Saturday, February 21, 2009

A tweaking of what ails…from LSD to SSE

Since I’ve been sick with the flu and unable to think coherently for the last few days, and having obligated myself [to myself, none other] regarding this discipline of updating this blog every week, I’m taking a middle route this time around, simply sharing some of the more notable items I’ve discovered while browsing these so-called internets these last couple weeks.

Hope they tweak you like they tweak me…


Skinny Dipping in Reality: A coot’s account of the great hippie LSD enlightenment search party, by Joe Bageant

No words can describe an LSD trip, but let me say that at the end of this one, I sat down and cried. For happiness. My deepest hope and suspicion, the one to which I dared not cling, had been confirmed. Life could indeed be significant, piercing and meaningful…Five years later I was still taking it at least once a week, and to this day I consider LSD the promethean spark of whatever awakening I have managed to accomplish in the life…Nevertheless, once you've seen the face of eternity, you are left with the question of what to do about it. How to respond. "How will I live my life, in light of what I have seen?" I'm still wrestling with that question -- but then that's what I had wanted, wasn't it? That Great Question which would lead to the Great Answer? LSD doesn't give answers, just questions. But used with directed and sincere effort -- to the degree that is even possible -- it can make you ask the Great Questions, the only important ones. Such as "What are you going to do to eliminate human suffering? What are you going to do, Joe Bageant, now that you have seen the faces in the Great Wheel that turns both ways simultaneously? What will be your direct action?" If you really give a shit about the world, LSD will "serious your ass up real fast," as we used to say…But the good news, as I see it, is that we are inherently capable of becoming stronger and more deeply resonant with the world in a way that swamps personal misery into insignificance. Denial ceases to be the first reaction to uncomfortable truths. There are billion dollar industries in this country based upon denial and our refusal to acknowledge mortal entropy. Even death is supposed to be more or less negotiable through fitness, medical science -- and we are lied to that we are as young as well feel and act. There is no inherent virtue in being either young or old. We are young when we are young and old when we are old, and any attending virtue comes with whether or not we actualize truth…Enter Buddhism.

2009 Will Be A Year of Panic by Bruce Sterling

Standards of scientific proof and evidence no longer compel political and social allegiance. This is not a return to the bedrock of faith — it's an algorithm for ontological anarchy. By attacking empiricism, the world is discarding all of the good reasons to believe that anything is real.

When Technology Fails: How to Survive the Long Emergency by Brian Godspeed

From the time when I was a kid in the 1960s and the Earth's population was 3 billion, it took only 40 more years for the planet to double again to reach a population of roughly 6 billion in the year 2000. It has been scientifically estimated that the global footprint of mankind exceeded the Earth's biocapacity in the mid-1980s, and that since that time we have been operating in an "overshoot" mode, meaning that we are consuming the planet's resources faster than they are regenerating.

American Gorbachev, by The Editors, N + 1 Magazine

Don't you see? Gorbachev tried to end the war—and did, only things got out of hand—and we want a President with the courage to abandon the false ideological struggle between capitalism and everything else. Let the members of our old bloc go their own way—let them be Bolivarians if they want. We won't intervene. We also believe in glasnost: at home, we need a new intellectual openness to wriggle free of the intolerant "old thinking." Abroad, we need to stop staring into people's eyes to see their souls, and start reminding them of American sanity and civility. And we want electoral reform while we're at it—proportional representation, instant run-off voting, public financing of campaigns, all that stuff—because the way the nomenklatura currently acquire their posts has them flattering ideologues and servicing lobbyists. And we want perestroika, because without some economic restructuring we're sunk. You can't hold down wages while increasing consumer spending forever. You can't run an economy on petroleum, debt, and accounting tricks!

We want our new President to be an American Gorbachev—to preserve the country by changing it—if only it's not too late for him to avoid Gorbachev's fate.

Beyond A Theory of Everything, by Sir Martin Rees

In terms of scale, the most complex entities we know of — ourselves  — are midway between atoms and stars. It would take about as many human bodies to make up a star as there are atoms in each of us. Living things are very large compared to atoms: They must be big enough to have layer upon layer of intricate structure. But they cannot be too large, otherwise they would be crushed by gravity.

We Who Are Left Behind: Poetry as Testimony in Derrida and Celan, by Matthew Landis

The singular position of the survivor: he who is left behind to carry the other as a wholly departed and singular other, a wholly departed and singular world. The survivor not only dwells within the breach, but carries the weight of the breach, “the tear/ compacted of silence.” In that moment, this tear, this glottal stop (the cleaving, in both senses, of the glottal folds) the survivor carries on with the other, with the other’s world, a conducting path gives testimony in its absence and writing “breaks into song”, the specter of a singular, departed voice etched onto the tableau through the pen, its medium.

