Monday, October 29, 2007

"Experiments in Terror" DVD, J.X Williams, sort of a review

I first found out about "Experiments in Terror", a collection of experimental and abstract horror shorts, because a group called the "J.X. Williams Archive" recently found me on a social networking site, probably because I listed being the fan of some foreign and experimental films that they take a liking to. Luckily, I live close to "Scarecrow Video" in Seattle and so they not only had "Experiments in Terror", which includes Williams' "The Virgin Sacrifice", in stock but it was actually a featured Halloween selection. The films on the DVD are very high quality. It would probably be easy to find horror films that are successful as horror films but include pseudo-experimental elements in an attempt to be sophisticated,but these films hold there own on both the experimental and on the horror side. Beyond the J.X. Williams film which I'll describe below, "Outer Space" by Peter Tscherkassky is especially good, featuring ultra-fast cutting timed very well to the emotional response it's designed to produce. "Ursula" is good as well. Unfortunately it's so short that I can't really explain it without giving everything away. "Journey into the unknown" relies heavily on the symbolic content of the images it displays to convey the meaning of the story, which sets it apart from the other films, which rely on montage and visual effects, although there are plenty of those in "Journey" as well. The lazy person that I am I'll have to rewatch "Tuning the Sleeping Machine" before giving a decent informed review of it. The only downside of the collection was the "Dawn of An Evil Millennium" short, which unfortunately combined some experimental techniques with eighties style horror-comedy. Yeah. I'll just pass on that one. Now onto J.X. Williams.

J.X. Williams appears to be an experimental film maker who produced films from the sixties on, stopping sometime in the eighties, who has been almost totally forgotten and whose films have only recently been resurrected. He directed "Peep Show", a film making the claim that the Mob was responsible for the Kennedy assassination prior, then fled to Europe where he continued to make shorts before ending with some experimental films for music videos in the early eighties. A clip from a French TV show about Williams, available on the J.X. Williams Archive website, features sequences that I'm pretty sure resurfaced in Psychic TV's live visual show, as documented on the live concert video "Black". "Virgin Sacrifice" is the first film by Williams that I've seen.

It starts out, surprisingly, with a sequence cut from a cheesy '70s hardcore porn film called "The Devil's Due", about a girl who falls in with some sexy Satan worshippers, but soon moves onto the original material. Hallucinogenic effects, more filters, evocation of a coven performing a human sacrifice, the film is sort of the '70s occult horror film that you'd wish existed but haven't been able to quite find so far. There are only a few nods to fellow filmmaker Kenneth Anger, and surprisingly Harry Smith gets a quote through the animated skeleton sequence. But mainly it's very original and unique, in a strange way.

Although it's very much its own product I couldn't help but think that the film seemed very familiar, especially some of the special effects sequences. It seems like the same sorts of effects cropped up years later in more mainstream films and eventually got integrated into the accepted film cannon, with echoes of them being seen in psychological horror films today. I can't help but wonder if there wasn't some secret influence there, with film students who later went on to become directors viewing "Virgin Sacrifice" and taking some inspiration from it.

I hope the rest of Williams' films come on the market. Until then, "Experiments in Terror" will provide a good investment for both experimental film fans and those interested in Williams alike.

For all those "Beyond Left and Right" people

Who think that they can avoid the label of 'fascist' because they add one or two socialist elements to their fascism. It's interesting the things you find out by reading books like "Hitler's Table Talk", which is a series of transcripts from evening talk between Hitler and his inner circle taken by Martin Borman's secretary. In one of the talks near the beginning he comments on people who thought that the Nazi-Soviet pact had some sort of ideological basis or signaled a difference in attitude towards the Soviet system, saying that they're worthless and deluded and that he actually prefers pure Communists who oppose him as dissidents to people who are Nazis who also like the Soviet system.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Elderly Instruments, East Lansing

[on edit: this post started with an attack on some of the YAF people at MSU. I thought it went unnecessarily far, so I'm taking that part off and keeping the last part.]

Too bad. I have good memories of East Lansing, although I didn't go to school there. Most of them revolve around a music store there called "Elderly Instruments", which is absolutely phenomenal, carrying things like custom mandolins, dobros, hammered dulcimers, as many varieties of guitar as you could want, accordions, banjos, hand drums, and about a hundred traditional folk instruments that you haven't heard of but you'd like to know more about. Damn good place.

[on edit] Ah, this got me thinking of it again. I used to go in there and salivate over the guitars they had, acoustic guitars custom made, beautiful, and costing more money than god has. And electric instruments. If my memory serves me rightly they have a big selection of these weird European electric guitars from the seventies that have strange switching options related to the pickups and EQ....which are becoming very popular these days precisely because of the weird shit they can allow you to do with the sound of your guitar.

Wow...MSU, Nick Griffin, Young Americans for Freedom

The British National Party. You know you have to go to straight out skinhead groups in Britain like the National Front to get any further to the right. So Nick Griffin spoke at MSU. I'm from Michigan and these things interest me.

Here's picture of the MSU "Young Americans for Freedom" posing with a statue on the MSU campus:


Funny thing, and I don't know if the person taking the picture for the Big Green, where I found it, knew this or not but the statue is oddly Third Reich-esque in combination with the sign.

Anyways, I'm kind of stunned. Leave it for conservatives in the U.S. to exploit the ignorance of people on the politics of conservatives from outside the country. Sort of like inviting David Duke to a conference in Russia.

And this Kyle Bristow. It's funny seeing a picture of him on his website with Tom Tancredo. I can't help but picture a caption saying [on edit: you can picture it too!] "What am I doing posing with this wetback....err, I mean "Italian"...I didn't realize Tancredo was so brown....Your papers, bitte, Herr Tancredo!...at least he's another brown man for white pride, where's Ward Connerly?"

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Report from the Seattle Oct. 27th demonstration

The demonstration was very good. It's a shame that MORE PEOPLE DIDN'T SHOW UP to appreciate it. Interesting speakers, more youth oriented than other marches, ultimately successful in what these things are supposed to do psychologically, which is to say get people to a point where the things that they've privately felt about the war are expressed publicly and echoed back from the speakers. That way a great deal of the sort of alienation that people with dissenting views feel is cut away, empowering people. A lot of smaller regional rallies don't really accomplish this. The best rally that I ever experienced this phenomenon at was one of the big ones in D.C., but that was due to the speakers literally being the people whose articles I'd read on sites like Commondreams and agreed with. If you can feel a sort of sense that you're in it with other people and that you're not isolated in your opinions it seems much easier to be able to do more activism. Cutting through alienation again.

The only really negative thing I have to say is really minor and only happened in the section of the march that I happened to find myself in: a chant that was used. "Whose streets? Our streets!" is a great chant if you're marching through a downtown or something but the organizers had rightly put the start of the march and the route to the end in the African-American and Vietnamese/Chinese sections of central Seattle. Having a huge number of white people marching through a black neighborhood, or an asian neighborhood chanting "Whose streets? Our streets!" seemed to be in pretty bad taste. Not quite the sentiment you want to send to people who you want to get on your side.

But in general, well organized and interesting.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Tomorrow at 12:00 at Judkins Park in Seattle: Pac NW Mobilization against the Iraq War

Part of the nationwide day of action. Be there or be square. In the Central District south of Yesler a few streets on 23rd.

