The Master becomes the Slave

Another reminder for this quote

"Think of the old cliché about “the mind being an excellent servant but a terrible master.” This, like many clichés, so lame and unexciting on the surface, actually expresses a great and terrible truth. It is not the least bit coincidental that adults who commit suicide with firearms almost always shoot themselves in: the head. They shoot the terrible master."

from...On May 21, 2005 David Foster Wallace took the podium at Kenyon College and delivered the now-legendary This Is Water,


I see this as somehow connecting to another yet to be posted reference on how Habit rules our existence and "WE" are not really in control of anything. But that is another post

But I read this on Brain Pickings and didn't want to lose track of it.

Ref #4: We like to think we are our mind/brain and action comes from that. The inference is that we are in control of ourselves, or at least we control who we are. But just because one is free of self destructive habits doesn't mean the mid is in the driver's seat. Rather we simply have more productive habits.

I think there are extremely few people who are truly free of habit, conditioning, fear or whatever. I see the Zen master example as the most likely true model. But even then you can read of Zen teachers who fall victim to tradition human failings, so maybe not event that.


Think Inside the Box

Quick note to self..remember slate article on how creativity something people say they admire, but in real life people are risk adverse and avoid creativity since it involves change.

We are taught that our own creativity will be celebrated as well, and that if we have good ideas, we will succeed. 

It’s all a lie. 

This is the thing about creativity that is rarely acknowledged: Most people don’t actually like it. Studies confirm what many creative people have suspected all along: People are biased against creative thinking, despite all of their insistence otherwise.

Again, people (me included)  have a view of how they think, but the mind is a self deceptive organ.

From slate.. http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science/2013/12/creativity_is_rejected_teachers_and_bosses_don_t_value_out_of_the_box_thinking.html

Ref#3 Creativity, I don't think it means what you think it means...to yourself


The Unbearable illogic of Being

The broad notion of this random reference is humans, including me, have a self vision that is rational,
 thought out, and above all clearly logical. I have more reference on this, but today I am noting an essay by Chuck Klosterman called...Things We Think We Know from the February 27, 2007 issue of Esquire

The gist of it is that people will decry the act of stereotyping when they feel it is directed at them, but be oblivious when they stereotype others. Sometimes the stereotyping is actually central to their “argument”. But it is by sterotyping that an individual understands the world and Klosterman points out they are a useful intellectual shortcut to to talk about what we believe.

We all hate stereotypes. Stereotypes are killing us, and they are killing our children, and they are putting LSD into the water supply. Stereotypes are like rogue elephants with AIDS that have been set on fire by terrorists, except worse. We all hate stereotypes. Seriously. Dude, we fucking hate them.
Except that we don't. 

We adore stereotypes, and we desperately need them to fabricate who we are (or who we are not). People need to be able to say things like, "All stereotypes are based on ignorance," because expressing such a sentiment makes them enlightened, open-minded, and incredibly unpleasant. Meanwhile, their adversaries need the ability to say things such as, "Like it or not, all stereotypes are ultimately based in some sort of reality," because that kind of semi-logic can justify their feelings about virtually anything. 

Nobody really cares what specific stereotype they happen to be debating; what matters more is how that label was spawned, because that defines its consequence.

Stereotypes are not really based on fact, and they are not really based on fiction. They are based on arbitrary human qualities no one cares about at all. Whenever a given stereotype seems right (or wrong), it's inevitably a coincidence; the world is a prejudiced place, but it's prejudiced for the weirdest, least-meaningful reasons imaginable.

He is saying we gather our stereotypes from extremely anecdotal experiences. You have one or two observations of some thing, person, race, nationality and you form a, or accept an existing, stereotype and then on it reinforces a world view

The point I want to remember is “We say we don't like stereotypes, but actually we freakin' LOVE them!”

This adds to a broader realization that our ideals, opinions, worldview or whatever are not developed by thoughtful analysis where different views are entertained. But more of that in future random references I want to save.

Ref#2 - Things We Think We Know from the February 27, 2007 issue of Esquire by Chuck Klosterman


Now to Start a Grand Theory

Gathering random references for my humble future project to outline a Grand Theory of Everything

"We are discovering a plethora of evidence about our hardwiring for connection and compassion, from the vagus nerve, which releases oxytocin at simply witnessing a compassionate act, to the mirror neurons, which causes us to literally feel another person’s pain and thereby empathize. Darwin himself, who has been grossly misunderstood to believe exclusively in our competitiveness (hence the famous saying, “survival of the fittest”), actually observed and noted that humankind’s real power comes in its ability to perform complex tasks together—that is, to sympathize and cooperate."
-Tom Shadyac on the vagus nerve and his movie I AM

Contrast the above with...

