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Providence #1 Review

Plot Summary

In Providence #1 by Alan Moore, we meet Robert Black. Robert is a writer for the Herald in New York City. The world is on the edge of Prohibition, which will influence the criminal underworld’s rise to power. Robert wants to desperately write a novel, and when a coworker reminds him of Robert Chamber’s the King in Yellow as well as Sous le Monde, he begins his journey by meeting an ailing Dr. Alvarez.

Alvarez lives in an apartment that is below freezing. This is our first Lovecraftian allusion with “Cool Air.” I’ll not point out all of the allusions as it isn’t critical to the understanding of the story, and it’s unlikely those will be appreciated without reading Lovecraft. Alvarez is the motivator for Robert, who points at the Hidden America and about the Kitab al-Hikimah al-Najmiyya. This book represents Lovecraft’s Necronomicon, the Book of the Law of the Dead. The al-Khitab is the Book of the Wisdom of the Stars.

Darkness Within

Behind all this is Robert’s lover Jonathan Russell’s suicide. Robert pretends to be heterosexual, even in his commonplace book at that end, referring to Jonathan as Lily, which may or may not have been a real prostitute whom Robert used as a beard. I got a bit confused there. Robert shirks Jonathan because homosexuality isn’t accepted, and thus, he kills himself, leaving Robert blaming himself.

This is suicide sets the tone of the series, especially when Dr. Alvarez says:

We must never discard those we are loved by. Lacking them, we are cursed.

By rebuking his lover, Robert has ended the only relationship that provided him with love, and in the end, he is left cursed, despite being unaware.

Assessment

This intro to the series is pretty fantastic. The artwork is brilliant and reminds me of a movie. The storytelling is evocative, alluring, and surreal. Robert is an unreliable narrator from the get-go, which is common in Lovecraftian literature. He is a duplicitous fool, who really afraid of his own desires.

The series’ biggest weak point is its reliance on the commonplace book section at the end of most issues. These instances take up 6 to 10 pages of the ~35 page issue, and it is digitized pictures of text. All the text is designed to look like handwriting, making it quite hard to read. A lot of these entries are summaries of the story as Robert sees it in the privacy of his thoughts. A lot of details will be changed from how we see it, usually Robert talking himself out of the madness he perceives. After a few issues, I began to skim them or read synopses. Facts in the Case of Alan Moore’s Providence (https://factsprovidence.wordpress.com/moore-lovecraft-comics-annotation-index/providence-1/)

does annotations on each issue, and I thought they did a great job of explaining the relevance of the commonplace book and anything else we may not have paid much attention to on the first reading.

All in all, this is a great issue to read, and I highly recommend it.

Providence #1: 5 out 5

Revisiting Providence and Neonomicon: A review

As Alan Moore closes the comic chapter of his life, I am compelled to prepare for his final outing by assessing this entire world as one holistic image.

Over the next 15 days, I’ll reread both Providence and Neonomicon and post my thoughts, one teaser on Twitter and Instagram with a longer form on here.

This view will be my summarizing the issues and a quick hit list of pros and cons. Think of it as where the issues do well, where I was a bit removed, and what I’d like to see in the future.

I’ll finish it on April 5th with the review of the final issue of Providence. Let’s begin.

President Trump – A Change to American Politics

Where We Are Now

In what can only be described as the end of American politics, Donald Trump won the presidency of the United States. As a vocal and ardent opponent to the Alt-Right and everything else Trump represents, this is a moment of loss and grief.

Naturally, social media exploded telling every liberal to deal with it and how they were wrong, while all liberals were trying to pacify themselves with these platitudes of comfort. They also had a lot of people trying to bridge the divide that this election has caused, which was nice but so tone deaf.

So, what happened?

The Blind Echo Chamber

Every major poll declared Hillary as the winner back in July.

Some sites even mocked other pollsters for not giving Hillary a 99% chance of winning (1). As a supporter of Hillary, even if not totally, and a person terribly afraid of what a Trump administration would entail, then this sounds delightful. Memes flew every wherever as we all waited for the annoying election from Hell to end.

Then, it went very poorly for the liberal side.Trump won the presidency while losing the popular vote. Here we are.

Memes as a Distraction

Terence McKenna said that memes are “the smallest unit of an idea that still has coherency” (2). What people miss is memes are not conversations or discourse; they are bite-sized snippets to consume and move on. They assume context exists and work as a way of passing on information. In the Internet era, they became a source of jokes where any side can find them amusing.

Take these memes from about Harambe:

harambe1

harambe2

While immensely humorous, Harambe garnered write-in votes in this mega election, though the number is highly exaggerated (3). Because of this rolling joke that pops up every day it seems, a bunch of adults waited in line to vote for a dead gorilla.

This is where memes distract from true discourse. These jokes don’t really address the real issues: humans capturing animals and putting them down when humans fail, and the role of parents being massively depressed. Harambe was shot when a small child entered his enclosure, and like most major primates, he attacked the child. By all accounts, a gorilla really has no right to be in a cage that close to humans. And, this child had to scale a small fence to get into the enclosure. My parents were of the generation that kept hands off kids to allow exploration, but there was never a circumstance, despite every shady zoo I visited, where I was alone long enough to dive into a death pit.