Hitler and Bush comparisons; the banality of evil; the Holocaust

I understand of course why people object to Bush-Hitler comparisons. The reason is obvious beyond belief. When I make comparisons like that it's usually not to Hitler himself but to similarities in rhetoric between the Nazi state and the administration and its supporters today. I don't know about other people but there's two reasons why I do this: first off there needs to be a common vocabulary to describe the authoritarianism that the United States is slipping into. There's plenty of documentation on policy in relation to surveillance and attitudes towards dissent and on how to treat perceived enemies of the state in Nazi Germany and to a lesser extent in Fascist Italy and elsewhere. It's harder to get access to and quote speeches from say Pinochet or the Greek Colonels. Plus, the main Axis enemies in Europe have a more immediate recognition for Americans than lesser known regimes. I could make a parallel between American patriotism and Hispanidad, which was the ideology of the Spanish Fascists and of Franco, but it wouldn't quite have the same resonance as similar concepts from Germany or Italy. Plus, if you're going to make parallels to authoritarian regimes there won't be a regime you can name which hasn't hurt a great number of people, so in a sense any parallel you draw will be "inappropriate" in the sense of maybe insulting the families of people who actually died because of these regimes. The point however is to prevent something like that from happening in the U.S. In my opinion it's better to be mildly insulting with rhetoric and be wrong than to be polite and have people, more people if you count people who died because of torture in Guantanamo actually, die because of the silence.

The second reason that I use comparisons like this is an outgrowth of the first, namely attacking the idea that these regimes were non-understandable in their origins and in their actions and so could never ever be used as yardsticks to compare other societies to. If they're beyond understanding then there's no question of our society morphing into copies of them is there? I mean, no one is saying "Let's round up all the Muslims and shoot them", are they? At least the administration isn't saying that. But Hitler never publicly said anything comparable about Jews. My thesis in trying to demystify these sorts of regimes is that the tragedies that they're responsible for are the products of logical, incremental, progression rather than of anything particularly spectacular. To me the question is whether the U.S. is sliding towards authoritarianism or totalitarianism, with authoritarianism defined as a police state and totalitarianism defined as a police state that cares what people are thinking, even if they've been beaten back into submission to the regime. But let me give an example of the type of banality I'm talking about.

Reading primary documents from the Nazi regime, especially a find that I've made called "Hitler's Table Talk" (also known as "Secret Conversations"), it becomes clear that the Final Solution was the product of just such a progression. Hitler goes on and on about how criminals should be punished and how even the courts of the Third Reich are too lenient on criminals. Doesn't understand why repeat offenders shouldn't just be killed so society can be rid of them. Doesn't understand why if a person is convicted of murder there should be a hearing to determine whether a person should be sentenced to death or simply to life in prison. His preference is of course death. He viewed the Jews as a social problem, as a criminal subversive element that was destructive to the fabric of society and had to be separated from society for society to continue to function. The Final Solution was viewed as an administrative solution to a social problem, with people guilty because of their race condemned to death because there wasn't any more convenient way of getting them out of society and keeping them out. No reliable solution to "the Jewish Problem". It's not hard to see how something like that could happen here if attitudes towards Muslims become sufficiently radicalized. I'm being serious.

You can imagine someone saying "potential terrorists should be shot", can't you? Monitored, kept under surveillance, and removed from society if there seems to be a threat that they might act on their beliefs. Removed from society can mean many different things, from deported to kept in prison, to kept in a Guantanamo like camp to being outright exterminated.

It's because I believe that it can happen here, that it needs to be able to be accurately described and that it needs to be put in a context with other dictatorial regimes that I make the Bush-Nazi comparisons.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester, compared to the Marquis de Sade

Both were libertines but were radically different for one simple reason: de Sade's sexuality was not consensual while although Rochester's was thoroughly sexist it still was. As one author on the subject of the sexual fringe noted, the lack of consent in de Sade's writings actually makes them less appealing to people engaged in BD/SM than those of other, less famous, writers. This is the dirty little secret of the Marquis de Sade, one of the reasons why his books were banned for so long, and the reason that he got in trouble. The reason he was arrested, according to that sage source Wikipedia, was that at his estate in his hometown of La Coste he repeatedly raped his servants, who fled his service one after the other. The incident that lead to his arrest consisted of him enticing a local young lady to come back to his castle with him, holding her against her will, severely beating her, repeatedly raping her, then pouring hot candle wax over her wounds in an attempt to cauterize and somewhat conceal them so that people wouldn't be able to tell what sort of thing lead to them. This is why time after time commentors on de Sade say that his books are best read as stories about power instead of stories to get you off, with practically everyone noting that theoretically you could get off on them, but it would sort of not be a good thing if you did.

That's the sort of secret of de Sade. I remember that I belonged to this film society in Florida that showed movies and had discussions of them afterwards. One of the films they showed was "Quills", which is about the Marquis de Sade during his imprisonment in an asylum. The portrayal of de Sade and his works makes them out to be both nice and gently kinky, with the main love interest at one point clutching a copy of "Justine" to her chest and smiles dreamily. During the discussion after the film I asked if anyone had really read de Sade, because film was pretty naive in the picture it painted of him. Someone said that they admired his will to keep on writing under difficult circumstances.

I have works be de Sade, so it isn't like I'm advocating banning him, but am saying that there's more objectionable things to Sade than just kinky sex, which wouldn't be a problem in this day and age.

A satire on Hillary, Mitt, Rudy, Barrack, and the others. The Earl of Rochester

Who have taken up the airwaves and the internet space even though the election itself is over a year away, to the detriment of real news and to the detriment of people not concerned with the horse race. This is a poem by John Wilmot, the Earl of Rochester, who was one of the bawdiest and most skilled poets of the 17th century. I offer as a sort of warning that he was a male 17th century libertine, so you can fill in the blanks there. Anyways, the poem is called "A Ramble in St. James' Park"


A Ramble in St. James's Park

Much wine had passed, with grave discourse
Of who fucks who, and who does worse
(Such as you usually do hear
From those that diet at the Bear),
When I, who still take care to see
Drunkenness relieved by lechery,
Went out into St. James's Park
To cool my head and fire my heart.
But though St. James has th' honor on 't,
'Tis consecrate to prick and cunt.
There, by a most incestuous birth,
Strange woods spring from the teeming earth;
For they relate how heretofore,
When ancient Pict began to whore,
Deluded of his assignation
(Jilting, it seems, was then in fashion),
Poor pensive lover, in this place
Would frig upon his mother's face;
Whence rows of mandrakes tall did rise
Whose lewd tops fucked the very skies.
Each imitative branch does twine
In some loved fold of Aretine,
And nightly now beneath their shade
Are buggeries, rapes, and incests made.
Unto this all-sin-sheltering grove
Whores of the bulk and the alcove,
Great ladies, chambermaids, and drudges,
The ragpicker, and heiress trudges.
Carmen, divines, great lords, and tailors,
Prentices, poets, pimps, and jailers,
Footmen, fine fops do here arrive,
And here promiscuously they swive.

Along these hallowed walks it was
That I beheld Corinna pass.
Whoever had been by to see
The proud disdain she cast on me
Through charming eyes, he would have swore
She dropped from heaven that very hour,
Forsaking the divine abode
In scorn of some despairing god.
But mark what creatures women are:
How infinitely vile, when fair!

Three knights o' the' elbow and the slur
With wriggling tails made up to her.

The first was of your Whitehall baldes,
Near kin t' th' Mother of the Maids;
Graced by whose favor he was able
To bring a friend t' th' Waiters' table,
Where he had heard Sir Edward Sutton
Say how the King loved Banstead mutton;
Since when he'd ne'er be brought to eat
By 's good will any other meat.
In this, as well as all the rest,
He ventures to do like the best,
But wanting common sense, th' ingredient
In choosing well not least expedient,
Converts abortive imitation
To universal affectation.
Thus he not only eats and talks
But feels and smells, sits down and walks,
Nay looks, and lives, and loves by rote,
In an old tawdry birthday coat.

