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.

Enemy of All Mankind

“On Sept. 7, 1695, the pirate ship Fancy, commanded by Every, ambushed and captured the Ganj-i-Sawai, a royal vessel owned by Indian emperor Aurangzeb, then one of the world’s most powerful men. Aboard were not only the worshipers returning from their pilgrimage, but tens of millions of dollars’ worth of gold and silver.

What followed was one of the most lucrative and heinous robberies of all time…[and led to the first global man hunt…]

…Until now, historians only knew that Every eventually sailed to Ireland in 1696, where the trail went cold. But Bailey says the coins he and others have found are evidence the notorious pirate first made his way to the American colonies, where he and his crew used the plunder for day-to-day expenses while on the run.”

-William J .Kole, “Ancient coins may solve mystery of murderous 1600s pirate.” Phys.org. April 1, 2021.

Laying low as a slave trader. Tempted to check out the book. Also, the title reminded me of this scene.

Glenn Danzig & Henry Rollins Forever

Somehow, the idea of Arnold Schwarzenegger & Danny DeVito as an old married couple that dresses alike came into my mind today, and it, in turn, reminded me of Henry & Glenn Forever, the publisher described it in this way:

Starring super-notorious musclebound punk/metaldudes Glenn Danzig and Henry Rollins (with a little help from super-notorious soft-rock dudes Hall and Oates) Henry & Glenn Forever is a love story to end all love stories! The premise of this comic is explained in the beginning, “Henry and Glenn are very good ‘friends.’ They are also ‘room mates.’ Daryl and John live next door. They are satanists.” What follows is ultra-metal violence and cryfest diary entries, cringing self-doubt and mega-hilarious emo-meltdowns. Who knew Danzig was such a vulnerable, self-conscious sweety-pie? Who knew Rollins was such a caring spouse? Who knew Hall and Oates were so infernally evil—yet so considerate? Well, illustrating/writing team Igloo Tornado (featuring super-awesome comixdude Tom Neely) did and they kicked down 66 fully-illustrated pages with it. Genius on all fronts. Terrifyingly cute. Cutely terrifying. As the real-life Rollins says, quoted on the back cover, “Has Glenn seen this? Trust me, he would not be impressed.”

-Tom Neely, “Henry & Glenn Forever.” Portland, Oregon: Microcosm Publishing, 2010

Proust Lu

“From Bali to Paris, the readers in Véronique Aubouy’s huge project, ‘Proust Lu’ (‘Proust Read’), have been captured in bedrooms, offices, supermarkets, factories and beauty spots. Farmers, schoolchildren, businessmen, even the French director’s doctor have participated. ‘It’s a slice of life,’ Ms Aubouy says; ‘a reading about time, in time.’ The cast is as diverse as the novel’s, brought together by their own web of connections and coincidences.”

—”A tag-team reading of ‘In Search of Lost Time’.The Economist. February 6, 2021.

I love this idea. I’ve picked up the first volume of Proust’s book, and I didn’t like it. I stopped maybe 50 pages in. But, I can imagine tackling the novel in this way. It’s ~4,000 pages long. If you wanted to read it in a year, you’d need to read 11 pages a day. It’s doable, but it seems like a tough slog.

But, 2 pages a day over the course of 6 years, assuming you missed a couple of hundred days and added a page or two here and there? That seems to be exactly the kind of reading this book calls for.

Also, some of the readings from Proust Lu are on YouTube, in French, bien sûr.