Monday, September 30, 2019

Precog Economy

From Amelia Tait's 9-29-19 Guardian article entitled "Psychic Future: What Next for the ‘Precog Economy’?":

Dr Julia Mossbridge, a visiting psychology scholar at Northwestern University in the US, and co-author of The Premonition Code: How Sensing the Future Can Change Your Life, says there is an ever-expanding “precog economy”, where people with alleged precognitive powers sell their abilities to business people, law-enforcement officials and even health professionals.
“People who are good at this can make money from it, and people who want the services can buy them for all sectors of the economy,” says Mossbridge, who had her first precognitive dream (about a school friend losing her watch) when she was seven. She says her so-called “positive precogs” (named after the mutated humans who predicted the future in the 2002 thriller Minority Report) differ from psychics with crystal balls and £1.50/min phone lines. “What I’m imagining is a much more sophisticated and structurally supported version of that,” she says. “The UN could have a group of precogs who’d work on climate change alongside experts in the area. They’re just one mode of knowing.”
Mossbridge’s dreams for a precog economy are undoubtedly ambitious, particularly as the scientific community considers precognition to be pseudoscience. “If I had to bet money on it, I would bet against the existence of these abilities based on my judgment of the currently available evidence,” says Professor Christopher French, head of the Anomalistic Psychology Research Unit at Goldsmiths University. Yet French isn’t the one betting money. It is ordinary people who are paying precog businesses for stock market predictions and gambling tips. Mossbridge notes that psychic services have been growing since the recession and estimates the US psychic industry is worth $2bn. “Once precognition hits the higher-end markets – governments, investment banking – the estimates will go up by an order of magnitude,” she says.
To read Tait's entire article, click HERE.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Jonathan Lethem on Edward Snowden

Jonathan Lethem (author of GUN, WITH OCCASIONAL MUSIC, GIRL IN LANDSCAPE, MOTHERLESS BROOKLYN, and many other fine novels) has published an in-depth review of Edward Snowden's autobiography PERMANENT RECORD in the 10-24-19 edition of THE NEW YORK REVIEW OF BOOKS. Here's an excerpt from Lethem's "Snowden in the Labyrinth":

In Robert Sheckley’s 1978 short story “Is That What People Do?,” a man named Eddie Quintero buys himself a pair of binoculars from an army and navy surplus outlet, “because with them he hoped to see some things that he otherwise would never see. Specifically, he hoped to see girls undressing at the Chauvin Arms across the street from his furnished room”—but he was also “looking for that moment of vision, of total attention.” Since this is a science fiction story, Quintero accidentally ends up with a pair marked “Experimental. Not to Be Removed from the Testing Room.”

The binoculars turn out to have a fabulous capacity not only for seeing through walls but also for diminishing the distance between Quintero and those he would spy on. When he peers through the experimental device just so—an effort of contorting his body into increasingly bizarre positions—Quintero is suddenly granted visions of other human beings, behind closed doors, doing “what people do.” Which turns out to be, well, weird shit. The least disturbing of what Quintero surveils is what’s now called cosplay; the most extreme consists of giddy ritual murder, and of the deliberate calling-forth of a Satanic, sexually violent “smoke-demon.” On the last page, Sheckley’s parable attains an existentialist clarity: the binoculars grant a vision of a shabby, middle-aged man in a dreary room, standing on his head, with a pair of binoculars awkwardly wedged against his face. Quintero recognizes himself:

