Monday, April 30, 2007

‘Lost Horizon’ Versus ‘Camelot’ — #1

This week I’m going to talk about the storylines of these two soundtracks. I’m not going to say much directly about the film versions of these stories because from what I’ve seen of them they all suck. And I’ve never seen any stage productions. However, I like both soundtracks and I’ve always been intrigued by the underlying stories of both of them.

At the start, let me say that I am a ‘Lost Horizon’ person. Even as a child I liked the soundtrack from ‘Camelot’ but the idea of taking a story about the destruction of paradise and celebrating that destruction with song and dance while turning the people who destroyed paradise into heroes and heroines struck me as very bizarre. On the other hand, the whole Shangri-La mythos of longing for a better world is something I felt an engagement with even as a kid.

As I’ve grown, the King Arthur mythos has not become any more attractive to me. In fact, as I’ve become more and more aware of the Christian subtexts and overtones to these two storylines my adult sensibilities have become stronger, more firmly grounded variations of my reactions as a child.

I will start simply. These are the lyrics to the first song of ‘Lost Horizon:’

Have you ever dreamed of a place
Far away from it all
Where the air you breathe is soft and clean
And children play in fields of green
And the sound of guns
Doesn’t pound in your ears

Have you ever dreamed of a place
Far away from it all
Where the winter winds will never blow
And living things have room to grow
And the sound of guns
Doesn’t pound in your ears

Many miles from yesterday
Before you reach tomorrow
Where the time is always just today
There’s a lost horizon
Waiting to be found
There’s a lost horizon
Where the sound of guns
Doesn’t pound in your ears

Friday, April 27, 2007

My Favorite Book About Freud

Although this book is a meticulously researched and carefully written non-fiction book, in many ways it reads like a mystery thriller. Did Freud discover a dark secret about society while studying with his French mentor? Was Freud pressured by the rich and powerful to help them cover-up a grotesque aspect of the modern world? Did Freud accept the trade of fame and influence in exchange for publicly compromising a basic truth about mental dysfunction while, in private, holding firm to his knowledge of brutal violence shaping unfortunate young minds?

...The truth or falsity of my research was not questioned, only the wisdom of making the material available to the public. My interpretations, the critics seemed to feel, put in jeopardy the very heart of psychoanalysis.

It was my conviction that what Freud had uncovered in 1896—that, in many instances, children are the victims of sexual violence and abuse within their own families—became such a liability that he literally had to banish it from his consciousness. The psychoanalytic movement that grew out of Freud’s accommodation to the views of his peers holds to the present day that Freud’s earlier position was simply an aberration. Freud, so the accepted view goes, had to abandon his erroneous beliefs about seduction before he could discover the more basic truth of the power of internal fantasy and of spontaneous childhood sexuality. Every first-year resident in psychiatry knew that simple fact, yet I seemed incapable of understanding it. And I now claimed that this accepted view actually represented a travesty of the truth. The prevalent opinion in psychotherapy was that the victim fashioned his or her own torture. In particular, violent sexual crimes could be attributed to the victim’s imagination, a position held by Freud’s pupil Karl Abraham and enthusiastically accepted by Freud himself. It was a comforting view for society, for Freud’s interpretation—that the sexual violence that so affected the lives of his women patients was nothing but fantasy—posed no threat to the existing social order. Therapists could thus remain on the side of the successful and the powerful, rather than of the miserable victims of family violence. To question the basis of that accommodation was seen as something more than a historical investigation; it threatened to call into question the very fabric of psychotherapy.

Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson
The Assault On Truth

Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson’s Wiki Page

Many of the basic elements discussed in this book are more than a hundred years old. But almost all the social dynamics at work in Europe more than a century ago are still active in modern America today. We see them in the continuing struggle to ascertain whether repressed memories are buried truths or invented fantasies. We see them in the day-care sex scandals, where the testimony of children is ‘scientifically’ rebutted by psychiatric experts. We see them on the so-called ‘tin-foil’ fringe of political intrigue in the purportedly true stories of real-life Le Femme Nikita’s like Cathy O’Brien now at TranceFormation of America and the two young women in “Secret Weapons.” And we wonder if the dynamics are at work buried beneath the rage of killers like Andrew Cunanan and Seung-Hui Cho.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Freud For Ten Bucks

First there was Superman...
then Spiderman...
then Power Rangers...
and now there's the

Sigmund Freud
Action Figure

Freud believed in the power of dreams. But in his wildest imagination he never dreamed he'd be turned into a toy such as this.

The Sigmund Freud Action Figure stands 5" tall and captures the good doctor with a thoughtful expression. In his right hand he holds his trusty cigar which, if you read his books, represents more than just a good smoke.

Price: $9.99

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Freud Through Ayn Rand Colored Glasses

According to [Freud’s] theory, the prime mover in human nature is an unperceivable entity with a will and purpose of its own, the unconscious—which is basically an “id,” i.e., a contradictory, amoral “it” seething with innate, bestial, primevally inherited, imperiously insistent cravings or “instincts.” In deadly combat with this element is man’s conscience or “superego,” which consists essentially, not of reasoned moral convictions, but of primitive, illogical, largely unconscious taboos or categorical imperatives, representing the mores of the child’s parents (and ultimately of society), whose random injunctions every individual unquestioningly “introjects” and cowers before. Caught in the middle between these forces—between a psychopathic hippie screaming: satisfaction now! and a jungle chieftain intoning: tribal obedience!—sentenced by nature to ineradicable conflict, guilt, anxiety, and neurosis is man, i.e., man’s mind, his reason or “ego,” the faculty which is able to grasp reality, and which exists primarily to mediate between the clashing demands of the psyche’s two irrational masters.

As this theory makes eloquently clear, Freud’s view of reason is fundamentally Kantian. Both men hold that human thought is ultimately governed, not by a man’s awareness of external fact, but by inner mental elements independent of such fact. Both see the basic task of the mind not as perception, but as creation, the creation of a subjective world in compliance with the requirements of innate (or “introjected”) mental structures. . . .

