Archives for category: culture

(a review of Cosmic Trigger 1 I posted on Goodreads)

Would give this five but for the outdated predictions. Life extension, increased space travel, a lot of the things haven’t happened yet. But, when I look at what has happened over the past thirty years, it isn’t that surprising. There has been a TREMENDOUS increase in the use and availability of personal technology. People like Elon Musk and Richard Branson are doing good things with regards to space flight. However, a whole lot of the money and research has gone into personal computers -> laptops-> smartphones -> tablets -> smartwatches, Glass, etc. Yes, the internet is a wonderful place and can allow people to connect (to a degree) but to my mind the connections aren’t genuine. Rather than move toward things which could unify us as a world people and possibly realize our common interests, we have managed to come up with more ways to make us more self-involved and things to addict ourselves to. I have had the idea for a while for a scifi story. Basic premise is that the machines are, in fact, taking us over. But they are doing it covertly and by preying on our human weaknesses. They managed to insinuate themselves even more strongly into our lives with the advent of the personal computer (think about the famous Apple 1984 ad – maybe prescient in a different way than intended). In the process of this intrusion into our lives, they manage to interface with us and get into our brains to make us THINK they are more vital to us than they actually are. And make us “need” them more, to do more things. And subsequently convince us that we need to constantly get the latest, greatest, smallest new gizmo out there. This initial entree was so successful that they upped their game and put themselves in our pockets, and upped the ante in terms of how “valuable” and “necessary” they are to us. Their latest strategy is to put themselves directly in front of our eyes at all times, and on our wrists. Of course, this is all leading to the next goal which is to get into our actual bodies. Which they have managed to accomplish to a small degree. The more interaction we have with them, for more hours of our day, the more of our consciousness they take over as they manage to convince us they are so important to us that we should allow them even more free reign. They manage to manipulate and persuade us to allow them even more control over our lives, and that the avenues for connection are more important than genuine connection. We don’t need things like consciousness expanding substances or techniques which might encourage us to have genuine connection with other humans, the beings on this earth and the earh and universe itself. No, we just need them to attain the simulacrum of happiness they offer. It’s all virtual anyway, right?

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(book being quoted here is Drawing Down the Moon by Margot Adler. This is from historiadiscordia.com)

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On page 309, RAW drops some vital Discordian knowledge, which stands as probably the most succinct and to the point summary of Eris worship ever writ (maybe):

“Much of the Pagan Movement started out as jokes, and gradually, as people found out they were getting something out of it, they became serious. Discordianism has a built-in check against getting too serious. The sacred scriptures are so absurd—as soon as you consult the scriptures again, you start laughing. Discordian theology is similar to Crowleyanity. You take any of these ideas far enough and they reveal the absurdity of all ideas. They show that ideas are only tools and that no idea should be sacrosanct. Thus, Discordianism is a necessary balance. It’s a fail-safe system. It remains a joke and provides perspective. It’s a satire on human intelligence and is based on the idea that whatever your map of reality, it’s ninety percent your own creation. People should accept this and be proud of their own artistry. Discordianism can’t get dogmatic. The whole language would have to change for people to lose track that it was all a joke to begin with. It would take a thousand years.”

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

BruceS on Snowden as Solzhenitsyn

the mind reels. This turns the conventional wisdom on its head and inside out. We can all be Snowden, or Assange, or Manning, if we choose to. All three of those men are far braver than I.

See, here’s the thing that is being lost in all the hubbub over the verdict in the Zimmerman trial, and the incident itself. They are SYMBOLS, symbols of one thing to one side, and of another to the other side. Symbols are POWERFUL, emotionally resonant and in a lot of cases more powerful than the things they symbolize. THAT is the reason for the unrest in LA and elsewhere, and for the intense emotions on both sides. I would like to believe we could look at this as a teaching and learning opportunity, an opportunity to look objectively about what really is going on in this country, even after five years of having a black president. He, Obama, is just a symbol too. If we continue to focus on the symbols and fail to ignore or trivialize the underlying realities, we will never find common ground and will continue lurching along on our course to oblivion and irrelevance.

We did not invent democracy. We have not, all propagandistic, patriotic blandishments to the contrary, even perfected it. Who are we, really, to tell the citizens of Egypt, or Turkey, or Syria, or Iraq, how to achieve it? It is a messy, long process, especially in countries where there is no history of democratic rule. The historical perspective we need to even BEGIN to understand what is happening in Egypt and elsewhere will not even be available until after I am gone. That is just the way it is. However, that won’t stop the pundits from bloviating and pontificating (how those words sound like excretory functions, which they are). David Brooks isn’t the only culprit. The US is the empire now, and is seen as such from more parts of the world than it is not. There is a new Orientalism afoot, and it ain’t pretty. Edward Said, where are you when we need you? I would love to be able to hear your insights on the events of the past few years in the Arab world.
God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater

God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Vonnegut is my guru

So wise, kind and yet cynical all at the same time. I love his theory in this interview about how writers are specialized cells, or organisms. My personal theory of the universe, the way of thinking by which I am guided, is holistic. Partly, or mostly, derived from what I know of Taoism and how it approaches the world in which we live.