“The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.”
― John Kenneth Galbraith

While Galbraith was probably not sympathetic to the modern conservative movement, I think he was accurate, and famously one of Ayn Rand's books is called The Virtue of Selfishness. If conservative fire breathers were honest about it, they would admit all the talk of the individual is really about justifying selfishness.

[Very imprecise thought..] What IF...our society that gives us the modern world, for all it's wonders and pleasures was actually ALL WRONG for how humans would actually prefer to live?

An obvious objection is that everybody is different so how could someone say how they ought or would prefer to live? But the flip side is, doesn't the present system impose, by design, a way we have to live anyway?


ref# 1 – Vagus Nerve


My View of "The Room"

The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, the Greatest Bad Movie Ever MadeThe Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, the Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made by Greg Sestero
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Initially I felt the author either thought too much of himself or was too pretentious, but once you get into the story that falls away and it turns out to be pretty interesting.

Pretty interesting, but ultimately pretty depressing. Imagine Ed Wood with money but horribly handicapped by certainly u-examined insecurity.

But I think it is because Tommy has money you feel free to laugh at his mistakes as he tries to live his dream of being an amazing actor in the face of obvious inadequacies

Johnny’s declaration of “I cannot go on without you” was where the problems began. Tommy would move as far into the dialogue as “I cannot go on” and get confused and call out, “Line!”

Sandy would then dutifully feed him the rest: “Without you”
“I cannot go…Line!”
“On. Without you.”
"I cannot…Line!”
“Tommy, for God’s sake, ‘I cannot go on without you’”
“Okay. Thank you”
“I cannot go on…Line!”

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Ad Man Murder Man

Murder Must Advertise  (Lord Peter Wimsey Mysteries, #10)Murder Must Advertise by Dorothy L. Sayers

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Dorthy Sayers worked for an advertising company so surely the characters were accurate. And this is how she imagined the ideal aristocrat reacting...

The atmosphere suited him well enough. He was a bonhomous soul, with the insatiable curiosity of a baby elephant, and nothing pleased him better than to be interrupted in his encomiums of Sopo (“makes Monday, Fun-day”) or the Whoosh Vacuum-cleaner (“one Whoosh and it's clean”) by a fellow-member of the department, fed-up with advertising and spoiling for a chat.  (Kindle Locations 560-563)

And of course the '30 British language dazzles...

You see, Hankie-pankie told me to get out a list of names for a shilling tea and I got out some awful rotten ones, and then Ingleby came in and I said, 'What would you call this tea?' just like that, and he said, 'Call it Domestic Blend,' and I said, 'What-ho! that absolutely whangs the nail over the crumpet.' Because it struck me, really, as being the caterpillar's boots.” (Kindle Locations 644-647)

Every so often something not culturally sensitive sneaks in...

I need scarcely warn you against the golden-haired girl in distress, the slit-eyed Chink or the distinguished grey-haired man wearing the ribbon of some foreign order.” (Kindle Locations 4571-4572)

The needlessly long but enjoyable play by play of the cricket match was wonderfully interpreted for me by our resident Englishman at work. Thanks Tom!.

The innings opened briskly. Mr. Barrow, who was rather a showy bat, though temperamental, took the bowling at the factory end of the pitch and cheered the spirits of his side by producing a couple of twos in the first over. (Kindle Locations 4711-4712)

And finally one more listen to this wonderful world...

If you wants a murderer, Mr. Bredon's got 'is eye on one now, and you're jest playin' into the 'ands of the Black Spider and 'is gang–meaning to say, 'oever done this. Wot I meantersay, the time 'as come fer me ter divulge wot I know, and I ain't agoin'–cor lumme!” (Kindle Locations 5123-5125)

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The Earl of Louisiana

The Earl of LouisianaThe Earl of Louisiana by A.J. Liebling
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It may be denial on my part that makes the territory covered seem so improbable. Though just a toddler, I was alive during the last campaign of Earl Long of Louisiana, so surely things could not have been so different during my time on earth. Right? But then again sometimes 50 years is a long time, and a lot can change. Plus the early ‘60s was an amazing time of change and Earl Long comes across to my eyes as the last of a unique breed.

During Earl Long’s last year in the Governor’s office he had some sort of break down, declared mentally unstable and flown against his will to a hospital in Texas under direction of his wife and nephew. When Earl got out he continued campaigning for another term even though ineligible. His announced plan was to quit shortly before his term expired have the lieutenant governor take over and therefore he would not technically be taking another consecutive term.

Anyway that was the story that brought Liebling from New York to New Orleans, a place he obviously fell in love with.

As for the spirit of the times, it is hard to imagine such blatant racism, so cruel that it makes the Longs (Huey and Earl) come off as quite magnanimous. Or maybe not…

“..the Long family’s position on the Southern issue. ‘They do not favor the Negro,” a Negro educator once told me, “but they are less inflexibly antagonistic than the others,’”
pg. 23

Race is a prominent element is this record of that election year (1959) but for all of Liebling’s northern liberality I don’t think ever mentions actually talking to an actual black person.