The real root of the outrage his own doctrines provoked, Freud says with a certain pride, is their assault on “the self-love of humanity.” Whatever the “wounds” that men have suffered from earlier scientific theories, he explains, the “blow” of psychoanalysis “is probably the most wounding.” The blow, he states, is the idea that man is not “supreme in his own soul,” “that the ego is not master in its own house.” ...

Freud offers to the world not man the dutiful, decorous nonperceiver (as in Kant); not man the defeated plaything of grand-scale forces, such as a malevolent reality or God or society or a “tragic flaw” (as in the works of countless traditional cynics and pessimists); but man the defeated plaything of the gutter; man the smutty pawn shaped by sexual aberrations and toilet training, itching to rape his mother, castrate his father, hoard his excrement; man the sordid cheat who pursues science because he is a frustrated voyeur, practices surgery because he is a sublimating sadist, and creates the David because he craves, secretly, to mold his own feces.

Man as a loathsomely small, ordure-strewn pervert: such is the sort of “wound” that Freud inflicted on the being who had once been defined, in a radiantly different age, as the “rational animal.”

Leonard Peikoff

writing in The Ominous Parallels

quoted in The Ayn Rand Lexicon

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Will Freud Finally Slip?

Pushed to the fringes of academia,
psychoanalysts are concerned their practice is dying

Joseph Brean
National Post

Saturday, April 21, 2007

It would have been disappointing to leave the annual meetings of the American Psychological Association, Division 39 (Psychoanalysis), in Toronto this week without hearing a Freudian slip.

Luckily, in a panel on the sorry state of psychoanalytic research in universities, Joel Weinberger, a professor at Adelphi University on Long Island, N.Y., observed that, by failing to adequately mentor the students who will take their place, "we are shooting ourselves in the groin."

It was rich, because psychoanalysis is indeed gravely wounded, unable to attract new talent because of its financial impotence, and dying a slow death on the margins of academia, where it is maligned by mainstream psychologists as unscientific, sex-obsessed, postmodern witchcraft. So where else would the mortal blow be struck against this century- old talk therapy? Achilles had his heel. Freudians have their groins.

"I'm pretty sure that psychoanalysis will survive," said Nancy McWilliams, president of Division 39, in a keynote lecture on Thursday evening. "At least in intellectual circles and among those who can afford intensive and long-term treatments ... Whether we will survive in psychology is another matter."

Dr. McWilliams, who is in private practice in New Jersey and a professor at Rutgers University, spoke of the "increasing estrangement between academia and psychoanalysis," and complained that psychologists in other fields repackage their ideas as new discoveries that fit the modern scientific fashion, with its emphasis on genetics and drugs.

She said the upshot is that today there are fewer arrogant psychoanalysts, who were attracted to the field because of its popularity in the mid-20th century. Nowadays, the hot-heads go into genetics or pharmacology.

"They hurt a lot of feelings," she said of her predecessors. "They insulted a lot of academics. We can't afford to talk like that anymore."

Joel Paris, chairman of the department of psychiatry at McGill University, said the continuing decline of psychoanalysis in Canada and the United States is partly due to the decline in religion, because church "was the place in the community where suffering was explained." But it also reflects a mood shift among potential patients. "The same people who would have come in to me and said, 'Can you get me into therapy?' are now asking, 'Can you get me a better anti-depressant?' " Dr. Paris said in a phone interview.

Dr. McWilliams said recent psychology graduates, pressured by their employers to produce research and grant money, do not have the time to get crucial experience in private clinical practice, and even those who are intellectually sympathetic to Freud's legacy eventually lose touch with what it means to be a therapist. For older, psychoanalytically minded university psychologists, there is a temptation to migrate to the philosophy, sociology, or English departments, just to be able to speak in metaphor with their colleagues.

Her address was not entirely negative. She did, for example, suggest that, over time, an analyst could have helped Cho Seung-hui, the Virginia Tech shooter, "to make sense of his suffering." But overall, the entire conference, which continues this weekend at the Royal York Hotel, was steeped in pessimism. Stories abounded of students who lack the philosophical background to properly discuss 19th-century Viennese thought, and of analysts forced to hide their psychoanalytical background on grant applications, or are treated like "dinosaurs" and "twoheaded freaks" in their faculty lounges.

"They're giving us a taste of our own medicine that we gave them 20 years ago, with our arrogance and dismissiveness in terms of their methodologies," said Michael Nash, professor of psychology at the University of Tennessee.

"We deal in meaning, and that's not the currency right now," he said.

In university psychology departments, the dominant field is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, which aims to influence emotions by getting patients to modify thoughts and behaviours. It is more closely allied with the fields of pharmacology and genetics, and as a result, it receives most of the research money, which in turn determines what sort of young professor a department is inclined to hire.

Psychoanalysis aims to do the opposite of CBT, to influence thoughts and behaviours by targeting the emotional roots of the problem. To do so, it relies

on exhaustive discussion in often arcane and abstract terms, with outcomes that have proved nearly impossible to measure. And so compared to CBT's short-term, targeted interventions, the multi-year process of psychoanalysis can make it seem as Dr. Paris described it: "marginal ... more an exploration of self than a medical treatment."

Even in the wider culture, mental illness has come to be seen as more physiological than intellectual, and more genetic than environmental, which makes people more inclined to take pills than to probe their psyches. In the age of the "chemical imbalance," when cigars are just cigars, and Ativan and Prozac hold more promise than Oedipal complexes and penis envy, the couch is looking increasingly like a horse and buggy.

