16 December 2010

Seasonal Greetings - Winter 2010

3 December, 2010 (Julian calendar)

The solstice is nearly here...and oh yeah, that holiday with the jolly fat man is next week, too. As per the past decade (or even longer)--this Gregorian calendar year has slipped by, leaving me in a whirlwind of thought and memories of holidays (vacations), birthdays and change. Two weeks remain of 2010 and I'm not even sure how to sum it all up.

I suppose I could go and have a look at my posts for the previous months and base a round-up of the time on that. I could do an off-the-cuff 'review', as it were, as well. I just don't know.

Change seems to be happening quite quickly now, almost in accordance with Robert Anton Wilson's "Jumping Jesus" theory of time and the acceleration of knowledge. On a more personal level, I changed jobs in the summer. What I do now isn't all that dis-similar to my previous gig...but it has been a change nonetheless. I actually welcomed it, as I was starting to become very bored at my last one.

Meanwhile, there's been massive protets (and some rioting) in London and other large cities over the gubberment's plan to charge students higher university fees. The Liberal Democrats, who pledged not to raise fees before the election - suddenly did an about-face and are declaring the fees 'necessary'. Typical politician behaviour, really. I can't believe how blatant they were about it, though. Bald-faced liars! I hope the protests continue.

We lost a few greats lately, too. Peter Christopherson, of Coil and Throbbing Gristle, passed away a few weeks ago. His partner in Coil (and in life), Jhonn Balance, died a few years ago--so both halves of Coil have now left the planet. 'Sleazy', as he was known, was also part of the very influential Hipgnosis design collective. Leslie Nielsen, the Canadian comic actor, also passed on. His performance in Airplane! and the early 1980s TV series Police Squad! were enough to cement his legend, but a couple of the Naked Gun films had some laughs (though they did seem to get progressively weaker as they went along - like a lot of film series). Finally, just last week, we lost the good Captain Beefheart (or Don Van Vliet, if you prefer).

The man responsible for the original 'must-have-weird-album-in-your-collection', Trout Mask Replica, has left the planet. One of the most original performers to come from the late-60's L.A. scene--Beefheart combined the blues, psychedelia, jazz and Dada into a fusion that would become a blueprint for many an outsider weirdo's band (Robyn Hitchcock and Julian Cope come to mind). He was also a talented painter and gave up a largely indifferent music 'industry' in the early 80s to concentrate solely on his art. Farewell to one of the few U.S. national treasures left.

Hey! The U.K. is now covered in snow - for those who like to live in a greeting-card world of having a 'white X-Mas'. It's the most snow I've seen since moving here almost seven years ago. Looks like we really are in for a cooooooold one.

I've not got much else to say - thanks to everyone who's read this over the past year and everyone I've interacted with, too. The M.L.A. meet-up in July was a blast, as was the boating holiday in June. Cheers to Singing Bear for his continued support and I wish him a better 2011, he really deserves it. A shout-out to my Facebook pals and fellow bloggers, too.

Happy Holidays, All and all the best to you for the next (Gregorian) revolution around the sun!

17 November 2010

On The Verge Of Winter

10 Kislev - Year 5771

Another month has passed! I apologise to the very few who still read this blog regularly...what can I say? Been busy, sorta.

Journeyed to "The Big Smoke" to see House Of Games at the Almeida Theatre in Islington a few weeks ago. My pal Will and I got the "Oxford Tube" (the Oxford Tube is a coach which you can get from Gloucester Green in the town centre), which dropped us off at Marble Arch. We then got the tube to Islington and found the theatre, just to be sure where it was. There was plenty of time before the show started, so we grabbed a pint at the King's Head pub and some lunch at Strada. I looked on-line and saw that there are a few record shops in Islington, so after much trekking about, we found Flashback Records. After rummaging through the outside racks of used CDs and vinyl (I found a beat-up, but playable LP copy of The Moody Blues' Seventh Sojourn) - we checked out the downstairs bit, where the rest of the records are. I found copies of Soft Machine's Third and Ananda Shankar's self-titled LP...along with a great copy of Herbie Hancock's Headhunters LP and a decent copy of Led Zep's IV record...the first-press edition with the error on the label ("Misty Mountain Hop" is called "Misty Mountain Top").

The play was excellent - I was going to post a complete review of it, but just ran out of time. The cast interaction was great and the dialogue, adapted from David Mamet's screenplay for the 1987 film, was hilarious in spots. Probably not to see if you don't like 'blue' language - but I enjoyed it. As I've said, I didn't remember the film all that much, so a couple of plot twists were new to me - I was actually quite shocked at one of them. I was able to meet with Amanda Drew afterward, too. She's quite lovely and was very gracious in hanging out for a few minutes - even though she was meeting with family for dinner. I was exhausted on the coach back to Oxford. All in all, a really really brill day out in London. Must do it again sometime!

The October episode of the Kaleidophonic Stroboscope was posted a few weeks ago. It's a tribute to little Gryphon, our cat who was killed early in October. Hope you like it - I've started on the newest episode and that will be posted when it's ready.

The goodwyf and I had a holiday in Cornwall last week. It was a nice break and we revisited places like Polzeath Beach and Padstow, where TV chef Rick Stein has a lot of establishments. I had some posh fish-n-chips (fish goujons, actually, don't you know) and we walked around the village and took lots of photos. We also ventured to Newquay and the Eden Project. I really liked The Eden Project - the 'biomes' are amazing and I was fascinated with a metal sculpture depicting the Dionysian Rites. The sculpture is by Tim Shaw, who is based in Cornwall. Amazing stuff! It's a really good job we didn't go the week after - that would not have been a good holiday.

Looks like it may be another cold winter approaching - there's already snow falling up Nawth. The storms may hit here later today or tomorrow....Yay.

Ah well, better wrap up warm and wrap up this post. More soon....I hope.

13 October 2010

Random update #683

Haab: 13 Yax - Tzolkin: 10 Ahau/Long Count:

I've had a lot to blog about lately, but just not the time or the inclination to do so. I meant to do a full review of the brill Chris Addison gig at the Oxford Playhouse about a week and half ago--but didn't get around to it. Along with a bunch of other stuff--so here's a brief round-up:

So yeah, Chris was hilarious. I'd never been to a gig at the Playhouse, but it's a nice intimate hall. I liked that he sorta tailored his set to give it a 'local' flavour...name-dropping Oxford University and Oxford Brookes and mentioning that some consider it an honour that O-Town was slated to be Hitler's British capitol, had he won the war. Apparently, that's why it wasn't heavily bombed in air raids...or so 'they' say. As I'd never seen him before - most of his material was new to me, though a few of the topics may have been familiar (the inability of the English middle-class to cope with snow, the trials of a skinny guy going to the gym), he stamped his own take on them quite well. During the encore/Q&A bit - he despatched a woman who disapproved of his saluting the crowd by calling her a "Guardian reader" and telling her not to choke on her lentils.

The Chilean miners are now being freed. I don't think many critters can possibly have any idea what it's like to be trapped underground for quite that amount of time. It does seem ironic that on Margaret Thatcher's birthday - the news is dominated by press coverage of miners. Ah well - I hope they're all to adjust to surface life. Perhaps in some ways, they were better off down there - they sure did miss a lot of shit TV and lame 'celebrity gossip'...and crap radio, too. As much as I dig the fact it's a 'feel-good' story...I can't help but think "What's happened to all of the victims of the Pakistan floods and the Haitian earthquake?" There doesn't seem to be much coverage of them anymore.

On a bit of a down-note...one of our cats, Gryphon, was killed by a car last Friday morning. I had already left for work when it happened. Pixie was alerted by some kind people who found him. Her father showed up to help and he was bundled into her father's car and brought to the vet's. I'm told that it happened instantly and that he didn't suffer, which is a small condolence. I'll miss him lots - he was a happy-go-lucky little guy and always made me laugh, even though he scratched the spines of some of my LPs. I hope he's having a good time, wherever he may be. Such a devastating loss for us.

We're off to that London next week, to see House Of Games at the Almeida Theatre. It's a play written by David Mamet and was made into a film in 1987. I recall seeing the film, but it was ages ago and I don't really remember the plot. One of my fave actresses, Amanda Drew, is part of the cast at the Almeida--so it will be a treat to see. I might even be able to get a little record-shopping in, while I'm there. If I've got time, I'll write up a review of the play.

In case you missed it - the newest Kaleidophonic Stroboscope episode was posted about two weeks ago. I've started on the latest one - which I hope to have ready in a week or so. Enjoy! Thanks to those who have been listening and supporting the show - especially my pal Singing Bear! Sorry I haven't been at the message board much, mate - I'll stop in there soon.

That's it - that's my update. I'll blog some more when I get a chance. Peace!

17 September 2010

That Ol' Time Relijun... - Part XIV

9 Tishri - Year 5771

Seems that a lot of column inches and on-line chats have been dedicated to the Islam/Christianity divide lately. What's been happening, you ask?