He realized that he was only another performer in humanity’s great circus, and he had just done one of his acts, just like the others. But who was watching? Who was the real observer?
He turned the binoculars around and looked through the object-lenses. He saw a pair of eyes, and he thought they were his own—until one of them slowly winked at him.
Edward Snowden, late in the pages of his memoir, Permanent Record, describes his sensation at being personally introduced to XKEYSCORE, the NSA’s ultimate tool of intimate, individual electronic surveillance. Among the NSA’s technological tools (some of which Snowden aided in perfecting), XKEYSCORE was, according to Snowden, “the most invasive…if only because [the NSA agents are] closest to the user—that is, the closest to the person being surveilled.” For nearly three hundred pages, the memoir has built to this scene, foreshadowed in the preface, in which the whistleblower-in-the-making sees behind the curtain:
I sat at a terminal from which I had practically unlimited access to the communications of nearly every man, woman, and child on earth who’d ever dialed a phone or touched a computer. Among those people were about 320 million of my fellow American citizens, who in the regular conduct of their everyday lives were being surveilled in gross contravention of not just the Constitution of the United States, but the basic values of any free society.
The steady approach to Snowden’s come-to-Jesus encounter with XKEYSCORE is as meticulous as the incremental unveiling of the terror of Cthulhu in an H.P. Lovecraft tale. Snowden himself alludes to this parallel:
It was, simply put, the closest thing to science fiction I’ve ever seen in science fact: an interface that allows you to type in pretty much anyone’s address, telephone number, or IP address, and then basically go through the recent history of their online activity. In some cases you could even play back recordings of their online sessions, so that the screen you’d be looking at was their screen, whatever was on their desktop.
And: “It was like watching an autocomplete, as letters and words flashed across the screen. But the intelligence behind that typing wasn’t artificial but human: this was a humancomplete.” And:
One thing you come to understand very quickly while using XKEYSCORE is that nearly everyone in the world who’s online has at least two things in common: they have all watched porn at one time or another, and they all store photos and videos of their family. This was true for virtually everyone of every gender, ethnicity, race, and age—from the meanest terrorist to the nicest senior citizen.
The humancomplete that chills Snowden’s blood is “this one child in particular, a little boy in Indonesia. Technically, I shouldn’t have been interested in this little boy, but I was, because my employers were interested in his father” (who was, according to Snowden, “just a regular academic who’d been caught up in a surveillance dragnet”):
He was sitting in front of his computer, as I was sitting in front of mine. Except that in his lap he had a toddler, a boy in a diaper.
The father was trying to read something, but the kid kept shifting around, smacking the keys and giggling. The computer’s internal mic picked up his giggling and there I was, listening to it on my headphones. The father held the boy tighter, and the boy straightened up, and, with his dark crescent eyes, looked directly into the computer’s camera—I couldn’t escape the feeling that he was looking directly at me. Suddenly I realized that I’d been holding my breath.
Permanent Record is an attempt to reverse the binoculars and offer a self-portrait of the man—whistleblower? leaker? dissident? spy?—who walks the earth, these days in Moscow, under the name Edward Snowden.
To read the rest of Lethem's article, click HERE.

William S. Burroughs and the Cult of Rock ‘n’ Roll

From Greg Kot's 9-24-19 Chicago Tribune article entitled "William S. Burroughs: The Beat Author Who Became a Rock Star":

William S. Burroughs was not a musician and spent his life largely indifferent to contemporary music. But he was a rock star. The author — one of the founding fathers of the Beat movement that revolutionized literature in the 1950s — exerted a profound influence on the sound and attitude of rock and hip-hop over the last half-century.
In “William S. Burroughs and the Cult of Rock ‘n’ Roll” (University of Texas Press), author Casey Rae offers the most in-depth study yet of Burroughs’ influence on and Zelig-like ubiquity within contemporary music.

Burroughs, who died in 1997 at age 83, may have seemed an unlikely muse, with his gravelly voice and dour, undertaker’s bearing. But his appeal was multi-faceted. He was perceived as an outsider and an outlaw: A gay, gun-wielding junkie who accidentally killed his wife in a drunken game of William Tell in the ‘40s. The tragedy scarred Burroughs and he vowed to “write his way out of it.” Over the next few decades he created a mountain of work that cast institutional authority of all varieties – governmental, religious, corporate – as corrupt and treacherous, an attack on human freedom.

In works such as “Junkie” (1953), “Naked Lunch” (1959) and “Nova Express” (1964), he distilled modern-age paranoia and the pernicious impact of technology. He also explicitly and unflinchingly described what had been viewed by mainstream society as “deviant” behavior without judging his cast of dope fiends and sexual libertines, even as he risked censure and persecution (“Naked Lunch” was initially banned in Boston and Los Angeles).

Burroughs’ experiments with “cut-up” writing, in which he merged seemingly unrelated sequences of words to create new, provocative shapes, exploded through the works of artists such as Bob Dylan, David Bowie and Kurt Cobain, among others. “Cut-up” also became the language of hip-hop, with its mix-and-match appropriation and recontextualizing of sound and text, and of the internet itself.

He certainly wasn’t the only author to help reshape the direction that rock and later hip-hop took [...].

