The Age of Freedom, RethinkX

“During the 2020s, key technologies will converge to completely disrupt the five foundational sectors that underpin the global economy, and with them every major industry in the world today. The knock-on effects for society will be as profound as the extraordinary possibilities that emerge.

In information, energy, food, transportation, and materials, costs will fall by 10x or more, while production processes an order of magnitude (10x) more efficient will use 90% fewer natural resources with 10x-100x less waste. The prevailing production system will shift away from a model of centralized extraction and the breakdown of scarce resources that requires vast physical scale and reach, to a model of localized creation from limitless, ubiquitous building blocks – a world built not on coal, oil, steel, livestock, and concrete but on photons, electrons, DNA, molecules and (q)bits. Product design and development will be performed collaboratively over information networks while physical production and distribution will be fulfilled locally. As a result, geographic advantage will be eliminated as every city or region becomes self-sufficient. This new creation-based production system, which will be built on technologies we are already using today, will be far more equitable, robust, and resilient than any we have ever seen. We have the opportunity to move from a world of extraction to one of creation, a world of scarcity to one of plenitude, a world of inequity and predatory competition to one of shared prosperity and collaboration.

This is not, then, another Industrial Revolution, but a far more fundamental shift. This is the beginning of the third age of humankind – the Age of Freedom.

James Arbib & Tony Seba, “Rethinking Humanity.” RethinkX. June 2020.

In the cryptocurrency space, the adjective, “hopium” would be used. While a post-scarcity world run by teams of super-intelligence A.I.s, like the one depicted in Iain M. Banks’ The Culture series would be a welcome development, if history is any guide, human beings tend to like inequity and predatory competition.

Mitrokhin Archive

“The “Mitrokhin Archive” is a collection of handwritten notes which were secretly made by the KGB archivist Vasili Mitrokhin during the thirty years in which he served as a KGB archivist in the foreign intelligence service and the First Chief Directorate. When he defected to the United Kingdom in 1992, he brought the archive with him, in six full trunks. His defection was not officially announced until 1999.[1]

The official historian of MI5, Christopher Andrew,[2] wrote two books, The Sword and the Shield (1999) and The World Was Going Our Way: The KGB and the Battle for the Third World (2005), based on material in the archives. The books purport to provide details about many of the Soviet Union‘s clandestine intelligence operations around the world.

-Wikipedia contributors, “Mitrokhin Archive,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Mitrokhin_Archive&oldid=1046370123 (accessed October 22, 2021).

Dune Foresaw—and Influenced—Half a Century of Global Conflict

“Written even before the advent of America’s war in Vietnam, Dune captures a world in which war is inherently asymmetric, where head-on, conventional military conflict has largely been replaced with all the subtler ways that humans seek to dominate one another: insurgency and counterinsurgency, sabotage and assassination, diplomacy, espionage and treachery, proxy wars and resource control. For the military officers and intelligence analysts who still read and reread Dune today, it presents an uncanny reflection of the state of geopolitical competition in 2021—from the pitfalls of regime change to the terra incognita of cyberwar.

-Andy Greenberg, “Dune Foresaw—and Influenced—Half a Century of Global Conflict.” Wired. September 28 ,2021

Obligatory. See also: The Secret History of Dune.

Amazon’s Censorship of Devil Daddy

“Censorship is alive and well over at Amazon Kindle. Last time it was our scholarly edition of the rare 1881 Victorian gay text Sins of the Cities of the Plain, which they banned for several years. Now they’ve banned the ebook of John Blackburn’s 1972 horror novel Devil Daddy, while refusing to explain why. At Amazon, any book can be blocked from sale at some random employee’s whim, with no right of appeal. Please remember that you have a choice of where to shop, and all our ebooks are available on our site, as well as Nook, Kobo and iTunes.

If you can’t zoom in on the screenshot below, here is the email from Amazon:

“As stated in our content guidelines, we reserve the right to determine what content we consider to be appropriate. This content includes both the cover art image and the content within the book. We’re unable to elaborate further on specific details regarding our content guidelines…”

-Valancourt Books, “September 2021 Update, part 2“.