A.J. Liebling must have been quite a character and I like his presentation, but I think it does have the feel of a different age of journalism. I like it, but it is different. One thing is that I found it hard to prepare quotes from the book for examples in this review, because the ones I really liked were not one- liners. He sets up a small story and it takes paragraph or two to finish it off. It is well worth it but you can’t just take one sentence to show how good he is.

His analysis is a little free-wheeling, such as one of his recurring observations that New Orleans is part of the Arab and Mediterranean culture

The Mediterraneans who settled the shores of the interrupted sea scurried across the gap between the Azores and Puerto Rico like a woman crossing a drafty hall in a sheer nightgown to get to a warm bed with a man in it. Old, they carried with them a culture that had ripened properly, on the tree. Being sensible people, they never went far inland. All, or almost all, the interior of North America was therefore filled in from the North Atlantic coast, by the weakest element in that incompletely civilized population-those who would move away from salt water.

The middle of Louisiana is where the culture of one great thalassic littoral impinges on the other, and a fellow running for Governor has got to straddle the line between them.
Pg. 89

See what I mean about trying to pull one bit out? One piece is tied to another, then another and suddenly I am pasting the whole page in here.

His Levant/ Louisianna connection idea is, I think, based on and earlier time’s cliché that was embedded in people’s minds about the nature of the Arab world then.

On meeting the mayor of New Orleans…
The ceremonial coffee is a link between Louisiana and the rest of the Arab world. It is never omitted event though your host is going to throw you out when you have drunk it.
pg. 54

Louisiana and New Orleans especially must have been quite a sight back then.

Morrison sees no chance of stemming the tide of Federal court decisions. He suffers under the disadvantage of living in the contemporary world, while the Perezes and Rainachs remain in the Jurassic. It is the gift of the Longs that they could straddle the intervening million years.
Pg 179

One of the last political memories before I left the Great State was of the Governor devising political catfish bait. The cat is not a fish to be taken on bird feathers with whimsical names. It demands the solid attraction of chicken guts surrounded by then aura of asafetida: “Smells bad, but cats love,” the manual says.

…But other hands had been setting other trotlines with baits even more persuasive to the legislators….They (the statesmen) left the baits on his hooks untouched; they did not seem to be hungry.
Pg. 145

And now Uncle Earl himself…

We got the finest roads, finest schools, finest hospitals in the country- yet there are rich men who complain. They are so tight you can hear ‘em squeak when they walk. They wouldn’t give a nickel to see a earthquake. They sit there wallowin’ hundred-dollar bills like a bullfrog swallow minners-if you chunked them as many as then wan they’d bust.
Pg. 96

About his rival Mayor deLesseps S. Morrison of New Orleans…”I hate to say this- I hate to boost old Dellasoups-but he’ll be second again…(he always referred to him as Dellasoups)..I’d rather beat Morrison than eat any blackberry, huckleberry pie my mama ever made. Oh how I am praying for that stump-wormer to get in there. I want him to roll up them cuffs, and get out that little old tuppy, and pull down them shades and make himself up. He’s the easiest man to make a nut out of I’ve ever seen in my life”. The “tuppy” for “toupee”, was a slur on Morrison’s hair, which is thinning, though only Long has ever accused him of wearing a wig.
Pg. 26

…if he was going to make up with Mrs. Long, and if he didn’t think that would help him get the women’s vote in the primary.
He said, “If dat’s da price of victory, I rather go ahead and be defeated. After all, lots of men have lost elections before.”
Pg. 125

Oh yeah. It’s a very good book.

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My Night With Jennifer Aniston

Last month I had dream. In that dream I was at a grade school reunion and it seems Jennifer Aniston was in my 5th grade class.

Anyway we started talking and we instantly realized we had a real connection. Like we were talking about deep, important things about life and everything, none of which I remember now. We spend most of the evening off in a corner talking in whispers or at least low tones indicating seriousness.

That last conversation was us realizing we could never do this again since the media wouldn't understand that our relationship was completely platonic. So with sinking hearts we all (somehow we were in a group then) shared a car as we left the reunion.

It just goes to show you how old I have become. I have a dream with Jennifer Aniston and all I do is talk. I am sure my younger dream self wants to time jump and give my current dream self a kick in the pants.

We Really Are Our Own Worse Enemy

Idiot America: How Stupidity Became a Virtue in the Land of the FreeIdiot America: How Stupidity Became a Virtue in the Land of the Free by Charles P. Pierce
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Pierce says he appreciates that America is a place where every crank can show whatever wild theory and God bless him if he finds a following. The problem is it seems the cranks are running the country and not out on the street corner.

The way this happens is the 3 Great Premises of Idiot America that the masses seem to eat up

1: Any theory is valid if it sells books, soaks up ratings, or otherwise moves units.