The second was a Grays Inn wit,
A great inhabiter of the pit,
Where critic-like he sits and squints,
Steals pocket handkerchiefs, and hints
From 's neighbor, and the comedy,
To court, and pay, his landlady.

The third, a lady's eldest son
Within few years of twenty-one
Who hopes from his propitious fate,
Against he comes to his estate,
By these two worthies to be made
A most accomplished tearing blade.

One, in a strain 'twixt tune and nonsense,
Cries, "Madam, I have loved you long since.
Permit me your fair hand to kiss";
When at her mouth her cunt cries, "Yes!"
In short, without much more ado,
Joyful and pleased, away she flew,
And with these three confounded asses
From park to hackney coach she passes.

So a proud bitch does lead about
Of humble curs the amorous rout,
Who most obsequiously do hunt
The savory scent of salt-swoln cunt.
Some power more patient now relate
The sense of this surprising fate.
Gods! that a thing admired by me
Should fall to so much infamy.
Had she picked out, to rub her arse on,
Some stiff-pricked clown or well-hung parson,
Each job of whose spermatic sluice
Had filled her cunt with wholesome juice,
I the proceeding should have praised
In hope sh' had quenched a fire I raised.
Such natural freedoms are but just:
There's something generous in mere lust.
But to turn a damned abandoned jade
When neither head nor tail persuade;
To be a whore in understanding,
A passive pot for fools to spend in!
The devil played booty, sure, with thee
To bring a blot on infamy.

But why am I, of all mankind,
To so severe a fate designed?
Ungrateful! Why this treachery
To humble fond, believing me,
Who gave you privilege above
The nice allowances of love?
Did ever I refuse to bear
The meanest part your lust could spare?
When your lewd cunt came spewing home
Drenched with the seed of half the town,
My dram of sperm was supped up after
For the digestive surfeit water.
Full gorged at another time
With a vast meal of slime
Which your devouring cunt had drawn
From porters' backs and footmen's brawn,
I was content to serve you up
My ballock-full for your grace cup,
Nor ever thought it an abuse
While you had pleasure for excuse -
You that could make my heart away
For noise and color, and betray
The secrets of my tender hours
To such knight-errant paramours,
When, leaning on your faithless breast,
Wrapped in security and rest,
Soft kindness all my powers did move,
And reason lay dissolved in love!

May stinking vapors choke your womb
Such as the men you dote upon
May your depraved appetite,
That could in whiffling fools delight,
Beget such frenzies in your mind
You may go mad for the north wind,
And fixing all your hopes upon't
To have him bluster in your cunt,
Turn up your longing arse t' th' air
And perish in a wild despair!
But cowards shall forget to rant,
Schoolboys to frig, old whores to paint;
The Jesuits' fraternity
Shall leave the use of buggery;
Crab-louse, inspired with grace divine,
From earthly cod to heaven shall climb;
Physicians shall believe in Jesus,
And disobedience cease to please us,
Ere I desist with all my power
To plague this woman and undo her.
But my revenge will best be timed
When she is married that is limed.
In that most lamentable state
I'll make her feel my scorn and hate:
Pelt her with scandals, truth or lies,
And her poor cur with jealousied,
Till I have torn him from her breech,
While she whines like a dog-drawn bitch;
Loathed and despised, kicked out o' th' Town
Into some dirty hole alone,
To chew the cud of misery
And know she owes it all to me.

And may no woman better thrive
That dares prophane the cunt I swive!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

George Soros pro and con

Soros' "Open Society Institute" is sponsoring a conference called "There You Go Again: Orwell Comes to America", about manipulation and propaganda in political speech. It sounds good. Soros' thought and his actions are typical of people who follow a political philosophy instead of just going along with a postage stamp version of whatever ideology they like in that you can't just label the actions all good or all bad. While Soros in my opinion is on the general side of "good" due to things like his support of drug decriminalization and this conference, as well as some mild criticisms of globalization, there's also the aspect of Soros that echoes a kind of world police ethic with regards to countries that he sees as not democratic enough. The "color revolutions" in the Ukraine and Georgia are thought to have been largely funded by Soros in cooperation with the U.S. State Department, whose idea of democratization is similar to that of Soros. It's a sort of Clinton-Gore-esque understanding of the way to promote an open and kind of just society: reform at home and a big stick elsewhere. Which isn't to say that the positive things that Soros does don't help, but funding 'revolutions' in cooperation with the U.S. State Department?

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Sopranos don't accurately portray the Mafia

I've known people who have been associated with the Italian mob and the Sopranos really don't capture it. Instead, what the Sopranos are are a bunch of buffoons that have exaggerated characteristics, like accents, stereotypically associated with Italians who live out violent fantasies of white upper middle class anglo businessmen and office workers, who in turn feel like they aren't real men because they sit behind a desk all day. They fulfill their fantasies of being criminal rebels who can vent their violent urges while still appearing in a form that the intended audience can look down on and feel superior to. In that way although the racial aspect isn't there the Sopranos fulfill a role similar to that of gangster rap in suburban white boy culture. Like kids driving in their parents' SUV listening to Tupac or 50 Cent.

In reality the Mafia is a whole different creature. The type of people associated with the Mafia aren't idiots like the Sopranos. In fact, the Sopranos resemble a sort of bumbling low level criminal gang that would be the type that would get too big for their britches, intrude on Mafia territory, and be executed. Mafia types are serious people, not James Gandolfinis. I think real Mafia people can be summed up in three words: culturally conservative psychopaths.

The role of honor, honore, in Italian culture in general is something a little different from the idea of it just being sort of honest and generally a good guy. Honorable people aren't morons, which is to say they don't act like idiots. They don't unnecessarily give vent to their emotions without good reason. They don't, in other words, resemble the kind of id on legs that the stereotype of the Italian gangster invokes, someone itching to hurt people, swear, in general break the rules of polite Anglo society.

Although again there's a vast difference because of the insane structural and institutional histories connected to the oppression of Africans in America, Italian gangsters fulfill a role in American culture similar to that of the black minstrel in early 20th century America. The black minstrel wasn't completely and inescapably looked down on. Instead, the characters portrayed in black face minstrelsy were romanticized as being closer to nature and less inhibited than their white counterparts, in a way that while demeaning to actual African Americans was thought by white Americans of the time to be positive. This is somewhat hard to see today because the reality of Minstrelsy has been brought to the surface but a closer parallel could be drawn with the role of Native Americans in film, particularly Indian "Chiefs". The Lone Ranger and Tonto are a good example, Tonto being a wooden cigar store Indian type who makes semi-profound comments about things. No doubt some people who watched the show were attracted to the seeming wisdom and attractive way of live that was attributed to Tonto, yet the fact that people saw something positive in him doesn't mean that the portrayal wasn't demeaning to Native Americans, wasn't a distortion of actual Native American life rife with stereotypes.

Blacks and Native Americans have fulfilled a role in media portrayals as the Other, the representative of that which the culture of Anglo Americans has repressed and that people belonging to it secretly want to recapture. The Italian American gangster, in the media system fulfills the same role.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Pedophiles and Child Health Care, an interesting double standard

We've come to the point where child molestation is a national obsession, with an entire nationally broadcast television show ("To catch a predator") devoted to catching pedophiles. Shades of the Reagan years and the fear that every day care worker was secretly a pedophile, only the internet seems now to have replaced day care as the culprit. People want to do everything to pedophiles, from keeping them in prison indefinitely to restricting their options in terms of place of residence and employment to the point where they're basically completely excluded from society, something that psychologists say actually contributes to recidivism among sexual offenders. Everything is recommended short of shooting them in the back of the head (although the death penalty in general has been suggested repeatedly), and people who snap photos of their kids when they happen to be naked, as babies and toddlers are wont to be, have actually faced charges of pedophilia and of creating child pornography when they've taken their pictures to their local drug store to have them developed. People who tend to go to the extremes in their recommendations for punishment of sex offenders tend to be conservative. Let's take a look at what they think about doing for kids after the possibility of them being subject to the trauma of sexual assault is taken out of the picture.