And thus where memes failed this conversation. People who either don’t understand what actually happened to a fucking gorilla re-appropriate the jokes as their own thing, and that’s why a dead gorilla received votes in 2016.

Maybe these voters would have gone Clinton too. Maybe they assumed she was winning, and their votes weren’t needed. They could easily make that mistake if they were avid readers of certain websites.

Politics and the Online Echo Chamber

Polls weren’t the only place where we were misled, but they were majorly wrong. Real Clear Politics had Trump losing for a while (4). FiveThirtyEight had a 70% to 90% chance of Hillary winning presidency (5). It was hard to find anyone with real credibility who put Trump winning.

Then, the son of a bitch did.

Reddit’s /r/politics would have told you this was impossible. Any leads Trump got were just anomalies. They cited references, explained his victories as mistakes or exaggerations, and then, they pushed Hillary Clinton.

What these sources missed were the rural voters (6).

The Rural Vote

In many areas of the country, everything is pretty nice. The economy is a lot better than when Obama took office. Jobs are up. Insurance coverage is great.

However, in rural areas, the opposite is true. Manufacturing and energy jobs are gone. This creates ghost towns with people to have nothing to do. Worse still, oil is depressed, and the oil industry is renowned for overpaying under-skilled workers, leaving them stuck in a permanent loop of relying on the oil industry to employ them, lay them off, and rehire for less money, based on inflation (7).

These people didn’t care. They just wanted change. Hillary was the continuation of Obama’s rule, but Trump was different. Who cares that he literally cannot force dead industries back to areas, or force capitalist companies to not outsource labor and manufacturing. Trump supporters don’t really care about facts and logistics; Trump’s entire campaign was devoid of the minutiae of how to implement anything he declared he’d do (8). They just wanted the rhetoric.

Liberals wanted status quo, and we bet hard on that. We assumed everyone was like us, but when reality hit, we were gutted.

The Way Forward

All of this misunderstanding and misinterpretation, ultimately, do not matter. Trump has won, and the GOP controls all of Congress. Trump represents a complete mystery, and this may have been because he was totally unaware of what the President actually did (9). On both sides of the aisle and those totally unrepresented, Trump is a complete mystery, and he is already starting to pander to both sides.

The Pivots

Since winning a week ago, Trump has begun explaining his policies more. They vary widely. Some include:

 

 

Already debates have begun with the GOP majority, like Mitch McConnell, who has no interest in term limits (13) nor building a wall on the southern border of the US (14). These pivots or softening of previously hard sells shows a president who will quickly alienate the base that elected him. Ann Coulter fell victim to this when right before releasing a book about Trump, wherein she said the only way she could turn on him was if he changed his stances on abortion or illegals, and he did just that (15).

What Trump’s fluid policies say about him is that he’ll waver on issues with any major opposition, or that he was so woefully unaware of what Obama actually did that he said things so far out of school that he is now forced to backtrack. These pivots give a little insight into how Trump will deal with policies, debates, and compromising.

While Trump’s policies seem to be much more varied that Republican party lines, his cabinet will be the most indicative of how he will move forward as President. And, if that’s the case, the answer is utterly chilling.

The Cabinet of Deplorables

For reasons no one will ever understand, Trump surrounded himself with complete lunatics in Alex Jones, Roger Stone, Roger Ailes, Steve Bannon, Rudy Guiliani, and Mike Pence.

Each of these adult humans has made comments or actions that would individually discredit them. Alex Jones, for example, believes Sandy Hook didn’t happen (16). Rudy Guilliani fought the fire fighters before 9/11 on budgets (17), which costs lives, and has basically made the event his personal cape (18). And, Mike Pence, Donald Trump’s personal life insurance policy, caused an HIV epidemic because he believes science isn’t as accurate as the god damn bible (19).

What these sociopaths represent is a status quo of establishment rule. Reince Priebus, former chairman of the RNC, has become Trump’s Chief of Staff. It seems odd that the man who represented the party that Trump was raging against when he stumbled would not be part of his #DrainTheSwamp rhetoric. Steve Bannon takes the role of Senior Advisor to the President, a role held previously by Karl Rove. Other appointments are forthcoming, but the rumors show a Trump cabinet that is more of the same with people who are already in high positions taking a slightly higher one.

The issue is Trump’s appointments are individuals who are objectively unqualified. And none are more unqualified than Steve Bannon.

Bannon, the most powerful White Supremacist in America

Steve Bannon is best known for chairing the Alt-Right website Breitbart. Breitbart has posted some of the more questionably racist and sexiest articles today. They somehow have a high degree of credibility, even when they post shit like how women just suck at interviews (20). Granted, this article is posted by the gay troll of Milo Yiannopoulos, who has stated that homosexuality was abhorrent (21) and that fat people should starve themselves until they can be less disgusting to go to the gym (22).

Bannon has made comments that show his truer beliefs to be a lot less vague.