2: Anything can be true if someone says it loudly enough.

3: Fact is that which enough people believe. Truth is determined by how fervently they believe it.

This would be fine for the marketplace of ideas if there was a balanced, intelligent body around to challenge the wild eyed ones when the approached governing America. That way any actual ingenious idea would get through. BUT, in today's politics the elected representatives ARE the cranks and any expert with well researched thought out data is left in the dust because the there premises trump balanced reasoning.

The main examples are Biblical Creationism creeping into school science class cloaked as Intelligent Design, Denying Global Warming, and The Terri Shiavo showboating Republicans forced on America.

I say forced, but the thing is all these people are elected idiots (I'm a “life is complicated and there are many sides to each story” kind of guy, BUT anybody who falls on the non-science side of the above issues is an Idiot. Maybe they are wonderful people at home, but on these counts...). As I was saying, for the most part he blames the politicians but WE the PEOPLE elected these bozos so POGO's quote was especially prescient "We have met the enemy... and he is us" . OR maybe people in general have always been idiots.


I didn't realize that it was under Reagan that dropping regulations in radio basically setup the nation of the saturation of conservative talk radio. There used to be this thing call the fairness doctrine where any view on radio or TV required the station to offer opposing views. What a quaint idea. Being fair about the issues. That would never fly now.

In 2003, the psychologist Paul Ginnetty examined this dynamic in Newsday, focusing on Limbaugh’s show but analyzing the appeal of the entire genre, what he called “the potent narcotic of reassuring simplicity.” (pp. 109).

He goes on how today politics requires not determining the best ideas but rather the best narrative.

The apotheosis of the modern novelized presidency was that of Ronald Reagan.
(p. 234).

He offers up James Madison as the intelligent founding father we really should be emulating. But from the little reading I've done of that era, for all the wisdom of those chaps, it really could have gone off in another direction since I wonder, but don't know, if there were probably a fair share of cranks in the continental congress at the time.

In conclusion:
We've chosen up sides on everything, fashioning our public lives as though we were making up a fantasy baseball team. First
(p. 261)

After pulling together notes for this review I a bit depressed, and I promised myself to cut back on the Vino so it will be a tough night.

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A Cockeyed World

Winter in the BloodWinter in the Blood by James Welch
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

James Welch was first published as a poet and I think this prose shows his poetic beginnings

My lure caught a windfall trunk and the brittle nylon snapped. A magpie squawked from deep in the woods on the other side of the river. Pg6

But over all Winter in Blood is a hard book. Severe.

“And I was staring at the sobbing woman with the same lack of emotion, the same curiosity, as though I were watching a bug floating motionless down an irrigation ditch, not yet dead, but having decided upon death.
I slid off her. Everything had gone out of me, and I felt the kind of peace that comes over one when he is alone, when he no longer cares for warmth, and or sunshine, or possesions or even a woman's body, so yielding and powerful.” pg 99

I had a bias going into this story. I think that I thought a book by a Native American writer (I read he didn't care for the term but it is what is said now) would somewhere have an answer for me to the conflicts I see in our modern world.

Am I falling into a vague stereotype about Native America wisdom? Like I might then go on a sweat lodge retreat and contact a sympathetic animal spirit?

Winter in Blood is more a modern novel about a universal sense of separation and alienation written by a native American than primarily a native American novel, ok, maybe, maybe not.

BUT there was some indication of an underlying reply to the western civilization we know. He at least acknowledges what I have felt for a while, that there is something messed up in the world. The clearest statement is when the old, blind yellow Calf about talks with animals and why they are unhappy.

“They are not happy with the way things are. They know what a bad time it is. They can tell by the moon that the world is cockeyed.”

So maybe it does cover some of the territory of Ceremony by Silko, but Ceremony was much more explicit.

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Just Kill Me Now. We are all Doomed

Tear Down This Myth: How the Reagan Legacy Has Distorted Our Politics and Haunts Our FutureTear Down This Myth: How the Reagan Legacy Has Distorted Our Politics and Haunts Our Future by Will Bunch
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The book starts with a description of the Cult of personality as applied to Reagan
step 1: Eliminate any negative reference, such as Iran Contra
step 2: Award credit where it is not due: Cold War was Reagan ignoring 40 years
step 3: Whitewashing any qualities that don't mesh with the new vision. Good Qualities as well as bad, such as the fact that he talked with the enemy and compromised and raised taxes

I was frankly amazed that there was so much good to say about the man, of course it was mainly because he didn't follow through on his rhetoric.

For all his hawkish bluster the only real military engagement was Grenada (don't get me started on that pile of ..well pile something). AND it turns out his advisers multiple times tried to get him to invade Panama, but he always refused.

And of course for all the praise the massive 1981 tax cuts Tea-baggers praise, it turns out he raised taxes for the next six years. Something like 11 times.

