Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Has Anybody Made a "Suppressive Person" T-shirt On Cafe Press?: On Alex Gibney's "Going Clear" & Fiona Maazel's "Woke Up Lonely"

Joe and I watched the documentary Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief about Scientology, and of course the first thing out of my mouth afterwards was, "How much do you want to bet if we went on the internet right now we'd see somebody has made a "Suppressive Person" t-shirt on Cafe Press?" Sure enough, there it was. As usual, because I'm a total shallow asshole the actual message of the movie -- how dangerous a powerfully financed cult can be against individuals, groups and the government -- was secondary to my preoccupation with Scientology's place in popular culture. So although I might be accused of lacking a certain empathetic humanity, I'd certainly never be accused for lack of discerning taste in clothing; Cafe Press didn't have quite the style I was looking for so I convinced Joe that we should design our own t-shirts, and that's exactly what we did at the T-Shirt Deli down the street. The front of mine says "Suppressive Person" (in yellow "mini cooper" lettering), and the back says "Potential Trouble Source," while Joe's is in reverse. And they're printed on a Scientology blue shirt, which, I should mention, is also the color of the Freemasons (aka the Blue Lodge), not that I'm drawing any similarities, but I do think that's hilarious. These shirts were our valentine's gift to each other. In a hilarious twist of coincidence, blue is also the color of the Blue Ribbon Glee Club, the a capella punk rock glee club we sing in. Joe and I have taken to wearing these shirts when we perform, in tribute to the absolutely ludicrous Scientological lite-rock We Stand Tall video featured in the documentary, because again, well, we're assholes.

In Going Clear a few people talked about joining because they wanted to learn about some of the things Scientology claimed to help someone do, but it seemed like a fair amount of people joined because actually, they were lonely. A number of ex-members talked about how much they enjoyed the social aspect of the "auditing" interviews "clearing them," and they often talked about auditing sessions as moments where they felt as though they were bonding with their auditors, making it very social. Also, they talked about auditing being like therapy for them that could, as religion researcher Hugh B. Urban phrased it (as cited on Wikipedia here), "trigger personal insights, and cause dramatic changes in one's psychological state. The recalling and expression of old hurts in response to the auditor's questions may [have] feel like an unburdening."

Interestingly, around the same time I saw this movie I finished reading Fiona Mazel's novel Woke Up Lonely (Graywolf Press). It's about his guy who starts a Scientology-ish cult called the Helix that promises to eradicate loneliness. (Strangely, I recently ran into the imagery of the helix in the movie Her that I finally watched from a few years ago about falling in love with or becoming BFFs with a computer operating system as an AI in all its Singularity glory, which I LOVE, LOVE, LOVED. I think the helix was like, the icon of the company that made the OS, if I recall, but weirdly and poetically, the internet is NOT helping me confirm. What I have not watched: that show The Helix that was on for 2 seasons.)

In Woke Up Lonely there's all this stuff about the cult founder, who is actually really lonely, and he misses his ex wife and daughter. There are adventures about his ex wife being a spy, some hostages, North Korea, all this other stuff. And oh, a fake fat suit. Can't forget that. Lots of ridiculous disguises and this bizarre, awesome relationship between the ex-wife/spy and the man who does her makeup for her disguises. The ex-wife is tasked by the government to crack down on the cult leader, but she she actually tries to thwart the cracking down; it's kind of a tricky situation. Her relationship between with the make up artist is what I imagine it must be like with performers who do shows over and over, where they see the same artist every day. A relationship develops.

In the book the Helix is a cult (although in true cultish mode, members argued it wasn't) about banishing loneliness. They have functions like speed-dating and confession sessions, and there obvious are Scientology parallels. Everybody knows about the Scientology "auditing" sessions, which is the Scientology version of (sort of) therapy and (sort of) social bonding. Two seconds of searching on the internet told me that I am not the first person to make this parallel in Mazel's book and Scientology, and I have to imagine she was inspired by some amount of research, so it's not like I'm going to make some big revealing analysis. It was just weird that I personally read the book and saw Going Clear around the same time. Is the world trying to tell me something? Am I NOT supposed to be going to potlucks at the Chicago TM center?

I guess I never thought about it until then that maybe the biggest reason someone might join a cult is that of loneliness. I myself, can be lonely at my own birthday party because I have such social anxiety. However, for me personally, me being who I am the main reason I would ever join a cult,  would be if it promised me something otherworldly. I don't want a cult that promises me merely community. I want some mystic action! I want to be promised cosmic wisdom and higher vibrational effervescence! Friends are nice and all but what I would really want is some holistic, inter-dimensional, Terence McKenna fulfillment. And answers! I want some god damn answers! What is time? What is reality? What is consciousness? All that shit.

Weird that these two things would cross my path at the same time. Clearly the universe are trying to tell me something. And that isn't that "Love the people in your life, all that we have in the end, after all is said and done, is love, and that is what sustains us."