Enter one Graeme Frost, a twelve year old who had brain cancer, whose parents didn't have health insurance because they didn't make enough money/didn't have stable employment. They applied to and got help through a federal funded and state administered program known as S-CHIP, the State Childrens Health Insurance Program. S-CHIP was on the chopping block last week and Frost testified to Congress about his experience and how S-CHIP helped him and his family. Enter the Republican noise machine. After his testimony Graeme Frost and his family came under fire from numerous conservative groups who attacked their character and their honesty, saying that it was their fault that they couldn't afford to pay for brain surgery for their twelve year old son, multiple brain surgeries, because they could theoretically have had an insurance plan if they hadn't been irresponsible. As Tom Tomorrow, the cartoonist, recently noted, reality is outpacing fantasy in the lengths that Republicans and conservatives will go to advance their agenda.

String up those pedophiles, it's time for some justice (even though experts say that sexual abuse within the family is much, much more prevalent than sexual abuse by strangers), yet if those kids who have now been protected from the life long wound of sexual assault get a debilitating, potentially fatal, disease, well there's just nothing we can do about it. Anything else would be an overstepping of the government's power in society.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Peak oil, or, what's up with Britney?

According to the Title Link article from the Guardian in the UK, the peak oil moment happened this year, in 2007. The idea of peak oil is simple. There's only a finite amount of it and the area of land that hasn't been checked for oil deposits is in steep decline as well, meaning that there probably won't be any surprise discoveries of huge unknown oil deposits to get us through...well to get us through for the entire future history of the human race. It's sort of depressing to put it that way but that's what we're talking about. So the amount of oil being produced will drop every year until it's totally exhausted. Global warming causing radical climate change, peak oil meaning that we're not going to be able to live in the same way we have, plus the fact that most of the 20th century's CFCs haven't gotten into the ozone layer yet make for a pretty nasty cocktail. I suppose in a way the radical changes in lifestyle that will have to take place will be good, but the fact that those changes will happen most likely after people have gone bat shit crazy over not being able to continue their lifestyles will probably make it unpleasant. To say the least.

But those Islamo-Fascists wanting to steal our freedom......and the Rapture! Who can forget the Rapture!

Friday, October 19, 2007

An account of the scheme of Kenneth Grant's "Nightside of Eden"

This is more occult stuff, but the blog isn't becoming occult oriented. This should be a valuable contribution since "Nightside of Eden" is at this point rare and expensive, although if you shop around to established occult bookstores online instead of just checking Amazon you'll find some deals. So here it is.

The Nightside of Eden is based around a fundamental revision of the occult scheme of the universe known as the "Tree of Life". Glyphs of the Tree of Life can be found everywhere, just use Google images.

Although it's based off of ten sephiroth or spheres containing different stages of the manifestation of the universe the Tree of Life fundamentally refers to four worlds in the conventional arrangement. The first 'world' is the world itself as it is around us. The second world, the etheric world, is one step above this world, or rather is the hidden world immediately connected to ours. This is the place where auras are and where many facets of psychic communication happen. It's sort of an aspect of our physical world that's hidden but that can be easily accessed.

The next world is the mental world, which is not directly and easily connected to our world. I should say before going on that these 'worlds' aren't arranged in a way where one world is physically above another. Instead, it's better to think of them as being contained within the world around us itself, ultimately going down to the more and more essential aspects of the life that surrounds us. So the mental level is kind of another level of refinement beyond the etheric. It's called the mental level because the place within us that corresponds to it and can access it is the mind itself, specifically the minds' eye and the action of thought not directly connected to the outside world. In the physical universe it corresponds to the substructure behind objects as well as to essences and energies such as planetary energies and influences. Action on the mental realm is usually what is called Magick. Most actual magick takes place here and proceeds down to the physical world through the etheric world thereby making physical changes to the environment. There's also etheric magic but it's not nearly as effective because the energy of the etheric realm itself is fairly simplistic and primitive. Then there's the realm above the mental, which is where Nightside of Eden comes in.

The top realm is referred to as the archetypal realm, although this is somewhat of a misnomer because a lot of the things that Plato, who coined the term 'archetype' in his writings and who inspired many occultists of his day, referred to as archetypes actually exist on the mental level.

The archetypal realm could be said to be what underlies the archetypes of the things that we see around us. It's the thing that basically underlies creation and that gets back to the source of the universe. But there's a problem. People can get to the etheric and mental realms through work of an occult nature, self transformation, but there's an almost impenetrable barrier between the mental level and the archetypal level. The archetypal level is so different and so primal in relation to human experience that it almost cannot be accessed directly, by anyone, because the difference is so great. This disjunction between the archetypal realm and the mental realm is called the 'Abyss'.

Now, the way the archetypal realm is presented in occultism is that it's a realm of pure, refined, basic concepts, pure thought if you will, while everything below it is tainted with worldly complexity. The question comes up of how exactly the archetypal realm was able to manifest the mental realm. The Golden Dawn had a story where the Archetypal realm was God in heaven and humans lived in harmony with God and could access it before the Fall in the Garden of Eden, the implication being that people could get to a pre-lapsarian, Edenic, state by following occultism and rising through the spheres or worlds. But the experience of Adepts has proven that this is not so easily achieved. There have been Adepts that have gotten to the brink of the Abyss and haven't gotten to an Edenic state. Something more is required to access this, some sort of connection that bridges the gap between the archetypal realm and the mental realm.

This is where Kenneth Grant comes in. He looked at this, and looked at some writings of certain Adepts, and posited a fifth world between the archetypal realm and the mental realm. This world is a sort of negative world, a world that both does and does not exist in a sense, one that is only semi manifest. It's located within the break between the archetypal realm and the mental realm, in the area that occultists refer to as the Abyss. The Abyss, which is thought of as being a kind of one way street to destruction for everyone who tries to cross it to the archetypal realm is in this scheme of things the real portal to the archetypal realm. But it's not as simple as that. The negative world, or the Nightside world, is a copy of the tree of life, the Nightside of the Dayside of the tree, and therefore is a whole other world in itself, not simply a quick portal to the archetypal realm. The rays of the archetypal realm in this scheme of things create the hidden world of semi-manifestation first and then proceed into the world of full manifestation in the mental realm. What this means is that the sephiroth visible from this tree of life that make up what we consider the archetypal realm are an illusion, an abstraction placed there to round out things. Or rather it appears that they're there, because the world around us seems complete, but in reality what we see as the components of the archetypal realm aren't the real thing. The real thing is only available to human beings by ascending into the Abyss and navigating the negative world. There's also another aspect to this.

If the mental level is where magick is done because it's more essential than the etheric realms and the realm of everyday life, then the world that underlies the archetypes themselves, that actually gives birth to the specific archetypes, is that much more powerful if you can go there and work magick with it.

The realm of the Nightside is literally the world of the fall of Eden, meaning the world of the serpent. Therefore it's very dark in its character, as opposed to the light of the dayside of the tree of life.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Summing up Crowley today

Where we deal with some esoteric stuff. Aleister Crowley, magician, mystic, wild and crazy guy. Prolific author. Unfairly tagged with the label of being right wing due to some misanthropic passages in his "Book of the Law". What does the status of ceremonial magick in the tradition of Crowley stand today?