But good points and nuance aside, one of the more frustrating things was the replay of the Carter Reagan debate where at one point Carter said..

Now we have and opportunity to move forward toward national health insurance, with an emphasis on the prevention of disease and...(he goes on make wonderfully important and telling points)

Reagan's response...

There you go again.

A line Reagan had practiced over and over again and he killed with it.

The fact that this line is remembered with affection and some odd example of how wonderful Reagan was, makes me think our country really is doomed.

But the thing that sticks in my mind the most was Reagan's misquote where he said

Facts are stupid things

He meant to say facts are stubborn things, but really he was unwittingly insightful. Facts by themselves mean nothing, they require context and interpretation.

One could say it is a fact that Carter had the solution to our current energy problems decades ago, or that he was the one that started the deregulation of big business, or that he was already rebuilding the military or appointed Paul Volker who was truly responsible for reigning in inflation. You could say that but every one of these facts say one thing to me, but to conservatives they prove the opposite.

It is like how I imagine a tarot reading (I really don't know), you lay down one card (a fact) but all the other you place around it influence the reading until the next thing you know the seer-er is telling you that Reagan shrank the size of government and the deficit.

The author does a pretty good job of tracing the beatification of St Reagan and points out that by the end of his presidency he was only mildly popular and one of those irritating rate the President polls one time had him, Carter and Clinton about the same (before Clinton's blue dress problems)

By the time of his death it was as if George Washington had come back to life and died just to get some press coverage. Almost no mention of Iran Contra, which another of the facts don't matter that he was advised selling arms to Iran was an impeachable offense and he said not to worry about it.

He also points out that the ramping up of the Reagan sainthood got underway around the time the demonize Clinton industry took off. His point was that in order to have a hero you have to have a villain. Maybe there is some of that in the Obama hater's club.

The latter part of the book looses focus for me since he leaves the hypothetical world of facts and starts opining on what it all means and what America is really like. All very vague and hard to prove. But then again that is the gist of the Reagan lesson, Proof is now really just strongly stated belief. Do it just like Reagan did, and you may recall George Costanza in Seinfeld clarified it when he said “It's not a lie if you believe it!” Reagan believed it.

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Believe It Or Not!

The Religious Case Against BeliefThe Religious Case Against Belief by James P. Carse
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Book in one sentence ...

Belief is the antitheses of Religion which is closer to poetry and people conflate knowledge with belief to the detriment of all mankind.

Here he means Belief to be "Belief Systems" and religion is defined by him as an open inquiring look at existence, much like poetry. And Religion is a process of learning ignorance that prompts us to strive ever harder toward higher aspiration. Or something like that.

For me the most intriguing part is his example of Galileo before the pope when he is asked to deny the truth of his scientific conclusions.

“When the pope assumed that belief (for him knowledge) represented the end of ignorance, Galileo saw it as the beginning of ignorance, Galileo was not a convert. The truth was not revealed to him. He came to it after a lifetime of study. He knew, as any critical thinker would, that knowledge is corrigible, and that belief is rarely so. Open to correction himself, he had not inclination and no reason to take an immovable stand. He could not perform an heroic act like Luther’s not because of cowardice but because there was nothing to stand on. Belief systems are already complete. No new knowledge can reverse their finality. Knowledge, in other words, is never knowledge against….” Pg 60

I feel this touches on so much, so much that is tantalizing and appealing for me. But it somehow misses the mark. The books comes close to showing how "higher ignorance" actually fuels knowledge AND religion but never quite gets there.

In my hackneyed and often inebriated explanation of Religion I have tried to use the poetry analogy but it never really makes an impression. People who "believe" don't need it and unbelievers don't care.

All in all I think he highlights and important and true but hard to pin down intersection of belief and knowledge AND how faith and ignorance are tied to them.

The problem is that, I think, that for the majority of people Religion IS a belief system, and various religions are simply an accumulation of enumerated beliefs. This is so for non-believers as well as "believers".

Looking at the way conservative Christians view the world it is easy to see the confusing of Belief with Knowledge. But then again, the non believer's view of the world can be just as rigid as the fundamentalist. They both thrive on anger and disdain of the other view.

I once watched "Flock of Dodos:" on Netflix and the amazing thing was the scientists were just as angry and dismissive of the fundamentalist as the Creationists were of the scientists. The manner and rhetoric was the same. Don't be confused, teaching science via the Bible is crazy, but still...maybe what bothered me was the fundamentalist were trying to use their religion as a belief system to explain science and the scientists acted like the creationists where attacking their religion, an everybody reacted emotionally. To be sure the fundamentalists ignored obvious evidence ("willful ignorance") but in one scene the anthropologists were almost apoplectic in their denunciation of their opposites and would never accept there might be a spiritual motivation for the other side. So the question is, should scientists even try to understand with compassion this alien point of view?

