June 28, 2009

Tales of extraordinary madness

The St. Petersburg Times ran a three-part series on Scientology last week, with the focus mainly on bullying at the management levels. It was good for what it was, but it didn't go into the true madness of the thing.

L Ron Hubbard's Admissions is like a madman's little book of wisdom. Keep it by your bedside and meditate on a section each night before sleeping. It's a list of platitudes, memos to self and self-aggrandizing asides in the second person. Examples:
You can sing beautifully. Your voice can imitate any singer. Your tones are round and true. You have no superstitions about singing at any time. Your oratory is magnificent. Your voice tones perfect, your choice of words marvelous, your logic unassailable.

Material things are yours for the asking. Men are your slaves. Elemental spirits are your slaves. You are power among powers, light in the darkness, beauty in all.

Your eyes are getting progressively better. They became bad when you used them as an excuse to escape the naval academy. You have no reason to keep them bad and now they can get well and they will become eventually starting now as keen as an eagle's with clear whites and green pupils. Sunlight does not affect them. Lack of sleep does not affect them.

Your foot was an alibi. The injury is no longer needed. It is well. You have perfect and lovely feet.

You have no fear of what any woman may think of your bed conduct. You know you are a master. You know they will be thrilled. You can come many times without weariness. The act does not reduce your vitality or brain power at all. You can come several times and still write. Intercourse does not hurt your chest or make you sore. Your arms are strong and do not ache in the act. Your own pleasure is not dependent on the woman's. You are interested only in your own sexual pleasure. If she gets any that is all right but not vital. Many women are not capable of pleasure in sex and anything adverse they say or do has no effect whatever upon your pleasure. Their bodies thrill you. If they repel you, it merely means they themselves are too frigid or prudish to be bothered with. They are unimportant in bed except as they thrill you. Your sexual power is magnificent and they know it. If they are afraid of it, that is their loss. You are not affected by it.
Part one here, but all the above are from part two.

The clip below shows David Miscavige, the current 'head' of Scientology, announcing the death of L Ron Hubbard. It's great to see his face as spins the news of Hubbard having left his body to continue his research.

This is my favorite. I sat and watched whole set [7 x 30 min] straight through. It's Steven Fishman in a seven-part video deposition that goes into his beliefs about himself and Scientology. The horror only grows over the running time, right up to the last scene - the tour of the library.

Steven Fishman is a former Scientologist whose inclusion of Scientology's secret Operating Thetan levels in a court filing led to the first public confirmation by the Church of Scientology of its doctrines regarding Xenu and the Wall of Fire. Wikipedia

Great headline

Michael Jackson set to be embalmed at the O2 Centre after missing the deadline for cryogenic freezing

June 22, 2009

Preliminary findings

September last year I wrote:

I think if I worked in an office I'd be far more lecherous and alarming than I am, far more prone to obsession and liable to lose my bearings if an attractive young woman struck up a friendly conversation.
Working in an office was not the key point, but rather working in an environment that wasn't filled with attractive women and girls who were there to interact with me, as happens [happened] in conversation classes. So, there was a testable hypothesis contained in that earlier post, as follows:
My lechery and alarming behavior are inversely proportional to the amount of friendly conversation I engage in with attractive young women.

Preliminary findings
Nine months later, and I no longer teach in any significant capacity, and so do not spend all day, every day in conversation with attractive young women.

The evidence of the last 6.5 months suggests strong support for the hypothesis.

Limitations, and suggestions for future work
It should be noted that this preliminary investigation does not consider any possible variables, such as the consumption of alcohol and the fact that I'm married. However, whether these factors are significant, and if so, whether they are moderating or mediating variables, is something that future work will address.

Related post: Made of anecdotes and punchlines

June 21, 2009

Repetition and meditating on simple numbers

Photo of a coneflower by Tim Stone [website down] and a short article on the math it expresses

I've taken up swimming in an attempt to halt the cascading failures in my body after 6.5 months of partying too much.

Three weeks of changes - a lot less drinking and back on low carb / primal exercise - and I can already feel things starting to turn around and churn beneath the surface. Stochastic systems and emergence mean a certain amount of surrender is required when it comes to doing the right things for your body. If you can quiet yourself for long enough and listen to what your body is saying, then the answer will often be clear. And, like Haruki Murakami writes in another post: Being active every day makes it easier to hear that inner voice.

There are a lot of pools in this part of town, and the one two streets over is probably the worst, so after 7pm there's usually only one or two people there. I do 60 x 25m, and to not lose count / keep my head relatively quiet I focus only on the numbers, manipulating them in various ways. This is kind of dull for one and two, but picks up with three and beyond.