Well, despite the wide availability of his writings, which is sort of ironic because most of the ones in print are really difficult and hermetic...and probably indecipherable for someone who just picks them up cold, the American OTO, sometimes called the Caliphate OTO, has produced damn few writers that are any good. On a personal level individual OTO members have some insight into things, but in terms of who writes the books there's pretty much no one besides Lon Milo Duquette who seems to have anything interesting or original to say. Rodney Orpheus, a member of the Caliphate OTO in England, wrote "Abrahadabra", which is a good book but I can't really think of anyone else who's done a good insightful job of writing about these things.

There have been spectacular failures, the first of which is Christopher Hyatt, who is in charge of New Falcon Publications, whose works fall somewhere between completely superficial and moronic. There's virtually nothing interesting that he's put out. The only book he's written that has a sustained meditation on anything is "The Psychopath's Bible", where he outlines his belief that people should act to destroy the human race as quickly as possible but never gives any reason why people should either believe in or do this.

New Falcon as a whole is a farce, an outfit that was willing to publish any books that Robert Anton Wilson churned out, no matter how badly he plagiarized himself, writing the same fucking book over and over again. For your $16 you might as well just get "Cosmic Trigger" Volume 1, think about getting "Prometheus Rising" sometime in the future, and forget about the rest. "Right where you're sitting now" is very good....but that's published by Ronin Press not New Falcon. My opinion is that beyond the Illuminatus! Trilogy and the ones outlined above, there's nothing in either Wilson's fiction or non-fiction worth reading. And unfortunately I've wasted my money on quite a lot of his books over the years, so I can feel somewhat confident about that statement.
It's interesting.....Peter Lamborn Wilson, who writes much more serious stuff in the counter-culture vein, rightly observed somewhere that RAW seemed to be a huckster selling whatever pseudo-counter cultural ideas he came across at a given period of time and not much more. It's shocking, shocking! to insult the memory of RAW, but unfortunately it's something that needs to be done. Even though he's not a Thelemite, i.e. a follower of Crowley, Timothy Leary, fellow New Falcon author, could be put in the same category, at least in his later works. The ones he wrote at the height of his popularity, i.e. "The Psychedelic Experience" and "Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out" are good ...and available for free online... but if you go down the road to things like "Neuropolitique" you start feeling that some utterly worthless writings of RAW, like "Sex & Drugs" are masterpieces of depth and perception.

Anyways, back to Crowley's ideas today.

The thing is that most of Crowley's ideas were passed on by people associated with his two orders, the A.'. A.'., which was a Golden Dawn like magical fraternity, and the OTO or Order of Oriental Templars, which was an esoteric Masonic organization that went far from the sort of Shriners in little cars idea of what Freemasonry is into real esotericism and occultism....mainly because occultists in the 19th century took Freemasonry and embellished it with their own ideas. The OTO pre-existed Crowley but he changed its focus and rituals to be in line with his thoughts on the nature of the universe and such.

Now the A.'. A.'., such as it is, still has some existence but people from it tend to keep to themselves. The OTO on the other hand has produced the most active proponents of Crowley's philosophy, the people who have done things to keep his ideas alive.

After Crowley's death in '49 the OTO lived on for about six years before basically being shut down for lack of interest. There were no more lodges active in the U.S. The only places that it still existed in some form were in England and Brazil, with Kenneth Grant splitting off from the traditional OTO and creating his own very innovative system, and a very eclectic and not entirely serious branch existing in Switzerland.

Basically nothing happened in the U.S. until the early '70s when three people who had been a member of a lodge in California in the late '40s and early '50s decided to resurrect the OTO....but they did this in a very curious way. Instead of coming out and saying that they were trying to reconstruct something that had been dead for two decades in the U.S. they claimed that they had been keeping the faith all the time and were now coming out of the woodwork to claim the mantle of the prophet, so to speak, the mantle being that of the authorized interpreters of Crowley's thought and legacy.

There was just one problem, and that was that Kenneth Grant's Typhonian OTO and Motta's Society Ordo Templi Orientalis, or SOTO, were still in existence and both of those authors, Grant outshining Motta like a supernova to a grey dwarf, still had something to say about what Crowley really thought and what the sorts of things he put into the OTO were really about.

I could go on, but in the words of one author, the Caliphate OTO, i.e. the reconstructed one (don't ask about where 'Caliphate' comes from) is in the habit of suing people who talk about its behavior in this regard. All I'll say is that the royalties from the (Crowley) Thoth Tarot deck and the Crowley books published by Weiser must be nice, especially since they've gone to such trouble to ensure that their magical order legally owns copyrights to things that were once in the public sphere.

If you want more info look up Peter Koenig's web page "The OTO Phenomenon".

But back to Crowley today. Motta's dead but some of his works, particularly "Calling the Children of the Sun" are available and worth looking at. The person claiming to head his organization, David Bersson, is quite frankly insane, so I don't think that much productive work will be coming out of him.

That leaves Kenneth Grant. Grant is the foremost authority on Crowley and Crowley's thought alive today. His books are inexplicably very inaccessible in the U.S. although parts of his thought are starting to bleed through into the U.S. market, particularly in the republication of the Crowley anthology "Portable Darkness", available in paperback, that was edited by people conversant with Grant's thought on things.

But Grant gets ridiculed by the Caliphate OTO because his group is small. Only Grant is responsible in large part for the formation and growth of Chaos Magic, which is pretty much the biggest innovation in magick in the past three and a half decades. The people who founded Chaos Magic initially had it as being semi-Grantian, and you can see traces of that even today in Peter Carrol's "Liber Null & Psychonaut", although the mentions are so obscure that you'd have to have already read some of Grant, particularly "Nightside of Eden", which is a priceless contribution..., to read Carrol and say to yourself "Oh, I know where that came from".

So on the one hand you have someone who besides writing nine extremely dense and insightful volumes about Crowley since the late '60s served as an inspiration for a totally new current of Magick, but whose order, the Typhonian Ordo Templi Orientalis, has always been small, and on the other you have the Caliphate OTO, mainly in the U.S., that has a lot of members but besides keeping the name of the OTO out there has done relatively little in terms of contribution to the occult world of the United States.

I'll let you judge which is the most important of the two.

Before going on to one last little thing I'll mention Michael Bertiaux, whose organization, the OTOA, or OTO Antiquis (Old OTO), combines some pre-Crowley OTO stuff with both Voodoo and French Gnosticism, while having ideas in the Crowleyan tradition here and there. His writings, like the recently reissued "Voudon Gnostic Workbook" are good on their own terms, although the ideas in the "Workbook" could be much more easily explained with clearer language than Bertiaux uses. But it too is well worth checking out.

The last little thing is the matter of Israel Regardie. There seems to be some confusion over his relation to Crowley. Regardie is famous for publishing order documents of a part of the Golden Dawn descended occult lodge the "Stella Matutina", thereby giving people direct access to the things. Regardie was Crowley's secretary for a few years but stated himself that Crowley didn't give him personal instruction in his magical system, and later on Regardie characterized himself as a "Golden Dawn man", not a Thelemite, which is to say a follower of Crowley. This is really important considering that both of these things have been used to give Regardie authority regarding (no pun intended) Crowley's thought and legacy. Regardie supported the reconstructed OTO, although it's not clear if he even was a member of that group, and the weight of his name means something in occult circles in the U.S., although that weight isn't really deserved.