But few of these authors held sway over such a cross-section of artists and musical generations as “Old Bull Lee” Burroughs. Though the author wasn’t particularly a fan of much contemporary music, he loved its subversive appeal, its ability to disrupt. His own writing merged the high-art aspirations of literature and the vulgarity of the street, and he saw much the same high-low mash-ups in counter-culture music, a conspiracy of impulses against the gray, dull middle, the agents of conformity and control.

To read Kot's entire article, click HERE.

Friday, September 27, 2019

Creepy Clown Sighting in Arkansas

From Michael Esparza's 9-25-19 KTVE article entitled "Video Shows Creepy Clown Digging on Roadside in Arkansas; Then Dragging Shovel While Walking Towards Teens":

Halloween is a little over a month away and it seems no matter where you look, you’re bound to find something spooky. 
For Brayden Ledford, 18, of Russellville, it was what he witnessed and captured using his iPhone late Monday night that still has him a little shaken – a creepy clown. 
“My friend and I saw a clown digging on the side of the road,” he explains. 
Ledford says it was around 9:30 p.m. when he and his friend decided to go to his favorite spot near a lake to talk about a problem his buddy was going through. 
“We were just going to talk about things because it’s a place to get away,” he continues. “We pulled up down that road and there was a clown just sitting there.” 
Ledford uploaded the video to his TikTok, a social media app for video sharing, where he has more than 400-thousand followers.  
He says it was funny until the costumed clown started walking towards his vehicle while dragging the shovel behind....

To read Esparza's entire article, click HERE.

Army Criminal Investigation Command on 'Joker' Movie Premiere

From J.P. Lawrence's 9-24-19 Stars and Stripes article entitled "Shooting Threat at ‘Joker’ Movie Premiere Spurs Warning from Army Criminal Investigation Command":

Military commanders in Oklahoma were warned of the potential threat of violence at the theatrical release of the upcoming “Joker” movie, though law enforcement officials are not sure which theaters may be affected.
An Army Criminal Investigation Command memo issued Monday put commanders at Fort Sill, Okla., on notice about an intelligence bulletin that said a Texas law enforcement agency working with the FBI had discovered “disturbing and very specific chatter in the dark web” about the possible targeting of an unknown theater for a mass shooting during the Oct. 4 release.
An image of the memo was posted briefly to the popular Air Force amn/nco/snco Facebook page before being removed Tuesday. The command, which is also known as CID, confirmed its authenticity to Stars and Stripes.
“Out of an abundance of caution, our Fort Sill office distributed the memo to internal military personnel at Fort Sill,” said CID spokesman Christopher Grey.
The memo was based on information in a bulletin from the Texas Joint Crime Information Center, Grey said.
An official at the Texas center, who declined to be named to discuss the matter freely, called the threat “valid,” but said there was no specific location mentioned.
To read Lawrence's entire article, click HERE.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Sonic Riot Control

From Stephen Chen's 9-19-19 South China Morning Post article entitled "Chinese Scientists Develop Handheld Sonic Weapon for Crowd Control": 

China has developed the world’s first portable sonic gun for riot control, the Chinese Academy of Sciences said.
The rifle-shaped instrument, which was jointly developed with military and law enforcement, is designed to disperse crowds using focused waves of low frequency sound, the academy's Technical Institute of Physics and Chemistry website said on Wednesday.
The device’s “biological effect” would cause extreme discomfort, with vibrations in the eardrums, eyeballs, stomach, liver, and brain, scientists said. 
Studies dating to the 1940s found that low frequency sound energy could, depending upon intensity and exposure, cause dizziness, headaches, vomiting, bowel spasms, involuntary defecation, organ damage and heart attacks. 
Sonic weapons are typically large and have to be mounted on vehicles. Until the Chinese development, which has no moving parts, they were powered by electricity to drive a magnetic coil to generate energy. This meant they needed a large and stable source of power....
To read Chen's entire article, click HERE

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

"How to Smear Your Enemies and Silence Your Critics..."

