

I'm going to outline just what Feuerbach, a fellow philosopher, said, then deal with the first two theses.

Feuerbach's basic idea in his book "The Essence of Christianity" was that religion is just a sort of myth that has the consequence of making people treat each other in particular ways according to the ethical system that it implies. Debates about abstract theological matters really translate out, in the long run, to unconscious debates on ethics as they play out in the world. Unconscious is key here, because people don't realize while they're debating these things that what they're really doing is talking about ethics, because for Feuerbach there is no God and no supernatural world and so he feels that they aren't actually interacting with some sort of transcendent being.

Marx starts out talking about Feuerbach for a couple of reasons: first, Feuerbach is a materialist in that he believes that there are material reasons for human behavior, observable reasons, including for people having religion. Religion is a different way of talking about ethics, that's where the impulse that people have for creating religions comes from. Ethics in the broadest sense too: what's the right way to live?

Second, Feuerbach comes out of the same broad philosophical tradition from early 19th century Germany that Marx does and so for reasons that go way beyond this article it's easier for Marx to constructively criticize Feuerbach's work than that of the French materialist philosophers of the 18th century.

Here's the first thesis:

"The chief defect of all hitherto existing materialism--that of Feuerbach included--is that the thing, reality, sensuousness, is conceived only in the form of the object or of contemplation, but not as human sensuous activity, practice, not subjectively. Hence it happened that the active side, in contradistinction to materialism, was developed by idealism--but only abstractly, since, of course, idealism does not know real, sensuous activity as such. Feuerbach wants sensuous objects, really distinct from the thought objects, but he does not conceive human activity itself as objective activity. Hence, in Das Wesen des Christentums he regards the theoretical attitude as the only genuinely human attitude, while practice is conceived and fixed only in its dirty-judaical manifestation. Hence he does not grasp the significance of "revolutionary", of practical, activity."

Ok, so what does that mean? The key to it lies in Marx's contrast of materialism with idealism. The materialists look at the world and analyze it very well, but there are some aspects of it that they don't get at all. The idealists, with Hegel being the biggest one, tried to find out what the essence of a thing is, with the word "ideal" coming from Plato's philosophy where he believed that behind every type of thing was an ideal source. What makes one book different from another, for example, besides different words? There's different designs and sizes but there's something that they all share that allows you to look at this object and say 'Aha! That's a book!'. That something is what Plato would call the idea of the book, the book in its ideal form.

But the German idealists took the concept further, particularly Hegel. There's a famous allegory from Hegel that expresses what he thought pretty clearly: What is an Oak Tree? We have a category called "Oak Tree" that we know, but literally what makes an Oak Tree an Oak Tree? Sure, there are signs, like how leaves are shaped and what branches and bark look like, but aren't trees more than this? The tree you see is a certain age. Before it reached maturity it was more like a bush, before that it was a sapling, and before that an acorn. Going the other way the tree will eventually whither and die some day. Don't all these phases of life make up what the tree is, just like when you see a person you assume that they had a childhood, went through adolescence? Where is the essence of the person, then? Is it in how he or she is in the present moment? Hegel's answer to all of this is that the essence of the tree or of the person can only be abstracted from the whole of its existence. The essence of a tree has something to do with an acorn, something to do with a sapling, something to do with an intermediate state and something to do with a mature tree, but each of these on its own doesn't fully sum up what an Oak Tree is.

Hegel emphasizes that a key component of anything as it exists in reality is natural change and development, in fact he makes the analysis of change from one state to another central to his philosophy.

What Marx is saying in contrasting a materialist analysis which is essentially a scientific analysis of something with an idealistic attitude, is that materialist analysis can pinpoint how society exists at a particular moment, but that when it comes to explaining things like how societies change in general, why they change, and what's behind the change, the materialists aren't that perceptive. They, like Feuerbach, can point to cultural beliefs and social structures that exist at the same time, but they don't necessarily understand the links between the two.

Marx feels that Feuerbach is missing something by assuming that people can hold a belief system that unconsciously causes them to act in a certain way without figuring out the two are related. You have theoretical contemplation, like thinking about religious ideas, and then you have living your life, but the two don't really interact. Marx is saying that there's a sort of intermediate way of acting between the two, not just abstract thinking interrupted by thoughts like "I've got to get some milk today". He says that people approach life dynamically and consciously, and that the way that we do that is kind of similar to the idealist approach to what life is, in that they thought that life was a process, and that approaching life as something always in the process of change and development, change and development that we can participate in, fits with the way the world really is.