But before I demolish Regardie let me just point out why the discussion of him is important regarding Crowley. The first point is that there were many people that Crowley had more intimate conversation about his ideas with than Regardie and these people have so far been overlooked, partially no doubt because what the have/had to say conflicts with what the Caliphate OTO says Crowley believed, and the second is that the system of magic that Regardie published documents regarding has little to do with how Crowley's A.'. A.'. was structured. Amazing but true. There's an assumption out there that the A.'. A.'., Crowley's full on magical order, was just a copy of the Golden Dawn, but this is not the case. He reworked pretty much all the rituals based on his system of magic, which is much more streamlined and clear than that presented by the Regardie documents. So......Regardie has little relevance to either Crowley in general or to the system the Crowley established in particular.

Yet he's been made a "Saint" in the Caliphate OTO, literally.

I'll comment on Regardie's works by saying that most of the original writing by him is worthless. The futon that I sleep on currently has a broken cross beam; Regardie's "The Tree of Life" is one of the books I use to prop it up. The others are a phone book and a text book. If you want a coherent description of the Golden Dawn system look up Chic and Tabitha Cicero's book "The Essential Golden Dawn", which actually gives an analysis of the thing in action. The thing about the order documents that Regardie published, meaning things that he either got a hold of or that were given to him in confidence, is that they present the same sort of problem as all the information on the internet: plenty of primary sources out there but not a lot of guidance in how to make useful sense out of them.

Which brings me to the last section of this, which is Regardie's role in sparking an occult revival with the publishing of the Golden Dawn material. What people don't realize is that he published all these things in the '50s [on edit: he started publishing the Golden Dawn documents in '37, finished in the early '40s]. This is significant because Aleister Crowley had been continually publishing books on magic deriving from his experience in the Golden Dawn as well as from other sources since the 1900s. There's several thousands of pages of Crowley writings on magic out there, all published before Regardie released his collection of documents in the '50s.
It was surely a boon to occultists to have this stuff get out there but credit should also be given to where credit is due.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Thailand Hunts for Pedophile Suspect

Something tells me this is going to be like OJ looking for the real killers (title link).

Monday, October 15, 2007

Another post for Wiccans: here's a simple reality quiz

I recently went to a public circle in the area, whose name I'm not going to write since they have an internet presence, and found what could be a nightmare in itself: the people there were vapid and seemingly ignorant of the world outside of neo-Wicca (currently understood as popular Wicca), socially maladjusted, Society for Creative Anachronism refugees. Fixating on Wicca books does not a well rounded person make, so I've assembled a little test to see whether or not people who are very much into Wicca are in touch with the greater reality surrounding them. Oh, in case people find this page there are a number of open circles in the Seattle area and I've been to several.

So here it goes:

1. What do you think about the Iraq war?

2. What is your opinion of the 2000 election?

3. In a few sentences, can you express what free trade and globalization are about?

4. What do you think of the role of corporations in our society?

5. Are you concerned about increasing pollution, and if so can you name three types of pollution and several practices besides using automobiles that contribute to it?

6, What is the PATRIOT Act?

7. Why have I capitalized the letters in the word "Patriot"?

8. Do you have an opinion on immigration?

9. Have you recently read a work of fiction outside of the Science Fiction/Fantasy Genre? If so, what?

10. Have you ever taken a class in the humanities or social sciences on any educational level from High School up? If so, what? Can you remember some of the books you read or the concepts from the topics you studies?

11. Do you think that your behavior could easily be explained by Freudian analysis?

Ok, the last one was a throw away question, but I think you get the drift. The grading scale for the quiz is as follows: if you've answered no to any of the questions you fail, and if you're unable to give cogent, succinct, answers to any question except the one on Globalization you fail. The PATRIOT Act capitalization is a trick question so not being able to answer it doesn't mean you fail.

Failing means that you need to read some newspapers, read a magazine dealing with current events,
follow issues, and read some actual literature besides Science Fiction or Fantasy.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Alexander Cockburn reminds people of the other heritage of Al Gore

Besides talking about climate change. Title link leads to an essay pointing out how Gore supported the sanctions against Iraq during the '90s that lead to an exponential growth in child mortality as well as increase in diseases caused by the prohibition of medical supplies as being potential "dual use" technologies. I remember reading in "Project Censored" in the late '90s that the sanctions became so absurd and crippling that a contract to import eggs into Iraq was denied because some component in eggs could theoretically be isolated and contribute to a dual use technology that could potentially facilitate the development of biological weapons.

I don't really care for Cockburn's opinions on climate change but, ahem, unlike certain high profile bloggers I'm able to filter out the stuff regarding to his scepticism on global warming and pay attention to the more valuable things that he writes about.

Quiet Days in Clichy by Henry Miller--the movie

A good movie that mixes thoughts on life with hardcore pornography. If you had to adapt a Henry Miller novel, this would be the way to do it. My understanding is that the novel itself is very short. I wonder what a movie made out of "Tropic of Cancer" would look like. The mind boggles. I wouldn't say that this movie was one of the all time greats, but it's nice, slow paced, meditative. And the sound track by "Country Joe and the Fish" is interesting in its own right. I don't think that more explicit lyrics, which occasionally serve as narration, have been used in a semi-mainstream....non-complete porn....movie. And it's "Quiet days in Clichy" not Clinchy as I reported earlier. I own the fucking thing so I should know the title.

Anyways, I think I first mentioned the film about a year ago, with a sort of review saying "I watched it" and little else, so...sometimes things take a long time to come to fruition I guess. Or maybe I'm just lazy.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Labor Creates All Wealth. Sentiment is true but the phrase is a little off

Because you could argue that people who plan the things that workers implement also create wealth. The particular way that the formula is constructed owes a lot to Marx's Labor Theory of Value, which is sort of something completely different from the subject at hand. Or at least it presents its own set of problems and baggage that cloud the issue. I think the idea that planners plan and workers implement is a better one, with the understanding that this fundamental division should be broken down, with workers planning as well.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Dylan's music and Christianity

And how Christianity effected his music.
Bringing this up because of the reference to Dylan in the 'perfected Jews' explanation, which is the post previous to this.

The common idea that when Dylan converted to Christianity his music started to suck isn't completely true in my opinion. After a slow start his Christian oriented sound got more sophisticated and successful on its own terms but the sound and the style that came out of his conversion to Christianity was much different than the one he came into it with.

I think for me the change of style is more disappointing than anything. The early to mid '70s period of Dylan is amazing, the time span between "Blood on the Tracks" and "Desire" being some of his best work, if not his very best. But there's a rupture between "Desire" and the next album he released, "Street Legal". The direction he was headed in on "Desire" was beyond belief, mixing different and innovative styles of music, very complex and satisfying lyrics, and very neat arrangements (Scarlet Riviera on violin, for instance). But it all stopped somewhere between the release of "Desire" and the recording of "Street Legal". "Street Legal", which makes reference to changing horses and changing direction away from Lucifer in its first song, lacks the sort of concentrated creative energy that "Desire" had, with formats changed to resemble contemporary '70s pop rather than representing the kind of style that Dylan had been pioneering throughout his career. The complex lyrics turn into lyrical puzzles, lyrics that are complicated for their own sake making it an interesting game to decipher them rather than something where you get to some more profound insight onto life once you've figured them out.

From "Street Legal" the new style takes over, increasingly spare, stripped down. He eventually comes out of it, with "Shot of Love" being a worthwhile album to look up and the albums leading up to, including, and going immediately beyond "Oh, Mercy" being very very good.

Still, it makes you wonder what could have been produced if he'd stuck with the creative terrain that he was exploring in the early to mid '70s instead of veering off into another direction.