Pop culture is where psychoanalysis gets its easiest ride, although usually with mock deference. The famous psychoanalytic technique of free association, in which a patient is asked to blurt out whatever is in their mind to help give voice to their inner conflicts, has been mocked almost to death, and the image of the analyst's couch continues to thrive in New Yorker cartoons, such as the one of the analyst asking the empty couch how long it has had these hallucinations, or the one who exclaims, "Wow! You need professional help."

But generally, the image of the greybearded, pipe-smelling man named Dr. Von Stumpf, or the feline woman with Oriental tastes named Tziporah, talking some anguished soul through their memories of toilet training, can seem at best

quaint, if not a bit nutty and sex-obsessed.

At its worst, it can look like a vastly expensive, risky and potentially pointless exercise in validating the anxieties of neurotic, middle-aged, urban wine-alcoholics with corporate health insurance, liberal arts educations and frustrated libidos. Not that there's anything wrong with any of that, but psychoanalysis is not the mental health breakthrough it was once hyped as, and it remains deeply resistant to objective, scientific study. Among the problems is that psychoanalysis takes upwards of three years, and you cannot have long-term control groups of mentally ill patients receiving no treatment. Another question is how do you measure peace of mind, or an epiphany?

The difficulty for modern analysts is in coming to terms with this frustration.

At one point, in the 1950s and '60s, when analysis was new and cost a princely $25 an hour, there was no problem. The future was Freudian. By the 1970s, just about every Canadian had experienced at least a taste of it in the Jungian imagery of Robertson Davies' Deptford Trilogy, and by the end of that decade, Woody Allen had started to mine the field for comedy.

In recent years, psychoanalysts have had a tendency to clutch at the discoveries of neuroscience, which show processes of the brain that are not present to consciousness, and to hold them up as objective proof of their theories. But it is a huge leap to do as the analysts do, and describe these processes as equivalent to Freud's unconscious. This problem of semantics hangs over the entire emerging field of neuropsychoanalysis.

On television, it is a different story. Since it started in 1999, The Sopranos, in which an emotionally conflicted mobster and his female analyst exhibit textbook desires of transference and countertransference, has eased the pain immensely, by almost single-handedly resurrecting psychoanalysis as a topic of current discussion. But despite the ringing endorsements of people in the field grateful for the publicity, Tony's sessions with Dr. Melfiare about as accurate a depiction of the profession as CSI and Law & Order are of forensic scientists, police and criminal lawyers, which is to say accurate enough for a television drama.

In his 2006 book The Fall of an Icon, Dr. Paris writes that "the most serious problem for analysis has been its failure to keep its promises ... Once seen as a uniquely powerful method of treating the mentally ill, analysis has not been proved effective for severely disturbed patients."

The less it is studied, the more difficult it is to convince research funding bodies and health care providers that it should be funded at all. And so, in flirting with expulsion from the academy, modern psychoanalysis risks ending up like sailing or wine collecting, a hobby for the rich. Scott Bishop, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Toronto and an analyst in private practice, calls Dr. Paris "completely incorrect."

"We've proven that most of what happens in the brain is unconscious. That's one of Freud's central tenets," he said. "A lot of critics of psychoanalysis are actually criticizing Freud, as if psychoanalysis hasn't evolved since Freud."

Shortly after the Second World War, about five years after Freud's death, Viktor E. Frankl, the Holocaust survivor and psychiatrist, gave a lecture to a club of Viennese intellectuals. He said psychoanalysis, in its initial incarnation, "not only adopted objectivity --it succumbed to it ... psychoanalysis made the human person into an object, the human being in a thing," and the whole enterprise is hindered by its "technically minded, mechanistic view" of the self.

In a way, the achievements of psychoanalysis since Frankl's criticism can be seen as a resolution of this problem, of ironing out the rough theoretical edges. Now it is pharmacology and CBT that are "technically minded and mechanistic," and exaggerating their potential, according to the analysts.

Freud might be famously dead, but as they search for new ways to prove their worth, Freudians still have a chance. As Dr. Weinberger, the Freudian slipper, said on Thursday, "We can despair and go home, or we can come up with some sort of compromise solution, which is what I thought psychoanalysis was all about."

© National Post 2007

Monday, April 23, 2007

Freud And Cake

... [T]he unconscious, as the name suggests, is precisely that region of mental life to which consciousness has no ready access. As such, it is inaccessible to positive description. Freud’s statement that its processes ‘show characteristics which are not met with again in the system immediately above it’ might be restated thus: unconscious processes cannot be captured in the language of conscious ones.

... Take the first ‘special characteristic’ of the unconscious Freud identifies: ‘it consists of drive-representatives [Triebrepräsentanzen] which seek to discharge their cathexes; that is to say, it consists of wishful impulses’. In less technical terms: the unconscious is the domain of the unrestricted pleasure principle, an underground cavern of drives demanding perpetual satisfaction, drives so imperious they are oblivious to one another’s presence: ‘Drive impulses ... exist side by side without being influenced by one another, and are exempt from mutual contradiction’. The dry, quasi-scientific vocabulary can’t conceal—indeed only accentuates—the disturbing indeterminacy of the object it describes. Freud employs the authoritative tone of the man of science to delineate an entity beyond the reach of direct classification and observation.

How, then, are we to understand a force that violates (common) sense? A proverbial illustration may be helpful: I can of course desire both to have my cake and to eat it. But to be conscious is to know that discharging one of these desires cancels out the other. The unconscious does not know this: its desires both to possess and to consume the cake can exist side by side, blissfully impervious to their basic incompatibility. In the unconscious, I eat my cake and continue to demand I have it—not however, another cake, but precisely that cake, the one I’ve eaten.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

The Ax Ismail/Holden Caulfield Connection

Amid all the speculation about the meaning of the Virginia Tech killer’s phrase, Ax Ismail, I’m surprised folks are overlooking the obvious connection to “The Catcher In The Rye.”

Remember the scene just before Holden shoots up his dormitory?