Well.....first, there was a whole lotta kerfuffle in New York City. A local imam was planning on setting up an Islamic cultural centre a few blocks from the site of the former World Trade Center. A bunch of right-wing dunderheads seized upon the plan to spew more of their paranoid drivel. I watched one 'Merican senator, or pundit, or whatever he "is" on NewsNight, actually say that the five or six blocks surrounding where the towers collapsed is 'sacred ground'. Nothing like a little hyperbole to churn up the emotions, eh? Me, I don't really care about a mosque being housed in a run-down building in New York. I'm not going to be visiting it, or donating to it. It seems some Americans can't get enough of religion, as long as it's not one practised by brown people. Nevermind that people of many different nationalities and religious choices died in the explosions in 2001....it's those brown people that shouldn't have religious freedom in America of 2010. I'm generalising, of course - but I don't think I'm too far off on this one.

Then...in Florida (of course), a pastor called Terry Jones (no, not the bloke out of Monty Python) decided that to commemorate September 11th--he would be burning copies of the Qu'ran. Yep, you read that right. He runs a very small church, with maybe fifty parishoners. What a tolerant Christian! Now, I know that an argument based on numbers doesn't mean that the side of the mob "is" correct...but sometimes I think that the popular opinion does have some merit. Jones refused to back down - until his demand that the N.Y. mosque plan be stopped. He flew to New York to meet the imam...and I'm not sure what went down, but suddenly, he called off the burning. Having played the media like a Stradovarius, he's back to obscurity. I suspect the heads of Fox (Faux) News were creaming themselves during the whole thing.

If that weren't enough, ol' Pope Ratzo is in the midst of his first visit to the UK. It's being called a 'state visit', but if I recall--the Vatican 'isn't' really a state. Maybe I'm wrong - but then, I don't have 'papal infallibility'. The other thing that's sticking in my craw is that taxpayer money is being used to fund this fiasco. He's schlepping around in his 'Popemobile' and the media are in fawning mode. I was hoping for huge prostests - but it looks like only Londoners got in the spirit with a large-ish one. He even apologised for the sexual abuse and other crimes of the church...awww, isn't that nice? Any word on prosecutions...helping the authorities catch the errant priests? No? Thanks, your Popiness--off you trot, back to Catholic Cuckoo Land.

19 August 2010

The Bible in E-Prime!

9 Elul - Year 5770

Someone (well, Dr. David F. Maas, actually) finally got round to translating the 'good book' into E-Prime.

For those who've never heard of E-Prime, it "is" essentially a form of English where the verb 'to be' (is, was, etc.) gets eliminated, in favour of verbs which relate to the speaker's point of view and not necessarily a concrete fact.

An example: "John is a real jerk." This implies that everyone sees John as a real jerk. One of his friends may disagree and an argument will ensue. If I state that in E-Prime...it becomes "John seems like a jerk, to me." Now, his friend may still argue - but the E-Prime statement becomes one of subjective content, not of 'objective fact'. Some (but not all) critters will hopefully begin to see that they state most things as if everyone shares the same reality-tunnel, which doesn't seem to be the case, to me. I'd like to say most critters would, but sadly, human evolution doesn't appear to be moving as quickly as I would like it to.

You can read more about E-Prime here and here. Those serve as better 'primers' (pardon the pun) than my little intro.

The E-Prime version of the Bible can be found here.

And finally, a Robert Anton Wilson vid all about E-Prime:

Thanks to Mindy J. for posting the Bible link over at Only Maybe.

11 August 2010

Greying Boomers...or my mom is 70!

29 July, 2010 (Julian calendar)

It was my mother's birthday yesterday. I think she's 70 now....I know, how utterly bizarre. She tried to hide her birth year from us, but my older sister and I once found what we thought was a birth certificate. It had '1940' written on it.

I'm reminded of that Simon and Garfunkel lyric: "How very strange, to be seventy." I suppose it's not just my mom, though - it's that whole boomer generation growing old. I like a lot of the 1960s and 70s bands and artists and we're all watching them go grey and leave the planet. In the next ten years, most of them will probably be gone. The rest of that generation will be retiring--it'll be a greying planet. Even us "Gen X-ers" (or whatever we're called now) are aging fast.

The boomers had a chance to really change the planet for better. Did they succeed? Yes and no. Many of them sold out their youthful ideals for the comfy life, making money and carrying on exactly as their parents had - only with much more convenience and better health. Some of them remained faithful, but seem a bit backward-looking by not completely changing with the times. Still, some great things coalesced from the turmoil of the 1960s and early 1970s: the ecology movement, the potential of psychedelics for healing, mis-trust of most authority figures, the women's, civil and gay rights movements...and some amazing music!

One wonders how the world would differ from now, if they had kept striving and didn't give up at the end of the 1970s...when the tide turned against them. Did they 'allow' Reagan and Thatcher to gain power...or would that have happened anyway?

Most of the well-known boomer icons have gone now: Lennon, Jones, Hendrix, Joplin, Morrison, Harrison, Barrett, Leary (o.k., he wasn't of their generation - but a boomer icon none the less), Hoffman, the Kennedys, Garcia...and on and on. I suppose most of the 'magic' left with them and the centre couldn't hold.

Anyway, here's to them - some of them may be self-induglent and egomaniacal about their contributions to this boondocks planet, but for a time, they didn't march to the tune of monotonous 'society'. Oh..and "Happy Birthday, Mom!"

27 July 2010

Maybe Logic Academy Meet-Up Diary, Oxford - July 2010

Pungenday, Confusion 62 - Year Of Our lady Of Discord 3176

Some (but not all) of the European members of the Maybe Logic Academy have been meeting up around the 'dog days' in summertime, for the past six years. The date was set to the 23rd of July because that was the day in 1973 that Robert Anton Wilson had a strange experience and thought he was receiving communication from an intelligence in the Sirius ("The Dog Star") system. He remained agnostic, as always, and later chalked it up to his right brain communicating with his left brain.

Past meet-ups were held in Milton Keynes, Berlin, Bruges, Amsterdam & Dublin. Berlin was an early candidate for the 2010 meet-up. I had been invited to the past few, but couldn't attend, due to not enough 'coin of the realm' in my account. Someone (Fuzzbuddy?) mentioned another UK location, which I was jazzed about, because for one: my passport had expired and I hadn't got round to having it renewed..and two: less kish-kash to spend on travel. The decision to hold number 6 in Oxford totally clinched it for me...I would finally be able to hang out with critters that I had communicated with on-line.

Here's how it went down - from my reality-tunnel..

Day One (Thursday, 22nd July) - Chris M. and Bogus Magus are due in at the train station at 1:15 p.m. I grab a bus to the city centre. When the bus just about reaches town, the sky opens and a downpour drenches the streets. It doesn't last long and soon the sun clears the clouds. I meet Fuzzbuddy at the station and soon Chris and Bogus join us. First stop is the backpacker's hostel where most of the crew will be staying. Chris had booked a room in a hotel down the road and he left to stow his gear there. Once the four of us are ready to hit the streets, it's nearly time for Tons, Borsky and Non-Prophet to arrive in town. They have ridden in via The Oxford Tube and are let off on the High Street. After introductions and greetings--it was back to the hostel. Bogus brought a stash of books for anyone to take. I chose a cool collection of Terry Southern's writings, called Now Dig This! . Fuzz brought copies of the 23 film (the cool German one, in which RAW has a cameo appearance - not the shit Jim Carrey 'thriller'), a DVD of lectures on James Joyce's Ulysses and a CD chock full of RAW audio, for everyone. Borsky also handed out a DVD-R with literally one hundred books on metaphysical, occult and esoteric matters--plus, official meet-up T-shirts. What treats!! I was stunned at their generosity! After a time, it's decided that food and drink are in order. Fly Agaric 23 and Diclonius still haven't arrived, but we all reckon they'll contact us when they do. The rest of us troop down to Broad Street, then on to the famous Turf Tavern. One of the beers on tap is Stonehenge Ale's Eye Opener, whose logo looks very familiar. I had to have a pint, natch! I bought one for Bogus, too. Turns out that the barrel emptied right after ours were poured--cheers to the Pookah for that! Much great conversation followed---on into the early evening. We then had a little reconnoiter around the area--before heading back to the 'Turf. Fly and Diclonius had arrived at this point and met us down there. More pints were downed, then it was almost closing time. Those who had gone without dinner grabbed some...er....food, at a roadside kebab van. I did as well, though I did come to regret that late-night cheeseburger the next morning. I bid my fellow MLA-ers adieu, as they were heading back to the hostel and I was catching the late bus home.