I should have known. But, this is the first time I’ve heard of Amazon censoring books. When the largest retailer of book refuses to carry particular titles, especially ones that are controversial in some way, it cheapens the public discourse. Devil Daddy may not be to the taste of the average American, but the average American’s taste and community standards is a horrible basis for content guidelines.

John Shirley’s Wet Bones & A Song Called Youth

“Working in Hollywood developing the script that would eventually become The Crow, Shirley relapsed into drug addiction. This time he managed to stay off the street but it was hard on his loved ones. Shirley channeled his rage, shame and sorrow at himself and his addiction into nightmare fuel. The result was the novel Wetbones; it feels like the bastard child of Requiem for a Dream, Lovecraft, early David Fincher and Cronenberg films, all while surgically satirizing the Hollywood of the time.

Wetbones is the story of a father looking for his lost drug-addicted daughter who has been kidnapped by a supernatural serial killer. This psychically empowered psychokiller feeds off, and controls, his victim’s addictions. The desire that can never be satisfied is the lurking monster; the inherent desire in us all is the key. We are all one choice away from the control of this monster. It is what makes the novel frightening to the core….

…In the 80s he wrote a Cyberpunk trilogy A Song Called Youth that is now re-issued as a massive complete volume from Dove books. It comprises three novels: Eclipse, Eclipse Penumbra, and Eclipse Corona.

Strangely, I’ve never heard of John Shirley, but I think A Song Called Youth needs to be put near the top of my reading list.

Patricia Lockwood Reviews Bear by Marian Engel

“It’s easy to forget that the female writers of Engel’s generation are telling their stories after generations of mothers and grandmothers (and Aunt Ednas whose ‘talent was slicing in half slices of sliced store bread’) said nothing. This was not simply a matter of oppression, it was a deep and violent sense of propriety that her generation, just as violently, was trying to cut out. More than one Engel protagonist speaks of her ‘stiff pudeur’, which sounds like a little pussy wearing a crinoline, dancing with herself in a ballroom. The books are in hand-to-hand combat against that, and ultimately they are a triumph. People like Engel write books not to shock society but to free themselves, to violate some inner constraint that makes the agreed on forms of living unbearable…

…Much of women’s work is what allows life to continue. The rest is like … Windexing the veneer of civilisation every morning to keep it shiny, or cooking Beef Wellington every night for a pig king who would be just as happy eating apple cores. Equitable division of household labour has always had to contend with the fact that no husband on this earth was ever raised by Mary Passmore, hears her voice in his mind when he enters the grocery store or hunkers down to wax the baseboards. The phrase ‘slut’s wool’ isn’t in his vocabulary, or if it is it means something different. Alice Munro said that Engel ‘felt a need to be forthright [with interviewers], to show herself to them as fully human, dirty dishes, empty bottles and all’. But what she was displaying, perhaps, was the same principle of refusal that constituted both her defiance and her sense of humour. A sense of humour can be sad, after all, or sour, or a broad clowning gesture to the chaos behind you.”

-Patricia Lockwood, “Pull off my head.” The London Review of Books. August 12, 2021.

Patricia Lockwood is a God-damned treasure. There’s a good chance that this is the only book review you’ll ever read that’ll make you think, “A love story between a woman and a bear? Sure, why not?” And the writing! “Where is the taser for the reader’s balls?”, indeed!

Book Summary: Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha

To summarize the main ideas:

Thinking is not a substitute for lived experience. The idea of being a mother, combat veteran, a disciple of a spiritual teacher – pick any experience you don’t have – and having the idea about it is not the same as having lived it. And, it is worse than that, many of the experiences we do have, we’ve replaced the experience with thoughts, so we are alienating ourselves from our own lived experience, at practically every moment.

The substitution of our ideas for our lived experience is the source of our suffering. The idea of self, preferences and aversions for certain experiences, etc., all work to alienate us from our actual experience. The way to counteract this effect is by the three trainings: morality, concentration, and wisdom.

Morality is everything we do in the ordinary world that requires judgment and planning. Concentration is the ability to settle your mind on what you wish. Wisdom comes from focusing our attention on our lived experience to the point that we see it clearly, not through abstractions. Through these three trainings, we can improve our receptiveness, our focus and these will lead to a fundamental realization of what’s real and what is mind-made.