On homosexuals and women’s equality (23):

That’s one of the unintended consequences of the women’s liberation movement––that, in fact, the women that would lead this country would be feminine, they would be pro-family, they would have husbands, they would love their children. They wouldn’t be a bunch of dykes that came from the 7 Sisters schools.”

Accusations of antisemetism (though not his own words) (24):

…the biggest problem he had with Archer [School for Girls] is the number of Jews that attend. He said that he doesn’t like Jews and that he doesn’t like the way they raise their kids to be ‘whiney brats’ and that he didn’t want the girls going to school with Jews.”

What this shows is a man who broaches the line of good taste and common respect, with occasional trips over it in a public sense, who is being put into a position where he can influence a great deal of the culture and policies of America. No one really knows how much influence Bannon has had and will have on the Trump administration, but it concerns a lot of people.

Fortunately, a lot of people are waking up to the idea that the system is poisoned.

Stay Woke

It would be unfair to blast memes in the Internet era as totally useless. In a time of light speed communication, they have value.

In the 2000s, the Stay Woke meme started out of various ideas, possibly Erykah Badu’s “Master Teacher” (25). It mostly alluded to staying awake to the world around you.

It became an identifier to the people who stopped pretending there weren’t systematic injustices based on race, especially around the fact George Zimmerman got off after murdering a child. But, we have to look past the racial symptoms and find the actual root cause of all these issues. Race is the most visible target, but we are all disenfranchised from these injustices.

Now, it has slipped into an ironic word, but the concept should still be important. Whether or not your side won the election, it highlights a lot of injustices across the board. James Comey, director of the FBI, released a letter mere days before the election to announce they were reopening the case against Hillary. Nothing came out of it other than polling numbers dropped a lot for Hillary. Both Trump and the Senate GOP won the election without a popular vote. This means that because of archiac concepts of representation, in an era where all our commerce is done digitally, the people who won do not represent the majority. Then, as leaked emails show, the side that was voted by the majority is rife with corruption as the DNC colluded to stonewall Bernie Sanders and prep Hillary Clinton to rush past him.

These events cannot go unaddressed. Americans, especially in the age of instant communication and global discourse, have no ability or defense for not paying attention. We have to accept our world as it is, eyes wide open, or we will continue to spin our wheels and meet the same fate. Trump’s win represents the worst case scenario of defeat. If we don’t change, he’ll be the start of a trend rather than anomaly.

A Brand New Day

Whatever happens next, we will be fine. Humans like to focus on current moments to become the only plausible reality. Trump is scary because of actual things he has said, but that doesn’t mean he will be able to do everything he’s threatened. Congress is made up of career politicans who will always consider their re-election over hard party concepts. The important thing is to stay awake to the political rhetoric.

This election represents a stark change in how politics will be viewed. Those fearing Trump will never scoff a candidate no matter how ridiculous. Those who voted for him will learn how closely a candidate can actually stay to their platform. We no longer can stay passive in political discourse; we have to start questioning everything, what each nuance means, and how it affects us and others.

As such, this election has woken up a great part of America. The protests will eventually ebb, but what will be left is a deeply connected dissatisfaction in our archiac system. That system can only change with people educating themselves and improving it.

I’m hopeful we will achieve that change.

Sources

  1. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/polls-hillary-clinton-win_us_5821074ce4b0e80b02cc2a94
  2. http://www.vice.com/read/terence-mckennas-memes-234
  3. http://www.cnn.com/2016/11/10/us/harambe-votes-trnd/
  4. http://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/latest_polls/president/
  5. http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/election-update-how-big-is-hillary-clintons-lead/
  6. http://www.politico.com/story/2016/11/hillary-clinton-rural-voters-trump-231266
  7. http://oilprice.com/Energy/Energy-General/After-350000-Layoffs-Oil-Companies-Now-Face-Worker-Shortages.html
  8. https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/why-facts-dont-matter-to-trumps-supporters/2016/08/04/924ece4a-5a78-11e6-831d-0324760ca856_story.html
  9. http://www.businessinsider.com/trump-obama-meeting-2016-11
  10. https://www.rt.com/usa/366649-trump-interview-obamacare-clinton/
  11. http://www.nbcnews.com/feature/nbc-out/trump-says-he-s-fine-gay-marriage-60-minutes-interview-n683606
  12. http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/11/13/501921177/donald-trump-says-hell-deport-2-3-million-people-once-in-office
  13. http://www.gopusa.com/mitch-mcconnell-no-interest-in-term-limits-for-congress/
  14. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/mitch-mcconnell-trump-immigration_us_58238244e4b0aac62488e681
  15. http://money.cnn.com/2016/08/26/media/ann-coulter-book-in-trump-we-trust-immigration
  16. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7c4gMb2UmhA
  17. http://www.nytimes.com/cq/2007/07/12/cq_3065.html
  18. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2007/11/01/giuliani-faces-investigat_n_70709.html
  19. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/mike-pence-indiana-hiv_us_57f53b9be4b002a7312022ef
  20. http://www.breitbart.com/milo/2016/07/01/not-sexism-women-just-suck-interviews/
  21. https://youtu.be/dGL5eRw7rXU?t=2h5m
  22. https://youtu.be/LnH67G7vAu4?t=1h38m
  23. https://www.buzzfeed.com/andrewkaczynski/trump-campaign-ceo-once-blasted-bunch-of-dykes-from-the-seve?utm_term=.gymy0w4nxK#.knJB153yrZ
  24. http://www.nbcnews.com/politics/2016-election/trump-campaign-ceo-steve-bannon-accused-anti-semitic-remarks-ex-n638731
  25. http://fusion.net/story/252567/stay-woke/