Day Two (Friday, 23rd July) - The time for me to meet the rest was given as 10:30 a.m., so I did my best to be up and ready. Owing to the somewhat late night - I was nearly late...but I managed to get to the others by the appointed time. Our first destination is the Pitt-Rivers Museum, full of interesting anthropological artifacts and even some dinosaur skeletons. N.P. and I were fascinated by the collection of weaponry, remarking on Bucky Fuller's aphorism, "developing ways to cover vaster and vaster distance and kill larger and larger amounts of people"..I'm paraphrasing, but you get the idea. Once we left the Pitt-Rivers, it was getting close to the luncheon hour. It was back to the 'Turf, but to our collective chagrin--the pub was full-up, this being optimum tourist season and all. We all squeezed into one of the side chambers of the King's Arms and enjoyed a half-decent lunch, for the money we paid. Oxford can be over-priced and is not immune from a bit of the ol' 'fleece-the-tourists' action. The plan was to head to the Bodleian Library and try and have a look at some of the old manuscripts and books. Not having been there before, I wasn't sure if one were allowed to just walk in. We found out that you need to take a tour, which costs about £3.50. After milling around the lobby for a bit, the B.L. idea was scrapped, in favour of punting. As there were nine of us, or eight at that point, we had to hire two punts. Diclonius, Tons, Fly and I were in one..and Fuzz, Borsky, Chris and Bogus the other. I found punting not as easy as it looks, but I suppose you can pick up the technique after a while. We all had turns in piloting the punt - Tons and Fly were especially good. Along the canal, a scene from the German version of Miss Marple was being filmed--so the camera crew kept stopping punts for a time, then letting them continue on. A joke started about a film-bloke, who had a walkie-talkie and an earpiece, saying "4 to 5 minutes..." to everyone, then remarking about how "some fruity chap has just fallen in the water." We all headed back to the hostel for a chill-out on the open terrace, with more discussion and Diclonius's amusing LSD-party anecdote. Once again, dinner plans were brought up and everyone wanted to stay close to the hostel. We decided to eat at Al Salam, a Lebanese restaurant just down the street. I quite enjoyed the meal and the waitcritter even obliged in taking a group photo of us. Once we finished eating - I thought it a good time to break for the night, so off I went to the bus stop. I heard that Fly, Borsky and Fuzz adjourned to a club, to sip a little absinthe. I am sorry I missed that.

Day Three (Saturday, 24th July) - I stuck to the 10:30 meet-up time and round about 11 a.m., everyone seemed ready to go. Well, mostly everybody - Fly and Diclonius elected to catch us up a bit later. Today, the Botanical Gardens was deemed to be the initial port of call. Again, a fee was required - which put most of us off the idea - so we had a stroll around the Christ Church college grounds and watched the punts go by. The Ashmolean Museum was the next stop. N.P. had some urgent business and headed back to the hostel. The museum had been re-furbished in the past year, so there was plenty to see. We had a good investigation of the ancient Egypt section, as well as the Cretan and Greek displays. Since we didn't have too much time to explore, we headed up to the Chinese and Japanese sections. Borsky, Fuzz, Bogus and I had a look round the gift shop--but walked away with no treasures. A stop at a cafe was in order, caffeine for most of the crew and fruit juice for me. We ambled back to the hostel (after another round at the 'Turf, natch!) for another chill-out sesh...and then it was time for Bill Spectre's Oxford Ghost Trail. Bill himself seems an amiable bloke and he gets points from me for being a King Crimson fan (he noticed my T-shirt when we were purchasing our places on the trail). Bill has a great theatrical style and also makes use of props (a book that bursts into flame, a key that emits electrical sparks, etc.). He led us around various spots in Broad Street and the High Street, detailing strange and often macabre events that happened there. Once Bill's tour ended, I was starving. We couldn't all agree on one place to get food, so Chris and I decamped to the Cafe Coco Restaurant. I had a scrumptious mushroom pizza and Chris ordered a massive canole. We discussed various things and then it was back to the hostel, for an experimental virtual meeting via Skype. N.P. managed to get B. Kane on the video link, all the way from Norway. There were really funny moments, like B.'s game of "Book Bingo" and the misapprehension of a cigarette-holder that once belonged to Errol Flynn. A bit later, Bobby Campbell was on-line and though we couldn't have a split-screen convo with both of them, everyone could still hear each other. Bobby let us know that he's developing new artwork for re-prints of two Tim Leary books that have been long out-of-print. Huzzah! I can't wait to buy those! It was a remarkable ending to a brilliant day. Once the lap-tops were put away, we all trooped down to the street for some air...and I said "good night" to the crew and once again ambled on toward the bus stop. I was given a plague mask by Fuzzbuddy, as he had extras--and I was tempted to wear it back to the bus stop, but I feared it would have been wrecked by one of the drunken revelers spilling out of the pubs.

Day Four (Sunday, 25th July) - Feeling a bit washed-out from the previous three day's adventures, I made the journey into town. I arrived at the hostel as the rest of the crew were preparing to leave--lots of packing and tidying the room. We made our way to George Street, which is dotted with coffee bars and little eateries. We stopped at one, so everyone could get their caffeine fix and some breakfast. Borsky needed to get back to London fairly early, so after a few photos - he and Tons and N.P. headed for the bus station, with the rest of us in tow. Good-byes and well-wishes all around and then the three boarded the coach bound for The Big Smoke. Fly, Fuzz, Bogus and I walked down to Great Clarendon Street and found the Jude The Obscure pub. I hadn't been there in ages and I had forgotten how much I liked it. We had a couple of rounds. Fly mentioned he was going to see Inception at the cinema later in the afternoon. A bit of time passed and it was decided we should move on. I parted from the rest at around 3 p.m., as I had to buy a few gifts for the goodwyf. I finally arrived home at 4:30 p.m. and was quite exhausted.

Such a lovely time - I hope to be able to participate in next year's gathering. All Hail Eris! All Hail Pope Bob!

05 July 2010

New Kaleidophonic Stroboscope Episode!

14 Asadha - Year 1932

Hellooooooo critters!

A brand-new K.S. show is now live - er...has been for about a week now. I didn't have time to post about it here until today.

Anyway - check it out here.

The next one will be on the way soon...Enjoy!

30 June 2010

Out Of Work

9 Tir - Year 1389

It's my last day at my current wage-slave gig--I'm seemingly the victim of "down-sizing, off-shoring and out-sourcing". The entire staff of the department was summoned back in March for a 'company strategy' meeting. It was announced that six full-time staff members would be made redundant by September. The following couple of weeks, interviews were held about everyone's prospective plans. In mine, I did mention that I was thinking of leaving the department by the end of the year. I had also applied for a couple of in-house roles, which I subsequently wasn't chosen for. I know--probably not the best time to do so--but I didn't want to put my plans on hold.

When the announcements were made in early May, about who was on the chopping block, it wasn't much of a surprise that my name was among them. Each employee was 'rated' by their team manager, as far as following e-mail guidelines and a few other criteria (surprisingly, not productivity, though). My ratings were mysteriously low, considering that only a month or two before - my performance was roundly praised. Hmmmm...

I was told that my last working day would be September 30th - or as they put it, could be. That was probably important to remember, because last week--I had my 'final consultation' meeting with H.R. and the senior manager of the department. In the meeting, I was told that actually, my leaving day was suddenly moved to 30th June, not 30th September. Uh......Okayyyyy. Apparently, my team is 'over-staffed' by 1.9 critters. How they worked that out, I'll never know. I was told that I still get my full severance pay and I get my salary paid through July. As The Dead said once, "Set up, like a bowling pin/Knocked down, it gets to wearing thin.."

I have a feeling that the whole "over-staffed" thing was just a ruse to cover for the fact that the powers-that-be wanted me out before September. Maybe they think that my 'work-standards' have dropped (which they really haven't) or that I may be a 'disruptive presence'. I couldn't really say. That whole corporate/office politics thing bores me to tears, so I'm glad to be moving on now.

As I say, I've wanted to leave for a while now. I've been here for four years now and, as far as the context of the job I have, I've accomplished everything I can. Maybe it's my attention span, but I get really bored of jobs after a couple of years. I remember a statement of Robert Anton Wilson's, which said (I'm paraphrasing): "No matter how much you love your job, you should take a leap and try something different every five years, otherwise you become a zombie." I realise that not all have the luxury of leaving their jobs - but that definitely seems like sound advice to me.

From what I hear on the grapevine - there's more changes coming and more culling of the staff. Even if I had 'passed' this time, I might not have been so lucky next time. Ah well, so it goes in the world of wage-slavery. Perhaps this time, I can secure a gig where there's less of the politics and more enjoyment in 'work'. Heh heh....I can dream, can't I?

Time to get the CV updated and hit the pavment. Wish me luck!

21 June 2010

The Boat Trip

31 Jyaistha - Year 1932

Back from our holidays now - as I suspected, they flew by. In fact, I've already been back at work for a week (grumble..grumble..).

Pixie and I hired a narrowboat, in which we planned to head up to Chester and back. The marina we hired the boat from is located in Shropshire. The company is Maestermyn and their prices seem fairly reasonable. The boat we hired is called "Rhonwen" and is a 35-footer...small-ish compared to most of the boats on the canals now.

