Today: Two flickr images tagged with “flu,” in deference to my present bodily state.
The interviewer asks: “What after 2012?”
Terence: Well, I’m a rationalist, so I would bet against my own wrap. The world has always had street corner prophets bawling out their strange despair. I have to be intellectually honest with my own experience, and so I will advocate this idea of an enormous transformative event in 2012, but as a rationalist and a scientist I’m skeptical myself; I don’t want to slip into religion and prophecy, there are enough bizarre cults in the world.
On the other hand this thing seems to have the force of self-fulfilling prophecy, so if I’m right (or right enough) then what’s happening is all of our problems are coming down upon us at once at the same time that all this creativity is being unleashed at once. I don’t think that primates really get traction until the going gets very, very tough. So I think enough of the old guard are dying out and the voice of youth is now rising in strength to the point where over the next ten years or so we are really going to deal – we’re going to have to deal – with putting this planet on a saner course; dealing with issues of resource extraction, human rights, environmental destruction. The big political issue ahead of us all is that we have to get rid of this monster we’ve unleashed called consumer capitalism. We all have become thing addicted. We all have become victims of the incredible marketing and sophistication of big time consumer capitalism. We can run the earth to ruin if we let this go uncriticized.
Psychedelics ultimately provide an impulse for political dialogue and reform, if they don’t do that they’re just another hedonistic self-indulgence. So I think what we may need to do is not worry about the built in schedules of novelty and transformation, act as though the responsibility for the future rested on our soldiers, and work to build a sense of community and environmental concern so that if, in fact, there isn’t a built-in springboard into hyperspace, we will be able to live on this planet in peace, dignity, and health, for however much time the vicissitudes of fate and history give us.
Here is an upsetting but good BBC documentary from 2004 – four years old, but a piece of the war you may have missed:
From the description:
The torture and slaughter of Iraqi civilians is reaching unprecedented heights with estimates of up to 655,000 dead.
Night after night death squads rampage through Iraq’s main cities. In Baghdad, up to a hundred bodies a day are dumped on the streets. Often they’ve been tortured with electric drills. Yet those doing the killing have little to do with al Qaeda or Sunni insurgents. The majority of the killings are carried out by Shia death squads who want to turn Iraq into a Shia state aligned to Iran.
This shocking film investigates the links between the death squads and high-ranking Shia politicians. It reveals how the Shia militia that these politicians control have systematically infiltrated and taken over police units and even entire government ministeries. It investigates how these units are closely linked to the death squads, indeed they often are the death squads. And the killers act with impunity — there’s little investigation into their activities.
For some worthwhile perspective, take a look at this provoking criticism from Iraqi-American blogger Wafaa Al-Natheema who writes:
This documentary’s purpose is neither to resolve the problem nor to pinpoint its origin. The American military and mercenary aggression was typically absent from its content. This documentary is designed to fuel further hatred between Iraqis.
It’s good to approach a documentary like this with the kind of skepticism that critics of western media provide.
I’ve been meaning to post about the podcast Alive in Baghdad for a while. Its insider perspective on life in Baghdad from its citizen journalists allows for an honesty about the war that is unsurpassed, in my experience, by any other reporting in the western media. It won the Vloggie for best video blog in 2006 and has gotten a fair amount of attention from mainstream media outlets – definitely exemplary of what technology can do for real journalism.
Here’s a good introductory snippet from a BBC write up:
The founder of Alive in Baghdad is Brian Conley, a 26-year-old American journalist and film-maker.
He went to Baghdad and gave equipment and training to the small team of Iraqis who now produce a new short film every week.
Brian is now in Mexico, setting up a similar operation there.
He says he wanted to escape what he calls “live from” journalism.
“Essentially, there’s something lost when you send someone from another part of the world, or with a specific audience in mind, to tell another individual’s story.
“We are striving to build journalism in the voice of locals, so that people in different parts of the world can communicate almost directly to their audience around the world.”
The footage is shot by Iraqis and edited in the United States.
The website has survived until now on donations from foundations and individuals. Staff in Iraq receive a small salary. US staff are not paid.
If you’ve never watched an episode, browse the archives and start with anything that sounds intriguing; I can’t remember watching one installment that wasn’t engrossing if only for its unique on-the-ground perspective. The stories range from a firsthand account of a kidnapping to a local artist’s thoughts on his work and the situation in Iraq with many tales of suffering and small victories between.
Something impressed upon me repeatedly by this podcast is the the frank enthusiasm and pride of the people on camera. Whether it’s the interviewers or the character of the Iraqi people that’s responsible, it’s amazing how strongly the personalities of those interviewed come across.
Alive in Baghdad offers both excellent coverage of the real effects of the war on the Iraqis and a taste of of their culture. I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a deeper understanding of the situation in Iraq. And if you’re so moved, this is definitely independent media worthy of financial support.
This week: Optical Illusions
The Dragon Illusion
This is the hollow face illusion, there are a bunch of examples of this on youtube. This guy also demonstrates his Einstein hollow head illusion here.