Technology Dependency

Preface

The isolation tank/flotation tank is a powerful tool, but it isn’t one that is required for any sort of psychonautical exploration. It just helps you get there with a greater sense of ease. Through this essay, I plan to show how isolating myself reduced my technology dependency and move towards a much more symbiotic relationship with all the tools I have. Feel free to explore with whatever makes you comfortable.

Technology and Infinite Sadness

Louis CK said it best: “Everything’s amazing, and nobodies happy.”

And his point isn’t wrong. Despite having everything that is amazing and makes our lives beyond anything imaginable in the past few decades, we are producing the most depressed generation. There’s a myriad of reasons why Millennials have it pretty bad. We could look at the generations that came before them and consumed at unrestrained rates that left us with very little to even work with, and then, they expect us to take jobs, they would never take. All while doing this, we are saddled with debt that they said we had to take in order to take jobs we either don’t want or have no concept of.

Despite all that, I think the issues we face as a society can be rooted in our reliance on technology. Go back 20 years ago when Internet was rudimentary. We didn’t use it much, if we even had access to it, and it was used as a tool of suspect. Now, try to do your day job without Internet. Try to go to school without it.

Bottling the Genie

This is the nature of technology, whether it was fire, the wheel, Internet, or Smart phones. These objects represent singularities in technology where, once they are known and used, they cannot be unknown. Once they are leveraged, you can’t go back on that knowledge.

I am not a nostalgic person. I think anyone who finds fondness in a lack of broad communication, digital books, and a gaggle of other things that makes our days go well are rather silly; that stuff is important to increase our standing as a society.

Where I start to become suspicious of technology is when we have gaps without it. Take a vacation where Internet isn’t available. The first day may be annoying and frustrating. Depending on the trip, be it the woods or a beach, you adapt pretty fast. By the third or fourth day, you don’t really miss it. By the time you go back to your old life, it feels… a little weird.

This is the experience I had in an isolation tank. For those who haven’t, or can’t, here’s a pretty good video that explains the tank.

After the first 20 minutes or so of unwinding, I was able to completely relax and let my thoughts take over. It was odd as I would slowly relax more and more and lose my sense of the self and my connection with the world.

Refusing to Let Go

At first, I wondered if people whom I was speaking with, had messaged me or called me. This is utterly silly; it’s only a 90-minute session! As I come out of it, insanely well rested and relaxed, I found myself disinterested in using my phone. I popped on a Psychedelic Salon podcast, particularly one on TechnoShamanism as it were, and Michael Garfield, a speaker on the topic, mentioned “we traded [the] Amazon [rainforest] for Amazon[.com].” In my relaxed and detached state, this hit me quite hard.

In that one instance, I found the path that technology allowed us to distract and detach ourselves from the immediate world. In doing this, in trying to show ourselves having experiences rather than having experiences, we are training ourselves to not address issues directly. Instead, we look at it with a detached scope, which allows us to take the position of “what is happening to make me like this,” rather than “what am I doing wrong in my thought process to approach situations with this lens?”

And, unfortunately for us, I don’t think it is totally our fault. We really had no idea what was unleashed on us.

Considering Prometheus

Prometheus was punished by the gods because he gave man fire, which he stole from Mount Olympus.

His act wasn’t one of simple benevolence; he was giving humanity a tool far more powerful than anything they could fully understand. This is why the gods punished him. As gods, they understood the full scope of his deed: fire enabled humans to discover the dark and explore. It enabled us to cook and expand our diets, and it ultimately enabled us to kill.

While Prometheus may have meant well, by introducing this technology without any limitations, he has started the descent of humanity to become reliant on technology.

And maybe that’s the meaning of this parable. That we are unable, as a finite, limited species, to fully understand the ramifications of our actions.

This is where IBM, DAARPA, Apple, Ford, Edward Jenner, Albert Einstein, Robert Oppenheimer, Bill Gates, and Elon Musk, among many others have found themselves. They have given us power and technology that we still don’t fully understand what it does to us.

When Power is Unfettered

Technology, at its core, is awesome. It enables us to do things we couldn’t do previously. We can travel the entire world in under a day. We can experience any triumph or cataclysm, live. We can experience every book, movie, or song on a single device that fits in our hands.

This is the best time to live from that front.

However, as Huxley feared in Brave New World and Bradbury cautioned in Fahrenheit 451 we are losing traction as culture takes over our lives. No longer are we living in the moment; we are capturing the moment for others to experience later. We sacrifice our experiences so others can know we experienced something. We have lost discourse and critical thought in favor of meme culture for shareability so others can pat us on the back with our wittiness.