Clearly the universe is telling me that Cafe Press makes shitty t-shirts. Hail Xenu.

In case you're curious: some of my favorite quotes from Woke Up Lonely.

I enjoyed the banter in Wake Up Lonely between wry characters. One character, Rita said this and I loved it (p 77):

"You know, most of the radicals in this country are fixated on their commitment to revolution way more than on the revolution itself. They don't want to succeed. because if they did, they couldn't be radicals anymore, and a radical is most interested in his sense of being a radical."
There was some delicately incisive poetics that I kept reading over and over, sort of beautiful crystalized little gems of wisdom, even if in the mind of fictional characters:
"I suspect there's more than one path leading away from estrangement, though for some people, there are no paths at all...There is no lonely course that doesn't still belong to the plexus of human experience being lived every day." -Thurlow, 180-181
"When you grow up neglected by the people you love the most, it tramples your self-esteem, and when you are adult enough to stop blaming them, you end up blaming yourself, which means, wamu! even less self-esteem." p195
"Do we love people for the way they treat us or who they are? Is there a difference?" p200
"In sleep, though, people forget themselves, or come into the selves they've spent most of their lives trying to repress." p206
"They had been happy once. Since then it had been x days, months, years, and she missed him with a degree of agony that would have sent most people running back to him a long time ago. But not Esme. Instead, she had ignored the need, boxed it up, put it away, acquired new experiences to box and pile until her tower had grown nine thousand boxes high and there was no chance she could feel that first box on the bottom, right? Princess and the pea. Such a deranged moral to offer a child. The more sensitive you are to pain welled deep in your psyche, the more noble your spirit? It was better to be noble than happy? She pressed her ear to the wood. And the weeping she hears inside needed no interpretation. It's true that when your subject weeps and so do you, it is hard to tell your hurt form his. For a person who listens, rare are the moments you don't have to." p227 
"At home a sick mom and the burden of caring for this sick mom, which would fall to her alone. That, plus an emotional terrain that smoldered as though after a great fire but that could yield up nothing new, and in this paradox of trauma: the past could live on in you with an energy you could never muster for the life that was happening to you now. And just think: tomorrow, she could be returned to all of that. Unharmed, unchanged." -p249
"What is tolerable in a person you love? Or want to love so much you will tolerate most anything?" -2p69
I got this book as an uncorrected proof from the publisher a million years ago, and it's kind of crazy that I would happen to pull it off the shelf to read it now. Why is that?

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Unretrieved Rabbits, Zero-Density & The Second Oldest Profession: On Death by Black Hole and Other Cosmic Quandaries

So I said I was going to start using my blog as a place for talking about the books I'm reading and sharing the quotes I enjoy from them, sixteenth century "commonplace book" style. I am not a speed reader but I will say the books are piling up faster than I can get to writing about them. I think it would easier if I was just putting the quotes I like from the books, but I feel like I should be saying something about each quote, or something bigger about each book (and no, not every book has memorable quotes but that doesn't mean it wasn't a good book, like Al Jourgensen's memoir Ministry: The Lost Gospels According to Al Jourgensen, for example.) So then, the book doesn't get mentioned on my blog. But I'm not here to write book reports. If I were smarter and a better writer I would say that I would be writing book criticism, but I feel like a shitty writer writing criticism about a book is really just someone writing a book report. And I don't want to be that person. I feel like what I do is somewhere in-between book reports and book criticism, but it's not really either. (Hey! That's the internet for you. Not quite this, not quite that, somewhat memoir-based and kind of all based on opinion, TOTALLY unofficial and certainly written by someone who has been sitting in one place for too long and should have gotten up to get circulation going HOURS ago.) So I'm not blogging about every book I read, just the ones with quotes that I've liked enough to mark in the margins.

My blogging about books went on the back burner because frankly, in order to get the quotes I want to talk about, I hate having to retype it all or scan it or take a picture of it. It all takes so long and is too much work. Just now I figured out that I could just read quotes into my phone and from there e-mail myself the transcription. I can fix any mistakes the transcription made, and voila! A high maintenance task has become much easier. How did I not figure that out earlier?

All that is to say, although I finished Neil deGrasse Tyson's Death by Black Hole and Other Cosmic Quandaries a while ago I'm finally getting around to blogging about it now. It's a Best of (of sorts) of pieces that originally appeared (in one form or another) in Natural History magazine under the heading "Universe" between 1995-2005. It's interesting and I learned a lot, but I was also extremely entertained, as I knew I would be, based on any time I see, hear or read anything by the author, who is delightful.