Perhaps related, decades ago I read a book that pointed out fundamentalists want to take the spiritual and turn it into the material in a perverse and flawed mimicry of science. That way you can prove that which truthfully can never be "proved".

The author struggles to define Religion, sometimes as poetry, comomunitas, longevity of existence, and more. But really I find the Dali Lama's definition more convincing, where religion as that which engenders "compassion". Simple and inspiring. (I have no attribution for this but I heard it somewhere). But compassion is something missing from this book and may explain why I find it lacking.

In fact there seems to be a gaping hole in this book; for me there is never a real feel of why people are religious at all. He mentions Jesus and Islam and Buddhism throughout, but never really indicates why one should bother. He is pretty good pointing out that the Religion as belief system is rigid and really the heart of all the bad press in any religion. But aside from this yearning for Religion as a poetic expression of a spiritual truth (although I don't think he ever used the word spiritual, which is odd to me)he is pretty unconvincing on why people should go down that road at all.

All in all the audience for this books strikes me as limited since if you think Religion is all bollocks anyway you see no point to entertaining these ideas. And those who are into some sort of religion seem to be pretty well set, why bother thinking about it any more.

Here are some quotes I like...
“Belief systems are stunningly resistant to such correction, for the simple reason that deeply held committed believers are not offering a variety of debatable proposals about the nature of the world. They see the world through their beliefs, not their beliefs from a worldly perspective” pg 28

“…belief marks the line at which our thinking stops…” pg 44

"Believers and warriors tend to merge into one another: the military sees itself in religious terms, while believers take one the images of warfare." Pg 77

"Religion in its purest form is a vast work of poetry." Pg 111

"Belief systems offer a rational and consistent view of everything...” pg 145

sacred texts...”They must be interpreted. That is they do not come to life until there is a living response to them.” pg 189

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A Shocking Development

The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster CapitalismThe Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism by Naomi Klein
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The short version is...it is all hopeless and corporations are set to take as much public money as possible, and good governance is demeaned to the point that public works becomes an evil idea.

As far as the book itself and how the title fits in, I can see part of her argument as analysis with metaphor, where the Psychological treatment of shock therapy (of the worst type) corresponds to Milton Friedman's idea that his free market policies are best implemented quickly to shock the economy out of its old bad ways.

FYI The history of the shock treatment that was later taken up by the CIA sanctioned torture guides was pretty gruesome to read about.

The other metaphor used is a cancer metaphor where to get an economy to a free market state you have to cut out all the bad parts of the economy taking perhaps colateral flesh along the way as a means to stop the disease.

While reading Shock Doctrine I checked some reviews and critiques of it...I don't know what I expected but BOY some people really, really hate her. I mean despise and insult in the crudest fashion.

For all the railing by free market fans against her for talking ill of Friedman, it is completely true that his only interest in people was the capitalist world he thought we should be living in. If people suffer and die it is not on his radar. He simply advises or admires anybody who implements his ideas, he is just the technician. Kind of like Werner Von Braun shooting bombs in the air but where they come down was somebody else's department. Freidman and his followers are shocked and incredulous that anybody sees any connection between a regime embracing the Chicago School and using brutal means to prevent any dissent from that view. For me, if I was a famous economist and you used my theories as an excuse to murder and torture...THAT'S a DEAL-BREAKER!!

The Chicago Boys had confidently assured Pinochet that if he suddenly withdrew government involvement from these areas all at once, the “natural” laws of economics would rediscover their equilibrium, and inflation— which they viewed as a kind of economic fever indicating the presence of unhealthy organisms in the market— would magically go down. They were mistaken. pg 97

Even if you accept Klein has her own biases, I think this does confirm the religious nature of neo conservative and the current Ayn Rand enthusiasts. It is a article of faith that lower or no taxes, less or no public services will result in a blossoming of economic success and happiness

“What was particularly exciting were the same qualities that made Marxism so appealing to many other young people at the time,” recalled the economist Don Patinkin, who studied at Chicago in the forties—“ simplicity together with apparent logical completeness; idealism combined with radicalism.” 10 The Marxists had their workers’ utopia, and the Chicagoans had their entrepreneurs’ utopia, both claiming that if they got their way, perfection and balance would follow." pg 63

Bruno conceded that deepening or creating a serious economic meltdown was frightening— government salaries would go unpaid, public infrastructure would rot— but, Chicago disciple that he was, he urged his audience to embrace this destruction as the first stage of creation. “Indeed, as the crisis deepens the government may gradually wither away,” pg 328


The book goes on and on with one depressing story after another, but it boils down to the fact that big corporations will do anything to make money. And when you couple that with a political movement that thinks government can't be part of any solution and private business is always better than public servants...then a cycle is started where poorly implemented governing produces poor results which makes things worse, which reinforces the original premise which means more privatization is required.