The Obfuscation of Experience

By allowing technology to dominate the experience instead of proliferating or enhancing the experience, we have lost the reason for experience. For example, augmented reality is a very fascinating tool. It allows you to expand content without harming the story or meaning, and providing fuller context. In a pure sense, this is using technology to expand culture and art and experience. For example, the Kindle reader allows you to define every single word as you go. Previously, you’d have to read a tougher book with a dictionary or Google. This would break the experience. With having a dictionary (and even Wikipedia) on a single touch, you can understand and appreciate more without breaking your immersion. This also enables you to engage in tougher texts without fear of missing the meanings of the content.

The alternative to this is Snapchat and Instagram. Go to any concert, and you’ll see people filming individual songs and posting it to the different platforms. However, they are concerned with framing, stability, and ensuring the audio is good. They are losing the meaning of the concert venue: to celebrate the artist who created something. They are sharing it with the world for people who may never go to a concert in real life, and they are experiencing this real life event through the small, LED screen.

The reason is they want to keep their social currency in the black, and the only way to do that is to share experiences and let people appreciate the life they pretend to lead.

In this case, technology is using them to proliferate. Just like how a virus does.

Technology as a Virus

Artificial Intelligence aside, technology is stupid. It can only do a finite amount of things, and it must be designed. Just like a virus. A virus is a simple organism that isn’t considered to be a living thing. It simply proliferates itself through other mechanisms. An infection of a virus will use the host body to reproduce and spread.

Humanity is the host body in this case, and technology, through our perceived love and desire of it, rides these rails with ferocity. Moore’s Law states states “that, over the history of computing hardware, the number of transistors in a dense integrated circuit has doubled approximately every two years.” In essence, technology is growing exponentially, and this can be observed in consumer culture.

A Look Back

A decade ago, the iPhone wasn’t out. It was officially announced in January 2007, and it hit the stores in June 2007 (Today is the 9th anniversary). During its announcement, it was met with positive reactions though a lot of hesitance(http://www.charleshudson.net/initial-reaction-to-the-iphone-mildly-skeptical-but-impressed). I recall a lot of people just saw no value, and they often joked that it couldn’t make calls.

Here we are in 2016, text messaging, usually via social networks, are more prevalent than phone calls, and our devices are more powerful that computers were a few years ago. I recall buying a laptop with blazing fast 4GB of ram, and now, there’s a phone with 6GB.

This is just in the consumer electronics space too. In the government sector, we are light years ahead of this capability.

We Reproduce for Technology

This line of thinking reminds of when Kevin Kelly stated that “Humans are the reproductive organs of technology.” This phrase is so perfectly apt that it actually makes really good visual sense.

We push the boundaries of technology to keep growing, and according to Moore’s Law, we will keep growing exponentially. What this means is eventually, just by rate of growth, technology could reach sentience, or at the very least, keep us bound to it.

Right now, I challenge everyone to smash all their electronic devices without a second’s thought.

You cannot because your life is spread out through all of them. My writings are saved on hard drives and cloud storages. My games are on a computer. I don’t actually know a single phone number, other than the ones I learned before the advent of smart devices that never changed.

In a very real sense, we need technology to survive and be productive. But do we need technology to survive?

I fear the answer may be yes.

Symbiosis

Since the 90s, cell phones went from a thing no one really needed to something we cannot survive without.

Try navigating to a new place. In fact, try to find the address of that place. Your first bet will be to use Google to find the business, then switch over to Maps. Or to straight up ask Siri, if you are young enough.

This isn’t a bad thing necessarily. Humans are creatures of adaptation and evolution. We have have adapted to mutations throughout our existence. Technology, though synthetic, could be the next thing we adapt to our beings.

Technology as Boon

As technology increases, and our reliance on it does too, we could see a world where medical needs are filled by technology. My first novel actually addresses this really ham-fisted and directly by saying such technology would be leveraged to cure all illnesses, injury, hunger, thirst, and all other needs. The cool thing is this isn’t totally made up science fiction, but it’s something that is coming.

So, does my society have a parasitic relationship with technology or is it more symbiotic relationship where technology advances with humanity?

Technology is a Tool-a dumb, immensely useful tool

Therein lies the crux of all of this discourse: technology, whether as a construct itself or a virus replicating through humanity, isn’t good or bad; it is simply a tool. However, if we become a slave to this tool without rational thought or consideration, then we lose the point of technology itself: to enable us to be more productive.

Take the Kindle device. My Kindle has over 100 books on it. I can without question read every day for the rest of my life using just that device and the easy/free to get books, thanks to Amazon, the library, and other sites. As a tool to encourage children in poorer areas to read, the Kindle cannot be touched. As a device, it doesn’t offer a lot either; you simply read on it.

Convertible tablets function the same way. You achieve a great deal of productivity in a manner that was only dreamt up in science fiction. However, with the power of these devices, distractions are prevalent and powerful. Facebook and other social networks load in a full web view, allowing mobility to mix with maximum exposure. And that’s where I believe we’ll see a demarcation. Devices that get TOO powerful will enable us to do too much, and they will end up wiping out rival technology.