This one is very effective – you’ll be looking at a black and white photo but seeing vivid colors.
The Time Fountain
I want one. From the description: “This device creates the illusion that a simple stream of water droplets can defy the known laws of physics. By controlling a set of flickering LEDs, the dripping water can appear to slow down, freeze in mid-air, and even reverse in direction. This illusion exists because the brain attempts to fill in the gaps between flashes with its anticipated motion. It is the same reason that your brain interprets the 24 frames/second of a movie to be in-motion, rather than recognizing the individual still frames .”
This type of illusion in which you stare at a spot in the center of an image for half a minute and then see that image on any blank surface is very popular on youtube. I like this one because it provides a blank surface for you. Don’t forget to blink if you don’t see Jesus.
Jerry Andress on Bill Nye
A few demonstrations of classic optical illusions from the Science Guy’s brain episode.
Two more links:
First, a hometown favorite at the National Gallery Sculpture Garden that demonstrates the hollow face principle again.
Finally, a very tricky illusion that I would’ve embedded if I could. It may take a while to get it, but when you do see the figure spinning counter-clockwise it’s quite baffling and impressive.
At Wired’s Danger Room blog Noah Shachtman writes:
BigDog, the alarming life-like, four-legged robot, is back in action. And this time, it’s trudging through snow, marching up hills, and picking itself up after slipping on some ice.
The machine has always been surefooted — staying on his feet after swift kicks to the flank. But the Pentagon-funded ‘bot is getting stronger, and more resilient. It’s now carrying a 340 pound payload, up from 150 pounds before. Which means the military’s goal, of giving soldiers a robotic pack mule, to haul around their gear, is getting closer.
The video is incredible. It can even gallop! Sort of:
I like to imagine evolved versions of these robots following helmeted settlers over the dunes and mountains of Mars as we establish colonies there centuries in the future. Seems like before the military puts these to use something has to be done about all the noise.
James Kent: How did your success with the ‘Magic Mushroom Growers Guide’ steamroll into a career?
Terrence McKenna: As the new age got going, say ’80,’81, ’82, I just found it incredibly irritating, and I was busy consulting and staying home and I also had small children, but I just thought it was such a bunch of crap.
JK: Talking about crystals and such?
TM: Yeah, the crystal, aura, past life, channeling business and I said, you know, why don’t these people check out drugs? What’s the matter with them, my god? And finally someone persuaded me to say that in a public situation, and it’s been constant ever since.
JK: Could you be more specific about ‘saying that in a public situation’?
TM: Arthur Young invited me to give a talk at the Berkeley Institute for the Study of Consciousness and there were people there who were from Esalen. So from that came the invitation to Esalen, and there was a very far out guy at Esalen who has since died who really believed in psychedelics. And all through the ’80s, which were kind of a Dark Age for this stuff, they held a conference every year and paid everybody to come. Anybody who was a researcher in psychedelics or who even had strong opinions… and we all got to know each other. That’s what Esalen did; it actually created a community by bringing us together from all over the country once or twice a year. Stan Grof, Gordon Wasson, John Lilly, Dave Nichols, Myron Stolaroff, Rick Yensen… virtually anybody who now has any visibility in the movement got to know everybody else during those years. And we all proceed in different directions, you know. I mean, Sasha is the great synthetic chemist, I’m the plant advocate, Grof is the transformative Freudian… people have their own bailiwick.
JK: So what do you hate most about what you do? What just burns you up every time?
TM: United Airlines. (Laughs) I’m getting nutty on the subject of how much I hate to fly ’cause I’m convinced that these air flights, especially the ones to Europe where they fly really high, you know, they recirculate the air, and if one person has the flu… So you arrive in Hamburg and you’re supposed to get your act together and give a talk and you realize you’re getting the flu. I hate the flying. I’m a hermit. I mean, my natural inclination is to be alone. I have been alone at times in my life for very long periods of time with perfect contentment. So it’s kind of strange that I’m cast in this very public role.
JK: What would you most like to spend your time doing?
TM: I like doing some kind of research with a lot of books and a quiet setting. I mean, if I were not me for instance, I would go to a company like Voyager in L.A. and say, ‘Hire me to build a CD-ROM of Ulysses.’ And I’d take the text and put it on the surface and then line up the streets of Dublin and all the stuff behind. That’s the kind of thing I like. I like tight, meticulous work. I’ve had jobs like insect specimen preparer in museums and art conservation and all these little, tiny, nitpicky kind of things. I really like that ’cause I can think when I have a job like that.
This is actually from Part 2 of this interview. If you’re interested, Terence talks a bit about how he became an unassociated academic, his youth (bullies included), and his intellectual training in Part 1.
Four Leaf Clover
Disgusting and juvenile. Also my favorite.
Kramp TV Kitchen
Kraft Easy Lube Brand Vegetable Shortening.
Safety Sam PSA
Male frontal nudity warning. This one will get flagged eventually.