It seems so inevitable one just gives up and retreats to the bed room and watches endless episodes of 30 Rock on Netflix.

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Reflections of Wabi-sabi (侘寂)*

Well, that only lasted a week (See previous posting).

But the upside is instead of lethargy, indulgence and general apathy, I only suffer from excessive laziness.

The photo is from a Kodak Brownie Bull's-Eye Camera dated from the mid 1950's it seems sunlight manages to seep in from some undetermined part in the camera. I should have known the missing screws on the front faceplate might cause a problem.

But I embrace this world of non-perfection even as I try to seek out the best, the most beautiful (or ugly) or just interesting photo, book, adventure...So that said, here is me reflected in the window while taking a picture of a cat. Notice the light leaks at top and the odd bowed nature of the window frame. I don't know if that is the cameras or the way I scanned the negative. But in this case I think the imperfections make it a much more interesting image.

If I were a film maker I would end up in the Ed Wood camp rather than the Martin Scorsese club. But honestly I am OK with that, just as long as I don't end up in the Stephen Spielberg zone.

*Wabi-sabi (侘寂) represents a comprehensive Japanese world view or aesthetic centered on the acceptance of transience and imperfection. I think I have used this point before, but it seems even more relevant now.

More pics


A New, Newer, Newest Beginning

I hear-by declare a new, newer, newest beginning. I will reverse this trend of lethargy, indulgence and general apathy. Yes the world is doomed. I am sure it will end badly. But hey, what are you going to do.

The first noble truth of the Buddha is that existence is suffering, a sort of Asian version of original sin. And I kind of agree with both east and west versions.

But an answer by way of an analogy may be the advice for practitioners of Zen meditation. You are told that while sitting there following your breath, or breathing a phrase, mantra or simply “just sitting”, if a thought arises, don't worry that your mind wondered into concepts. Just note it and go back to your breath. Neither seek these diversions out, nor chase after them, just breathe.

So too, as we see ample examples of the ineluctable flawed nature of the world, neither freak out at its obviousness and focus on it, nor be pulled into intelectual despair. Return to the breathe. Return to the now.

My hope is that by trying to pursue a sort of walking, driving, eating, meditation, this mindfulness will result in less food, drink and laziness. Well that is the plan.

I started this newest way by riding around the lake this morning and taking some pictures with a possibly flawed old camera. Basically I will take whatever flawed tools I have (physical or psychological) and just do what I can at the moment.

I didn't note the anniversary of this blog at the beginning of the month, so I guess this is a belated recognition. 6 years older and maybe none the wiser, but as with the coming apocalypse, hey what are you gonna do?


From the Foundation

Second Foundation (Foundation, #3)Second Foundation by Isaac Asimov
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I decided to read the original three foundation books by isaac asimov just because I read a comment on a blog. The blog post had something about big data analytics, which I gather is some new fangled statistics thing. Anyway a commenter said big data was like Harry Sheldon's law of mob psychology.

This will make the third time I've read these three books. The first time was maybe 35 years ago and the second 15 years back. I remembered only the sketchiest outline of the store, but I more or less had some of the big points.

I think it holds up pretty well as a sci fic classic, and I thought the episodic structure was very engaging. Even if it started out that way because the first book was really just a collection of previously published short stories.

I like a good sci fic tale, but the problem is when I look at most books, it seems that “speculative fiction” usually means “UN-imaginative Fiction”. But this still strikes me as pretty clever, although the '50s era unadulterated adoration of Nuclear Power and Nuclear Weapons with no downside is a pretty obvious change in cultural values.

The was one scene that I remembered as interesting from a previous reading where they investigating a distant planet that was structured differently.

“I merely point out the significance of all this, Apparently Tazenda is and efficient administrator – efficient in a sense far different from the efficiency of the old Empire or of the first foundation or even of our own Union. All these have brought mechanical efficiency to their subjects at the cost of more intangible values. Tanzenda brings happiness and sufficiency. Don't you see that the whole orientation of their domination is different? It is not physical, but psychological.”

Of course from a real life human perspective, most people would overlook psychological health for material gain. But kind of a neat idea that I wish he would have turned into a speculative fiction novel.

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Good Reading Company

The Company ManThe Company Man by Robert Jackson Bennett
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Until I was invited to an author reading at the local Barnes and Noble, I had never heard of Robert Jackson Bennett. I checked him out online and what I found piqued my interest enough to read one of his novels before the event.

I got the invitation on Sunday and the reading was on Wednesday so in the interest of time I bought a kindle edition of The Company Man on Sunday. I am not sure why I picked that one over the other 2 or 3 I saw, but it worked out well as I had a good time reading the book.

He mixed genres that I like and struck emotional and storytelling chords that resonated with me. That said for some reason I don’t go overboard in my praise which I sometimes do after an enjoyable reading experience (which this was).