When we picked Rhonwen up from the marina, we were given a checklist of how to use the cooker, the lights, etc. He asked where we were planning on going...I answered "Chester." He replied with "You won't make to Chester and back in a week...it takes nearly a week to get there." D'oh! So, with a change in plan, we aimed toward Llangollen, in Wales, which was a much shorter distance to traverse. I nearly hit a couple of boats moored up in the marina as we left...such is the sensitivity of the rudder. It took me a couple of hours to really get used to piloting...by which time I had hit the canal bank at least once, along with the sides of bridge through-ways.

We made our way through to Chirk, which seems to be on the border of Wales. Between the over-night mooring spot and the village itself...there's a weird bit of 'no man's land' along the road. The sign stating "Welcome To Wales" is at the end of the road into the village..and at the top of the road is a "Shropshire" sign. I wish I'd taken a photo of it. There's also a huge tunnel to pass through. It felt a bit surreal piloting the boat through there. The light on the front of the boat worked well enough, but unlike the headlights on a car, it looks very dim when you're standing at the back. The ceiling of the tunnel was sliding over my head, but I couldn't really see it. It almost seems like you're not moving at all. We were quite lucky as well because sometimes the canal traffic gets heavy and the tunnel can only accomodate boats travelling in one direction. If that's the case, you have to wait along the canal bank until you are safe to go through...and if it's raining, it becomes a bit of a drag.

The other bit that can be hairy (if you don't like heights) is the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, near Llangollen. It has a walkway on one side and the canal bit for the boats on the other. The walkway has a railing--the boat side, however, does not. There's about 12 inches of raised metal to keep the boats from going over the edge..and that's it. The aqueduct is about 120 feet above ground. I mainly just looked ahead of me and tried not to look down over the side...not so easy to do. Luckily, time-wise, it's not too far to go and soon you get into the twisty canal route to the town itself. We moored up and went to have a look around. It's a small, but picturesque place. I found a huge used book-shop and scoured the charity shops for LPs. I ended up buying two Thomas Hardy novels (Tess Of The D'Urbervilles & Return Of The Native) and a Mick Farren sci-fi novel called The Last Stand Of The DNA Cowboys. Looking forward to reading that! We stayed there over-night, which meant getting dinner in town. A pizza restaurant located near the centre of town fit the bill and we enjoyed some yummy grub and a couple of Italian beers, too.

Our plan was to go back toward the marina, then bypass it for a day to trek to Ellesmere. We made decent time back to the aqueduct and Chirk. Past that, though, we underestimated the canal traffic at one of the two locks, which we had passed through so easily just a few days previously. About twelve boats were lined up, waiting to pass through the lock. We held Rhonwen to the side of the canal by mooring ropes, for three hours in the pouring rain. Ugh! Ah well, I suppose that's to be expected. While piloting back from Llangollen, Pixie noticed that the electrics were hardly charging, though we were running the engine constantly. A stop at the marina and a check by an engineer showed that the alternator was kaput. He changed the alternator and chucked a new battery in, in just over an hour.

Ellesmere itself is pleasant enough. The wharf area is under development at the moment and the sight of a massive Tesco, when walking from the mooring spot into the village doesn't make for pleasant scenery. We ambled around for a while, checking out a wooded park area and trying to locate the 'Castle Mound' (possibly the site of a Saxon fortress) among a bunch of small hills. There aren't many shops, so we quickly looked in the more interesting ones. Dinner was at a local pub/restaurant and we shot a couple of games of pool, too.

The next morning marked the end of our journey. We duly dropped Rhonwen back at the marina, loaded up the car and before getting on the road back to Oxford, stopped by Whittington Castle for a bit. The grounds are relatively small and you really only need about an hour to see everything. Pixie suggested we also stop in Shrewsbury for lunch and brief shopping excursion. I found a Manitas De Plata LP in one charity shop and a Gordon Giltrap LP in another. We arrived home in the late afternoon, then picked up the cats from the cattery. For a few days afterward, I still felt as if I were swaying back and forth just a little. I didn't realise you had to get 'land legs' after being on a boat for a week.

02 June 2010

Slouching Toward Middle-Age

2 Pepper - Year 43 p.r.S.P.

Jaysus! June already - sorry I only managed a couple of posts in May. So much for my plan to blog more than I did last year. I still blame Facebook and eBay...been spending far too much time at both.

So...what's new, you ask? Not a lot. Still on the chopping block at work and still not really fussed by that fact. I've applied for a couple of gigs, but was turned down. Ah well, still a few months to go before I'm officially unemployed. Plenty of time..plenty of time..

I completed the second anniversary show of the Kaleidophonic Stroboscope podcast. Really weird that it's been two years since I started it up. Thanks to all who've listened and to those who made requests for the anniversary show. I hope to start the new episode when Pixie and I are back from holiday.

Yep - we're away to Shropshire in a few days. We've hired a narrow-boat and will be afloat on the canal for a week. Muggins here gets to do the piloting. It'll be an adventure, anyway--trying not to collide with the banks of the canal or other craft. You can only go about 4 m.p.h., top speed, so I don't foresee any serious accidents.

Monday (7th June) marks the 40th year I've been on this backward, superstitious planet. I honestly don't know how I've survived for so long--I suspect a combination of luck and genetics and sheer will (sometimes). It seems strange to me, becoming "middle-aged", whatever that means these days. Critters are living longer, at least it appears that way to me. I remember when reaching 100 years was a feat of incredible doing. Now, it's almost expected that most humans (at least in 'The West') will live well into their 90s. I do hope I stick around a little while longer, but one never knows. I think it takes a lot of hubris to state how long your life will last...and I've got no idea. Still, I've had a pretty good run so far and I can look back on it and be fairly satisfied on how it's turned out. Maybe in about twenty years (if I'm still here)...I'll jot down my memoirs on some sort of holographic recording machine...or to a robot who will file my memories away on whatever replaces DVDs. Maybe.

13 May 2010

Hoffman and Bucky - watch and listen!

29 Jumada I-Ula - Year 1431

I meant to post these a few weeks ago. Thanks to Singing Bear and my pal Fuzzbuddy (whom I met via the Maybe Logic Academy) for sending me these docu clips.

The Albert Hoffman one is titled Hoffman's Potion and is, as you may have guessed, about LSD and the psychedelic experience in the West. You can check it out here.

The Bucky Fuller docu is actually a BBC Radio 4 programme about Bucky. Listen to it here (I'm not sure how long it will be around--so you may want to listen soon).


11 May 2010

Redundant Man Walking

28 April - Year 2010 (Julian calendar)

I haven't had much time for posting, despite my resolution to do so more this year. There hasn't been much going on..well, except one thing. I don't usually discuss my job here, as you never know who's going to read my musings. I suppose I can this time, however.

As of the past couple of weeks, my job is officially "at risk of redundancy"--so I've been notified. The company I work for (not to be named) did the same thing last year, but I made it through the minefield. I wasn't so lucky this time around. I suppose it's to be expected, what with a lot of places "off-shoring" and "out-sourcing". There was a sort-of 'scoring' system for all the drones..and I was marked at the low end. Was there favouritism and deliberate manipulation of the scores involved? I strongly suspect it. I was offered a small period of time to challenge the decision, but, to be honest, I couldn't be bothered. I welcome the change.

I've been where I am for nearly four years...the longest I've stayed at one job. My previous record is 3-1/2 years, at an architecture firm in Conn., right before I moved to the UK. I've no idea why I stayed there so long - probably the money and the fact I could go on-line a lot and chat with friends at the Flaming Lips site.

It feels a bit weird, though. Every other time I've been made redundant (or 'laid off', as us Yanks would say)--I've had a week's notice...a couple of times it was the same day. I've got another 3-1/2 months to go before I'm pitched outta here. During that time, I'm supposed to remain committed to my job. That's a challenge for me, resisting the temptation to super-slack and let things slide a lot. I suppose I need to keep up appearances for the time being, as I'm only at risk, so I can still be sacked. They've still got me yoked for the moment. It's strange, too, getting the sympathetic looks and hushed-tone condolences--but not leaving yet. Definitely all new to me.

Ah well....time to start really perusing the job ads and sites. If I time it right, I get my pay-out and a new gig. See you at the interview room.

28 April 2010

Springtime Update

8 Vaisakha - Year 1932

Hey now! The end of April is here. Sorry I haven't posted much - I've been creating a podcast episode, tidying up the house (with the goodwyf) and celebrating our 6th wedding anniversary. I know, I couldn't fathom it either.

You can listen to the new podcast episode here. No theme again - just a collection of freeky tunes to swirl around in your mind. Next month marks the 2nd anniversary of the debut episode of the 'Stroboscope. I'm making it an all-request one. If you're on Facebook, you can submit a request there...or add one in the comments section here. I will try to add as many in the show as I can.

'Election Fever' seems to be everywhere at the moment. It was nice to see Nick Clegg trounce Posh-boy Cameron and dour Brown in the (U.S. stylee, natch) debates, but unfortunately, I don't really see the Lib Dems seizing power from the 'two-party-that's-actually-a single-party' stranglehold. Which probably means that the dreaded Tories may win. To me, it doesn't really matter--as some clever critter said once: "No matter who you vote for, the government always gets in." Amen. Still, if I were allowed to vote, it'd be for The Monster Raving Loony Party, seeing as there's probably no UK equivalent to the Guns And Dope Party. Pragmatically speaking, I suppose I'd vote Lib Dem or Greens. We'll all have to wait and see what happens next week.