Which leads into the second thesis:

"The question whether objective truth can be attributed to human thinking is not a question of theory but is a practical question. Man must prove the truth, that is, the reality and power, the this-sidedness of his thinking in practice. The dispute over the reality or non-reality of thinking which is isolated from practice is a purely scholastic question."

One of the things that he's saying is that knowledge, human thinking as he refers to it, and whether knowledge is true or not, depends on how well it understands this dynamic aspect of the world. The practical part has to do with the idea that practically speaking there are certain things that are useful for paying attention to and certain things that aren't. If you want to understand the world you need to zero in on the features that are useful in helping you understand things, the parts that are the most relevant, and for Marx finding the most relevant parts means grappling with the dynamic nature of the world as it really is.

It's only in Thesis III that he connects all of this to social change. The idea that what's really relevant is what's pragmatically true is what William James and John Dewey developed into a philosophy. The difference between their approach to truth and the idea that truth is a one to one correspondence between something and another thing, like "I am six feet tall" corresponding with a measurement that says that I am six feet tall, is that theoretically everything should have pragmatic significance in one way or another, but if you can literally find no way that something can be applied to the real world, no matter how insignificant it is, what's the point in calling it a true fact? It might be a nice idea, but it isn't true in the same way as something that you can find an application for is true, because we ourselves are members of the outside world, the world outside our minds. Our bodies obey its laws and most of what we think about has something to do with that world. Our concepts, many of them, come from the outside.

"The chair has eight trillion atoms" might be literally true, but in most cases it has little practical value, while the idea that the chair can support three hundred pounds of weight has practical significance. The numbers of atoms in a chair might have significance for a scientist studying these things, but his or her study is itself a pragmatic activity.

More weird Chavez coverage: "Bush Loses Venezuelan Election" by Juan Blanco Prada

Title link. It looks like another case of somebody not even bothering to read the amendments, because Prada attributes Chavez' loss in the referendum to ignoring bread and butter issues, while most of the referendum focused on exactly that. Says that the defeat of the referendum will get Chavez working on bread and butter issues again instead of things like promoting socialism, which of course has nothing to do with bread and butter issues.

When I lived in Florida I saw a small rally of Venezuelans on a street corner during one of the coup attempts against Chavez. I approached them assuming they were pro-Chavez, turned out they weren't. I questioned them about why they didn't like Chavez, and eventually they said that I was reading the wrong papers. It looks like Mr. Prada and just about every Progressive commentator on Chavez is reading the wrong papers now as well.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Alexander Cockburn on the National Intelligence Estimate absolving Iran of nuclear weapons ambitions

The title link leads to it. Essentially what Cockburn says in "The Coup Against Bush and Cheney" is that government bureaucrats sensitive to the will of the nation's corporate elite have decided to stop cow-towing to Bush's agenda, starting with Iran. Not from the goodness of their hearts but because an attack on Iran would not be a good business decision. I think that if Iraq and Afghanistan had gone better that the corporate elite would have no problem in supporting an attack on Iran, but the business objectives for both of those invasions are still unmet. Afghanistan was going to be a U.S. sponsored shortcut for natural gas coming from the former Soviet Union down. But the Taliban are gaining ground and are still competitors for leadership of the country. Iraq is in chaos, despite the attempts at securing oil production.

With both of these adventures failing, they don't want to take on a third one. Besides, both Afghanistan and Iraq were ruined economies when the U.S. invaded. Afghanistan, subject to sanctions and to the Taliban government's policies, was barely kept together. Their standard of living dropped very far during the Taliban years. Saddam's regime had suffered from sanctions first imposed at the end of the Gulf War, which similarly destroyed the economy, hurting regular people most of all, and reportedly strengthening Saddam's hold because patronage from the Iraqi government was one of the only ways to get work, as decent goods as could be had, etc...Iran, on the other hand, is a fully functioning if somewhat poor country. Poor, but not destroyed like Iraq was by the years of sanctions. It has a full army that's well prepared.

Invading Iran doesn't fit with Wall Street's amoral pragmatism, although Bush may believe he has some sort of basic obligation to do it.

Your music video of the week: "Sex Dwarf" by Soft Cell (of "Tainted Love" fame)

This is a live version via Youtube, with a spoof intro to the video first. The original video was seized by the police and destroyed--well almost. The director, Tim Pope, put a bootleg copy up on his website. And you shall have the link to that page.