I already knew the concept of gravity as Newton's idea of the force that holds objects near each other, and I also knew of gravity in regards to how Einstein moved the concept of gravity up to the next, next level, as in regards to his Theory of Relativity, with all its warps and curves in the fabric of space and time, but I really I loved this discussion of gravity, taken to a very personal level in Death by Black Hole on page 46:
In Einstein's universe, the fabric of space and time warped in the presence of mass. This warping, and the movement of objects in response to it, is what we interpret as the force of gravity. When applied to the cosmos, general relativity allows the space of the universe to expand carrying its constituent galaxies along for the ride. 
A remarkable consequence of this new reality is that the universe looks to all observers in every galaxy as though it expands around them. It's the ultimate illusion of self-importance, where nature fools not only sentient human beings on earth, but all life-forms that have ever lived in all of space and time.
So, so poetic. We all think we are the center of the universe. And we make little ripples that venture out from us, thinking we're making a huge difference in things. Sometimes we make bigger ripples than others. That's kind of a poetic take on the Theory of Relativity. If the Sun disappeared, say if it imploded, it would create a wave in space-time from its implosion, and that wave would push us out of orbit. You know how long it would take the earth to fly away from our orbit if the sun imploded? 8 minutes. It takes 8 minutes for light from the sun to reach us, which is also how long it would take the wave from the dip in space-time from when the sun imploded. Hope you packed an emergency overnight bag to be ready to leave our orbit so you can be ready in less than 8 minutes! I guess it wouldn't just be an overnight bag you'd need, because it will be all night all the time, being that there's no sun.

And why would the sun be imploding? I don't know. Ask Newton. The whole "sun disappearing" thing which throws planets out of their orbits was his idea.
I enjoyed the playful sense of humor in Death by Black Hole:

"By the way, were we to find life-forms on Venus, we would probably call them them Venutians, just as people from Mars would be Martians. But according to the rules of Latin genitives, to be "of Venus" ought to make you a Venereal. Unfortunately, medical doctors reached that word before astronomers did. Can't blame them, I suppose. Venereal disease long predates astronomy, which itself stands as only the second oldest profession." (pg 80-81)


"As a child, I knew that night, with the lights out, infrared vision would discover monsters hiding in the bedroom closet only if they were warm-blooded. But everybody knows that your average bedroom monster is reptilian and cold-blooded. Infrared vision with thus miss a bedroom monster completely because it would simply blend in with the walls and the door." (pg 157)

Yesssssssssssss. Bedroom monsters are totes reptilian and cold-blooded.

Also, I love this bit. The "unretrieved rabbits" sounds like something out of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy:

"Among those who dabble in metaphysics, some hypothesize that outside the universe, where there is no space, there is no nothing. We might call this hypothetical, zero-density place, nothing-nothing, except that we are certain to find multitudes of unretrieved rabbits." (143)

I have often thought about this. What is beyond where the universe ends? Whenever I think about this I work myself into a giddy lather of anxiety that is also a sort of pleasurable numinousness that I can't quite explain with words but that I can FEEL MY EYES DILATE the minute the topic comes up.

To add to this, I wonder if right outside our dimension but then not quite into the nothing-nothing zero-density place, is there a never-neverland where stuff we've mysteriously lost goes to? Tools, marbles, office supplies, the coffee punch card where I'm eligible for the free latte from filling the card up. (Yes, I looked under the fucking couch cushions, I'm not an idiot.)

I learned some other interesting stuff from this book. 
*The universe is actually "a light shade of beige, or perhaps, a cosmic latte" based on a survey of visible light from the spectrum of 200,000 galaxies.
*Jupiter's moon Io is the most geographically active place in our solar system. It has volcanoes, surface fissures, and plate tectonics!
*The colors on images from the Hubble telescope have been adjusted to show the types of light the human eye can't see, but they are the actual colors. Hubble photos are three composite images, and they generate a color picture that resembles "what you would see if the iris in your eyes ball were 94 inches in diameter" (166).  On the next page, he writes: "I maintain, however, that if your retina were tunable to narrow-band light, then you would see just what the Hubble sees. I further maintain that my 'if' in the previous sentence is no more contrived than the 'if' in 'If your eyes were the size of large telescopes." (p 167) It got me going on a hell of Hubble Google wormhole (there's a joke in there somewhere, something about wormholes obviously):

"With or without warp drives, the long-term fate of the cosmos cannot be postponed or avoided. No matter where you hide, you will be part of a universe that inexorably marches toward a peculiar of oblivion. The latest and best evidence available on the space density of matter and energy and the expansion rate of the universe suggest that we are on a one-way trip: the collective gravity of everything in the universe is insufficient to halt and reverse the cosmic expansion." (266)

For some reason this reminds me how characters in Battlestar Galactica would say things like "All of this has happened before. And all of this will happen again." I was going to say that it was mostly the Cylons that say it but I went to remind myself of the quote and found a slide from a lecture with a list of who says the quote, which reminded both humans and Cylons say variations of it:

Session slide from
Rob Jewitt's Level 3 lecture
Battlestar Galactica: Visions of Trauma and Terror in Sci-Fi Post-9/11
at the University of Sunderland
If only the humans and the Cylons could remember how much they had in common! CAN'T WE JUST GET ALONG? No? OK, well, the Singularity is here and the machines are taking over. How much worse can that be than the sun suddenly up and disappearing?