The goodwyf and I travelled to Bournemouth over the weekend to celebrate our anniversary. We stayed at the same hotel we'd booked into last year. The weather was excellent--sunny skies and a bit of a breeze. We walked along West Cliff beach, had lunch at Subway and then went for a swim, suana, steam & jacuzzi at the hotel's indoor pool. Dinner was at the local Wagamama, where they serve some delicious food. The next day we got the ferry from Poole to Brownsea Island, most famous for being the starting point for the Boy Scouts, founded by Robert Baden-Powell. I really enjoyed walking around the island. It seemed very peaceful and relaxing--no plane noise and no traffic noise either. We even saw a couple of red squirrels (the island is a sanctuary for them, as they are endangered now).

After we arrived back in Poole, we had a bit of time before heading back home. I scoured a few charity shops for vinyl, but no luck. Right at the end of the high street, I saw a sign for a used record shop. Jackpot! The shop is tiny, but has a decent, though small, LP section. I picked up a pretty good copy of Gryphon's Raindance and a really beat-up (jacket-wise) copy of Focus's Hamburger Concerto. I was tempted by a copy of The Rolling Stones' Their Satanic Majesties Request (with 3-D cover!)--but I couldn't afford the £40 asking price. Ah well, another time.

UPDATE: Oop..seems as if Gordon Brown's in trouble again over calling an old woman a 'bigot'. I've watched the footage and while she doesn't come across as a raging BNP supporter--her comment about "all these Eastern Europeans" does seem a bit bigoted to me. I'm not a big supporter of Brown or Labour, but I dunno..it seems like he made a pretty good call on that one.

08 April 2010

R.A.W. on Cybernetics

8 Phoebus - Year 89 p.s.U.

Steve 'Fly Agaric' Pratt, whom I met through the Maybe Logic Academy a few years ago, posted this article at Facebook this week. It was written by Robert Anton Wilson for The Realist magazine in 1966. As is my own view on Bob's stuff, this 'is' brilliant as always. Sadly, and I suspect Bob would mostly agree, the principles outlined in the article 'are' still relevant today. I suspect when he wrote it in '66, Bob thought the cybernetic utopia would have unfolded by now. I hope the scenario doesn't end in a Rand or Goldwater way, but things do seem to be heading in that direction at the moment. I'd like to think that sometime, everyone will be a "Person Who Matters". You can check more of Bob's writing here.

THE CYBERNETIC REVOLUTION by Robert Anton Wilson - published in 'The Realist' (1966)

Paul Revere 1976: two hundred years after the origi­nal, will be a guy galloping through every middlesex, village and farm, yelling: "Grab your guns, boys, the machines is a-coming!"The Triple Revolution Manifesto got a great deal of gassy publicity a few years ago. There is no need to reiterate the obvious here. The reader has already heard of translating machines, song-writing machines, chess-playing machines and totally automated factories.The labor dispute that almost put New York's news­papers out of business last year was provoked by fear of automation, and the same fear has inspired most of the recent waterfront troubles.The Negro riots of summer 1964 are attributed, by some sociologists, to the accelerating unemployment rate of urban Negroes. One statistic suggests the whole picture: in 1963 there were exactly 500,000 – one half a million – less mine workers employed than in 1945, and in 1964 there were again 125,000 less than in 1963.

At The Realist's expense I attended the 3-day Confer­ence on the Cybercultural Revolution held at the Hotel Americana in New York. The panelists were all well qualified engineers, man­agers, sociologists, etc. – Ph.D.'s were as thick in the crowd as sailors in the balcony of a 42nd Street tit movie-and they all seemed in basic agreement with the Triple Revolution Manifesto's projection of massive ­unemployment directly ahead of us: massive unemployment utterly unlike the Depression of the '30s, because there will be no "cure" for it. It will be permanent. And it is not merely the "proletariat" who are threat­ened. I, for one, came out of the conference seriously wondering how soon Paul Krassner was going to re­place me with a Bad-Joke-and-Radical-Propaganda machine. Among the many possibilities seriously discussed by the conferences - this is straight reporting, not a Realist satire, was a gizmo called the "Friend-o-Mat", with a voice programmed to sound human and mellow, which would dispense Freudian, Adlerian, Jungian or any other kind of therapy to several patients at a time. All that remains is the deathless dream of an immortal limerick:

There was a young man from Racine/who built a screwing machine

Concave and convex

It would suit either sex

And jacked itself off in between.

But even that machine is probably possible, with the new mathematics and sophisticated hardware of cyber­netics. Cybernetics is, basically; an exquisitely subtle mathematical theory describing self-organizing and self-regulating systems "biological or mechanical".The theory is applicable to any form of self-correct­ing behavior, in the electro-colloidal system known as an animal, and shows how to duplicate that behavior in an electronic-metallic system known as a machine.The irony of the cybercultural revolution is that this state of affairs is what we have always dreamed of. "Machinery is the moral substitute for slavery", some­body wrote a long time ago; we have always thought that super-machinery would mean man's liberation from toil and the freeing of his energies for "higher" artistic or scientific activities. Now that the super-machinery is at our door, we begin to realize that it might bring, not liberation, but stagnation or starvation. The latter alternative is, indeed, the ultimate impli­cation of cybernetics, if we return to the philosophy of classical capitalism as espoused by Barry Goldwater or Ayn Rand.

Capitalism has inherited from Feudalism – and from the earlier theocracies, slave, states and sultanates – a certain idea which is completely incom­patible with cybernetic technology. I will try to state that idea as baldly as possible. This is it: The human race is divided into two groups – the People Who Matter and the People Who Don't Matter.The PWM are those who own the planet earth. Their ownership is a "legal fact," although not an existential fact, and is demonstrated by land-titles, franchises, bank charters, stocks, bonds or other documents, certi­fied by the king or the congress, indicating the exact dimensions of their share of ownership. The PWM have an absolute right to exist, symbolized by these documents and guaranteed by the State.The PWDM, on the other hand, do not own any part of the earth, and, therefore, do not have any absolute right to exist. They may obtain a relative right to ex­ist, however, by finding (or being found by) masters among the PWM who will employ them to toil, and compensate them by food and lodging, under slavery, or by wages, under capitalism. Note that it is the State which decides who are the PWM and who are the PWDM.

Under Feudalism, and earlier systems, the PWM con­sisted only of the relatives of the king, and, since pro­duction was mainly agricultural, the principle form of ownership of the planet was through land-titles. Thus, the "nobility" became lords-of-the-land, land­lords, and levied a tax upon those who actually worked the land, the tax being known as "rent."The franchises, bank charters, stocks, etc., owned by the modern nobility are the same type of tax placed upon the productive process; capital interest 'is' the "rent" of capital. A man born into the PWM has his right to exist guaranteed by the State due to his inheritance of these certificates of ownership. A man born into the PWDM, on the other hand, has no accepted worth in and of himself and obtains the right to exist only when a PWM will employ him.This age-old class division is the idea mentioned above which is completely incompatible with cyber­netics, and I trust that I have stated it baldly enough. Before Cybernation, the authoritarian structure had at least one slight protection built into it for the PWDM, which is that they are needed: the PWM can­not survive without the millions of PWDM grubbing and toiling away to produce the commodities of the nation. For this reason, the PWM have never allowed all of the PWDM to starve completely.This is exactly where the nightmare of cybercultural revolution begins, for, in a cybernated age, the PWDM are no longer necessary. The PWM could let them all starve and be served forever after by machines. The fellow who called machinery "the moral alterna­tive to slavery" never thought of this.

And among the PWDM are a class whom the partici­pants at the Cybercultural Conference jocularly called "the noodles." The noodles think of themselves as being among the PWM, but by our definition, since they do not own any inherited franchises or charters of owner­ship over the planet, they are actually among the PWDM. . .the noodles, you see, are the non-technical mana­gerial and administrative groups. (The technical man­agers and administrators, although also – by our defini­tion – PWDM, cannot be allowed to starve by the PWM). What will happen to the noodles, briefly, is that they will be in exactly the same leaky boat as the "gooks," "niggers," "errand boys" and other proletarians. Although their higher salaries have allowed them to rub elbows and socialize (somewhat) with the PWM­ – and although they have, because of this, built up the delusion that they are among the PWM – the noodles will soon have their noses rubbed vigorously in the messy fact that they are, and always have been, PWDM. (It couldn't happen to nicer guys, could it?)