I am probably unfair, but my mind (that tricky little devil) did sometimes identify the genre strands a little too precisely. I thought I could label the Philip Marlowe character, the HP Lovecraft section and even the Sookie Stackhouse seasoning. So it is probably unfair, after all there are plenty of hard boiled detectives that came after Marlow and Sookie certainly wasn’t the first character to be overwhelmed by telepathic overload, and who hasn’t imagined some ancient entity buried in the earth's depths. But that is just how my mind worked and even with that occasional distraction I had a good time.

On a side note I wonder if literary people debate where genre turns into cliché? Maybe that is what tripped me up, I wasn’t quite sure if the story was getting a little too close to this possible line.

In any case, I bought his new book at the reading and got it signed and it if it wasn’t quite so long I might have jumped right in. But I thought The Company Man was definitely good enough to encourage me to read another Bennett novel.

The Wordspace Dallas (http://www.wordspace.us/WSblog/) reading event was small but pleasant and those Wordspace people asked some kick-ass questions which got some great answers from the author. I didn’t ask anything since any question I had would have been something juvenile like “What does the ending of your book mean?” So it was better that I kept quiet.

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I Finally Finish Reading A Book

SurvivorSurvivor by Chuck Palahniuk

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It has probably been more than 10 years since I last read a Chuck Palahniuk book. Yet I tell people I really liked the two I read way back then. I am not sure why, but after a few weeks of a reading funk where all “currently reading” books seemed uninteresting, I came home yesterday and decided to read Survivor which has been my my bookshelf for 8 to 10 years.

A good choice for spending the bulk of two evenings in a room by yourself and just read. I wonder why  I don't do it more often.

Any-hoooo... the “feel” of Survivor reminds me of how I remember Fight Club feeling, Even though I've forgotten enough of that book that I can't know if what I remember is the book or the movie. But with no real analysis or evidence, I proclaim Survivor a good book but not a great book. Interesting, funny, with characters I want to know more about.

Maybe the thing about my somewhat faint praise is that while I found the characters and plot engaging, I kind of felt like the author was not telling us all about the characters, mainly I wanted to know and get more from the narrator, Tender Branson.

But even now, I am talking myself out of that judgment since the psychological hobbling he got as a child restricts his range of emotional dept. So really that is part of the store of a survivor.There, I upped my rating a star just now.

I recommend it and I want to read more of his and if I get enough gumption I won't wait another decade to read another Palahniuk book.

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Clever Catalan

GuadalajaraGuadalajara by Quim Monzó

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I have no idea why it is called Guadalajara. I may have missed something obvious, but I didn't spot anything when I flipped through after I finished reading it.

I suppose these stories might be called “high concept” in that most are premised on some clever what if core. Like what if there was story that is a reverse of Kafka's Metamorphosis where a beetle wakes up as a human? Or what if your apartment building acted like a MC Escher drawing and you could never get out?

Yep. They are all very, very, clever. I am just glad they were all very short. They all interesting but you really don't care about the characters. And another thing, most of them are so high concept he doesn't bother finishing out the endings of these “what ifs”. Many of them he sets the scene makes a few moves but leaves it up to the reader to decide what happens.

OK. I liked it. But I probably won't read another book by Mr Monzó

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More Sepúlveda

Full Circle: A South American JourneyFull Circle: A South American Journey by Luis Sepúlveda
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A somewhat rambling book by Sepúlveda that starts in Spain, follows stories to Patagonian and back to Span. Full of wild characters and wild stories. Some charming, some scary. A short book but it packs a lot, and he has lived a pretty amazing life. A life filled with bravery, danger and audacity and still giving off a feeling of soft curiosity (I am not sure what that means, but somehow it seems right, at least to me).

We get to see the unconventional charm of the unconventional people he meets. Like after the 18th Patagonian lying Championship...

“I lifted my head to look at the sky studded stars, thousands of starts.
'Nice Lie, that one about the louse,; says Baldo
'And the sky? All the stars, Blado?Are they another Patagonian lie?'
'What does it matter? Down here we lie to be happy. But we all know the difference between lying and deception.'”
pg 111

I remember his novel about the old man who read romance , and after all the craziness in this book, his ending had me fighting back the tears that must somehow compare to the sweet emotions the old man in the other book was yearning for. Maybe it is just a simple display of a happy, pure expression of human connectedness(now that I think of it maybe that is a stretch; maybe we are just both sentimental suckers).

The story ends in a small village in Spain, where upon meeting his grandfather's younger brother for the first time the old man realizes the connection Sepúlveda writes..

“A serious look came into the old man's countenance...

Then Don Angel cleared his throat and pronounced the most beautiful poem life has rewarded me with, and I knew I had come full circle: I was at the starting point of the journey my grandfather began. 

Don Angel said:

'Maria, bring some wine, a relative has come from America.' ”
pg 183

Thumbs up!
Good stuff.

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