What if the universe stopped expanding and then imploded and then there was another Big Bang, and this just kept happening over and over, a totally different type of singularity, BTW? We think of the universe as having a definitive beginning and ending but what if was just constantly inflating and deflating? Better yet, what if there was some kind of force that acted as some kind of cosmic bellows that inflated it and deflated it? What if there was a god and it was bellows? Yes, god is an air bag. An air bag that blows air into a fire! Air bag made in his image. The jokes you could come up with, riffing on this.

DeGrasse Tyson additionally writes: "The short list of corpses may sound familiar: black holes neutron stars (pulsars), and white dwarfs are each a dead end on the evolutionary tree of stars. But what they each have in common is an eternal lock on the material of cosmic construction. In other words, if stars burn out and no new ones are formed to replace them, then the universe will eventually contain no living stars." (267)

Well and so there's that. That explains why all these stars have been dying. No more Bowie, no more Lemmy. Wow, the universe really is ending.

But I will keep this quote  from pg 222 in mind:

"Yes, not only humans but also every other organism in the cosmos, as well as the planets or moons on which they thrive, would not exist but for the wreckage of spent stars. So you are made of detritus. Get over it. Or better yet, celebrate it. After all, what nobler thought can one cherish than that the universe lives within us all?"

Oh the coolest!

Monday, January 11, 2016

An Unlimited Adventure

Did I tell you about the weirdo bookstore I went to out in the middle of nowhere? We (me and the husband) had been talking about going there forever and ever, and because we don't have a lot of money, our vacations are day trips or exploring things in our own town that we've never done.

So we took a day trip to the Adventures Unlimited Bookstore in Kempton, Illinois, which is also the Headquarters of the World Explorers Club (where the annual Ancient Mysteries Conferences are held). The bookstore is attached to the publisher Adventures Unlimited.  They publish a lot of the awesome weirdo outer-limits and conspiracy books: Anti-gravity crafts, cryptozoology, ancient Egyptian astronauts, aliens and secret societies, Atlantis, all that stuff. The store was all I wanted it to be and more.

When we got there some of the lights were off when we walked in and it wasn't until a few minutes in that the woman working was all, "Oh! Sorry! I should turn more of these lights on!" which was awesome and hilarious and exactly the type of thing I wanted to happen.

I'd always heard it was a cafe also, but the cafe part might not, well, be a cafe anymore. It was more like there was a coffee pot and a few snacks with price tags on them. There was also an additional room that was clearly the office (formally a cafe?). I peeked my head into and I guessed it's where they did the publishing because I saw the computers, stacks of books, paper. I theorized it was where they conspired about the lizard beings from Sirius B who settled on Easter Island who shot Kennedy . You know, Mulder's office.

In addition to all their own Adventures Unlimited titles (might I suggest ordering their free catalog?), the books that they sell were used books mostly, of the mayhemic sort you would expect, like as if Quimby's were a used bookstore. I stocked up with some pretty awesome ones. My favorite was Hollywood and the Supernatural by Sherry Hansen-Steiger and Brad Steiger.

This book is preposterous of course, in the best possible way, like clearly all constructed out of hearsay, grocery store headlines and things everybody knows (Elizabeth Taylor had a feeling her husband would die in a plane crash, AND HE DID! Celebrities hire psychics! Polanski filmed Rosemary's Baby in the same building outside of which John Lennon was shot, DISMISSED AS COINCIDENCE!) But still, I can't get enough of it. What I would love is for someone to do a Hollywood Supernatural Babylon, which this book isn't that, but I'm just saying. It would be awesome if the writer was an angry-queen-like-Kenneth-Anger-equivalent. And the topic would be not just Hollywood gossip but supernatural Hollywood gossip.

But back to this book, my favorite quote is from Gene Roddenberry, on pg 221:

"I don't know how many worlds are going on all at once. All of us may be living in a different world on which we just sort of correspond. We're reaching each other through those dimensions. I think an exciting way to look at things is to consider that the ultimate power, the ultimate particle, the ultimate meaning is thought itself."

I love this idea. Like we're never knowing exactly what someone feels or what it's like to be them exactly  -- the best we can do is try to communicate from the personal islands we all live on, since all of our minds are contained in different containers -- but the fact that consciousness even exists is sort of the ultimate amazing thing (the irony being, of course consciousness thinks it's the most amazing thing in the world; look what's telling itself that -- which is pretty much the joke Emo Phillips told: "I used to think the brain was the most amazing part of the body. Then I thought, well, look what's telling me that.")

Also at this store I bought some random book I found that is clearly a self-published thing of some sort called Navis Caelum, which is about the physics of UFOs.