But we are exaggerating (I hope). Our PWM aren't like the kings and sultans of olde. During the last great depression, without having to shoot or exile any of them, Roosevelt managed to get them to cough up may­ be $1 out of every million to go into a government dole, to keep them PWDM from starving.*And Lyndon Johnson has read the Triple Revolution manifesto, or at least had one of his secretaries write to the Triple Revolution Committee and tell them that he had read it. So, let's all relax, fellows; we can be sure that as cybernetic unemployment spreads, the dole will gradually expand to make up the difference, and nobody really will starve. It seems to be this elevated level of utopian optimism that the Triple Revolution Committee would peddle to us. The picture I get is a 4-decker society in which:

(a) The PWM retain their ownership of the planet through their land-titles, franchises, stocks, bonds, etc., and continue to rake off interest, or usury, on every productive process, while:

(b) A technological elite actually runs things, and:

(c) The governing class, at gun-point – all taxes are collected at gun-point, let's keep our eye on the ball here and not forget an unpleasant truth even if it is people like Goldwater who nowadays remind us of this particular truth – holds up the PWM and the techno­logical elite to collect just enough from them to dis­tribute a permanent dole to:

(d) Millions of bored and unemployed ex-workers and ex-noodles (who, presumably, will have lots of movies and TV to fill the long hours when they are too tired to fornicate any more).

By and large, the best brains of the Cybercultural Conference seemed to go along with this Triple Revo­lution formula, although I can't imagine why. To me, it sounds like hell on earth. The best thing that can be said for it is that it is better than sticking to the old PWM mystique in the pure form of feudalism and classical capitalism.The Triple Revolution formula is something that could arise only in America. It is a pure product of our national muddle-headedness and our refusal, ever, to ask fundamental questions and re-think fundamental assumptions. Capitalism is under suspicion all over the world, ex­cept here. Here it is not an economic system but a re­vealed religion. Questioning it is a sign of eccentricity, if not depravity.The Triple Revolution is not a revolution at all, being neither original nor radical (most of its ideas were long ago hashed out in the Social Credit and Technoc­racy movements).**

The whole Triple Revolution is nothing more than Hopalong FDR Rides Again – Capitalism plus the dole, period. The irony of the Triple Revolution program is that it is based on ignoring the fundamental principle of cybernetics itself. The Triple Revolution program is an adaptation of cybernetics to our local (capitalist) au­thoritarianism (just as the ultimate Soviet program for cybernetics will be an adaptation to their own Statist authoritarianism). But cybernetics itself is profoundly anti-authoritarian, and if we merely followed the logic of cyber­netics to its ultimate conclusion we would easily find the solution to the problems created by cybernetics. All of these problems, it will turn out, are the result of not following cybernetics logically; they are the result of trying to dilute cybernetics with the logic of earlier systems. Consider for a moment, not the hardware, but the essence of cybernetics. Cybernetics is a mathematical theory describing self-regulating' or self-organizing systems. The general theory 'is' applicable to mechani­cal, biological and social systems.The material of the system doesn't matter – you can be dealing with transistors and electric circuits; or with the nervous system of a cat or a man, or with a herd of cows or a tribe or nation of men – what makes a system cybernetic, or non-cybernetic, is the structure of the materials. If the structure allows for feedback from the envir­onment and alteration of behavior in accordance with the feedback, you have a cybernetic system.

The essence of cybernetics is just that: an information flow that allows for self-correction.'This information flow is only possible where there is a structure to transmit and receive the information. It is perhaps necessary to point out that "structure" and "information" are very high order abstractions in cybernetic theory. The governor of a generator will illustrate this. The first generators had a nasty habit of accelerat­ing until they tore themselves apart (no feedback). The governor was then invented. This is a pair of balls on a pair of flexible arms, attached to opposite sides of the generator. When the speed exceeds a certain point, the balls are thrown out by centrifugal force, creating a drag in the air. This slows the rotary velocity, until the balls fall back into place, the drag ends, and the machine starts accelerating again. In this way, the speed is kept oscillating in the vicin­ity of a safe point where the generator will not tear itself apart. A thermostat controls a furnace in the same way. The balls of the governor, as much as the temperature-reading of the thermostat, are said to feed back "information" in cybernetic terminology. They "inform" the generator about its speed, just as the thermostat "informs" the furnace about the amount of heat it is generating. There is an old Navy tradition that the steersman always repeats an order to the captain before executing it. If the captain says, "Sixty knots," and the steers­man replies, “Fifty knots, sir," it is obvious that he has mis-heard and the captain can correct him. This is another example of a feedback, or self-correcting, system.

Feedback can be very "smooth" and continuous. When I reach for a bottle of water, the eye feeds back to the brain information about how far my hand has moved, and how far it still must move, and the feed­back occurs continuously, every micro-second, until I reach the bottle. If it is a bottle of bourbon I am reaching for, and I have already reached for more than I should have, the feedbacks in my nervous' system work less "smoothly," more "jerkily," and I may even land on my nose in the middle of the floor. The first cybernetic anti-aircraft guns had just that jerky kind of motion. There is also a condition of too much feedback. In human beings, this takes on the form of the Hamlet kind of neurosis – self-checking carried to the point of indecision, and paralysis. This also has its mechanical analogy. An early model cybernetic anti-aircraft gun was built with so much feedback that it kept correcting its direction of fire and never did fire. A mechanical system is said to have "redundance of control" when it has optimum feedback – not too much and not too little. In redundance of control, every part of the system feeds back information to every other part, and the system as a whole is self-regulating. An automated factory works on this principle.

Democracy, from the point of view of cybernetics, is an attempt to introduce redundance of control to the social organism. Note that every step forward in de­mocracy – limited suffrage, universal suffrage, the ref­erendum, the recall, division' of powers, etc. – has in­creased the feedback in the system. It can be argued that democracy as we know it does not yet contain optimum feedback, but for the moment we will accept the democratic State as a model of suffi­cient feedback and self-correction. Let us, from this perspective, contemplate for a mo­ment the "economic States" which divide the control of this country with the political State – let us, that is, contemplate the Corporations. How much feedback do they possess?A long time ago, I decided that the corporations possess very little feedback and are, from a cybernetic point of view, unstable and primitive systems. At that time, I made myself a bet: nobody employed by a uni­versity, I bet myself, would ever announce this discov­ery in public, although it is a very simple application of cybernetic principles.To my astonishment, on the second day of the Cyber­cultural Conference, Professor William Perk of the University of Southern Illinois, criticized the corporations on exactly these grounds, pointing out in detail how the basic feedbacks of the democratic State are completely lacking in the modern corporation. Professor Perk went further and remarked that the citizen, spending most of his life as the servant of an authoritarian corporation, is conditioned to submission and obedience and is gradually made psychologically incapable of participating fully in the freedom of the democratic State.

An anecdote, once told to me by Tobey McCarroll of the Humanists is very apropos here. Mr. McCarroll, as a lawyer, was representing some Indians in their perennial fight against the Grand Land Thief, or the U.S. Government as we prefer to call it. While he was conferring with the chiefs of the tribe, an archeologist appeared and requested permission to dig for relics in certain mounds, which he believed were graves. The chiefs soberly gave permission, although they knew that the mounds were actually cesspools. The savant dug his way down into the dung, without a single Indian speaking up to warn him. The folklore of all repressed peoples is full of such crude jokes. The Indians, like all repressed groups,­ had long been forced to realize that they are not infor­mation-channels or feedback-channels in the major so­ciety. What they see, hear, smell, deduce, know or suppose is of no interest to the control centers of the society. Having this realization beaten into them for several centuries, they are not about to start volunteering in­formation now. (The legendary poker-facedness of both Indians and Negroes, in the old days, frequently was a mask for this type of hostility, but always expressed in a context of doing what the master class demanded: communicating). Every authoritarian society creates this type of vol­untary "stupidity." The employee of every corporation practices it most of the time, although not as much as the Indians. Any system lacking feedback encourages this species of sabotage.(The Italian anarchist labor unions once tied up the railroads, not by striking; but merely by obeying all the laws on the books. Because there had never been enough feedback, the law-makers had never discovered how absurd and impractical most of their laws were – until the workers started obeying them).

The PWDM are always in the position of non-feed­back senders to the PWM. This is the very definition of an authoritarian society. The PWM make the deci­sions, and the PWDM merely obey them. Any cyber­netics engineer knows that no mechanical system can imitate human intelligence if it has this non-feedback structure. Only the fact that capitalism has become a revealed religion keeps people from realizing the simple truth enunciated by Professor Perk: the Corporations, lack­ing feedback, lack human intelligence. As a whole, every Corporation behaves ten times more stupidly than any particular member of it. Cynics have puzzled for a long time to explain the "hydrostatic principle of organization," as Oliver Wen­dell Holmes called it; that is: the principle by which an organization, like water seeking its own level, sinks to the intelligence level of its stupidest member. This is that principle in a nut-shell. It is not a law of organi­zations at all, but just a law of organizations without feedback. And this is why America is a schizophrenic and un­comfortable civilization. The political unit is, at least partly, democratic; the economic unit – the Corporation – is more authoritarian and centralized than any sultanate of old. The citizen is told to be an individual, to be respon­sible, to think globally, to participate in the world's activity - and, once in four years, he gets a chance to make a mark on a piece of paper.The rest of the time, he lives as a medieval serf, within an organization that is exquisitely totalitarian.