Mishmash and Rehash , by Mark Amerika

Given the instability of the entire global economy, one cannot help but wonder where we will find our Moshe the Mashup Artist to part the (deep in the) red seas so that we can get back into the black. The self-proclaimed anarchist Bob Black (as his name just so happens to be) has always been a proponent of "ludic activism" where "the theory of comedic revolution is much more than a blueprint for crass struggle: like a red light in a window, it illuminates humanity's inevitable destiny, the declasse society."

Satellite Crash Poses New Political Risk, Reuters

Klinkrad said the fact one collision had occurred increased the likelihood of more collisions, particularly as even more space debris had been created…In the very long term, that raises the risk of something called Kessler's Syndrome, he said, in which one collision and the ensuing space debris cause another crash and more debris, expanding almost exponentially.

A few brief, perhaps ludicrous questions: What if this so-called Kessler’s Syndrome occurred, knocking down all the satellites? Would it mean war? And if so, how would it be waged? On horseback? Without technology, what would happen?

A Hormone to Remember, by Joe Kloc

Given only a small dose of oxytocin, individuals in a recent study found that their memory significantly improved. Not for historical dates, strings of digits, or bars of music, but for something much more significant: each other.

"We consider faces the most basic class of social stimulus," says Ulrike Rimmele, who led the study at the University of Zurich. Oxytocin's ability to exclusively enhance the recollection of faces points to an important distinction between different types of memory. Social memory — which we use to remember people — is distinct from other types of memory required to store dates, numbers, and objects.

The Credit Crunch According to Soros, by Chrystia Freeland

This is as close to mainstream intellectual acceptance as Soros has come in his two decades of writing and more than five decades since he gave up on academia. It feels like a breakthrough. When I asked him if he would still describe himself as a failed philosopher, he said no: “I think that I am actually succeeding as a philosopher.” For him, that is “obviously” the most important human accomplishment.

“I think it has to do with the human condition,” he said. “The fact that we are mortal and we would like to be immortal. The closest thing you can come to that is by creating something that lives beyond you. Wealth could be one of those things, but evidence shows that it doesn’t survive too many generations. However, if you can have an artistic or philosophical or scientific creation that withstands the test of time, then you have come as close to it as possible.”

If a delusional tree falls in the imaginary woods, but no sane person is really there to bear witness to it, does its delusion matter beyond what it imagined before it fell? If one displays hubris in a world that makes pride a virtue, and no humble person is present to perceive any difference, does hubris have any actual effect? In other words, does it actually make any difference who or what Soros thinks he is? As my dad used to say, “we’ll see.” Will it be tragedy or history? He’s already old and rich, no Lear [as yet, does he have daughters?], and the future lurking on the horizon might make history a moot point. But we’ll see…

East Europe is about to blow, by Mike Whitney

The "liquidationists" would like to see governments cut off the flow of funds to ailing financial institutions and let them fail by themselves. It's Darwinian madness, like waiting out a heart attack on the kitchen floor instead of rushing to the hospital for emergency care. The global economy is decelerating at the fastest pace on record. 40 percent of global wealth has been wiped out. The banking system is insolvent, unemployment is soaring, tax revenues are falling, the markets are in shock, housing is crashing, deficits are soaring, and consumer confidence is at its lowest point in history. This is no time to cling to half-baked ideology. The global economy is undergoing a massive system-wide contraction which could spin out of control and plunge us into another world war. Political leaders need to grasp the urgency of the moment and keep the vehicle from careening into the ditch.

Why everyone is an artist: Denis Dutton says evolutionary psychology explains the ubiquity of art across cultures and eons, A review by Carlin Romano

'What an artist dies with me!" whined the nasty Roman emperor Nero as he prepared to commit suicide. Posterity has generally mocked the thought, judging the occasional singer-actor more of an artless thug.

Advice to Obama, by Brian Czech

We would advise President-Elect Obama to become the first president to tell it like it is about the relationship between economic growth and environmental protection. Taking office in the midst of climate change, Peak Oil, and financial meltdown, he can easily override the decades of that destructive rhetoric, “There is no conflict between growing the economy and protecting the environment!” He can resonate with the public’s dormant common sense that, in fact, there happens to be a fundamental conflict between economic growth and: 1) environmental protection, 2) economic sustainability, 3) national security, and, 4) international stability

Steady State Economics Basics, Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy

Economic growth is simply an increase in the production and consumption of goods and services. Economic growth has provided many benefits over time, but now it is causing more problems - dire problems - than it solves. Slowly but surely, economic growth has become a primary threat to the environment, national security, international stability, and future generations. Yet it remains the highest priority in the domestic policy arena of the United States and most other nations. Citizens, especially students, are continually told that there is no limit to growth, in defiance of ecological principles and basic physics. To refute the misleading rhetoric that there is no conflict between economic growth and environmental protection - as well as economic sustainability - CASSE provides information on the downsides of growth with an emphasis on ecological concepts.

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