OK, what Coulter means by "Perfected Jews"

I learned this reading a biography of Bob Dylan, who converted to Christianity from Judaism.
The way some Christians see it is that the appearance of Christ was the culmination of Jewish history, religion, and tradition, and so by accepting Christ their Jewish identity is 'perfected' or 'completed'.

That's it in one sentence.

Gore has won the Nobel Peace Prize---now will the conservatives take him seriously?

I mean they always crow about conservative economists winning the Nobel for economics, and use that as some sort of evidence that they're right. The truth of that though is that a conservative Swedish banker made the endowment for the Nobel Prize in economics basically causing it to be skewed towards giving conservative economists who may not even be that qualified the prize.

But, Peace. On second thought I can see conservatives castigating the Europeans for having a prize celebrating 'Peace', saying that it shows a bias in their political system. Yup, unless they have a Nobel War Prize to complement it the conservatives probably won't be happy.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

I think that if Bush invades Iran Christiane Amanpour will go down in history as one of the most compromised media whores around.

Just a remark. I caught some of her propaganda piece, *cough* *cough*, I mean documentary, about the three Abarahamic religions--Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. She's an Iranian exile.

*on edit: noticed that Wikipedia lists her as one of the most distinguished journalists in the U.S.
I'm trying hard not to laugh. That's a little like saying the most distinguished member of the World Wrestling Federation. It's a wonder what a British accent will do for you in the U.S. William the retarded pedophile from Teesdale could get called the most distinguished journalist in the U.S. if he could put together a couple of sentences with a proper English accent.

If Obama objected to the Iran legislation so much why didn't he vote against it?

He's been criticizing Hillary Clinton for voting for legislation that declared the Iranian Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization and connected them to attacks inside Iraq. Yet he didn't show up for the vote himself and what's more he cosponsored a bill that declared the same thing about the Revolutionary Guard minus the assertion that they were acting in Iraq.

Condemning or labeling the Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization is absurd in that if you did that you'd have to label the U.S. Special Forces as a terrorist group as well. The Guard is a part of the Iranian armed forces. I suspect that their action on the Iran-Iraq border is being provoked by the United States in order to justify launching a war with Iran.

However, that doesn't erase the fact that Obama seems to be playing fast and loose with his real opinions about the issue in order to get progressive voters onto his side.

Remember the 2002 speech....Remember the 2002 speech...that's the Obama campaign's constant refrain, said in the hope that people won't look at what he's actually talking about now.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

First gay man in Alabama elected...to school board

I was waiting for the other shoe to drop in this one. The headline said that this guy was the first elected official in Alabama who was openly gay, but it didn't specify just what office he'd been elected to--which is always a sign that people are covering up something. Turns out that, yes, Alabama has elected its first gay official and he represents his district on the Birmingham school board. Although I applaud him for getting elected and see the progress I can't help but think that this is a sign of how fucked up Alabama is. Maybe Mississippi will follow suit and declare that it's found that it has one openly gay employee on a city employment roll someplace, thereby proving its openness.

Don Hertzfeldt is a good animator

Look up his stuff on Youtube. "Rejected Cartoons", "Intermission", etc...

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Metal Machine Music by Lou Reed

I give it five stars. "Metal Machine Music" is a record composed completely of guitars on feedback, that are also reverbed, altered, and the layered one on top of the other through recording techniques. There's no conventional melody, there's no conventional structure, no songs, no lyrics. It's pointed to as an early noise rock record. I was interested in it because I had read one well known music critic whose name I can't remember at the moment say that it was one of the few records that he couldn't listen to. Cool. To me that's a signal that I should track the thing down and listen to it myself.

The record is complex, not just noise, not really as atonal as the reviewers make it out to be. Like they say in the liner notes, this record draws on modern classical music, which goes in a sort of noisy direction, for inspiration, meaning that it's not just random feedback. It's good feedback, feedback with a point to it. You could say the same thing about a lot of records, and bands, that are noise oriented. As for where the quality of the noise, in terms of interest and in terms of some of the things it's trying to communicate, is located, it tops the scales.

Not as noisy or atonal as it's made out to be. The harshest, most atonal, music that I've ever heard is by Schoenberg, specifically his piano compositions, which is not all that surprising since he was the originator of atonal and then serialist music, the latter of which is a kind of systemization of atonality. That stuff is truly hard to listen to. I can appreciate it, but I don't listen to it for enjoyment's sake. "Metal Machine Music" on the other hand sounds like something that's interesting not just for arts sake but for the pleasure of listening to it as well.

But then I like Sonic Youth, noise rock in general, and Industrial Music, so my tastes may not be the same as everyone else's. I like Einsturzende Neubauten, Throbbing Gristle, and the whole genre. Even found and listened to Glenn Branca, from which Sonic Youth partially came, a guy whose compositions are very interesting, based on microtonality. Microtonality is breaking up the scale into very small units, like the name implies, so that you have things like quarter flats and sharps. I need to find more Glenn Branca, but there are so many things that are interesting out there. I used to have his CD "The Mysteries", which was a symphony in two parts for guitars divided up into "Life" and "Death". That's another thing...I know I'm rambling but bear with me....he has like fifty guitars tuned to alternate tunings very precisely perform his music. One guitar could have all the strings tuned to 'E', another could have all the strings tuned to a few parts of a tone above 'E', or have some exotic mix of tones where half was an 'E' in one octave and the other half of the strings was an 'E' in the next octave up.

Very interesting stuff. Was part of a short lived band called the "Theoretical Girls". I used to have a CD by them but it's disappeared. Now "Theoretical Girls" are one of those bands that have a unique place that I should track down one of these days, like "Birthday Party", which was Nick Cave's band before he founded "Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds".

It only takes an amount of Plutonium the size of a soda can to make a huge nuclear bomb, so we should wage war on Iran, right?

Not quite. The comparison is misleading in that it neglects to mention that plutonium is a totally artificial element that's not found in nature and has to be manufactured atom by atom. Making plutonium from uranium requires an enormous amount of money, time, equipment, support, resources, etc... meaning that only a state backed program could do it and that it wouldn't be an easy undertaking, especially to refine the uranium to the point where it could be made into plutonium and then manufacture the plutonium itself. The technology to do this, by the way, isn't something you can just get the plans for from some company. The information about constructing nuclear reactors and nuclear devices is withheld from the international public, which is why Iran and other countries have to basically do the research to make these things themselves. So far they haven't even gotten to the point where they could use their refined uranium to fuel nuclear reactors. Another point is price, or value.

You can't buy plutonium, but if you could it would be worth many times its weight in gold, meaning that the four kilograms of plutonium that would be the size of a soda can would be the equivalent of four kilograms of cut and finished diamonds.

The soda can comparison is misleading because everyone can go to the store and get a soda, which implies that plutonium is just as easily available. The truth is that it's anything but common.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Jung and Bush

According to Jung nations have shadows too. It doesn't take much to connect the outpouring of authoritarianism and bloodlust that followed 9/11 to a sudden invasion of the psychological shadow of the U.S. into it's mainstream psyche. All of the impulses that manifested themselves after 9/11 had been there before, indeed it was commonplace before it happened to say that the Republicans were really secret fascists and that if they ever got their chance their true colors would come out. The conservatism of the rural South and of rural areas in general and the rhetoric of Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, and others had been widely commented on well before it happened as well. It took a shock to the collective psyche to bring all of the tendencies out.

9/11 in this sense had the effect of baiting someone that you know is sort of fucked up into fighting when they don't want to. It touched a sort of pressure point that the psyche of America couldn't handle and so the beast that hides behind the psyche came out to try to deal with the perceived threat, and like someone baited into fighting it swung wildly at everything it could see that was associated with it.