 Appropriately and hilariously, there is no info about the author other than a listing for the copyright belonging to someone going under the name (as printed in the inside of the title page) "Grey_0011223455677789." (And yes, when this name is Googled, leaves you with the note "Your search - Grey_0011223455677789 - did not match any documents," which is ridiculously X-Files-ian.) There are, of course, web sites listed on this same page: www.naviscaelum.com and www.theshipfromthesky.com, which both forward to an Amazon page for a Kindle e-book (no other formats listed!) called The Physics of UFOs, with a different graphic than the one I held up in the picture above. I'm assuming that's the same book. The author is listed with a shorter name as "Grey_00112234." And when I click on that author's name that's the only book they have and that's the only info about them, that they have this one book. And there are no reviews for the book. But the description of the book is pretty much what this book was about: "In the future space-time bending technology will become the means for travel, how will we use this technology to build spacecraft capable of traveling to distant destinations? If you ever wanted a look into how a UFO might work and how deep space travel will one day be possible, this is a definite read. A highly illustrated non mathematical book, that starts with the work of Galileo and moves through modern physics. Includes a bonus section: The Shape of space."

Another hilarious thing about this book is that the inside of the cover there's some crazy crushed bug skeleton or something, like a butterfly-moth thing:

You can kind of see its wings in the picture.
I'm sure somebody just used the book to capture a bug and slammed it shut and then donated the book to goodwill and it eventually made its way to this bookstore, BUT STILL. Of course I couldn't help but think about the butterfly flapping its wings and chaos theory and all that, because how could you not think of that in the context of the ridiculously mysterious book and this bookstore? It's sort of perfect.

(Also, I should mention I looked up what "Navis Caelum" meant, and the main info that came up is steampunky stuff and constellations.)

The best quote in this book is this one (pg 3):

"I have been asked where I got this knowledge from? Does it matter? If I said I worked in a top secret government lab, that I was given the information by an advanced society, or perhaps it was leaked to me by an unknown source, the credit of the knowledge would only be as good as your belief in that knowledge. In the end, you must be the judge."

WHAT? "Does it matter?"  Um, YES IT FUCKING MATTERS. Is this info from a top secret government lab? Was it leaked by a source? Would somebody who worked for some secret MIB-ish source really going to distribute their info by written word, let alone resort to shitty print-on-demand publishing with shitty pixelated graphics to break the news to the world about alien technology? Might I have have approached this book differently if I actually believed this was from someone who was a primary source of space/time travel technology? Like if I thought a Timelord wrote this I'd get some fucking graph paper and a calculator out and make a trip to Menard's, if you know what I'm saying.

The book starts with explanation of relativity and pertinant science, but the second half is where things really get into the business of different types of UFOs and how they fly. Specifically, this type of travel needs to rely on "shakers," which are devices that move energy between "emitters," which make dark energy. Emitters create a dense beam of R-Gamma radiation which is important in some way that I don't totally understand. Also involved, jot this shit down: stainless steel casing, calabi-yau spheres, and loops that move out without interacting with matter.

The ship I would be most in favor of using for a journey would be a "moving star cruiser," which is the Lincoln Towncars of galactic travel. A rotating ship with acceleration and warp, it also has the ability to glide in such a way that passengers feel no movement. Some gravity up front, less in back, like a reverse space mullet. That's my kind of ride. All in favor of pimping your star cruisers with stickers raise your hands in the ayer. I love that I bought this book at this dusty weird store, that when I research the title and the author later, I find them to be a big mystery (with a yahoo e-mail address!). P.S.: The internet was made for research like this.

Also at this bookstore I got Carl Sagan's Dragons of Eden and 2 awesome pulpy old magazines:

I can't get enough of the graphics in them:

Of course the bookstore where I got all of this stuff was in the middle of rural Illinois where, appropriately, our Maps function on our smart phones stopped working when we tried to leave. Just to find our way out of Kempton we had to drive forever, to escape from the town's electromagnetic-psychoytropic force field over our GPS signal.

Monday, January 4, 2016

"Putting on Their Baphomets and Going to the Nearest Denny's": On Arthur Lyon's Satan Wants You: The Cult of Devil Worship in America

The main thing that struck me about Arthur Lyon's book Satan Wants You: The Cult of Devil Worship in America (Mysterious Press, 1988) is the recurrent discussion of legitimacy of the satan-yness of the people he studied in writing the book, which I could sort of appreciate. It kind of took me by surprise.

I thought this would be like watching a mental hygiene film about the dangers of cults, and parts of it were a little, well, nerdily square in exactly the way I wanted them to be; after all, I purchased and read this book purely out of kitsch value. How could I not get it? It has a preposterous cover. And I grew up in the 80s, amused by the media's obsession with tying rock, punk and metal to the evils of Satan, so it was a shoo in for my collection of mayhem books. Also, the guy who sold it to me at the spiritual goods bookstore in Pilsen, he went upstairs and pulled it for me from his own collection (he lives above the store). I don't remember how we got on the topic, but somehow it led to me needing to have this book.