A few relevant excerpts from Heather Timmons and Ilaria Maria Sala's 6-22-16 Quartz article entitled "How to Smear Your Enemies and Silence Your Critics, Chinese Communist Party Style":

When Hong Kong bookseller Lam Wing-kee decided that he was going to hold a press conference to reveal what had happened to him after he disappeared for months into China, he had to know the stakes were high.
To the Chinese Communist Party regime that thrives on the control of information, the very act of distributing a different account of events is defiance on a major scale. Lam was a political target before, enough to be arrested and kept in illegal detention with no access to lawyers for months. Now a full on smear-campaign is underway.
Everyone from his girlfriend to his ex-colleagues to various officials have publicly called him a liar and worse.
The approach, however ugly, is nothing new: smear campaigns have long been convenient political tools for Beijing, trotted out at the very time a political enemy or critic gathers supporters inside or outside China. They’re typically run alongside even more brutal and threatening campaigns aimed a shutting down the party’s critics.
In fact, you could even say there’s a playbook—and it looks something like this:

Step 1: Attack the person, not the politics

Go after your target’s character, without addressing the government actions they are complaining about. This is particularly effective when you have complete control of the media, as is the case inside mainland China.
When artist Ai Weiwei was arrested in April 2011, he was in the midst of producing politically-charged art that challenged the official accounts about thousands of children killed by the Sichuan earthquake. Ai was charged in June of the same year only for tax irregularities.
His political opinions, and his project, were never mentioned [...].

Step 2: Force a confession

The Cultural Revolution had public confessions in improvised “people’s tribunals” in schools and major streets. A more modern approach is the televised confession on China’s state-controlled media. These confessions happen before a trial, in direct contradiction to the party’s pledge to strengthen the rule of law.
Hong Kong booksellers Gui Minhai and Lee Bo were subjected to this treatment, one admitting to a 2003 hit-and-run accident and the other claiming to be appalled by the titles he used to publish beforehand [...].

Step 3: Go after the family

When you can’t silence a critic, pressure their family to be silent instead—or to participate in the smear campaign themselves.
“You can see a pattern from other cases,” says Patrick Poon, China researcher for Amnesty International: “your family and friends are put under pressure to say things against you.” But, he added, that is “carefully done only through the mainland media” which is tightly censored, so no dissenting accounts can appear [...].

Step 4. Cherchez la femme

A good smear campaign is always better with a bit of a sex scandal, the more humiliating the better. In the case of bookseller Lam, a woman claiming to be his girlfriend was interviewed in a secret location by pro-Beijing newspaper Sing Tao. In the interview, she says that Lam is not “manly enough”, and has given “a bad name” to Hong Kong men–hinting at sexual practices unworthy of a more masculine lover [...].

Step 5: Instill fear

If you’ve done steps one through four correctly, you’re pretty much guaranteed to arrive at step five.
Beijing’s smear campaigns and pressure on families are so prevalent that some people don’t speak out against government policies or actions they think are unfair, because of the threat of them [...]
To read Timmons and Sala's entire article, click HERE.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Search for Alien Consciousness

What follows is an intriguing excerpt from Greg Taylor's 9-14-19 Daily Grail article entitled "SETI, or SAC: Should the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence Be a Search for Alien Consciousness?":

Late last year, legendary ufologist Jacques Vallee uploaded a quite extraordinary paper to his website, with little fanfare.

What makes me describe it that way? The amazing fusion of the knowledge base of the co-authors, and the topics it discusses in relation to future SETI strategies.

Firstly, the three authors of the paper:
  • Jacques Vallee himself – a polymath known mostly for his status in the field of ufology, but who also holds higher degrees in astrophysics and computer science, is an award-winning novelist, a venture capitalist, and contributed to the foundations of the internet via his work for the ARPANET.
  • Federico Faggin – physicist, engineer, entrepreneur and inventor, perhaps best known for designing the first commercial microprocessor, the Intel 4004.
  • Garry Nolan – a renowned professor of microbiology and immunology with Stanford University (head of the ‘Nolan Lab’). Nolan was in the news last year for his investigation of the Atacama ‘alien mummy’ (and is also rumoured to be the pseudonymous ‘James’ in Diana Walsh Pasulka’s American Cosmic).
As for the topics? While the title of the paper – “Towards Multi-Disciplinary SETI Research” (PDF) – might sound like a generic call for astronomers to work with academics in other fields, in actuality the authors are suggesting that SETI consider ideas from fields including parapsychology, consciousness research, anomalies and ufology.

As can be imagined, probably not what most people in SETI – known for aligning themselves with skeptical organisations – would be wanting to see. But apparently, at least some within SETI do: on Twitter, Garry Nolan explained that the paper was originally written at the request of someone from SETI, but when it became obvious it would be lost amongst ‘conventional’ proposals, the trio brought their involvement to an end.

Thankfully, even though they pulled out of the project, Vallee put the paper on his site for us all to read. So, what does it have to say?