The unreal has three characteristics: impermanence, dissatisfactoriness, and no-self. Everything is impermanent. If nothing is permanent, then the person at birth is not the same as the person you are now. This is equally true, no matter how thinly you slice time. The person you were a nanosecond ago is not the same person you are right now. It is our desire to reject that reality for permanence, of condition and of self, that gives rise to dissatisfaction.

Drop to the level of sensations. The only thing that is real is what you are experiencing in this moment, and even then, by the time it registers, it is over. Everything is a phantom – memories of the past, plans for the future, ideas about the present and even sensate experience is over before we realize it. This is why it is difficult to understand what is real.

On the path to understanding the real, there are five spiritual faculties to cultivate: faith, wisdom, energy, concentration and mindfulness. The first four can be thought of as wheels on the bullock cart with mindfulness as the driver. Balance faith/wisdom and energy/concentration. Then, strengthen and balance them again.

Awakening is achieved through seven factors: mindfulness, investigation, energy, rapture, tranquility, concentration, and equanimity. The hindrances are sensory desire, ill-will/malice, sloth/turpor, restlessness/worry and doubt. Finding the right balance between focus and ease is the secret to a good life.

What makes it good? We are able to access peace and happiness by turning our minds to them. By renouncing certain aspects of life, we cut off sources of suffering. Just knowing that it is possible, right here in this life, right now, to be free of suffering is a huge relief.

These are the Four Noble Truths. You’re going to be dissatisfied. This dissatisfaction has a cause. It can end, and we have a method to end it. No need for heaven, secret teachings or being a saint. All you need to do is follow the instructions. If four is too much, all you need is one idea. Suffering can end.

There are people walking around right now that are enlightened. It wasn’t just back in Buddha’s day. You may know a person who is enlightened. If you don’t, perhaps you could. How?

Buddhists talk about the Noble Eightfold Path.

  • Morality: right speech, right action, right livelihoo
  • Concentration: right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration
  • Wisdom: right view, right intention

If you want to make quick progress, then:

  1. Do lots of practice in daily life
  2. Go on more and longer retreats
  3. Consistently concentrate and develop the ability to investigate quickly and precisely
  4. Pay attention more often in their daily activities
  5. Be morally together

The best time to meditate is any time you can, preferably right now. With strong enough concentration, our whole inner landscape becomes subject to our control.

Turn Me Loose, White Man

“Is ‘Turn Me Loose, White Man’ his treatise on 60 years of American music, plus a companion 30-CD boxed set? Or is it a lovingly curated recording project with the longest set of liner notes in history? Though these two volumes stand on their own, for Mr. Lowe the music and the analysis form a dialogue, an essential call and response, a set of philosophical arguments much like the commentary surrounding religious texts, ‘honed by a mixed sense of aesthetic worship and social consciousness’ that, thankfully, never grows pious.”

—Larry Blumenfeld, “‘Turn Me Loose, White Man’ Review: How to Listen to American Music.” The Wall Street Journal. April 2, 2021.

At $175, from the author’s website, you might think it’s expensive. But 30 CDs and a 2 volume set sounds like an acoustical journey well worth taking. But, YMMV.

Book Review | Encyclopedia of 5,000 Spells | The Ultimate Reference Book For The Magical Arts | By Judika Illes

I love this book. It is one of my favorites in the occult section of my library. It is valuable as a practical and historical tool. The book is an excellent guide for the beginning as well as experienced witch. I have never seen another book that has so many spells.    Get this; […]

Book Review | Encyclopedia of 5,000 Spells | The Ultimate Reference Book For The Magical Arts | By Judika Illes

Sometimes, I see something on WordPress that makes me think strange thoughts. A book of 5,000 spells? If I cast one spell a day, that would take me over 13 years to cast them all. Maybe I should just chose the top 365 spells and do it for a year? What would a year of spellcasting be like? In my mind, I become the sorcerer’s apprentice, except sure in the knowledge that no one is going to save me.

Ah, another life lived, in my imagination.