Also, I should add that the guy charged or energized or charmed up (I don't even know what verb to use here) a stone I bought at the store, which is supposed to amplify the effects of my meditation (I'm supposed to have near or on me when I do it). He shifted it from hand to hand while we were talking and told me that when the energy in it got low I could bring it back and he would recharge it. How would I know it needed recharging, you ask? Your guess is as good as mine. Also, I don't even remember what kind of rock it is or why he suggested that particular one, other than the fact that he said it was being really loud when he was selecting a rock for me, which means I guess that he speaks rock, if it was being that loud and all. Since I don't speak rock I can't ask it. Maybe you know? Here is a picture:

Nevermind the CHIRP radio post-its, thank you very much

Does the rock work? I don't know. Maybe? I have no clue. I should mention I regularly meditate but I a irregular about remembering to get the damn rock when I'm doing it. And no, I don't take it with me when I go places. There's no way in hell I'm carrying a pet fucking rock around. It's heavy and pointy.

Sidenote which amuses me about the guy at the store: He sold me these items: a) the aforementioned rock that he energized or charged or whatever with chi or good mojo juju or something, b) the also aforementioned book about satanism, and c) three delicious smelling oils I wear ("Healing," ""Woodland Mist" and "Coffee Italy"). He asked me how I got into transcendental meditation, and I said, "I read David Lynch's book about it." He responded with, "That's OK. I have a friend who became a Mormon because she had a crush on Donny Osmond." I found this to be both upliftingly tolerant and utterly ridiculous at the same time.

Anyway, the book. Indeed, there was some hilarious over the top stuff, like pictures of Mötley Crüe album covers and kids devil horning at a Slayer concert. There was even some mention of Black Sabbath (but the truth is that by the time this book came out Sabbath descended out of their prime, having toured with Van Halen opening for them and showing them up every night, but that's another story, as entertainingly outlined in Van Halen Rising: How a Southern California Backyard Party Band Saved Heavy Metal). All of these things aside, I was sort of pleasantly surprised by the sociological slant of Satan Wants You.

I was amused by how if I took parts of the book out of context, they could almost be talking about any subversive subculture, where the people have been into it for a long time, the legit old schoolers, are always annoyed by the inauthentic newbie poseurs. On page 119, founder of Church of Satan Anton LaVey sounds like senior punk royalty complaining about the freshman punk newbies:

Right down to the thing about going to Denny's: "They put on their Baphomets and go to the nearest Denny's," this is so perfect. This has some personal relevance for anybody in my town because when I was in my teens Denny's was exactly the place where the punks in my high school prided on hanging out, and legitimacy in subculture is something all adolescent punks concern themselves with; this quote hits maybe a little too close to home for many, I am sure. I wish I could draw comics because this would be perfect.

Then there's the bits about people just wanting to be accepted by a subculture that makes them feel important, like on page 133:

Sure, this quote is about the Man keeping the individual down making satanism an outlet for aggression. But what I enjoyed was the use of quotes for "magic" and "adept" levels, which, when taken out of context, makes this quote almost seem like it could be talking about a gathering of D&D players, or even some stereotypical nerds getting together and feeling superior because they get picked on but are smarter than everyone else with their nerd skills. It sure makes the folks into satanism Lyons study seem pretty dorky. And that's exactly what I think he's getting at here, on page 134:

I can get behind the logic of an inferiority complex turned into a superiority complex in the belief that the rest of the world are chumps, which then leads to someone thinking they have some kind of special gift or omnipotence. I can totally see how that would be a thing. The idea of how someone with insecurities would find other people with insecurities makes sense; they could be insecure together, creating a way to make themselves feel better than the people that make them feel ostracized. That gives them feel they have a sense of control.

Anti-socialism has been a thing since the beginning of time. People who want to fit in but can't are ostracized, and occasionally they embrace it. Sometimes it leads to beauty (nerds grow up and invent cool things, for example) and sometimes it leads to ugly (to continue the metaphor, nerds grow up and become super villains). In the days of the Puritans, those outside of the mainstream may have embraced it in a way that made them construed as witch-y, and we all know what the Puritans did to witches. The outcasty nerd support-group meet-up in that era was construed as revolt (pg 72):

I love the "Rebellion is like witchcraft" business, which I just Googled that quote, and as it turns out, there's a sort of-(ish) quote from the bible that gets pulled up too: "For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft." I prefer Cotton Mather's version of the quote better.