And these "private States," make no mistake about it, dominate not only the time of the citizen, but all of the other dimensions of "his" life as well, much more than the public State does. The owners of the corporations, under capitalism, are the PWM, just as the owners of the land were, un­der feudalism. You might almost say, from the point of view of this kind of radical cybernetics, that capi­talism is the continuation of feudalism by other means. I think that the tendency of this argument should be obvious to the reader by now. Either the PWM and their Corporations have a true title by ownership of the planet, or they do not. If they do, Ayn Rand is right and the State has no justification for coming along with a gun and robbing them to feed the PWDM. If, on the other hand, the whole PWM mystique is just the modern form of "the divine right of kings," if it has no basis in justice, then it is time we had as much balls as our ancestors had when they hauled Charlie Stuart I up before the court and stripped him of his powers. It is time, in short; that the corporation go the way of the monarchy, and be replaced by democratic self-regulating institutions; institutions that would belong, not to a few of the people, but to all of the people. If the people really do own the planet, then there need be no State dole: they will merely receive dividends from their joint-stock companies which will run their machin­ery for them, and they will have to take on the responsibility of making the decisions for these companies.

If the people are too stupid to run their own com­panies, then, by God, the old authoritarian system is justified, and the earth does belong to a minority. In that case, I see no reason why the talented minority should be robbed to feed the incompetent. This, really, is the choice that cybernetics sets before us: do we be­lieve in man, or do we believe in an elite of super-men? The Triple Revolution is merely another American muddle, a refusal to face the issues, and an attempt to have one foot in each boat, while the boats are obvi­ously going in opposite directions. Far be it from me to condemn stupidity utterly. It's been around so long that I'm sure it must have some use. It does appear, though, that in facing the particu­lar challenge of cybernetics, intelligence may be of more use than stupidity. In that case, we will have to define the issues crisply and make a definitive choice. Either we can trust the people, or we must trust an elite. It would be melodramatic, corny and inaccurate to state this choice as Socialism or Fascism, because most forms of socialism 'are' fascism. Whatever you want to call it, however, the choice remains. God knows, I wouldn't attempt to influence such a conglomeration of heretics as the Realist readership, on how this choice should be decided. The choice is probably out of our hands, anyway; the corporations own 98% of the wealth. I'll see you on the unemploy­ment line. . . .

* Corporation taxes are higher than that, of course – as conservative readers will quickly write to tell me. Very true, but I still remain dubious about how much of corpora­tion taxes goes into the various doles and how much goes into warfare and cold warfare to protect the corporations from rebellion on the part of their foreign serfs.

** And Ezra Pound went to the jail and the bughouse for insisting on precisely these ideas over Rome Radio, 20 or so years ago. Remember?

30 March 2010

10 Years In The Blogosphere

10 Hamal - Year 1389

That's right - I've been blogging for 10 years now, pretty much non-stop. Back in 2000, I had never heard of 'blogs'. A few of my old high school friends that I had kept in touch with throughout the 1990s were more clued-in to cyber-stuff than I was. They started up a weblog where we could stay in touch and post about topics that interested ourselves. They invited me to join in January or February, but I wasn't sure about the blogging thing and delayed for a little while. I finally joined up in March 2000--mainly just commenting on what the others had posted.

The page they created was called Triptych Cryptic and it's still going, albeit with only C-Dog and Bone Daddy at the helm. I think there were seven of us posting there at T.C.'s peak. I really enjoyed being there for a while--it was our own little corner of t'internet. Most of us started up our own solo blogs as well. It was C-Dog who encouraged me to 'start a blog about prog-rock'..and so, in September 2000, with his help, I came up with 21st Century Schizoid Man, dedicated to all things music and most things prog-rock. C-Dog and I scanned in some great album covers and he pasted them together to make a groovy backdrop. He also put together a great banner and added both into the blog template. It looked brill, until he was moving and packed up his PC. I didn't have a copy of the jpegs and they disappeared. I joked for a while that it was the big, bad record companies keeping a striving prog-geek under their collective thumb, but no, it was much more mundane than that.

I kept "Schizoid Man" going for four years, while also posting at "Triptych..". When I moved to England in 2004--I found I had less time to post and to be honest, I was starting to grow a bit tired of "Schizoid Man"s format, even though I had changed the template a couple of times. Over at T.C., there were some personality clashes, which seem inevitable in any group effort (bands, casts of films and plays, etc.) and it soured the mood a bit. I decided to stop "Schizoid Man" in May 2004 and I left the T.C. fold shortly after. I whittled down the "Schizoid Man" posts to roughly 50 and let it float around in the aether. You can still find it, if you're looking for it. Not to be confused with a newer blog by another 'Merican ex-pat, who seems to be of a conservative, right-wing slant and enjoys writing screeds about Obama's health-care plan. I suppose Crimso fans appear in all stripes. Hey-ho. I also changed my nom d'internet from "Mo" (short for 'Molasses', my T.C. nick-name) to Sly Stoner, an hommage to psychedelic soul genius Sylvester "Sly Stone" Stewart...and also 'cos Bone Daddy said I had a sly sense of humour.

I thought about stopping blogging altogether, but I still liked the idea of a group blog. With that in mind, I invited Pixie, my mate Singing Bear and a few others I met during my time at the Flaming Lips BBS. Only Pixie and Bear signed on for definite and Pond Of Tunes was born! I initially wanted to name it Ocean Of Sound, after David Toop's book about ambient music, but I found another blog had already used that title. P.O.T. lasted for about two years and it was a lot of fun--the highlight being our spamming a spam-bot called 'Vicky', who kept leaving irritating comments about real estate. We found her site and counter-spammed. That was hilarious...she even started up an 'anti-Pond of Tunes' blog. The ultimate flattery. Our collective interest began to wane and I ended up deleting P.O.T. early in 2006, while Bear started up his own blog.

Once again, I thought about packing it in, but I thought I'd have another go at a group blog and so "Blog Is Not.." was created, with Pixie supplying the excellent title (referencing Andy Votel's Folk Is Not A Four-Letter Word collection), as well as my new-new handle, The Purple Gooroo. Bear was back on board and I invited my brother, the illustrious Aloicious P. McGinnis, who then joined up and has yet to post. I think of him as a 'silent partner'. We started up in June 2006 and we're still here....well, with a few changes. Bear decided to strike out on his own pretty much permanently in 2008 and he's had a series of blogs, the latest being the great Grown Up Backwards. This blog has essentially become a one-critter operation..so in ten years I've sorta come full circle. I reckon I'll continue for another two years, 'till 2012, then call it a day...as I've got the podcast to do. Facebook and Twitter eat up a lot of my time now as well. One never knows, though--I may change my mind and keep on bloggin'.

19 March 2010

Acid Spooks En Francais

3 Rabi`ath-Thani - Year 1431

I saw this story linked to at Facebook the other day. It's being reported by several newspapers, most notably by the Torygraph...er, I mean Telegraph, in the UK. Back in 1951, the residents of a French village started going really loopy. A few critters died and some were confined to institutions. The big mystery over the years has been why the folks of Pont-Saint-Esprit suddenly experienced nightmarish hallucinations and began to behave in highly 'unorthodox' ways.

It was initially thought that the local baker had unwittingly baked some ergot-infected wheat into bread, which was consumed by the locals. The villagers would then have been victims of ergot poisoning, or St. Anthony's Fire--a very not-pleasant combination of hallucinations and convulsions. In extreme cases, gangrene in the limbs develops and death can occur.

New evidence has allegedly come to light now, whereby it's being claimed that there's documentation to show that CIA agents, working in conjunction with some scientists at the Sandoz Laboratories (where LSD was first synthesized), conspired with a few French 'plants' to essentially dose the population with LSD and observe the results. What swell critters, eh?

It definitely seems plausible, given the agency's track record with other experiments of a similar nature. What amazes me is how long it took for the original files to be made public. I suppose it shows a sliver of progress that the Iran-Contra affair was exposed after only a few years of being in operation. Same old CIA. Robert Anton Wilson once quipped that if the gubberment were really fighting a 'war on terror', they would carpet-bomb Langley, Virginia. But of course, like the 'Drug War', it's only a war on some terrorists (mostly brown ones, with funny names, who don't worship the X-tian 'God').

Now, if I lived in a paranoid reality-tunnel most of the time - I'd ask why the Pont-Saint-Esprit story is surfacing now. I'd think that maybe it's another scare-story about psychedelics, to try and put the kibosh on any legitimate research. The Beckley Foundation is starting a research project on LSD and I suspect that M.A.P.S. will be soon, too. Ah well, hopefully humans have learned more and got a bit smarter since psychedelics were demonised by the mainstream press in the 1960s. I say hopefully....

Here's a great little film showing LSD experiments with British soldiers in the early 1960s:

08 March 2010

R.I.P. Mark Linkous

Jour du Octid 8 - Mois du Ventose - Annee de la Republique 218

05 March 2010

Save 6Music!