Here's Tim Pope's "Sex Dwarf" page

Friday, December 07, 2007

Why I'm interested in Vanuatu

Here's my explanation for my fascination with Vanuatu: Vanuatu is part of a region of the South Pacific known as Melanesia. Melanesia, going roughly from Papua New Guinea in the west to Fiji in the east is populated by descendants of one of the waves of migration from Africa, people who came to the islands roughly forty thousand years ago. As such, Melanesian culture is one of the oldest and possibly purist in the world, more so the culture on the smaller islands where there's been more isolation. It's true that a culture can't stay static for forty thousand years, no doubt there's been evolution and change, but they carry with them the sort of primal traditions of mankind as few other peoples do. The inhabitants of Melanesia are the cousins of the Australian aborigines, who came to Australia during the same early migration. Polynesians came much later to these islands. The only peoples who are more ancient are the Andaman islanders.

The Andaman islanders in the Indian Ocean, east of central India, are officially referred to as an uncontacted people. This is because they basically kill anyone from the outside who tries to land there and interact with them. One of the islands was taken by force, and now there's a road there, but the others remain remote. Nothing is known about these islanders' belief systems or language besides what can be intuited from the contacts on the other island. The only information about them is gotten from anthropologists who set up covert observation stations with strong telephoto lenses on their video cameras. They fire arrows at helicopters that fly overhead as well. Because of all of this, and because the Andaman islanders clearly want to be left alone, they aren't a good candidate for interaction with.

You can actually go to Vanuatu. I was thinking about Papua New Guinea, but from what I read PNG society (as they abbreviate it) has decayed to a great degree thanks to the wonders of industrialization and modernity, leading to a surge in crime and violence in the capitol city of Port Moresby unlike anything that I've ever heard of. In the Highlands, where tribes live closer to their original state, warfare between tribes that used to be isolated from each other has escalated out of control, with grenade launchers and AK-47s taking the place of spears, as Michael Moran noted in his book "Beyond the Coral Sea", about his experience in the islands off the coast of Papua New Guinea, which I'm reading right now.

Vanuatu, and the Solomon Islands to the west, are more peaceful, possibly because of the lack of ethnic warfare due to less more of a monoculture. Papua New Guinea, as a sort of Ur-state of the first people to come out of Africa, has three hundred bona fide separate languages and peoples attached to them.

They, the Melanesians of today, are the descendants of cannibals, although cannibalism is only practiced in small parts of the New Guinean Highlands today. This adds to the attraction instead of detracting from it. It means that they are genuine, not stereotypical "noble savages". They represent nature unveiled as it really is. An industrial group I like did a song called "Nature Unveiled" and it consists of minutes of harsh atonal noise. The real history of people living close to nature, close to the original state that we came out of, is a history with blood and violence as well as niceness, of archaic mysteries that praise both the dark aspects and the light. Melanesian people are famous for their easy going attitude if you're identified as a friend, but as Michael Moran reports as well sometimes people who aren't totally at ease with you will give you a smile that's halfway between friendliness and sinister plotting. This is the reality of life, and I'm a big proponent of reconciling the two sort of opposing features: hate and love.

The spirit world, as it existed before Christianity, as it existed even before Rome, is still present with them and their beliefs and practices, particularly in certain islands in Vanuatu, hearken back to practices only hinted at in some places and recorded in monuments whose meaning people have long forgotten.

I want to go their someday, the only problem besides the large amount of money that it would take and the aspect of having to find money after I get back along with what I'd do with my apartment and things in the....maybe several weeks, that I'd be there, is how to experience it without the resort hotel experience. Port Vila, the main town in the Vanuatu island chain, has been developed to the hilt for wealthy travelers that want to see the South Pacific sunsets and scenery but who don't want to get too close to the natives of the South Pacific themselves, especially since the natives are black. Carefully packaged interactions with the people who live there aren't what I'm after. I want to approach the people living there as more of a normal person than as a big European Sahib, living in luxury in their hotels.

The magic and mystery is there.

Pilgramages: when it's Hindus it's cute, when its Catholics it's hypocrisy

The Pope has said that a visit to Lourdes can cut a person's stay in Purgatory short. News organizations, particularly the BBC, are laughing out loud at this like it's buying your way to heaven. But let's look at other examples of prayer and pilgrimage, like the Hindu pilgrimage to the Ganges or other holy sites to pray. Or the "Kumbh Mela", which has gotten an exploitative film treatment lately. Both pilgrimages absolve a person of certain amounts of Karma, meaning that the person who does them can "go to heaven" easier, but the meaning is in the religious devotion, which is thought to purify the soul. No one would suggest that Hindus making one of these pilgrimages were self centered people trying to get a shortcut to heaven. But when it comes to Catholics, the idea that there's more to making a pilgrimage than just showing up one day and saying "Hi!" is not even considered. A pilgrimage to Lourdes is a complex and involved thing with components of prayer, confession, mass attendance, devotions, aimed at purifying the soul for approaching Our Lady of Lourdes.