I have been on a Vonnegut kick lately, going through God Bless You Mr. Rosewater, Bluebeard, Deadeye Dick and now on Mother Night, with Sirens of Titan and Fates Worse Than Death on deck. Amazon, it seems, has been tempting me by offering on a weekly basis one Vonnegut book for $1.99. Can’t beat it with a stick, that much wisdom for that little money. What he offers in his body of work, amid all the wackiness, is an alternate or secret history of the twentieth and the early twenty first centuries. He may not have made it into that essentially worthless entity called “the canon” due to his absurdity, but why not? I have some ideas on this, most of which involves academics with sticks up their asses. We don’t need people who can show us the seriousness in life through the prism of literature, for isn’t life serious enough as it is? Isn’t that why we spend so much time through so many ways, evolving every day, to escape it? I submit that we are much better served by folks, like my beloved Kurt, who can make us laugh and see the absurdity of the existence in which we live, and just maybe help us to learn something about ourselves in the process.

index(6)837997257Snowden’s Run

This story proved the accuracy of the cliche “truth is stranger than fiction” a couple of weeks ago. And it just keeps getting stranger. One of the most interesting aspects to me is how the supremacy and power of the US government is being challenged. And, in this latest chapter, how sovereign governments kowtow to the wishes of the US government and do their bidding. In a way, I think, the incident is prescient about how things are going to be in the future. By this I mean the struggle between the global south, or third world, or whatever, and the nations who have traditionally controlled the world for centuries. We are seeing the beginnings of huge change here, change which I regret I likely won’t be around to witness.

The image that comes to mind is Gulliver, prostrate on the ground and being harassed by the Lilliputians who are swarming around him and restricting his movement by staking him to the ground. Bravo to Morales, and Kirchner, and to an extent even Putin, who are exercising their sovereignty and by their actions acknowledging the reality that the US has lost its moral and political authority in the world. A new world is here, and as is usually the way with superpowers, the US is the last to realize it.

Vonnegut Wooden Nickel

Vonnegut Wooden Nickel (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Excellent Guardian interview with Rebecca Solnit

She is so interested in, and engaged with, the world in which she lives. In the interview, the interviewer applies the term “psychogeographer” to her, and I can’t disagree with her. Psychogeography is such an antiseptic, academic sounding term. What it is, to me, is a way of being in the world in which you are aware and receptive to what is going on around you, and ideally to the effects of these impressions on you. Plus ca change, ya know – everything old is new again. I have aspirations to be a Taoist sage – have sometimes said that if someone held a gun to my head and demanded I name a religion, I would name Taoism. The ancient Taoist sages were just nodes in the network, to use present day terminology. They realized that one of the curious things about being human, perhaps the MOST curious thing, is that we are simultaneously, constantly, both connected to all that is around us, and utterly separate. Both islands in the stream, and the stream itself. What most separates us from our animal companions, from all the other beings that inhabit this world, is that, for better or worse, we are completely AWARE of this separation. One of my gurus, Kurt Vonnegut, talks a bit, a lot even, of we humans with our big brains and the trouble we can cause with them. It’s a constant, running theme in all of his work, in fact. Wittingly or unwittingly, the powers of our big brains often provoke us to run harum scarum through the world, often creating havoc wherever we go. Our responsibility, to revert to a cliche, is to use these powers for good, to realize that for whatever reason this happened – God, a random evolutionary accident, whatever – we have an obligation, a duty, to use this gift to become more aware of the wondrous universe in which we live and, when given the opportunity, to make it a better place for ALL concerned.

You Are Now Entering the Nevada National Secur...

You Are Now Entering the Nevada National Security Site (No Trespassing), Near Mercury, Nevada (Photo credit: Ken Lund)

Excerpt from Rebecca Solnit’s upcoming book.

I love her writing and she is one writer who I’d love to meet. Savage Dreams inspired me to go to the Nevada Test Site for my vacation ten years or so ago.

The (not so new) F word

May be a little overwrought, but in general I agree with the thoughts expressed here. I reserve the use of the word “fascism” until I believe a certain line has been crossed. I don’t believe we have crossed that line yet, I don’t even know where it IS, but I do believe we are dancing perilously close to it. Civilizations and cultures in decline resort to extreme measures to preserve themselves, and their power, only to finally find that the lengths to which they went result, in time, not in their continuance, but their destruction. Examples through history are numerous, and I believe that the so-called American Century ended in 1989, with the collapse of Communism. It didn’t last long, not even a full 100 years, but what I see now is pretty convincing evidence of a culture in decline and spasmically lashing out, most especially at the weak and relatively defenseless, in a vain effort to preserve itself.