By working with the tools that enable us to do what we want in a manner that is conducive to the truest self, we are able to face ourselves without much distractions.

Conclusions and Moving Forward

I am not the first nor the last to write about the concept of cultural ensnarement. The beautiful thing about “truth” is that it is universal, and anyone can rediscover it with their own interpretation.

I encourage everyone to approach topics with new lenses. When something makes you innately comfortable, question that, and try to find a new perspective. I am a technophile and a tech advocate, but by taking a step back, I have a better understanding of how technology has hampered me from exploring my mind and surroundings in honest ways.

I don’t say all this to dissuade the use of technology. I believe this is the error of cultural creation. We can create our own podcasts, TV networks, book platforms, and other things that strongly interest us, and we should. Terence McKenna said it best, as I often quote, “We have to stop consuming our culture. We have to create culture.”

And while that’s important, I think consuming art and experiences is important to humanity, but the crux of it all is to actually experience it in real time. Share ideas with your friends and family that interest you. Stop allowing the architects of culture to have a free monologue with you. Make everything a dialog. Find something that’ll inspire you to create. Several of my writing projects started simply because I was so excited by something else, I had to channel it into a creative outlet.

Once you own your experience and boot out everything that tries to live rent free in your head, then you are ready to take control of what is really yours:

Yourself

Further Consumption

  1. Psychedelic Salon: Episode 508 – Technoshamanism – https://psychedelicsalon.com/podcast-508-techno-shamanism/
  2. /r/Psychonaut – http://www.reddit.com/r/psychonaut
  3. Branded – https://play.google.com/store/movies/details/Branded_2010?id=vGZ8F_t7XxY
  4. Dreamviews – http://www.dreamviews.com

Sources

  • https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/392909-humans-are-the-reproductive-organs-of-technology
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Jenner
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prometheus#Myths_and_legends
  • http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/are-viruses-alive-2004/
  • https://www.google.com/search?q=moore%27s+law&oq=moore%27s+law&aqs=chrome..69i57j0l5.1329j0j7&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IPhone

Pop Sugar Reading Challenge 2016: Broodhollow

I like to read. A lot.

However, I am very easily distracted, and if I feel like I am hitting a wall, I will stop a book and do something else. I also read painfully slow.

In the past few years, I wanted to increase my reading speeds, and this year, I found the best way to do that: Pop Sugar’s Annual Reading Challenge.

For 2016, there are about 40 categories of books to read from. Some are pretty easy, such as the graphic novel, books under 150 pages, or something you can read in a day, but others are rough. My goal is to do as many as I can before December 31st.

In order to make this even more interesting, I plan to do a detailed review of each book. I have no expectation of finishing all forty books, but I hope I can at least give the authors I do manage to read some review points. Here’s the first one.

Broodhollow

A Graphic Novel: Broodhollow

Broodhollow is a web comic by Kris Straus. It’s drawn like the classic comics of Peanuts, Beetle Bailey, and Dilbert only to cross into Lovecraftian horrors. This book is titled Broodhollow: A Curious Little Thing, and it is a collection of the first chapter in the web series.

The story follows Wadsworth Zane, a failed encyclopedia salesman during the depression. Zane is a nervous fellow who has severe OCD in order to preserve “The Pattern,” a construct that he believes keeps bad things out of his life. All of his luck seems to change when he receives a letter telling him his great uncle has died, and he is to claim an inheritance. However, the inheritance is in the town of Broodhollow, a town with a thousand holidays.

Wadsworth starts experiencing paranormal encounters before he gets to Broodhollow, but once he does, everything intensifies.

The book is fantastic. Period. I paid about $8 for it, and I am craving more from the author. I wish book 2 was already in digital format as well as book 3, but until then, I’ll wait patiently. The designs are really well done, the plot line is easy to follow, and the story is extremely compelling. You feel yourself falling into Wadsworth paranoid thinking very quickly.

Buy this book now at http://shop.chainsawsuit.com/collections/broodhollow/products/broodhollow-curious-little-thing-digital-edition.

One down.

Broodhollow

On Christmas

Christmas is that weird time of the year where everyone suddenly becomes super focused on family despite ignoring them. To this point, so few people are traveling outside of the US, most sites will recommend going abroad (http://www.priceoftravel.com/1702/18-cheap-destinations-with-great-weather-in-december/).

It’s no wonder that Christmas is a stressful time. While a persistent myth exists that suicides are more common during the holidays, it cannot be denied that stress it at an all time high as people figure out gifts, end their year of work, work on trips, and deal with family (http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/suicide/holiday.html). So, what is a secular person with no material desire to do? The simple answer is to live.

In the past few years, we have seen an interesting trend towards minimalistic living. Single-use devices are on the rise, like the Kindle, which allows you just to read a book. The franchises are failing in favor of local businesses. Even McDonald’s, a megalithic fast food giant, is starting to see a downturn where dozens of restaurants are closing. This is in contrast to the stark rise in local businesses booming.