Doesn't Holden have sex in his empty English class with the school receptionist, a girl Salinger inexplicably named "Ishmael?" Then, after their intimacy, doesn't the receptionist named Ishmael break the glass of a fire hose cabinet, take out the fire ax and chop off the head of the school’s principal?

I’m surprised the media isn’t running with this. It’s a good catch. Of course, it’s been a while since I’ve read through “The Catcher In The Rye,” so I might be mis-remembering one or two details . . .

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The Videogame Contradiction

That was quick: Seems that video games are already being blamed for the shootings at Virginia Tech.

Yesterday, anti-video game activist Jack Thompson was expressing this opinion before anybody knew who the shooter was. Thompson says that the killer likely trained or rehearsed his actions in games like "Grand Theft Auto" or "Doom."

Last night, Dr. Phil took the same line on CNN's "Larry King Live," as pointed out in the site

"Common sense tells you that if these kids are playing video games, where they're on a mass killing spree in a video game, it's glamorized on the big screen, it's become part of the fiber of our society. You take that and mix it with a psychopath, a sociopath or someone suffering from mental illness and add in a dose of rage, the suggestibility is too high."

[Va. Tech: Dr. Phil & Jack Thompson Blame Video Games]

The underlying concept in the many anti-videogame tirades the media has featured over the last three days seems to be that violent videogames have so shaped the minds of America’s youth that the mis-shaped minds are now releasing their violence on society at large in the form of school shootings and other violent events.

But one thing almost all the school shootings have in common is that the majority of the victims are young, often the same age as the shooter, and the victims almost never fight back. Indeed, only a few victims even seem to make an effort to run away.

If so many young people have had their thinking shaped by violent videogames, why don’t more of the young victims resort to violence themselves? Why don’t they run en mass? Why don’t they attack en mass? Why don’t even one or two attack?

I believe the answer is that videogames, even the so-called ‘violent’ videogames, do not encourage violence in people at all. In fact, quite the opposite. The process of sitting down in front of a screen is inherently passive.

I suspect the popularity of videogames among young people is more directly related to why so few young people fight back rather than why a tiny number of young people freak out and engage in mass killing.

The issue of video and its effect on the human mind was covered in extraordinary detail in a classic book called “Four Arguments For The Elimination Of Television,” by ex-advertising man Jerry Mander. I suspect that issues of both aggression and passivity explored in this book apply even more in the modern world where young people spend uncounted hours every day staring at television screens and computer screens.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The Copycat Effect

[This is Monday’s entry from Loren Coleman’s blog:]


Monday, April 16, 2007

VA Tech Shooting

Xeni Jardin at Boing Boing has a good overview of the Virginia Tech shooting today. It appears 33 dead are confirmed, including the shooter (described in some reports as an Asian male with a black hood).

Sadly, I saw this coming.

In an article based on an email I sent to a Canadian TV reporter Bridget Brown on September 18th and her followup interview, CTV noted that Expert predicted 'cluster' of school shootings, on October 3rd, 2006.

In that article, I was quoted as noting the psychological process that these shooters appear to be "competing for the highest body count." Sadly, we've seen that come true today.

Also, the news item from last fall noted: "He says that while the Pennsylvania shootings may not be the last in this cluster, the copycat crimes will likely slow down as we near winter. He says spring, and the anniversary of Columbine, could be enough to spark another cycle of tragedy." Again, my prediction of a reigniting of the school shooting wildfire during this very week was revealed today.

Interestingly, I am been interviewed by Canadian media today, and will be on the CBC tomorrow. The media north of the border seem less threatened by what I've said in The Copycat Effect: How the Media and Popular Culture Trigger the Mayhem in Tomorrow's Headlines. I was interviewed after the Dawson College schooling last fall frequently by Canadian television and radio stations, less by American programs.

Xeni Jardin wonders how I would feel about what I am hearing on the American cable news networks. To listen to CNN and MSNBC is to watch the news people stumble through this story.

These cable news people certainly should be aware that there is a copycat effect going on here. They have been reporting on this for ten years now, and can't see the legacy between wall-to-wall coverage and what happens when you elevate Columbine the way the media has.

Specfically today, there is something over-the-top being heard in some of the reports that this shooting today is the "deadliest" in American history. Also, incorrect information is being shared. These newspeople are misreporting on the profiles and the changes in it. Cable news earlier this afternoon misrepresented that this is an American-only problem. During the early evening, I just watched a report on CNN saying that the few historical non-American school shootings have been done by adult non-students.

Of course, this is simplistic. The American cable networks are ignoring Taber, Alberta (1999) to Erfurt, Germany (2002), and several in-between international events where the shooters have been relatively young people. The US media outlets are also forgetting that most of the fall 2006 American school shooting incidents involved outsiders, non-students and adults.

Last fall, as I told all that would listen, there was a shift in the overall North American shooter profile. It moved from one of mostly Caucasian males who were members of the student body to "outsiders." It began in earnest with the the youthful South Asian immigrant who became happier as a member of the cult of Columbine before his attack at Dawson College, and the two adult alleged sexual molesters who victimized young females in Bailey, Colorado and at the Amish school in Pennsylvania.

Will more of these happen? Probably.

There was a Columbine copycat shooting last week (April 11) in Oregon (with no deaths) in which the shooter said he got the idea after watching National Geographic's April 7th showing of "The Final Report: Columbine."

This VA Tech shooting comes days before the Columbine anniversary on Friday, April 20th.

I would definitely say we are going to be entering a period for the next month of many threats, many plots, and a few shootings.

Don't let your guard down. Awareness is key, communication is important, and quick response is a must.

posted by Loren Coleman at 4:22 PM

Monday, April 16, 2007

Romance, Terror And The Word ‘Piss’

A few years back I worked for a company in a building just a few blocks south of the Water Tower shopping center on Chicago’s near north side. One morning a bunch of us were avoiding work by standing around talking about how our expectations for romance had become more realistic as we’d gotten older.