I know the quote is about what people thought of rebellion, that it is punishable and wrong the way that witchcraft is wrong. But what would be really cool is if rebellion really was a type of witchcraft, like for real. It reminds me of one of Doctor Who Christmas specials, the one where the tenth doctor says he could take down Prime Minister Harriet Jones with six words. He says to one of the people on her staff as if to plant a seed, "Don't you think she looks tired?" This of course, because the world feels her to be an unfit leader, leads to her downfall. It feels so witchcrafty to me:

After all, Harriet Jones had, only minutes earlier in the episode gone on TV and requested The Doctor come, and to people who don't know about The Doctor, they think she's just asking for a doctor. (Props to my husband Joe for offering that ingenious additional point, which totally blew my mind.) Anyway, the idea of planting a small seed that grows into something big feels just well, you know like, summoning with intention and all that magick-y Grant Morrison-ish stuff, like what LaVey meant when he said (pg 114, but actually taken from his book The Satanic Rituals, pg 25):

The idea of not knowing the actual science of what it means to put a hex on someone sounds a little like the "you have to believe in it to work" business you hear a lot from people who believe in that sort of thing. I want to believe in that stuff but I need some proof more than just making the proverbial fairy come back proverbially brighter if you say "I believe in fairies" over and over, you know like when the guy in Practical Magic goes, "Curses only have power when you believe them" (not to get too chick-flicky on a point here). But still, I like the quote anyway.

pg 15
I love the idea of myths evolving as civilization changes. The myth continues to be what it needs to be, ways of explaining the world (or defending aspects of it) but the meaning can change or something else can take on the original meaning. What once symbolized one thing can mean something else later. But there will always be ways of explaining why outcasts form their subcultures, and there will always be the leaders of the subculture hazing the newbies, who will then feel ostracized and go form their subculture to the subculture.

And there will always be the poseurs putting on their Baphomets and going to the nearest Denny's.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

On Anger Is An Energy: My Life Uncensored by John Lydon

I enjoyed P.I.L./Sex Pistols front man John Lydon's second memoir Anger Is An Energy: My Life Uncensored, but boy, does he need an editor. There's this hilarious statement in the front of the book from the publisher that pretty much gave a warning that John refused to let us edit him, and yeah yeah yeah, we know sometimes it sounds janky but he refused to budge and so on. Sure, this book isn't going to win a Pulitzer, but it is definitely entertaining. I will say it sounds kind of weird when he talks about himself in the third person, like he's saying what other people saying about him "Johnny this, Johnny that" and it sounds a little bit like Bob Dole or Rickey Henderson. But anyway, in spite of the fact that he needed some more eyes on this, I still found it very interesting. Three particular quotes stand out:

page 213: "Education is not necessarily what the schools teach you. It's about acquiring the way of having an insight, and being able to gather information correctly."

Amen! It's about learning how to think. I'd add in learning how to think you're learning how to problem solve.

page 297: "I'm a nurse by nature, and I'm nursing you into the future."

Amen also! That's what really good artists do. And I suppose, good magazines, lit journals, blogs, anthologies, music sites or or any sort of THING that presents new things that we haven't encountered.

And finally, on page 427, he talks about the arguments he gets into with his wife, and this one struck me as preposterous, but I sort of loved it. He's referring to his relationship with her and how when you love someone but argue you can do it with love...or something.: "When you really love someone, you can practice hate in an enjoyable kind of a way!"

Is this what lots of celebrity memoirs sound like when they don't collab with a ghost writer? Occasional gems but mostly rambling? ...Because see how long it takes to get to the nub of the quotes I put above when they're put in the context of the actual full paragraphs they're from. They're entertaining but they read like a first draft:

page 213, the quote about education:

page 297, the quote about nursing into the future:

page 427, the quote about arguing with his wife:

OK, so maybe the quote about his wife actually makes more context of the full paragraph is sort of nice. 

But! He still needs an editor.

Or to do another draft.

A solid B effort with occasional polished gems of A moments.

Friday, December 4, 2015

On Be Here Now As Opposed to Being There Then

Recently I went back and reread Be Here Now (the book by Ram Dass, not the cocaine-fueled Oasis third album). Many years ago one of my brothers gave me his copy, and who the hell knows if I really got anything from it when I read it then. At the time I was young and dumb and probably thought Be Here Now was groovy in some sort of inexplicable way that jived with my amorphous, slightly new age-y, slightly agnostic, totally undefined flakey spiritual beliefs that changed depending on what book I was reading at the moment. P.S. Those "beliefs" have not changed much. That is to say, I don't really know what I believe exactly but whenever I read something convincing I'll pursue learning about that until I either a) lose interest of b) encounter something else that's phrased even more articulately and convincingly. Then that new thing will provide me guidance. This cycle goes on and on ad infinitum while simultaneously in the back of my mind I'm in a constant state of foreclosure on the whole spirituality bag at all. This is where the doubt sets in. Some of it depends on my mood, some of it depends on how much the music is swelling, and some of it depends on how shitty things are.

Anyway, even though there's a lot of "Hey-man-far-ouuuuut"ness to Be Here Now that feels cheesy, there are still some really insightful moments in it that speak to me in a way that didn't speak to me when I read this book when I was younger.