So, what is the correlation between Christmas and this minimalized living? Consumerism is on the decline. For me, I learn that I am less about getting gifts for various holidays, and more about spending that time to do stuff I couldn’t with the stuff I already have. It helps too that many of products today are moving towards a digital layout. Books are readily available for cheap or free. What use to take some time to figure out where to go next, can literally be “Oh, this sounds nice,” and it is added to your device, and you can start reading. Thanks to sites like reddit.com/r/freeebooks and Amazon sales, I have over 100 books on my Kindle, not even including library books for which I am in queue. Even if each book took me only a week to read (and I read slow), I am looking at nearly two years of straight reading, and it is all contained on one device. That’s awesome!

I’m sure this mentality all comes from my growing age. As I exit my twenties, possessions are less valuable. However, it cannot be ignored that this is culturally growing trend. We have unlimited content for low prices. We can watch thousands of hours of movies and TV shows, as we want, for about $10 a month on Netflix. We can listen to really high quality content via podcasts for free. All this creates a devaluation of buying new things.

I don’t mean to dismiss the needs for gift-giving and receiving. A lot of people like to pretend they don’t care about that and just want family time for Christmas, but everyone who isn’t lying to themselves know that to be untrue.

For the holidays, enjoy yourself however feels natural, but most importantly, try to enjoy life. Your kids will love whatever they get, and if you use it with them, they’ll love it more. You’ll appreciate whatever you get but only if you use it. Scale down your lists, and try to just find time to enjoy other people.

And, grab a Starbucks, because while they are a corporation I don’t feel much for, their stance of showing no holiday imagery, while probably just a benign cost saving thing, is kinda cool because you can do whatever you want with the blank canvas.

And that’s a really cool gift.

Mental Illness Plague

Another week and another mass shooting. This one, however, seems to be far, far more political than a lone gunman at a Planned Parenthood facility.

It’s all over the news, and details are becoming more and more sad. The point of interest for me is how many people were hoping the shooter was a group of white Christian males. A lot of people have sort of whitewashed this as some workplace violence rather than a potential act of domestic Islamic terrorism. While it can’t be ruled out that this could be a random act of workplace violence, there is the troubling detail that the shooter left the party to get his wife, arm up, get bombs, and don body armor. That doesn’t seem like a spur of the moment rage attack. Especially, when you consider the FBI found his IED Factory.

And that’s ultimately the problem. Rather than evaluating these shootings as a great part of a whole, we are looking for the exploitable story in each of them, in and of themselves. The guy in South Carolina who murdered some black folks was a racist. The guy who shot three people at Planned Parenthood was a right-wing fanatic who believed he was untouchable because he believed in God. This couple is actually just people who happen to Muslim, and there was a workplace dispute. That’s all!

The problem is this isn’t fitting the evidence. In the case of the shooting in San Bernardino, the primary shooter had recently visited Saudi Arabia to marry a woman he met online. Another suspect was allegedly from Qatar, but he was deemed a hoax, as the media grabs for straws. The narrative being portrayed is that the man, who is a US citizen and was at the job for five years was radicalized after traveling to Saudi Arabia, maybe via his arranged marriage.

This creates a commonality with mass shootings: radical fanaticism.

Beliefs are fine. People should believe in something be it atheism, Christianity, or whatever, so long as it doesn’t infringe on someone else’s right to do so. However, fanaticism is a mental disorder. It allows a person to completely disregard logic and the well being of others for the sake of pushing their own agenda. With mentally ill, the frustrations they feel through their untreated delusions will quickly be filled with a fanatical focus. It doesn’t matter what that focus is, but it allows them to grasp at something with their entire self, invest in it, and die for it.

That’s where I get frustrated with mass shootings. If the shooters are right-winged and white, the narrative becomes that we should disarm everyone, that political rhetoric is killing, and that Christians are hypocrites. If the shooter is Muslim or foreign, we get A LOT of vaguely racist talk, isolationism against refugees, and talk of one religion being more violent than another. It all creates a very tense conversation where extreme sides are chosen, while moderates are left to their own devices. Then, it passes, and we move on.

This all adds static to the real problem that, even in 2015, we refuse to address: mass, widespread mental illness. Until we are ready to address the fact that adjusted people don’t think of killing others, so that means these outliers are actually mentally ill and not just “evil” we will be stuck in this cycle of violence.

But that part about evil is critical. As mentally healthy individuals, we have to believe the idea that people who can act with great violence aren’t like us. They are evil monsters who are nothing like us.

The far scarier truth is that they are like us, but they are pushed to the fringes without any treatment for their unsaid conditions. Banning guns won’t stop them nor will arming everyone. We must, holistically, look at the mental health crisis in this country, and drop the bullshit illusion that there’s us and there are them. Otherwise, we will see these happen again and again, like they have.

And, in the end, all we get is more death and pain.

The Terror of Others

By now, you may have heard of Josh Feuerstein’s inflammatory death sentence of Planned Parenthood doctors. This guy is a “Christian Warrior” who considers all against his version of religion to be wrong. It was posted in July, but it’s now reddit famous.

Let’s be clear: this guy is a religious fanatical terrorist. By calling on the death of women’s heath doctors, coupled with his emotional language of cutting into a woman and crushing the skull of a baby, he is doing exactly what other terrorist do: sewing seeds of anger, faith, and passion onto any grounds it may take root.