“Realistic, heck,” I said, “at this point if I could meet a woman who could get through one date without saying the word ‘piss’ I’d marry her.”

One of the women there gave me a sharp look. Linda said she didn’t use that word under any circumstances. I said every woman I knew used the word all the time. She said, again, that she never used the word. We talked a bit more and made a date to go to lunch that afternoon. (This is a different Linda than the Linda’s I’ve written about earlier. In my life I’ve known a strange surplus of women named Linda and women named Joanne.)

That afternoon we walked west and did some window shopping along the cool shops between Michigan Avenue and State Street. We had lunch at a small cafe. We had a good time, nobody used any unpleasant words and after lunch we walked slowly back to work.

As we approached Michigan Avenue, I began to search for the words I’d use to congratulate Linda on being a person true to her word. At Michigan Avenue we stopped at a construction site an entire block wide. A new skyscraper was going up and the entire block was fenced off with a high wooden wall. Linda pointed south and started to walked around the block, but I stopped her.

“Look,” I said, “we can see Michigan Avenue through the doors in the wall. I bet we can cut right though the construction site.”

“We’re dressed in business clothes,” Linda said. “We’ll stand out. We’ll get caught. We’ll get in trouble.”

Just that second, as if on cue, a team of five or six businessmen and women walked past us and entered the construction site. They must have been architects or inspectors or something. At any rate, we were dressed just like them. When they walked past us, I grabbed Linda’s hand and pulled her after me and we followed the well-dressed people into the construction site.

“Look official,” I said to Linda.

We walked along a narrow pathway made by wood boards lined up in the mud and gravel. The iron girders of the new skyscraper towered above us ten or twelve stories. All sorts of machinery roared around us. Concrete mixers spun around. Torches blasted blue and orange flame. Cranes somewhere overhead dropped empty pallets on one side of the pathway while other cranes lifted pallets full of construction supplies. The noise was so loud we couldn’t hear our footsteps. The boards under our feet were constantly shaking from the huge equipment all around us engaged in putting up the new building.

About halfway through the site the team of well dressed people turned off the main path and entered a shadowed area directly under the metal skeleton of the new building. Linda and I continued walking straight. I put my hand on Linda’s shoulder and gestured as if I were showing her something. I was trying to look official. We continued walking through the site and exited onto Michigan Avenue.

I clapped my hands and laughed, turning to look back the way we’d come. I pointed. “That was cool!” I said. “Did you see all that stuff? We should do that again. That was fun!”

I looked at Linda. Her eyes, now, were strangely narrowed and she was looking up and down Michigan Avenue in such an odd fashion I got the idea she wanted to kneel down and kiss the sidewalk. Then she looked at me. It wasn’t a happy look. Her eyes became even more narrow. She slapped me across the stomach with the back of her hand. “That’s wasn’t cool!” she said. “That wasn’t fun! That was terrifying! That scared the piss out of me!”

My eyes went wide. I pointed at her. I said, “Ah-ha!”

Linda rolled her eyes and made an exasperated sound. She turned away and started across Michigan Avenue without waiting for me.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Peter Gave Himself Up For Lost

Peter was most dreadfully frightened; he rushed all over the garden, for he had forgotten the way back to the gate.

He lost one of his shoes among the cabbages, and the other shoe amongst the potatoes.

After losing them, he ran on four legs and went faster, so that I think he might have got away altogether if he had not unfortunately run into a gooseberry net, and got caught by the large buttons on his jacket. It was a blue jacket with brass buttons, quite new.

Peter gave himself up for lost, and shed big tears; but his sobs were overheard by some friendly sparrows, who flew to him in great excitement, and implored him to exert himself.

Mr. McGregor came up with a sieve, which he intended to pop upon the top of Peter; but Peter wriggled out just in time, leaving his jacket behind him.

Peter Rabbit Wiki Page

Thursday, April 12, 2007

God In “A New Kind Of Science”

In physicist Stephen Wolfram’s A New Kind Of Science,” the index entries for ‘God’ occur between the index entry for ‘Goats, fortune-telling from’ and the index entries for ‘Gödel, Kurt F.

These are the index entries for ‘God.’ (The book “A New Kind Of Science” is online, but I cannot link directly into it because sometimes the site makes you register and sometimes it does not. Registration is free, however, so you get a lot for taking the time to fill in the slots!)

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -


      and character of space, p. 1028

      and complexity, p. 861

      and free will, p. 1135

      identified with universe, p. 1196

      and objects in nature, p. 828

      and origin of complexity, p. 3

      and phenomena in astronomy, p. 834

      and physics as intelligence, p. 1191

      and purpose for universe, p. 1185

      as source of complexity in biology, p. 1001

      and ultimate theory of physics, p. 1025

      and universe as intelligent, p. 1196

      see also Religion
      see also Theology

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

A New Kind Of Science Website

Stephen Wolfram’s Website

Stephen Wolfram’s Wiki Page

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Underwater This Is The Cathedral Sea


Underwater, this is the cathedral
sea. Diving, our bubbles rise
as prayers are said to do, and burst
into our natural atmosphere—
occupying, from this perspective,
the position of a heaven.

The ceiling is silver, and the air
deep green translucency. The worshippers
pray quietly, wave their fins.
You can see the color of their prayer
deep within their throats: scarlet, some,
and some, fine scaled vermilion; others

pass tight-lipped with moustaches
trailing and long paunches, though
they are almost wafer-thin seen sideways,
or unseen except for whiskers.
Further down, timorous sea-spiders slam
their doors, shy fish disappear

into their tenement of holes, and eels
warn that they have serpent tails.
Deep is wild, with beasts one meets
usually in dreams. Here the giant octopus
drags in its arms. We meet it.
We are hungry in the upper air, and you

have the sea-spear that shoots deep;
you fire accurately, raising a conflagration
of black ink. The animal grabs stone
in slow motion, pulls far under a ledge
and piles the loose rock there as if
to hide might be enough. It holds tight,

builds sanctuary, and I think cries
“sanctuary!”—it dies at your second shot.
We come aboveboard then, with our eight-armed
dinner and no hunger left, pursued by the bland
eyes of fish who couldn’t care, by black
water and the death we made there.