Of course the shadow wasn't inactive before, but it conducted its actions in secret, far from the public view, ensuring that the nice image that people had of America was maintained. This part of the shadow was the shadow of the U.S. government, but unfortunately after 9/11 the government found out that it's shadow self was shared by the U.S. public in general, and used that knowledge as an authorization to go full force.

The Shadow Self, Jung

The Jungian concept of the Shadow is a very interesting and very valuable one. I actually write several blogs, this one and one that's much more personal that's not available to the general public---or at least it isn't easy to find. On the other one I talk a lot about the need to reconcile the dark and light aspects of the personality, the need to explore both the positive and the negative in the world in order to come to some sort of synthesis that transcends them both. Jung's concept of the shadow self is very informative on this subject.

The Shadow is that which we fear ourselves to be, or that which is the opposite of what we are consciously that gets repressed. We still have the urges, but they're banished to another part of the psyche. A strong person outwardly will have a shadow self that's extremely weak, a person that has an outwardly weak self will compensate for it by having an extremely strong shadow self. Outwardly very sexual, inwardly afraid of impotence, outwardly asexual, inwardly hypersexual. Outwardly peaceful, inwardly warlike and violent. Psychological integration demands that people become aware of the shadow in themselves through introspection and meditation, face the fears, and begin to integrate parts of the shadow into their daily life. The difference in how the shadow manifests when merged with the personality as compared to how it manifests when it's unacknowledged is that the over compensating forces in the repressed shadow are integrated into the personality in a more reasonable form. The outwardly peaceful person who in his or her shadow self is actually belligerent and mean would find by integrating the shadow into the self that he didn't need to be so peaceful, so overly peaceful and passive, and could in fact be more assertive and more aware of the non-peaceful aspects of his personality. So it's a healthy solution. Too much pure repression of the shadow can lead to it forcefully intruding on the conscious personality as some sort of psychosis and create a mental breakdown or general mental disintegration.

Anyways, I'm reading more Jung now and it's very rewarding. The concepts outlined above come from a very illuminating essay called "The archetypes and the collective unconscious", fabulous in every way. The book I'm using is The Basic Writings of C.G. Jung, which differs from most readers in that it provides long extracts of a reasonable number of works rather than a lot of brief and superficial excerpts from a lot of different works.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

CIA torture revelations....wait, this is the CIA we're talking about, right?

(title link) So we're shocked, shocked(!), to find out that the CIA has been authorized to use torture. But the CIA has always used torture. The only difference between now and then is that the Justice Department has explicitly endorsed some techniques in a way that's left a paper trail. My impression is that the CIA is doing what it's always done. For example, there's a great book by Douglas Valentine called "The Phoenix Program" that outlines a CIA run "counter-insurgency" program in Vietnam that relied on the commission of random murders in suspected disloyal towns in Vietnam to scare the townspeople into supporting the Americans. Valentine documents Army personnel sneaking into houses, slitting the throats of all the people in them, and occasionally nailing playing cards into the foreheads of victims, among other examples of random terror. The actions were planned and overseen by the CIA, which in turn got its orders from the executive branch in collaboration with the military. There's also the issue of the CIA torture manual found in the possession of a Central American death squad in the 1980s, not to mention CIA order assassinations and coup plotting/executing. So it kind of strikes me as odd that the CIA being exposed as using torture is a "stop the presses" kind of thing. I think it's strategically important in that the paper trail can be used to bring down sections of the Bush administration through legal challenges and Congressional hearings, but strategery is strategery, and we shouldn't act like innocenti in relation to this 'revelation'.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

I don't support Obama because...

He seems like a wolf in sheep's clothing. He's charismatic, but on an increasing amount of issues he's proven to be to the right of Hillary Clinton. I can't believe I just wrote that. Nevertheless, it's true. For instance he went beyond all the other Democratic candidates in advocated bombing Pakistan to get at Al-Qaeda, something that Pakistan didn't really appreciate. He's come out against affirmative action, saying that he'd like his daughter, the daughter of a United States Senator, to be judged on her talent and not on her race.He's taken a hardline stance on Iran, and now he's pushing a proposal that on the surface sounds good but that could easily be turned into a justification for war with Iran: the banning of all nuclear weapons around the world. Sounds good for a headline but the way I read it is that the idea is Obama's equivalent of a hypothetical statement by Bush saying that he's committed to the destruction of weapons of mass destruction around the world and, oh yeah, Saddam Hussein has some so we need to go to war with him.

I don't believe that the proposal is given in good faith at all and that if he ever got elected and started to implement it people who are designated as an American enemy of the month would get more pressure to disarm than, say, the U.S. itself, Israel, and Russia. Maybe Russia, depending on how cozy Obama gets with Putin.

Obama has been an increasing disappointment.....an indicator of how people on the 'netroots' respond to image but rarely go behind the image to investigate the reality of things.

But of course the whole idea that we should be talking about Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama at this point is fucked up. The actual election is over a year away and relevant news has been largely preempted to cover a horse race where the biggest things that happen are bench marks in money raised and pronouncements by the candidates themselves.

*on edit: taking a look at Obama's website there's a disturbing lack of specific information. Not specific information on proposals, he has plenty of that. Almost too much. Instead, what the site lacks is any semblance of an explanation on how he'd implement any of his ideas. Take health care for example. If you look at his comprehensive health care proposals you'll see that they're full of "I will do this, I will do that" statements without any hint as to what sort of structure he's proposing to implement all of it. Where' the national health insurance going to come from? Is there going to be another agency? How will he do things like ensure that patients all across the United States get equal amounts of care? We don't know. He doesn't address these sorts of questions with specifics. Frankly I'm skeptical that any President could get much of this stuff done without an absolute majority in both the Senate and the House willing to rubber stamp anything that comes their way. And even then it's not even clear if the President has the authority to enact a lot of the things he proposes, meaning that there will most likely be many challenges that will go to the Supreme Court, that will inevitably be found to be unconstitutional. So....for Obama to really pass everything he wants he'd have to control all three branches of government and also be willing to shred the Constitution when it didn't authorize the sort of Presidential authority he needs.

Which brings me to another point. The proposals he puts forward on domestic policy are so invasive that it would scare me to have that much power concentrated in the hands of a President, whether it be a Republican or a charismatic black man who's a Democrat. I believe that more authority should be given back to Congress and that the weight of the Presidential part of the Executive branch should be lessened a whole lot. Obama's proposals would take us the other way, if he actually tried to get them passed when elected. My gut feeling is that if he ever got elected a lot of these things would disappear into thin air.

*on edit #2: not to harp on this or anything but does Obama expect to wave a magic wand and suddenly have all his ideas manifest perfectly? This is the problem. There's no indication that he actually has answers to the question of how he see his ideas being successfully implemented in the real world.

An actual Homeland Security high school in the U.S. Unfortunately, this isn't a joke

Or an exaggeration. According to Mother Jones mag. (title link) "The 75 students in the Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness magnet program will study cybersecurity and geospatial intelligence, respond to mock terror attacks, and receive limited security clearances at the nearby Army chemical warfare lab." Makes me wonder if their school motto is ""Meine Ehre hei├čt Treue", "My Honor is Loyalty" (look it up on Google for the source).

This is truly disturbing. Quote: "Officials say it will teach kids to understand the "new reality," though they hasten to add that the school isn't focused just on terrorism."

Quote: "Students will choose one of three specialized tracks: information and communication technology, criminal justice and law enforcement, or "homeland security science."

"David Volrath, executive director of secondary education for Harford County Public Schools, says the school also hopes to offer "Arabic or some other nontraditional, Third World-type language."

Got to love those Third-World type languages.

Might I suggest a Song (MP3) to go with the school, a translation of which is here.