14 Esfand - Year 1388

The BBC's director general Mark Thompson has announced cuts to the programming line-up, mainly that 6Music and the Asian Network will be axed and cease broadcasting by the end of 2011. I had got used to some decent stuff being on the radio, especially Stuart Maconie's Freak Zone--the only show I listen to regularly. There's other good stuff, too. Marc Riley, former Fall guitarist and part of the awesome Mark and Lard duo, has his own show, as do Adam and Joe, the two guys who created the hilarious 90s comedy telly programme.

Sure, there's other stuff that's not so great - I rarely listen to Lauren Laverne's programme, or Dave Pearce's Dance Anthems show (which is on right after the 'Freak Zone'). Shaun Keaveny's morning spot can be funny at times, but I don't listen to him much either. Despite that, though - at least it's an attempt to spotlight some non-mainstream stuff from a major corporation. If 6Music does go under, I suspect the 'Freak Zone' or Marc Riley won't be transferred to BBC2 or any of the other remaining stations.

There's already been a massive backlash and plenty of grass-roots protests, including a Facebook group and lots of articles and 'sleb' input. David Bowie and Charlie Brooker have both issued statements criticising the proposed cuts. I signed a petition which will be sent to the BBC Trust and to Thompson. Sign it if you can - or find another website with a petition. Pixie found one and posted her view. She was rankled by the BBC referring to 6Music as a 'pop station'. Heh heh.

I hope the Beeb reverses it's decision and keeps 6Music going..or failing that, someone else snaps it up to keep it alive. Please don't leave us with Radio 1 and 2. Chris Evans seems just alright to me, but he does my head in after a while. Don't even get me started on Chris Moyles...

01 March 2010

New Kaleidophonic Stroboscope episode!

10 Phalguna - Year 1931

I completed the latest K.S. show about two weeks ago. It's been live for over a week now - so go check it out, if you haven't already. It's my tribute to the cold season, which will be fading away soon. You can listen to the episode here.

Oh yeah, The 'Stroboscope also got a mention in the newest Shindig! magazine!! Thanks to my mates over at Sonic Tonic, who were interviewed by Richard Jones about S.T. in a sidebar column. Thorax The Thurd and Silent Monkey named the K.S. as an influence. How cool is that? Cheers, lads!

If you haven't caught any of the 'Sonic Tonic' episodes yet - seriously, get over there and have a listen. Those guys mix the choons up like nobody's business and their banter is far more entertaining than mine. Another great podcast mentioned in the same article is Harold's Attic Radio, which I've linked to at the Stroboscope's page. The latest 'Harold's.." has a fine selection of soul, soundtrack stuff, rock & dance. Those boys have a top-notch collection at their disposal.

That should keep you busy for a little while - and go buy a copy of "Shindig!", too!

22 February 2010

John Lennon - Spinning In Grave

8 Adar - Year 5770

I don't know how many of you have seen this. Pixie and I were watching TV the other night. Well, she was watching, I was reading Vico's "The New Science". Suddenly, this is shown:

Yes, that's a film of John Lennon (it looks like it was filmed in 1968, around the time of the White Album sessions). No, it's not actually him speaking, but a Scouser impressionist. This seems to be so cringingly bad on so many levels to me, that it nearly hurts. Firstly, even if Lennon (hypothetically) would have those 'anti-retro' views, I strongly suspect he wouldn't have used them to sell cars. Personally, I suspect he would've enjoyed new bands using elements of 60s and 70s music in their own creations. But I don't know that, and neither do the ad-makers know if he would say "Do your own thing." Secondly, why didn't they just get an actor who looks like Lennon did in 1979, instead of using a clip from '68--it just makes the spoken-word part seem even more incongruous. Lennon may have been ahead of his time, but admonishing critters for 'being nostalgic for the 60s and 70s' in a film from 1968 just looks stupid. Not that most advertisers 'are' the sharpest knives in the drawer, mind.

Yep, just when you thought it couldn't get any worse for counter-culture icons being used to sell crap...this happens. I still can't get over Led Zeppelin's Rock And Roll used in a Range Rover ad, as was The Who's Baba O'Riley. Jimi Hendrix's Purple Haze was used in a Pepsi ad...and I suspect that Janis Joplin's Piece Of My Heart has been used in an ad at some point. I also remember the 80s, when Budweiser sponsored tours by Eric Clapton and Genesis, among others. The early 1990s Nick Drake Volkswagen ad made me uneasy, too. I recall supporters of the ad saying "Nick would've liked it - he wanted to get his music out to as many people as possible." Really? In 1972, when he recorded Pink Moon, Nick Drake was so depressed, he could barely talk. I strongly suspect he wasn't concerned with selling cars through a commercial.

There was considerable outrage when Nike tried using The Fabs' Revolution in a commercial in 1988. It'll be interesting to see if the Citroen one gets the same reaction, or if using classic rock songs to push products has become so commonplace that no-one even notices. If Johnny Rotten can appear in butter ads and Iggy Pop is hawking car insurance, I suppose doctoring a clip of Lennon to sell cars 'is' just everyday stuff now.

10 February 2010

Pop Video Observations

Sweetmorn, Chaos 41, Year of Our Lady of Discord 3176

So I've been going to the gym since November (shock, horror!). I know, I know - it's only once a week, though. I'm still practising yoga three times a week. The gym we go to (yep, Pixie's going as well) is in the local sports centre. All around the upper walls are a bunch of TeeVees. Some show Sky News or one of the BBC stations. A few of them are tuned to videos of the latest pop hits, on channels like Viva TV or E4.

Now, given the fast-buck, sleb-creating style of many of the tunes--you'd expect the videos would be roughly the same. You'd be correct. I suppose I finally am getting old, but viewing some of this stuff seems like a train-wreck to me. I probably could avoid watching them, but I can't help it..they're so bad, they're..well, not good, but curious. I'm not intending this as a sort-of "back in my day.." spiel...as anyone who watched a lot of phlegM-TeeVee in the early 80s will attest to the volume of sheer crap that was broadcast. Still, most of the UK 'Top-Twenty' clips that I've watched lately seem to have been directed by the same team of fashion-school drop-outs. There's certain elements present in them: 1) The band or singer is in a large room, either brightly lit or dimly lit 2) The 'outrageous' costuming, meant to seem futuristic or S&M (I can't decide) 3) Lots and lots of slow motion 4) Katy Perry is 'featured'

Here's one - it's for Alexandra Burke's 'girl-power' anthem, Broken Heels:

Can someone tell me why they're posing as an American football team (as Burke is a British singer)? I mean, the whole gist of the lyrics seem to be about how girls can do anything boys can--but no joke, I think if Alex and her dancers were to play those dudes in football, there'd be a lot of stretchers involved. You're saying "But P.G., you're taking this way too seriously." That may be - but these videos puzzle me. I'm only trying to get some answers.

Here's another one - by the not-so-cleverly monikered 3Oh!3. The tune is called Starstrukk (yes, they're actually spelling it that way):

I couldn't embed the video - so you have to click here.

Notice the ubiqitous slow-motion and hey look, it's Katy Perry! I'm not sure why it's become de rigeur to have her in one's video--she had one crappy hit about three years ago (the faux-raunchy I Kissed A Girl--which shares a title with Jill Sobule's (admittedly coy) much more subtle 90s tune) and suddenly, she's friggin' everywhere. I'm not sure why the various ladies are charging at the two twats in the band--at first, I thought it was to hit them for crimes against music.

Lady GaGa, another culprit, 'gives' us her latest opus, Bad Romance:

I admit I have no fucking clue what is happening in that video. What are the white, spike-topped PVC costumes about? Same with the dudes sitting around in a circle with bits of Roman centurion helmets attached to their faces. It's like a 12-step meeting out of Blade Runner. It's got the large room and the bright lighting covered--the goofy clothes, too. Shame Katy didn't show up--they would've had everything in there. I don't know what the video has to do with bad romance, but there you go.

Here's Cheryl Cole, the Geordie one out of Girls Aloud. I think she's stolen a pair of MC Hammer's pyjamas and a Canadian border-guard uniform. Are the blood-red ink splatters supposed to be 'edgy', or a sly hommage to Ralph Steadman? I'm lost with this video as well. At least it's set in a big room with bright lighting--still no Katy Perry...I may have to re-think that part of my hypothesis.

Here's the video - I couldn't embed this one either.

And finally - it's Rihanna, with Hard:

I sorta get that she's equating being hard (which is 'tough' in UK slang) with soldiers and guns, but what's with the black spikey suit? Did a Marvel superhero have a garage sale? I dunno, I suppose this video will appeal to armchair generals, chickenhawks and Guns And Ammo enthusiasts. This one's set outside - so it does blow my "large room" theory a bit. It does have the outrageous clothes and some slow-mo, too, so I'm not way-off in my assessment.

Try to watch these without sound, as the tunes seem fairly crap to me. The Cheryl Cole one's kinda catchy, so be warned, it will get stuck in your head. You'll then have to spend the next few days listening to the Butthole Surfers or early Black Sabbath to erase your brain. As I say, I think I'm finally getting old.