Michael Schmidt
“Sound And Sense,” Fourth Edition

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

A Mainstream Sports Reporter Meets Evangelical Beliefs

... Still, I ultimately resisted taking the easy, sensational way out. ... I suggested that the three players had collectively succumbed to the stress of playing in a strange exotic environment under the extremely competitive conditions that typified the minor leagues of tennis. Without the tennis ministry there to provide a safety net, they began to make it up as they went along, feeding off one another’s spiritual hunger and anxieties in an unhealthy way.

... The column generated a surprising amount of mail, ranging from nutty denunciations of Christianity to letters that were uncritical and almost pathetically thankful for the simple fact that something—anything—about Christianity had made it between the covers of Tennis magazine. But one letter made me angry at first, then it got me thinking. ... The striking thing about this was the accusation that I didn’t “understand” Christianity. How could someone raised as a Christian and educated at a Catholic university not understand? Well, I eventually came to understand that the answer to that one was, “Pretty easily.”

... Some elements of Christian doctrine need to be spelled out because typical secular individuals, including highly educated ones, often don’t understand them. They see Christianity as a bewildering jungle of arbitrary, antiprogressive doctrines (doctrines that some, particularly fundamentalists, take literally). This attitude is shared by nominal Christians who basically think that believing is a good “idea” for its social and moral value, but find fundamentalism scary and arrogant. These prejudices prevent lively and productive debate, and they make it difficult to grasp the problems with which believers grapple. So let’s take a quick look at some of the most troublesome claims of Christianity and the defense that believers make for them.

CLAIM: Christianity is not a way but the way to spiritual salvation.

DEFENSE: Despite the existence of other great, lasting religions and personages, including Muhammad and Buddha, only Jesus Christ made the explicit claim to be the Son of God. Of course, a lot of other people have also subsequently claimed to be the Son of God, but they did not become what Christ did—an important, if not the most important, and well-known figure in world history, an achievement nearly as mind-boggling as Christ’s claim.

This puts Christ in a very different league from other religious figures. To paraphrase C. S. Lewis, this claim made Christ one of three things: a good, albeit deeply deluded man; a manipulative crackpot; or, well, the Son of God. Anybody who would take religions seriously must choose one of those three descriptions and figure out the consequences.

CLAIM: The Bible contains literal truth.

DEFENSE: If Christ was just another teacher and moralist, the Bible is just another old book full of symbolism, poetry, and moral guidelines set down at a time when different problems, values, and needs obtained. But if Christ was indeed the Son of God, the Bible is by far the most extraordinary document ever written. Instead of interpreting the Bible by the standards of our time, our time must be judged by the standards of the Bible.

CLAIM: Homosexuality (substitute abortion, infidelity, and so forth) is wrong.

DEFENSE: The Bible is a book full of restrictions and prescriptions, but the Christian God is not only all-knowing but all-loving and all-forgiving. That’s why, unlike some other tyrant, he really does have the authority to tell you how to live. And that’s what makes him God, instead of just another three thousand-year-old dog who speaks to you through the medium of some guy working out of a mall in Santa Monica. The essence of Christianity is love and forgiveness, so its mandate to believers is to “hate sin, love the sinner.” And even those who most flagrantly violate biblical mandates can be saved through belief.

CLAIM: An individual’s way of life and actions have less to do with his or her salvation than whether or not the person believes.

DEFENSE: Accepting this has something to do with Christian humility, in that it implies that even the most murderous serial killer, may ultimately end up saved. This may not seem fair, but fairness itself is a temporal notion based on the very shaky premise that you and I can be the ultimate judges of our brethren. The preeminence of believing also ensures that nobody can buy his way into heaven. Anybody who has ever wondered why Donald Trump or Aristotle Onassis seemed to have all the luck will appreciate this. The paramount importance of belief offers universal access to salvation, and the fact that so many people still choose not to believe is a confirmation of the flawed, stricken condition of human nature.

CLAIM: It is possible to have a personal relationship with God.

DEFENSE: This is the bonus baby that bothers so many people. God is like Michael Jackson. Some people know him, others don’t. Some will, some won’t. Some want to, some don’t. The key difference, however, is that a lot of people who want to know Michael Jackson never will, but anybody who wants to can know God. Thus, Christianity is not only remarkably exclusive but breathtakingly inclusionary. It is open to every person who fulfills its single, overwhelming demand to believe.

And, finally, knowing God doesn’t give you a leg up on anyone else. And it isn’t any easier getting along with him than with Michael Jackson, your wife, or your boss. In fact, if you don’t have problems with God, you don’t have any more of a relationship with him than you do with your wife or boss.

Peter Bodo
The Courts Of Babylon

Monday, April 09, 2007

My Little Cthulhu

My Little Cthulhu to Arrive in 2007

Production on My Little Cthulhu will start in December 2006 and the toys should arrive at the distributor by April of 2007. For wholesale inquiries please contact DKE Toys or look for a solicitation through Diamond Comics/Alliance Distribution.

My Little Cthulhu is an 8"vinyl figure and has a suggested retail price of $29.99. There will also be set of six Little Victims & Little Minions ™ that will retail for $14.99.

Oh, and stay tuned for details on an exclusive limited edition My Little Cthulhu.

Dreamland Toyworks Homepage

Cthulhu Wiki Page

Friday, April 06, 2007

Enchantment And Notan

... The search for Notan should force us into a more creative observation of our surroundings and revive in us a sense of the wonder of life.