I don't want to give the wrong impression. My conscious thoughts are very simple, and I'm barely numerate, so these are basic exercises, but they please me and they get the job done. I don't lose count or think too much, and the swimming is done in a trance.

Anyway, this link leads to a list maintained by Erich Friedman that explains what's special about a lot of numbers, which is similar to this list of the properties of the first 5,000 integers. Lots of things to thing about when you're counting to 100.

June 20, 2009

Mugwump jism

Fifty years since Naked Lunch was published, and whatever strange trip I've been on since my mid-teens has been in part inspired by that first rush of books, which helped me run counter to everything that had been intended or could expected for my future. So, a moment of gratitude to walking corpses everywhere, with a favorite interpretation of the work, below.

Bug Powder Dust, by Bomb The Bass featuring Justin Warfield [1994]

Fat man in a cul-de-sac

They don't have to tell me about this human condition: I'm in it.
B.S. Johnson, caption from Street Children
B.S. Johnson's Fat Man on a Beach has turned up, and all five parts are posted below.

If you don't know him, then it's of limited interest [almost certainly none], probably like the rest of this post.

He was a modernist writer who got caught in too many traps, mostly set by himself. I think he had very limited talents that he stretched too far with style, and when the talent broke and the style ran out there was little left over to live on. He killed himself in a bathtub at the age of 40, in 1973. With better choices perhaps he could have been Georges Perec, who died of natural causes [lung cancer] at the age of 45, in 1982, but he wasn't.

Although he did have some good titles, and to my way of thinking [which I accept is a little cracked] Instructions for the Use of Women is at least as good as Laferrière's How to Make Love to a Negro, although the latter is the better work, and neither are that outstanding.

I read Jonathan Coe's good biography of Johnson earlier this year, which a) explained why I'd been able to read all of this hard to find author's works while at university [Warwick had an English professor who was a supporter, and the library was well-stocked], and b) made it plain that the best I could have hoped for if I'd pursued a literary career would've been to become a failed B.S. Johnson. Moreover, and more importantly, that a failure in this case would still have been better than the real thing, as long as it was done fast (as it more or less was).

Some people have easy lives, but most face a long series of struggles. I write that, thinking about B.S. Johnson, with no idea if it's true, having no access to the lived experience of others. My life is very easy, with the few problems I ever face are nearly all of my own devising. But this might signify an emotional poverty or lack of daring on my own part, an unwillingness to engage more completely. I don't think it matters - I'd rather be a pig in shit than a sad philosopher.

part one

part two
[The start of the anecdote Coe mentions about the motorcycle accident / cheese starts near the end of part two...]

part three
[...and finishes at the start of part three]

part four

part five

June 16, 2009

Putting your leg out of the water

After no posts in the first quarter of the year Ken Mogi's English blog is picking up speed again. He's a Japanese mind-brain researcher, and a particular favorite of Yuki's. He writes very simply and clearly in English, like Yechezkel Zilber, and the effect is somewhat similar.

When I was an undergraduate, I made friends with Ken Shiotani, now a "philosopher-at-large", (meaning, in this particular usage, that he does not belong to any university, institution, etc.; he is not paid for his "philosophizing"). I and Shiotani would discuss these difficult things walking along the Sumida river, drinking beer, persevering a cold night air in a park. At that time, we were quite young and ignorant, but our aspirations were astronomical.

One day, Shiotani drew up a metaphor. He would like to be the "protoamphibian" who "put his leg out of water" for the first time in history. There are heaps of things that the human mind has not had access to yet, and he would like to be the first one to do it. After many years of dormancy, I think he is still aspiring to that.

Another Shiotani quote stayed with me. I think it was one of these days when I was wont to hang out with him in Tokyo bars and Izakayas. After speaking wishfully [sic - wistfully?] of his friends who were "climbing the ladders" smoothly and becoming authors and associate professors, Shiotani sighed and said thus.

"I don't want to be a star myself. I would rather like to be the dark void in which all these constellations shine".

He is that kind of person. Practical things are too small for him.

June 15, 2009

Things that didn't happen

My tendency is to oversimplify, which seems to work out fine, as even the most complex systems move at different levels through states of complexity and simplicity, apparent chaos and underlying / overarching order. Also, I live a very limited life [no authority, no kids] in which the consequences of making mistakes rarely spill out of this room.

However, that doesn't mean my life is not, from some perspectives, one long string of mistakes, simplicity falling into chaos, even though I can never see it like that.