One thing that really stood out for me is the part where he talked about how when someone engages in a practice that of losing one's ego (by meditating or whatever), they get a certain energy from it because they're inspired by it. But where they go wrong is when they use that energy for accomplishing things that are still rooted in the world of ego, and then any progress one has made in losing their ego is lost. What would those things be? I have no idea. Bragging about how enlightened one is? Staying up all night on a caffeine bender and writing on their blog about how great they thought this book about meditating is? I don't know. But on an intuitive level I feel like I know what he means when he talks about using that energy keeps one on a "grosser plane" (pg 40):

Something else that really stuck with me was about how, no matter what your goals look like to others (or to yourself) everything that we do can be traced back to just wanting to get to some good. Maybe it's a perverse way of getting there, like doing bad to other people so that one can feel better, but the idea is to feel better (page 41):

And every desire, no matter how perverse it may seem, is an attempt to get to the light.  (The Devil knows not for whom he works.)

Yessssssss. I try to keep this in mind when I'm mad at somebody. I try to get to a point where I can remember that whatever it is that this person is doing, even if it's unreasonable, annoying, inconsiderate, condescending, shitty, stupid or downright evil, they're just trying to get to a place of comfort and light. And really, that's all anybody really wants; people just want to be comfortable. It's like a tired dad on a vacation yelling, "Shut up everybody! Can't I just sit here in this lawn chair for one god damn day and enjoy myself and be comfortable and relaxed?!" That's what our hearts want, just to be comfortable -- whatever comfortable is for us. Sure, comfortable can be relaxed, but it can also be stimulated, engaged or blissed out, or just sated or satisfied. What I'm not saying is that deep down people are good. What I'm saying is deep down people are just trying to move to a place of comfort and light. It's a subtle difference.

I also love this passage where he talks about having strong will is really just "your desire to get on with it" (pg 42):

Hell yeah, will power = one's desire just to "get on with it." That's kind of how I feel when I'm cleaning the cat box. It's like, I just want to have the thing done, and I just want to get started on it so I can be done with it, and that makes me want to do it. To just get on with the fucking thing. I guess that's what will power is.

But the other thing I like about this quote is the part about how if you don't have will power, just stay away from temptation. In other words, paraphrasing Weight Watchers, Don't bring the junk food in the house. Then you don't have to say no to it more than once.

And then finally, I love this poetic piece about love (pg 73):

Though the "vehicles differ from role to role, the essence -- the love -- is the same stuff.  In each instance what one is loving in the object of one's love is love itself ... the inner light in everyone and everything.

When we speak of falling in love, we might find that a slight restatement of the experience would help clarify our direction.  For when you say "I fell in love" with him or her you are saying that he or she was the key that unlocked your heart -- the place within yourself where you are love.  When the experience is mutual, you can see that the psychic chemistry of the situation allows both partners to "fall in love" or to "awake into love" or to "come into the Spirit."  Since love is a state of being -- and the Divine state at that -- the state to which we all yearn to return, we wish to possess love.  At best we can try to possess the key to our hearts -- our beloved -- but sooner or later we find that even that is impossible.  To possess the key is to lose it.

I love the part about falling in love is unlocking the place in your heart where we are love, though the "vehicles differ" of what you love, which I took to mean any person or cat or book or thing you love. The more I thought about love being a "divine state" as he calls it, the more I understand what he means. The feeling of the affection I feel for certain people in my life or my cat, really is exquisite, that there really is nothing like it. I wish I could carry it around with me all the time, say the way I feel when the cat is laying its head on me. It really is a feeling of love that is unlocked that I wish I could feel that way all the time, but it is easier said than done. I suppose that's probably what he meant by being here now.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Dance Dance Party Party Workout Mix Tape #13 Download Halloween Edition Now Available


My 13th mix tape now available for download from my website here. It's the Halloween edition! These are some jams I've been enjoying during workouts, and they are also the songs I used for tonight's Dance Dance Party Party session. Somehow I fit 21 songs in one hour. Part of the way I was able to fit that many songs in such a short span of time is because I edit out the boring parts of songs, especially if I'm trying to keep my heart rate up.

Sidenote: I got bluetooth headphones, and they have revolutionized my workouts. For one, no cords! For second, they sound so much better than the crappy earbuds you get free when you buy a device. Why did I wait so long to make the change? Well, money, honestly. They cost a sum that's a bit outside of my budget, but whatever keeps me working out, well, that's worth the money. So if you're listening to this mix on less than stellar headphones, sure, it'll be fine, but if you're running with music, it really helps to have some non-shitty headphones, if you're battling outdoor sounds. For me, the trick in considering new headphones is thinking about the fact that I'd be sweating on them, so I had to buy ones that were water resistant, or at least, ones that would be OK with a little bit of sweat. I got the Plantronics BackBeat Fit model, and they're totally worth the price. Also, I can't believe with all the sound editing stuff I do that I didn't get nicer headphones until now, and these totally do the trick.

OK, I've done my Consumer Reporting good deed for the day.