With the attack on Planned Parenthood, less than a week ago, it shows that Feuerstein isn’t talking to some hat wrangling audience that is so fed up, but won’t do anything about it. No, he is talking to Eric Rudolph who bombed a bunch of abortion clinics in the 90s. He wants to bring the target on the doctors who perform abortions because he values the lives of unborn fetuses as more valuable than the lives of adults because Religion.

Regardless your stance on abortion, I find it implausible to believe that someone who is a by-the-book religious person would not only condone outright murder but would actually advocate it. This is not how to change ideas—that is by the end of a barrel with screams demanding you change or die—this is just creating terror, chaos, and hatred.

The problem with this guy is he is a really vocal, young Christian preacher, and he is pushing the agenda of violence in the name of beliefs. If you spend the time to watch any of his videos, his narrative is very puzzling and a little scary. He tries to take every chance he can to play the victim, namely being one of the people who decided that Starbucks created a religious war against Christians. What’s weird about this video is he is upset that Starbucks removed Merry Christmas from Starbucks, which it didn’t have Merry Christmas even back in 2011. And possibly further. For a guy who is big on carrying his gun and stuff wherever he wants based on the Second Amendment, but he seems to ignore that the First Amendment doesn’t require any business to celebrate any religion. The fact he is openly duplicitous shows his desire, first and foremost, to incite people towards his cause rather than bring them to believe on their own.

Josh Feuerstein will likely be arrested after that post, as he should. My respect for your right to practice your beliefs end when you say “Tonight, we punish Planned Parenthood… It’s time we make doctors run and hide for their lives.” This is going to create death threats, and it will cause a lot of collateral damage just as it did at the last Planned Parenthood attack – which happened from a fanatical religious guy. No doctors were killed, just cops and people at the clinic who may not have even been going for an abortion. Not saying Feuerstein influenced this guy, and he probably didn’t, but it is creating noise for these crazy loons.

You cannot have a debate where someone’s argument is “we attack them physically.” Josh Feuerstein may, honestly, have not meant to call for the death of other Americans, but the intent isn’t the point; he put it out there, and we’ll see where this goes, but the fact is he is providing fodder for the actual lunatics who will kill in the name of religion, even if their victims are also religious.

Disclaimer

The ideas, words, and works are solely the creation and representation of me, Eric Ponvelle.

None of the opinions, beliefs, and values of my content represents any other companies, individuals, and enterprises other than my own.

The Psychopathy of Fox News

I have been working on a piece for a little while on psychopathy, but until I am fully ready to post that paper, I’ll settle for this mini-essay on Fox News.

Fox News is the last bastion of true opinionated journalism, and I mean that without any sarcasm. They push their own agenda so hard that is obvious to anyone who cycles through the channels who they support. This is opposed to the other media outlets that try to conceal that.

Where Fox News fails, other than being a vacuum of information, is they seemed to have slipped in their own punch and have lost all composure.

Take for example this “report.” In it, former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton says we should show “respect” to our enemies and even empathize with them, if possible. Fox News proceeds to lose their shit. Oliver North of all people then comments, using “utopian” as a term of slander, that this is horrible while the Fox News “anchor” says she wants to “wring the neck” of terrorists personally.

This is the ultimate summation of Fox News: they are unable to understand that war yields more war. They cannot understand a leader who is not (at least in this moment) a blood-hungry warmonger. The two terms should go hand-in-hand. They do not understand empathy in the way adjusted humans do because to Fox News, empathy is completely unattainable. You empathize with people you agree with only, and that’s that. Thus is the psychopathy of Fox News.

I wish I could cite the person who said it, but one quote always sticks out to me: “When you kill someone, you are creating widows, widowers, orphans, and others who have lost someone they loved.” This summarizes why a “War on Terror” will never end. You are creating new soldiers with every drone attack that misses the real target. You bomb a funeral procession that was supposed to have several members of al-Qaeda or ISIS, but instead was filled with civilians. Then, all of those affected by that attack are now more sympathetic to the terrorist cause.

What Hilary was saying it was most libertarians and pacifists want: we shouldn’t involve ourselves in other matters without first understanding the root cause. The reasoning for 9/11 is all over the place if you read any of al-Qaeda or bin Laden’s materials. They were attacking us for our sustained occupation in their region and allying with their enemies. Their method of getting their message across was horribly off point, but this was the result of decades of frustration and anger that no changes were happening through diplomatic means. A “smart power” policy could prevent the next 9/11, and it could regain some of the clout we lost in the last decade.

When Fox News suggested that Hilary wasn’t a warhawk at all, as if implying that as a slight against her, they really missed the mark. I have no doubt that if she wins, we will be in some other war. It’s how modern presidents work. Fox News will take any chance they can to slander their enemies. I used enemies instead of opponents because they are so far off the scale of reason and logic, that I think they see all of this as a war.

Fox News is the type of network that would deride Obama for freeing the slaves as attacking legal business owners. They are unable to come to any sort of bargaining in terms of reason and logic, and the end it creates an atmosphere of fear.

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