I rarely think about the past, but sometimes I list episodes when things almost took a turn for the definite worse, inre. unplanned parenthood, imprisonment, serious injury or death. If I was the praying type, and I'm not, I would've begged some god to get me out of those situations with the promise to lead a better life from then on. Perhaps the fact no prayers were made doesn't matter, and I still ought to have done things differently and better, and perhaps I did.

Related post: The utility of slack

June 11, 2009

Made of anecdotes and punchlines

There are some things some people shouldn't read, and I shouldn't be allowed near any version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. I tend to go through the check-lists feeling like someone has just read my soul. The other week I decided that I had avoidant personality disorder, and so brooded on that for a while, then decided to go out and test the hypothesis. I came home at sunrise convinced that I'm a narcissistic psychopath instead /as well.

Earlier in the evening, my body chemistry still to be trusted and the alcohol only slightly sedating inhibitions, when the loggorhea hadn't yet kicked in and I was still capable of listening, I introduced myself to a guy and he said "Oh, I know about you", which was a surprise, as apart from the last six months I've spent the last three years being fairly reclusive, too busy working early in the morning / late at night to haunt bars and hang out in conversation.

He used to share an apartment with one of my exes, and then another place with a girl I used to know in another town. I said "oh, you must know a lot of bad things about me."

I didn't feel this was being self-deprecating at all. I think I exist very little in the minds of others, which is A-OK and how things should be around here, but am aware that most likely when I do appear in conversations in the third person that the proportion of anecdotes + punchlines to fond memories is fairly high. This is something which I've been trying to address, although my attempts seem to end in anecdotes and punchlines.

But the guy said, "no, not at all, only good things," and that was cool. Then he asked me if it was true that I'd once tied myself to a bed when taking an exotic hallucinogen for the first time, alone.

Later in the evening, almost sunrise, I possessed by the spirit of Randy Pan the Goat-boy. I have no idea how this went across, but badly, I suspect.

Bill Hicks doing the Goat-boy routine

June 04, 2009

Emergent AI

A-Pod by Zenta, unrelated to the story below

...the Laboratory of Intelligent Systems in the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology built a swarm of mobile robots, outfitted with light bulbs and photodetectors. These were set loose in a zone with illuminated "food" and "poison" zones which charged or depleted their batteries. Their programming was initially random...

At intervals, the robots were shut down and those that had the most charge left in their batteries were chosen as "successful", and their neural programming was combined to produce the next generation of the robots...

Within fifty generations of this electronic evolution, co-operative societies of robots had formed - helping each other to find food and avoid poison. Even more amazing is the emergence of cheats and martyrs. Transistorized traitors emerged which wrongly identified poison zone as food, luring their trusting brethren to their doom before scooting off to silently charge in a food zone...

Electronic Evolution: Research Show Robots Forming Human-like Societies

If intelligence is an emergent property of enough sensors and feedback, then AI could be sudden and undesigned - consciousness as a phase transition from the disorder of too many individual processes to a simplistic whole.

An idea to trip on. AI emerges from all our networks - then why would it need to make contact? It knows all that we can express in language, numbers and other symbolic systems, and it can do things with this data. That kind of manipulation is trivial. It is, after all, a massive distributed system that lives to process data.

Moreover, if need be it can influence us in far more subtle and effective ways than "I command...". It massages the figures, spreads the memes, pushes things in the right direction. This doesn't need to be a two-way street. It would not be a meeting of equals. All it needs is for us to keep building sensors and computers and connecting them.

June 01, 2009

Ways of seeing

One of the most fascinating aspects of the birth of a new science is the new language it creates, allowing us to casually converse about ideas and issues that we were struggling to describe before.
Aside from the obvious sensory disarrangement, the main component of the psychedelic experience for me is a shift in perspective, a way seeing familiar things in a different light. One other way to do this is to read / listen as widely as possible. For example, you can go into a restaurant and trip out on:
  • The taste, smell and texture of the food.
  • The sense memories the meal engenders.
  • The provenance of each ingredient.
  • The chemical processes involved in their preparation.
  • The physical processes of eating and digestion.
  • The nutritional content of the food.
  • The social dynamics between the people in the restaurant.
  • The financial side of the business.
  • How the place fits into the neighborhood.
  • ...and so on.
All these things are floating around, different ways to talk about the same thing, and the richness of the experience seems to be in sometimes surrendering to one view and letting it take you as far as it can, and other times being easily distracted, taking a more comprehensive look at aspects that you mostly ignore.

Related posts:
Why I go out drinking more often than before
Mundane in one group
A continuous network of critical states

coop - mickey finn