Much of this discovery will involve the recovery of something that we all once had in childhood. When we were very young, we were all artists. We all came into this world with the doors of perception wide open. Everything was a delightful surprise. Everything, at first, required the slow, loving touch of our tongues and our hands. Long before we could speak we knew the comfort of our mother’s warm body, the delightful feel of a furry toy. Smooth and rough surfaces, things cold and hot surprised and enchanted us. Touch by touch we built up our store of tactile impressions, keenly sensed in minute detail.

Later on, this tactile sensing was transferred to our eyes, and we were able to “feel” through the sense of vision things beyond the grasp of our hands. This kind of seeing was not the rapid sophisticated eye sweep of the well-informed. This kind of seeing was a slow, uncritical examination in depth. The more we looked, the more lovely, surprising things appeared, until we were pervaded by that wordless thrill which is the sense of wonder.

None of us have lost our store of tactile memories. Nor have we lost our sense of wonder. All that has happened is that we have substituted identifying and labeling, which can be done very rapidly for the tactile sort of feel-seeing which requires much more time and concentration. For example, if you were asked to look at the edge of your desk and estimate its length, it would take you only a few seconds to flick your eyes back and forth and say it is so many inches long. But suppose you were asked to run the tip of your finger along the edge of the desk and count every tiny nick? You would press your finger along the edge and move it very, very slowly, and your eye would move no faster than your finger. This slow, concentrated way of feeling and seeing is the first step towards regaining our sense of wonder.

There was a time when man moved no faster than his feet or the feet of some animal that could carry him. During that period the artistic or creative spirit seemed to have free expression. Today, in order to be creative and yet move smoothly and efficiently through our fast-paced world, we must be able to function on two different speed levels. The mistake we have made, often with tragic results, is to try to do all our living at the speed our machines have imposed upon us.

In order to live at this speed we must scan the surface of things, pick out salient aspects, disregard secondary features; and there is certainly nothing wrong in this if we are driving on a busy freeway. But when we allow this pressure to invade every aspect of our life, we begin to “lose touch,” to have a feeling that we are missing something, and we are hungry for we don’t know what. When that happens, we have begun to suffer from aesthetic malnutrition. Fortunately, the cure for this condition is very pleasant, and although it takes a little self-discipline at the beginning, the results are worth the effort.

By the time we finished the third Notan problem we should have noticed how Notan operates in the allied arts. In architecture we are suddenly aware of the spaces between the windows, at the ballet we notice how the spaces between the dancers open and close, and in music we realize that rhythm is made by the shapes of silence between the notes.

Everywhere we look we see the principles of Notan in action. Trees are not silhouetted against blank air, but hold blue spangles between their leaves while branches frame living shapes of sky. Space seems to be pulled between the leaves of a fern. We delight in the openings between the petals of a flower or the spokes of a wheel. This endless exchange between form and space excites us. Once more we feel in touch with our world; our aesthetic sense is being fed and we are comforted.

...Since we are no longer children, this innocence of vision is not based on ignorance, but rather on the ability to discard incidental bits of information until we lay bare the basic generating principle. And this is where self-discipline is necessary. We may have been taught that butterflies are lovely and toads are ugly, so we admire the butterfly and shrink away from the toad without really examining it to find out if what we have been taught is true. Or we are taught that flowers are good and weeds are bad, so we pull up the latter without a glance.

To the artist’s eye there is no good or bad. There is just the inappropriate. In the garden weeds are not appropriate, but in the vacant lot they offer a world of enchantment. And after we have learned to see the beauty in weeds, even though we have to pull them out of the garden, we can first admire their design.

When no preconceived ideas keep us from looking and we take all the time we need to really “feel” what we see—when we are able to do that—that universe opens up and we catch our breath in awe at the incredible complexity of design in the humblest things. It is only when this happens that we regain our sense of wonder.

Dorr Bothwell and Marlys Mayfield
Notan: The Dark-Light Principle Of Design

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Distortion And Notan

Most of us resist any distortion of a recognizable image. Yet the artist must distort or modify form, not only in order to express his ideas, but to preserve the unity of the picture plane. All spaces must be designed so as to maintain an exchange of importance with one another. When the design is successful, nothing can be added, nothing taken away. All relationships must be established and united through this exchange of equality.

The privilege and necessity of design to distort for the sake of unity has always been an instinctive device in the arts of primitive cultures. ...

... Distortion for distortion’s sake would be just that. But distortion in order to let “no-thing,” the background, have reality, “thing-ness,” produces harmony and an exchange between the forms.

When we begin to work in art, we find that we do not mind distorting some kinds of things that can actually grow in deformed ways—trees, for instance. But what about a chair or a chimney? Man-made structures or functional objects are the most difficult for us to distort. Here our resistance is greatest, for objects designed for a utilitarian purpose must maintain their shapes and proportions in order to serve their functions.

Dorr Bothwell and Marlys Mayfield
Notan: The Dark-Light Principle Of Design

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

The Solid And The Fluid In Notan

...Notan came into being when both the positive and negative areas began to exist as realities in balance. When the black weights or holes on a static surface became rocks and water seen as equal entities, then Notan was achieved. Notan was found when the spaces between the forms became one unified form flowing like a mountain stream around and between the rocks or positive shapes, sealing the whole design into an organic whole.

This experience is at the basis of the culture of the Japanese bonseki garden, such as the Ryoanji in Kyoto, where the sand is raked and appears to flow like water around the rocks. In our problem we have given these black forms the idea of weight, considering them as pebbles. By giving them the sensation of weight, we also gave them stability; and when this happens, the negative space is released to flow in a pattern between the rocks and holds the entire composition together in dynamic balance. The rocks are held in a fluid pattern which they themselves create! After we observe how the space between the forms seems to move, we notice that the forms themselves seem to shift very slightly, and suddenly the format becomes the only fixed frame of reference. Again the Japanese bonseki gardens achieve exactly such an interchange of elements and utilize these wonderful principles of the interplay between the solid and the fluid. The solid and the fluid are universal polarities, and there will always be enjoyment for man in their interchange.