Buying indulgences! Oh my! You know what indulgences were? They were the idea that if you gave a portion of your income to charitable works that you were performing a spiritual act. But Protestants invented the idea that you needed faith alone to be a good Christian, which is why all the soup kitchens and charitable orders actually serving the poor, with a few exceptions, are Catholic and not Protestant. Protestants are too busy believing in "faith alone" to help their fellow man like their own Gospels tell them to do, and they blame Catholics who care about helping the poor for corrupting the Church through their 'shortcuts to heaven' through charitable acts.

If all the Protestant churches in the U.S. would seriously devote themselves to helping icky poor and homeless people instead of serving as Sunday fashion shows for the well off and purveyors of escapist fantasies regarding "The Rapture" for the less well off this country would have the problem of hunger and of people not meeting basic needs solved.

But........that would conflict with Pastor Luther's modernizing project.

Like Dickens and others have said, Protestantism has allowed people to be greedy bastards six days out of the week and pious for one.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

The Parallel universe of the Seattle Weekly continued

You'll remember that the tourist/shopping district which runs from first and Pike to fifth and Pike in Seattle was recently labelled by a story in the Seattle Weekly as the closest thing that "LSD adverse Seattleites" could get to a parallel universe, with homeless people screaming and drug deals taking place. Well, I walked through this infamous district just now, getting a tasty Hum Bow (Chinese pastry filled with meat) and then walking across and down to the Seattle Public Library, where I am now. This time I made a note of the stores that line this parallel world, where the staff writers at the Seattle Weekly interviewed homeless people who then had demeaning charicatures drawn of them for the cover story.

So with the stores: besides the gigantic Pike Place Market itself, consisting of over a hundred stores, which is at the far end of the district between First and Fifth, I counted a Starbucks, a Seattles' Best coffee shop, a high end jewelry store advertising that they sold Rolex's, a Borders, a Walgreens, a Rite-Aid, a specialty snow-boarding and outdoor gear store, an Adidas store, several banks, a Bananna Republic (huge, like the Adidas store taking up between a quarter and half a city block), several touristy stores, a couple small restaurants, a parking garage, and one sleazy bar, the only sleazy bar in that part of town. Literally.

As for weird people, sure, there were some homeless people, like in every single major city in the fucking world, and then, oh my god! There were actually some black people! Jimminy Crickets, what is the world coming to! Black people in Seattle, maybe it offends some of the yokels who come from all white towns outside of the metro area or somewhere, who have relocated to Seattle to be where the action is.

My god, black people. Next thing you know there'll be pool halls and dancing joints.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Wake up Neo: Alterati's statement on counterculture and the future

"The only way out of this cycle is to create, and forget about trying to be original.

People don’t set the artistic trends by trying to set the trends. They are genuine to what really gets them in the vitals. Fight long enough and it will find its market, or you will die trying. Even if only one other person reads and really absorbs your words, you haven’t lost.

Despite popular opinion within this “counter-culture,” effective marketing is not about outright manipulation. It is about meeting people halfway. For example, Yoga was boiled down from a very demanding esoteric practice with a rich and complex ideology behind it into something any housewife can do. These housewives were looking for a lifestyle change, a way to stay healthy and feel good. This was provided to them in an effective, albeit diluted, package. They wouldn’t have been gotten into the Yoga baby-pool if it wasn’t packaged in a way that catered to their needs and beliefs. Yet, at least at the moment, those more rich and intricate ideologies behind Yoga still exist, and they can be sought out. You can approach your own work with the same mentality."

There's a lot more, some it really harsh criticism of basically all underground culture, some of it kind of dismissive of anti-capitalist trends, but in relation to creation instead of imitation it's something to think about.

Alterati doesn't have an anti-capitalist perspective and is sometimes irritatingly and ignorantly dismissive of anti-capitalist ideas, but in relation to the more counter culture part of things, especially in relation to things having to do with the occult or occulture and weirdness, it's pretty good.

Title link leads to the whole thing. The part about it being a good idea for counter culture people to actually make a living is pretty nice.

on edit: I don't think that counter culture and radical political culture are opposed. I wouldn't necessarily call them parts of the same whole but I think that they in their own ways are motivated by similar concerns. The problem starts when people focus exclusively on the counter culture and don't pay attention to the issues around them or to liberation that's anything except individual. On the other side there's always the statement of "If I can't dance, I don't want to be part of your revolution", although pragmatically it's not exactly easy or expedient to organize working folks who are mainly concerned with collective issues for themselves and for their communities while mixing a love of weirdness and occult/hippy themes in with it.