It begins by recapitulating SETI’s origins in the ‘Drake Equation‘, and the organisation’s failure to find any evidence of extraterrestrial intelligence in subsequent decades....

To read Taylor's entire article, click HERE.

Monday, September 23, 2019

Dr. Stephan Hoeller on "The Mystery of Magic"

Since today marks the Autumnal Equinox, perhaps this would be a good time to listen to a lecture about "The Mystery of Magic" presented by the venerable Dr. Stephan A. Hoeller, author of such essential books as The Gnostic Jung and the Seven Sermons to the Dead (1982), Jung and the Lost Gospels (1989), Freedom: Alchemy for a Voluntary Society (1992), Gnosticism: New Light on the Ancient Tradition of Inner Knowing (2002), and The Fool's Pilgrimage: Kabbalistic Meditations on the Tarot (2004)....






Ode to Autumn (Redux)

At this time of the year it's always good to take a moment and remind ourselves of the wise words of the late, great Gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson (1937-2005):

"The autumn months are never a calm time in America. Back to Work, Back to Football Practice, etc.... Autumn is a very Traditional period, a time of strong Rituals and the celebrating of strange annual holidays like Halloween and Satanism and the fateful Harvest Moon, which can have ominous implications for some people. 

"Autumn is always a time of Fear and Greed and Hoarding for the winter coming on. Debt collectors are active on old people and fleece the weak and helpless. They want to lay in enough cash to weather the known horrors of January and February. There is always a rash of kidnapping and abductions of schoolchildren in the football months. Preteens of both sexes are traditionally seized and grabbed off the streets by gangs of organized perverts who traditionally give them as Christmas gifts to each other to be personal sex slaves and playthings. 

"Most of these things are obviously Wrong and Evil and Ugly — but at least they are Traditional. They will happen. Your driveway will ice over, your furnace will blow up, and you will be rammed in traffic by an uninsured driver in a stolen car. 

"But what the hell? That's why we have Insurance, eh? And the Inevitability of these nightmares is what makes them so reassuring. Life will go on, for good or ill. But some things are forever, right? The structure may be a little Crooked, but the foundations are still strong and unshakable. 

"Ho ho. Think again, buster. Look around you. There is an eerie sense of Panic in the air, a silent Fear and uncertainty that comes with once-reliable faiths and truths and solid Institutions that are no longer safe to believe in.... There is a Presidential Election, right on schedule, but somehow there is no President. A new Congress is elected, like always, but somehow there is no real Congress at all — not as we knew it, anyway, and whatever passes for Congress will be as helpless and weak as whoever has to pass for the 'New President.'" 

--Hunter S. Thompson, Hey Rube, 11-20-00

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Aldous Huxley and Dianetics

Excerpts from David S. Wills' 5-19-17 Empty Mirror article entitled "Aldous Huxley's Dianetic Utopia":

In 1950, shortly after launching the dianetic movement that would eventually become known as Scientology, L. Ron Hubbard paid a visit to the house of noted English author, Aldous Huxley, who at that time was living in Los Angeles. To many, it would appear that Huxley was being rather generous with his time by meeting with such an obvious crackpot and conman. However, Huxley was very interested in fringe science and odd religious or spiritual movements, and despite an apparent distaste for Hubbard as a human being (“rather immature… and in some ways rather pathetic”) Huxley was impressed by his work and his new book, Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health.

In the early fifties, Huxley and his first wife, Maria, were in quite poor health, and to a great extent, their fascination with pseudosciences and bizarre cult-like spiritual movements came from a desire to cure their problems [...]. 

Huxley is well-known for his 1954 book, The Doors of Perception, in which he has an hallucinogenic experience with mescaline. A year later, just after Maria’s death, he used LSD for the first time. This experience would become the basis for the “moksha” trip in his last novel, Island. What is not mentioned by most Huxleyan scholars, however, is that while he took LSD for the first time, he was undergoing dianetic auditing by Laura [Huxley's second wife]. He wrote in a letter to Dr. Osmond, who had provided him with the LSD, that Laura “has had a good deal of experience with eliciting recalls and working off abreactions by methods of dianetics.”

Shortly after the trip, he began the long and painful process of writing Island, a utopian “fantasy” that he had been planning for decades. It would be the counterpart to his classic dystopian work, Brave New World, presenting an array of ideas that he had explored during the forties and fifties, such as Eastern religion and philosophy, hypnosis, hallucinogens, and dianetics.

To read the entire article, click HERE.