Dorr Bothwell and Marlys Mayfield
Notan: The Dark-Light Principle Of Design

Tuesday, April 03, 2007


Notan is a Japanese word meaning dark-light. The word, however, means more than that. The principle of Notan as used here must be further defined as the interaction between positive (light) and negative (dark) space.

The idea of this interaction in Notan is embodied in the ancient Eastern symbol of the Yang and the Yin, which consists of mirror images, one white and one black, revolving around a point of equilibrium. Here the positive and negative areas together make a whole created through a unity of opposites that have equal and inseparable reality. In the Yang and the Yin symbol, as in Notan, opposites complement, they do not conflict. Neither seeks to negate or dominate the other, only to relate in harmony. It is the interaction of the light and the dark, therefore, that is most essential.

Dorr Bothwell and Marlys Mayfield
Notan: The Dark-Light Principle Of Design

Monday, April 02, 2007

2007 1st Quarter Index

March Archive

Friday, March 30, 2007 -- Ode To An American Zombie

Thursday, March 29, 2007 -- My Favorite Cannibalism Song

Wednesday, March 28, 2007 -- The Basic Zombie Plot

Tuesday, March 27, 2007 -- My Favorite Zombie Movie

Monday, March 26, 2007 -- Rave To The Grave: Return Of The Living Dead #5

Friday, March 23, 2007 -- Tiny Purple Fishes Swim Laughing

Thursday, March 22, 2007 -- Sasquatch And Anime Girl, #4

Wednesday, March 21, 2007 -- Triss

Tuesday, March 20, 2007 -- Gloomy Bear

Monday, March 19, 2007 -- RIP Brad Delp (June 12, 1951 – March 9, 2007)

Friday, March 16, 2007 -- Surfacing Like Well The Loch Ness Monster

Thursday, March 15, 2007 -- “A Most Excellent Philosophy”

Wednesday, March 14, 2007 -- AquaBabies

Tuesday, March 13, 2007 -- Real Life Shapeshifting

Monday, March 12, 2007 -- “Will Slime Molds Take Over Our Moon, Now?”

Friday, March 09, 2007 -- Jack Chick

Thursday, March 08, 2007 -- Captain America Has Been Cut Down By A Sniper

Wednesday, March 07, 2007 -- Is Paris Hilton A Superhero?

Tuesday, March 06, 2007 -- Is Paris Hilton A Supervillain?

Monday, March 05, 2007 -- Seven Characteristics Of A Supervillain

Friday, March 02, 2007 -- Happy Birthday Theodor Geisel!

Thursday, March 01, 2007 -- Mandelbrot Flirt

February Arhcive

Wednesday, February 28, 2007 -- Anna Nicole Smith’s Dead Body, Jokes 1, 2 and 3

Tuesday, February 27, 2007 -- A Mischa Barton Loose End

Monday, February 26, 2007 -- In The Realms Of The Unreal Right Here

Friday, February 23, 2007 -- No Zen Here

Thursday, February 22, 2007 -- Why I Almost Never Use Rhyme

Wednesday, February 21, 2007 -- Winona Ryder Redux

Tuesday, February 20, 2007 -- My Britney Shaves Her Head Theory

Monday, February 19, 2007 -- Why Catching A Cold Makes Some People Cuter

Friday, February 16, 2007 -- Mycelium And Aurora Borealis

Thursday, February 15, 2007 -- Crannogs

Wednesday, February 14, 2007 -- Toadspawn Is Quite Unlike Frogspawn

Tuesday, February 13, 2007 -- A Woodland Path Encircles The Loch

Monday, February 12, 2007 -- There Is Only One Lake In Scotland

Friday, February 09, 2007 -- Jeanne Hébuterne — Art As A Grail

Thursday, February 08, 2007 -- Rocks In His Head

Wednesday, February 07, 2007 -- The Goblin Universe Sexuality Gedankenexperiment

Tuesday, February 06, 2007 -- The Other Reason To Burn Witches

Monday, February 05, 2007 -- Talking To People Who Can’t Talk To You

Friday, February 02, 2007 -- Micro Freudian Imperatives

Thursday, February 01, 2007 -- De Humani Corporis Fabrica

January Archive

Wednesday, January 31, 2007 -- meeting archy and mehitabel

Tuesday, January 30, 2007 -- Keys With Their Baffling Variety Of Curves

Monday, January 29, 2007 -- A Play Within Limitations

Friday, January 26, 2007 -- Natural History

Thursday, January 25, 2007 -- Night Buggin’

Wednesday, January 24, 2007 -- Spiders And Snakes

Tuesday, January 23, 2007 -- Actias Luna

Monday, January 22, 2007 -- Spiders

Friday, January 19, 2007 -- Daddy Needs A New Pair Of Shoes

Thursday, January 18, 2007 -- Melanie Daniels In Paris

Wednesday, January 17, 2007 -- Britney Spears And The Southern Polar Opening

Tuesday, January 16, 2007 -- The Mind’s Ocean

Monday, January 15, 2007 -- Middle Earth

Friday, January 12, 2007 -- Cryptobiosis

Thursday, January 11, 2007 -- Real Mainstream Professional Publishing #3

Wednesday, January 10, 2007 -- Real Mainstream Professional Publishing #2

Tuesday, January 09, 2007 -- Real Mainstream Professional Publishing #1

Monday, January 08, 2007 -- Have You Seen The Stars Tonight?

Friday, January 05, 2007 -- Saturn and Titan, And The Pleiades

Thursday, January 04, 2007 -- Asymmetry In Its Simplest State

Wednesday, January 03, 2007 -- Cynthiae Figuras Aemulatur Mater Amorum

Tuesday, January 02, 2007 -- The Full Moon Never Eclipses The Sun